Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Disporum Sessile... Fairy Bells For Spring

Disporum sessile (sometimes called Japanese or Chinese fairy bells) is a species that I've just been growing for a couple of years, but it is rapidly becoming a favorite. It is native from mainland east Asia to Japan, and is a rhizomatous spreader. The regular species grows up to two foot tall, but there are numerous named clones selected for their foliage and habit, and most of these clones are smaller in stature, with D. sessile 'Tightwad' at top (a variety from Plant Delights Nursery), being only six inches or so tall. I much prefer these smaller varieties, and there are a number of these types with variegated foliage, like D. sessile 'Sunray' shown below. There are some yellow foliaged forms that I lust over, but in order to obtain one of them for the garden, their price is going to need to decline rather rapidly (or the cats are going to have to start earning their keep). Disporum sessile has creamy, greenish-white, hanging bells for flowers, and one of the reasons I like the shorter clones is that the flowers (being the same size in all the varieties I've seen) are therefore proportionately larger for the plant.
These plants are spreaders, and while said to be refined little plants, some of them are a little... vigorous. 'Tightwad' in particular seems to have ambitions out of proportion to its stature; I think it may be multiplying by seeding as well as by rhizomatous spreading. Fortunately for it, it is just so darn cute that I'm cutting it some slack... but I have my eye on it.
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How unusual! The Plants Delight Nursery lists these plants as being in the Solomon Seal family (your 'Sunray' photo made me wonder).

Anyway, the site also has Disporum smilacinum 'Aureovariegata'... another short in stature variety for you! And Disporum flavens (Yellow Fairy Bells) at 30" tall that sounds very intriguing.

This choice-making for the Spring season is a bit like too many chocolates in the box (or two many funny cards at the card store!) ;-)
Shady... I've got a couple of smilacinums (but not the variegated, and I've got flavens, which I really like a lot.
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