Friday, June 20, 2008

Solomons Seal

Now that the Hellebores are in it is time to work other parts of the front garden. I know that Solomons Seal, Polygonatum, is a well known wild flower in this region. I have seen it walking the lake. It is fairly plain though, a reasonable but unspectacular ground cover. Three years ago the local nurseries started to carry a variegated form of Solomon's seal. They were still unusual items, not carried in many places. I bought a few to try them out.

The next year they had spread to about twice their original area. Even in a not too hospitable area in mostly shade and root competition. The white/yellow variegation on the edge of the leaves made them glow slightly. They show a row of small bell-like flowers in the spring, but you won't grow them for the bloom. They also did well with hostas, rising in most cases to about a foot and a half. Like Hostas they die to the ground in the fall and come back with red shoots, well after the early spring bulbs come up. Wait for them before your dispair.

This year I tried some mass divisions to fill in some of my lost areas. Solomon's Seal reproduce by spreading rhizomes, often in a 'line', depending on how loose the soil is. Also by seed, though I have not seen that. In established beds the rhizomes come close to or even break the soil surface. Though they spread readily, they are not invasive and easily controlled.

They are very easy to divide, much easier than Hostas. Lift them with a shovel and then slice them apart. The leaf stems are fragile, and can break at the bottom, so treat them gently. Then replant them in enriched soil and water them in well. Once they are established, say after the first year, they do well in even dry root-ridden areas. I got over a hundred divisions and replanted them in improved soil in a three meter square area. Added a bit of fertilizer, but it's probably not necessary. Should create a very nice ground cover of Solomon's Seal next year.

They have medicinal uses. One reference says the leaves have a spicy flavor, though I have not tried them yet. When I get enough I will make a salad.

The local nursery is selling these for twenty dollars a quart pot with only a few meager stems. You can easily do your own propagation and have many in just a few years. I should get into the business.

Above, a two year old line of plants, below, today's planting.

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