Several years ago, with plants from a friend, I started a small woodland garden under edge of our 70 foot hemlocks.
I love the little plants. They are small and unobtrusive but shine in a shady place.
Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullari), a white flowering native wildflower, grows to about 4 to 8 inches. It got the common name because the flower supposedly resembles and upside down pair of breeches. They bloom for about two or three weeks starting in April in my garden. It grows in moist woods naturally but is not tolerant of wet winter soil. They do tolerate drought.
I’m told the seeds are distributed by ants. I’ve never witnessed tiny ants carrying tiny seeds so I can’t testify to this. The foliage is toxic to mammals and I know for a fact that deer won’t eat it.
Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis L.) grows to be a towering 10” tall. One of the first wildflowers to bloom in spring, it always takes me by surprise. For such a small plant the flowers are somewhat spectacular in a woodland setting.
The root was used by the American Indians for treatment of rheumatism and fever and today is being studied as a treatment for skin cancer. Its use in mouthwash and toothpaste to fight gingivitis and plaque has been approved by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration. According to the FDA, self-medication should be avoided because it could be toxic. It was also a source of red, pink and orange dyes by the American Indians.
Bloodroot prefers rich, moist soil and grows best in shade. I’ve read they are attractive to slugs, deer and other nibbling animals but I haven’t had any trouble so far.
Bloody Sorrel (Rumex sanguineus) is considered a perennial herb or ornamental vegetable. The attractive foliage is a deep green with red veins. This one tops out at about 15 inches. It likes damp shade but will usually survive a drought. Mine have never flowered but I’ve read that they have attractive redish/purple seed heads that stand about a foot above the plant.
I’ve also read that new leaves can be eaten like spinach. I hate spinach and I don’t intend to eat this pretty plant.
I’ve also added some Christmas fern, Japanese painted fern, lady fern, August lily, lungwort and a few other woodland plants. The petite plants boast a subtle beauty and add a surprising interest to a woodland setting.