It’s our first spring with the Moss Gibbs Woodland Garden fully open and, although it is a scary and confusing time, a walk in the garden can almost make you forget for a minute. One of the greatest things about the Woodland Garden for me, is that it embraces change and seasonality. You could go there every day and see something new; it never lets you get too comfortable.
This couldn’t be more true as the forest starts to wake up for spring. Spring ephemerals are finally stretching their petals towards the sun and there’s no better place to see them than in the Woodland Garden located in Broad Run Park. Spring ephemerals are plants that take advantage of a rare condition in the forest—when the temperature is just warm enough for growth, but bare trees still allow sun to hit the forest floor. It’s all about timing if you want to see these tiny forest dwellers because they quickly bloom, go to seed, and disappear, only to come again next spring when the conditions are just right. Just in case you can’t make it over to the Woodland Garden at this time, I captured some of them for you, and will continue to do so as more surprises pop-up. Here’s what’s blooming in the garden:
A personal favorite because of the unique leaf that blankets the forest floor after it has bloomed. Bloodroot is named after its roots that secrete a red fluid when cut. To identify, look for a single white flower with 8 -12 delicate petals, but don’t get it confused with twinleaf. Bloodroot likes to hug its flower with its leaves like in the picture below and twinleaf does not.
Twinleaf looks a lot like bloodroot but notice the leaves, they are not hugging the stem like bloodroot. Twinleaf gets its name from – you guessed it – the leaves. Although the leaves aren’t quite open yet in this picture, the leaves look similar to lungs, they have two lobed sides that mirror each other. Speaking of not so creative names, there is a spot in the woodland garden called Twinleaf Ridge where you can find an amazing colony of twinleaves if you time it right.
Trout Lilies and Trilliums
I could only find one lonesome yellow trout lily (Erythronium americanum) that had bloomed, but you could feel the anticipation, as trilliums and trout lilies were just around the corner.
To find a trout lily look for brownish-mottled leaves and a nodding yellow or white flower, they grow in sizeable colonies, but not all of them will flower, either being too young or too crowded. Some trout lily colonies have been dated to be up to 300 years old, so think twice before stepping off the trail. Do you really want to step on a 300-year-old anything?
Allegheny Spurge (Pachysandra procumbens)
Allegheny Spurge known for being a great native groundcover has a tiny cluster of flowers you really have to look for. The leaves have scalloped margins, are marbled with silver and purple and grow low to the ground to form a dense carpet. The leaves have been found to be deer resistant and drought tolerant, so think native when you’re thinking about a new groundcover.
My hope is that you can come to the gardens and experience these things yourself! If you are lucky enough to do so, please respect social distancing in addition to all the other garden rules. Please stay on the trail, never pick or collect anything from the park, supervise children at all times (there are uneven and slippery surfaces at times), and remember no dogs. Babies are highly encouraged, but strollers are not recommended.
(No plants or babies were harmed in the taking of this photo!)
Photo and Author Credit: Olivia Wagner