By Barry Glick
Perhaps you’re wondering about the question marks in the title of this narrative? Well, I’m constantly queried as to what my favorite wildflower is and that’s a difficult question to answer. It would be akin to asking a parent, which is your favorite child? When seriously pressed for an answer, I have to honestly narrow it down to two very different wildflowers, both early spring bloomers. One would be Mertensia virginica, aka “Virginia Bluebells,” and Trilliums, any variety of Trillium. Fortunately we have several different species growing right here in the Greenbrier Valley.
Now, “Virginia Bluebells” are super easy to grow. The deer don’t pay them any mind, and they’re one of the first plants to bloom. But, they’re extremely ephemeral and disappear soon after flowering, only returning the following spring. On the other hand, Trilliums have a longer flowering period. and are also very early bloomers, They are around throughout the growing season if they are fortunate enough to have sex and get pollinated which they usually do, but the deer enjoy nibbling on them.
The name Trillium derives from the flower having three petals and three leaves. Well, they’re really not leaves, they’re called bracts. Bracts are structures similar to leaves and as leaves do, they photosynthesize and feed the plant.
Of the six species of Trillium found in WV, the most omnipresent Trillium in this area is Trillium grandiflorum, a graceful, pure white variety, about 12”-18” tall which slowly ages to a deep pink color over its long bloom time. The second most prevalent species is Trillium erectum with its deep burgundy flowers that seem to bend forward in a naturally enticing manner.
These long lived, perennial plants are commonly referred to as “Wake Robin,” a reference to the fact that Trilliums are historically in bloom before the robins appear. Trilliums can be grown from seed as that’s how they reproduce in nature. But the small seeds, which are usually spread by ants, take 5-7 years to produce a flowering size plant. If you’re as impatient as I am, try cutting the thick rhizome from which the Trillium grows into ½” pieces and replant them. Each piece develops at least one new bud that will flower in two to three years.
They’re shade loving plants are very easy to grow and make a wonderful addition to any shade garden. They prefer an average to rich soil in full shade to dappled sunlight. There is one exception and that is Trillium undulatum. Known as the “Painted Trillium,” this beautiful specimen grows in bog-like, acid soils and is not happy being transplanted.
Native Americans used Trillium roots medicinally to aid in childbirth, this use led to another one of the Trillium’s common names, “Birthroot.” They also ate the leaves as veggies.
All things botanical aside, the word “Trillium” evokes something special here in Greenbrier County. It’s the name adopted by three remarkable women in the early 1980’s for their now renowned performing arts group. Beth White, Lorrie Monte and Carli Mareneck have taught, mentored and inspired legions of people, male, female, young and old with their classes, workshops and performances. In 2007, they finally moved into their permanent home, the historic Lewis Theater on North Court Street in Lewisburg. There, they continue to teach and perform with many programs like the popular “Friday Night Alive” series.
It would take volumes to tell you more about the many worthwhile activities that the Trillium group has going on, but I’ll invite you to come see for yourself. On June 14, 2018 Trillium hosts the year’s major fund-raising event to help pay for all the wonderful school shows, professional training, spectacular concerts, Friday Night Alive! Showcases, and Trillium Performing Youth. Held in the lovely garden of the General Lewis Inn, this popular event took a few years off as the Morgan family phased out and the new owners, Sparrow and Aaron Huffman, completely renovated the landscaping and added a patio and water feature behind the Inn. The event, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. will include light snacks, soft beverages and a cash bar. Entertainment will include music by both Adam DeGraff and Jules Kessler, and dancers. There will be a silent auction of some very special items and night-out packages.
For more information about the Garden Party or Trillium, or to donate, visit www.trilliumperformingarts.org or 304-645-3003 and I hope to see you there.
Till our next horticultural excursion,