Thursday, January 22, 2009

Smiling About Smilacinas

Smilacina japonica (well, actually now Maianthemum japonica) is a charming woodland plant native to China, Korea, and Japan, and is often called Japanese false solomon's seal. Two foot tall, with a starry white terminal flower panicle (followed by red berries), it rapidly has formed a nice clump here in a shady ravine. It is very similar to our native false solomon's seal, Smilacina racemosa, and starry false solomon's seal, Smilacina stellatum, (both of which are common in our woods).
In reading Dan Hinkley's magnificent book, The Explorer's Garden , he notes there are two other desirable sub-varieties of Smilacina japonica; one with gold berries (S. japonica var. luteocarpa), and a larger, five foot tall variety (var. robusta). I've not seen either of these varieties offered for sale. There are variegated-leaf forms also, which by their appearance in catalogs don't look worth their lofty prices.
Hinkley mentions at least a half dozen other species of smilacina which sound like they'd be hardy here, and which sound spectacular, including S. oleracea; eight foot tall, with terminal panicles of large, pink flowers, followed by orange fruit. The three smilacinas that we already have give me a great deal of pleasure, and I am on the watch for others; the western version of S. racemosa, our native false solomon's seal should be one I can pick up; it is larger and larger-flowered. I do see that Arrowhead Alpines has S. bicolor and S. henryi offered, but I've already sent my order in for this spring (and already have logged in again once, to add to the original order). Maybe next year...

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Isn't that a pretty blossom? Is it sticky?
Shady... hmmmm, I don't recall that it's sticky.
A subtle, intriguing plant.
EAL... Aaah, that's it; subtle!

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