There may be no force in the
natural world more difficult to contain than the avid gardener awaiting the
arrival of spring! With the official start of spring on March 21, people are
anxious to take advantage of the first balmy day to dig and plant, eager to
reap their brightly-blooming rewards. While some cold-tolerant varieties may be
planted in early spring, much Mid-South planting should wait until after the average
frost date, April 15.
|With this in mind, Memphis
Botanic Garden scheduled its 2013 Spring Plant Sale on April 19 and 20,
when the frost has passed and gardeners can choose from the greatest variety of
annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs, and edibles to bring their gardens and
landscaping to life after the long winter.
Officially, the Garden’s sale is
titled Spring’s Best Plant Sale, a moniker
that holds particularly true this year, with the offering of the Perennial
Plant of the Year, as designated by the Perennial Plant Association. Given the
prestigious nature of this award, we should probably refer to this
over-achiever by its scientific name, Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum.’
However, to gardeners who know and love this hardy specimen, it is commonly
called Variegated Solomon’s Seal. There are some rather intriguing folk stories
behind this name, but we’ll talk more about that later. For now, let’s discuss
the reasons that this plant has long been such a favorite among gardeners
worldwide, and why it works well in our local growing conditions.
Common names: Variegated
Solomon’s Seal, Striped Solomon’s Seal, Fragrant Solomon’s Seal, Variegated
Fragrant Solomon’s Seal
Winter hardy USDA Zones 3 to 8. Memphis is Zone 7
Partial to Full Shade.
Prefers moist, well-drained soil. Slightly acid PH, as we have in the Mid-South,
Average mature height is 18” to 24“.
Blooms are small, fragrant, bell-shaped flowers carried in
pairs on arching stems. Its bright, variegated, ovate foliage glows, even after
blooms finish in spring, making it noticeable when most other shade plants have
turned green in mid-summer. It is a nice contrast to the bright colors of
spring-blooming plants. In fall, foliage turns a bright canary yellow, for a
final season of interest before winter.
Memphis Botanic Garden Director of Horticulture, Rick
Pudwell, notes that Solomon’s Seal has no serious insect or disease problems.
“I have seen it prosper next to hostas that had been decimated by voles. I
highly recommend this plant as one of the best choices for the shady perennial
All of these qualities make Variegated Solomon’s Seal a
useful addition to shady perennial borders, woodland gardens, or other
naturalized areas. It is extremely long-lived. Plants in older gardens have
remained in place for generations, forming large colonies over the years.
want to do a good job preparing your soil, because you will only need to plant
this species once. If you choose to divide or move Solomon’s Seal, early spring
before growth commences or fall after the first hard freeze are the best times.
Plants that are grown in containers can be planted throughout the growing
season, as long as care is taken to keep them well watered.
Now, back to that name. “Solomon’s Seal” has several
possible sources, dating to ancient times. One possibility is that the scar remaining
after the herbaceous stalks die off in autumn resembles the wax seal on a
document from times long ago. Another theory holds that the powdered roots were
a remedy for broken bones, and that a poultice made from the plant had the
ability to “seal” wounds. Stories and garden lore like these, while
interesting, also help us to identify with our garden’s inhabitants and remind
us that gardening has a long, valuable history.
|Now that you’re sold on the
Perennial Plant of the Year, chomping at the bits to get your hands into the
dirt and add these superstars to your landscape, how about a preview of other
treats that will be offered at Spring’s Best Plant Sale?
If you didn’t plant all the
trees and shrubs you wanted last fall, (when roots have the mild winter season
to take hold) soil will still be cool enough for these woody additions to root
before the heat of summer. The variety of trees and shrubs at the Garden’s sale
is impressive, and quality is top-notch, so don’t overlook this opportunity to
add new bones and structure to your landscape.
||While the showy “Annuals”
section of the sale is always popular, don’t miss the massive selection of
shade plants and perennials, including additional variations of Solomon’s Seal.
These will serve you well, year after year, in creating a lush, green oasis of
Add to these the variety of
vegetables, herbs, container plants, and more, and you can bet there’s not a
corner of your lawn you won’t be ready to dig up and replant on the next
beautiful spring day!
Spring’s Best Plant Sale will be
held in the Pine Grove at Memphis Botanic Garden, 750 Cherry Road, on April 19
and 20, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free to the public, with Garden
staff and Master Gardeners to assist with plant selection and care tips.
of all, your purchases will help “grow” more than just your own backyard…proceeds
from the sale benefit the Garden’s educational and horticultural programs. Call
901-636-4100 for more information, and we’ll see you at the Garden!