The ultimate BIO plant

In the plant world, plants that have no chance of selling, except to a tiny few crazed plant collectors, are called BIO plants, which stands for “of botanical interest only”. Coptis japonica var. dissecta fits the bill on all accounts. This fascinating Asian woodland perennial maintains a small evergreen rosette, topped in spring with tiny spikes of tiny fuzzy white flowers that age to these fascinating seed heads in the garden now.

Chloranthus – Respect your horticultural elders

Few flowering plants are older than members of the genus chloranthus, which first originated between 22 and 150 million years ago, during a time that flowering plants were just evolving, and long before nurseries or garden centers came into existance. Chloranthus aren’t just interesting botanically, they also are unique textural plants for the spring woodland garden, where they are amazingly easy to grow. Here are two of our favorites in bloom this week…Chloranthus japonicus and Chloranthus sessiliflorus ‘Get Shorty’.

Chloranthus japonicus
Chloranthus sessiliflorus ‘Get Shorty’

Chui hits the spot(s)

It’s hard to imagine a more spotted hardy plant than Arum x diotalicum ‘Chui’. Shared with us by UK plantsman John Grimshaw, this hybrid of Arum italicum and Arum dioscoridis shares the best traits of both species…the leaf markings of Arum italicum and the floral (spathe) staining of Arum dioscoridis. We hope to have enough to share in a couple of years.

Jack of all trades

The Japanese Arisaema sikokianum (Jack-in-the-pulpit) posing with Hosta ‘Kabitan in this glamour shot.

Holy Arum, Batman!

The holiest of arums, Arum palestinum is in full flower at JLBG. We don’t grow many Palestinian natives, but this one has thrived since 1993. How’s that for a traffic stopper?

Logging in…the old fashioned way

When we re-worked one of our recirculating water capture streams a couple of years ago, our grounds supervisor, Jeremy Schmidt, who coordinated the project, wanted to include an old buried log that he had found when excavating another part of the property. It took quite a few staff members to hand carry it and place it across the man-made creek where it resides today. Because it was hollow on one side, we filled it full of planting media and voila…a naturalistic vignette resulted. Here it is this week in the winter garden with several clumps of Carex oshimensis to echo the flow of the water.

Carex oshimensis

Do You Remember Ginger?

There are lots of different gingers to keep straight, starting with a memorable one that was a part of the band of misfits stranded on Gilligan’s Island. Horticulturally speaking, however, ginger refers both to a group of plants in the Zingiberaceae and Aristolochiaceae (birthwort) families. Hardy members of the Zingiber family are plants who mostly flower in the heat of summer, while the wild gingers (asarum) of the birthwort family tend to be mostly winter/spring flowering.

So, while it’s late winter/early spring, let’s focus of the woodland perennial genus asarum, of which we currently grow 86 of the known 177 asarum species/subspecies. In late winter/early spring, we like to remove any of the winter damaged evergreen leaves, which makes the floral show so much more visible. Few people take time to bend down and observe their amazing flowers, so below are some of floral photos we took this spring. View our full photo gallery here.

Asarum arifolium (Native: SE US)
Asarum caudatum (Native: NW US)
Asarum asaroides ‘Jade Turtle’ (Native: Japan)
Asarum asperum ‘Fault Line’ (Native: Japan)
Asarum campaniflorum (Native: China)
Asarum caudigerum (Native: China)
Asarum hirsutisepalum (Native: Japan)
Asarum ichangense ‘Huddled Masses’ (Native: China)
Asarum magnificum ‘Bullseye’ (Native: China)
Asarum nobilissimum ‘Crown Royal’ (Native: China)
Asarum nobilissimum ‘King Kong’ (Native: China)
Asarum porphyronotum ‘Irish Spring’ (Native: China)
Asarum senkakuinsulare (Native: Japan)
Asarum speciosum ‘Bloodshot Eyes’ (Native: SE US)
Asarum splendens (Native: China)

Cardamine crazy

Look what’s in full flower now in the winter garden!.  This dazzling spring ephemeral, Cardamine quinquefolia, is just off the charts amazing for the light shade woodland garden. It has formed a stunning 3′ wide patch in four years in our Zone 7b garden. Hardiness is Zone 6a-8b. 

Skirt-lifting time in the woods

While we’ll always grow the woodland asarum (wild gingers) for their foliage, we are equally as entranced by their flowers which occur from fall thru spring…based on the species. The only months we haven’t recorded asarum flowers in the garden are June-September. 

One of our first time offerings this year is a selection we made of the Japanese Asarum kurosawae that we named Asarum ‘Saddleback’. (Zone 7a-8b, at least)In late winter, we remove the old foliage in the center of the clump so that we can enjoy the flowers as you can see below. 

Most of our asarums start as single divisions, and after 3-4 years, we divide them for the first time, resulting in 5-10 plants.  A second division 3-4 years later yields another 5-10 plants each, for a total of 25-100 plants. A third division is required 3-4 years later to finally have enough to offer. So, from start to commercialization is usually 9-12 years of production time.


Tony demonstrates how to divide asarum (wild ginger) during the winter.


Asarum takaoi ‘Ginba’ below is an old Japanese cultivar that we first offered in 2015, and again this year. We first obtained this in 2003, so that’s only 2 offerings in 16 years. There’s a reason that most nurseries don’t bother with these.  At least now, we have been able to build up a stock block for future propagation.  We hope you’ll take a peek below the foliage for a truly great floral show. (Zone 4b-8a)

A new asarum that will be coming in another year or so, is our yellow-flowered selection of the typically purple-flowered Asarum ichangense, that we named ‘Ichang Lemon’. It’s in full bloom now, so if you can make it to our Winter Open Nursery and Garden, be sure to take a peak.  (Zone 5a-8a, guessing)  To learn more about wild gingers in the woodland garden, join us for our free garden chat series, Gardening Unplugged, the second Sunday of our Winter Open Nursery and Garden, May 3 at 2:00pm  

Adore us some acorus

I was just walking through our woodland garden and stopped to snap this photo of one of my favorite perennials, Acorus gramineus ‘Minnimus Aureus’. No matter how many new plants hit the market, this will always be a favorite and a plant I wouldn’t garden without. The evergreen chartreuse gold foliage remains bright all winter in the shade or part sun garden, so there’s no need for a carpet of mulch. Each plant spreads slowly, eventually kniting together to form a solid weed-subduing mat.

The fine texture of acorus is a beautiful contrast to bold-textured plants like the aucuba in the foreground. Did we mention that it’s deer resistant? Acorus, zone 5a-9b, is moisture loving, but also pretty darn drought tolerant.  

Acorus used to reside comfortably in the aroid family, with the likes of peace lilies and jack-in-the-pulpits, but now DNA researchers all reach different conclusions on where it belongs taxonomically and how it is related to the rest of the aroids. Check out the tiny upright flower spikes in spring, but you’ll need to slow down for a close look.

We grow a large number of acorus clones in the garden, and would love to offer more if only folks would buy them in larger numbers.