Don't Overlook the Underbrush

Viola walteri 'Silver Gem'
Look around the ground and you'll be rewarded with some fresh material, especially if you've been planting hardy groundcovers. Never breaking a sweat, or taking a break for that matter, Viola walteri 'Silver Gem' is a very cool customer. It's slowly stretching out to cover more real estate, but not in an agressive manner. This native cultivar was introduced by North Creek Nurseries.
Cyclamen purpurascens

The Viola is similar in height to Cyclamen purpurascens, a cute little European number with shiny leaves and a hardy constitution. The Cyclamen Society offers a good amount of information about this seldom-used plant. I can't remember what I read to make me search for Cyclamen purpurascens, but I found them offered through Edelweiss Perennials. I planted two beneath my huge boxwoods in very early spring and protected them with a chicken wire dome. The one with the fully-covered tuber formed the most leaves, while the other is just now forming tiny leaves. The Cyclamen Society recommends covering the tuber with about 1/2" of grit, as they require excellent drainage. I mounded the gritty soil around the tuber and will put a bit more at its top in a week or so, gradually bringing the soil level to the recommended depth.

Kirengesoma palmata
Kirengeshoma palmata is no longer rare, but it is somewhat finicky about its placement. It thrives in the deepest shade, which makes it easy to plunk someplace and forget it. But you don't want to do that because you'll be missing out on a soft yellow waxy flower that has a way of brightening up a forgotten spot. I divided what had become a thriving stand beneath our weeping katsura tree where it wasn't seen unless you were looking for it. It will take a couple of years before it grows into the beauty it became under the tree, but it will be worth the wait.


  1. I believe I have that viola, but had lost the tag. I also have Cyclamen purpurascens, purchased from the late, great Seneca Hill Perennials. I know I bought mine because it is reputed to be the hardiest cyclamen species. But I have clay soil, and no one ever told me it should have grit, and it has been slowly growing in size for several years. It may not need the grit. Haven't grown the Kirengoshima--yet. Thanks for sharing these treasures. The garden really benefits when we plant in layers. Do you have any colchicums?

  2. Thanks, Kathy. I HAD some colchicum. Or at least I used to until I moved them. I have to look back to see when they bloomed before I moved the corms.