Friday, April 18, 2008

Mt. Cuba Center Trillium Symposium

Trilliums are exploding in the horticultural world. There are more species and more selections available in larger quantities every year. Difficult to propagate they have traditionally been in short supply in the Nursery Trade. This week the Fern Valley staff is attending a three day symposium on trilliums sponsored by The Mt. Cuba Center. Mt Cuba is indisputably (a strong but accurate word) the finest native plant garden extant.

Mt. Cuba has a well established program of growing Trilliums in a nursery, specifically the lathe house you see in the picture! This tour stop was a quick short-course in seed production given by Jeanne Frett, a research horticulturist at Mt. Cuba Center (pictured pointing informitively at Trillium seedlings). In addition to other responsibilities she is in charge of Trillium production at Mt. Cuba, was the coordinator for this symposium, and authored a remarkable reference on Trilliums, Trilliums at Mt. Cuba Center: A Visitors Guide that is available at Mt. Cuba Center, and will soon be for sale on-line.

Horticulture is a bit faddish, not in a bad way. The explosive growth of interest in Trilliiums reminds me of Hellebores 25 years ago. But Trilliums are nicer; many of the species themselves are choice plants without too much manipulation! But still...both are woodland plants, both with nice but not spectacular flowers , both have taxa with beautiful foliage, both low, both started out with almost no presence in the "market" (nursery/garden center)and exploded...I could go on but don't worry I'm not going to. Anyway, like most gardeners, I love Trilliums; they are the quintessential North American wilflower. It couldn't have happened to a better taxa!

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