I volunteered to provide the April centerpieces for a horticulture group I belong to, and I had a vision of honoring plants and their spring awakings. At this time of year it’s easy to rejoice in the showy daffodils and Forsythia, but most of the action in our landscapes is smaller and much more subtle. On the forest floors and fields, beyond our cleaned and mulched gardens, the magic is pushing through leaf litter and unfolding in quiet pockets. That’s what I wanted these centerpieces to celebrate.
My vision was that they should be planted in hollowed logs or curves of bark, since such downed and rotting trees is what feeds these plants in future years. Fortunately, my husband understood this and helped me find a downed cherry and oak tree that were perfect for my purposes. He also assisted in hollowing out the oaks, since they, unlike the cherry trunk, didn’t already come with a central cavity.
Once the containers were ready I needed small plants that were just breaking dormancy. So I called a fellow plant geek, Barry Glick, at Sunshine Farm and Gardens. I knew Barry would have some small pots of native woodland plants, and sure enough, he immediately suggested three that were perfect for my purposes. When I said “I’m thinking a fern that is just starting to unfurl…” Barry replied, “I’ve got some Polystichum acrostichoides in two inch pots.”
Next, Barry suggested Trillium cuneatum and Hepatica acutiloba, and trusting his judgement (and knowledge of his stock of woodland native plants) I said “Perfect!” When his plants arrived I unpacked them, potted up the bare-root Hepatica, and went into my backyard to collect the rest of the materials.
My yard is filled with several species of mosses, which I love, and I took a bit here and pinch there, never removing much from any one location. In the shady part of the field near the lake there are large areas of spotted wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata) and I dug a few of these. I know that this plant might end up being a “cut flower” in my arrangements since they don’t tend to transplant well.
Finally, all the ingredients were planted into the logs and I was thrilled with the results. I think that they capture the feeling of the awaking landscape and honor the magic that is happening as spring unfolds.
Note: It was especially gratifying that the wait staff at the Holiday Inn where the event was held immediately commented on these. “Oh! I love the centerpieces!” the bartender said. Even non-plant geeks responded with joy to this celebration of the woodland garden.