The gardener's eye

The Gardener's Eye

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Foliage Over Flower

Flowers, however beautiful, are fleeting but foliage can last the entire season. It is a rare plant in my garden that cuts the grade with beautiful flowers but lackluster foliage. Tulips and some of the alliums are examples that come to mind this time of year. I am looking for plants with foliage that has interesting textural qualities and attractive coloration. Arisaema fargesii is an example of my kind of plant.

I planted a pair of Arisaema fargesii in the Woodland Garden two years ago after seeing it for sale at Rocky Dale Gardens in Bristol, VT. They were small plants and looked like they might be marginally hardy but I gave them a try in a protected spot with good moist soil and drainage as instructed. The following year, the plants never came up. 

When I did my annual pilgrimage to Rocky Dale the following May, I saw a more mature specimen of Arisaema fargesii with the giant, glossy grass-green, trifoliate leaves it is known for. I decided I had to have this plant, so I tried it again. Amy at Rocky Dale informed me that it often emerges late in the season. When I planted the new plants in the same location in the Woodland Garden, I realized just how late Arisaema fargesii can be because I disinterred the tubers from the previous year. After a couple weeks, all my last year plants emerged. This year, all the Arisaema fargesii plants materialized the last week in June.

Arisaema fargesii originates from China and was discovered by the French plant explorer, Pere Farges, in the early 1900s. The wine-colored spathe has white stripes and resembles a cobra; thus the first common name, cobra lily. The maroon spadix inside the flower helps give this plant its other common name, jack-in-the -pulpit. No matter what you call it, this plant has a fantatic flower, but more importantly exceptional bold foliage, a perfect contrast to ferns, epimediums and grasses in the woodland garden.

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