Monday, October 06, 2008

The One That Started It All...

As I've been hinting recently in posts and comments, our Toad Lilies (Tricyrtis sp.) are really taking over the early Fall show in the Woodland Garden ... In fact, this season I've been an incessant cheerleader for these beautiful --indeed magical-- Fall surprises. While most gardeners rely on Chrysanthemums and Asters to bring on the show during the cooler days of Fall, we've been relying more and more (over the past 8 or so years) on the humble Toad Lilies. These simple and unassuming delights don't attract much attention (other than from the cognoscenti) during most of the spring/summer season, but when everything else starts looking really ratty around late September into October, they burst into bloom, and until a heavy frost shuts them down for the year, they just keep up the show until the bitter end.

We can't think of a better shade plant that really pays off for the patience one needs to get it established. We originally started with this variety (I know it's a T. Hirta, but we never knew the variety because the stake in the pot simply stated: Toad Lily, Perennial) and if anyone can positively ID it, please let me know in the comments! I have always suspected that it must be one of the more common varieties given how we acquired this one (it was the only one offered at that particular nursery), but no matter the precise name, it's definitely been a real garden trooper, that just keeps getting bigger and more floriferous every year. (This year it has topped 4 feet in height, with about a 2 foot spread.)

I have to confess that when we first bought this plant (it was all of 2-3 inches tall at the time), I knew absolutely nothing about Toad Lilies, and given its plain aspect, I had no idea what to eventually expect from it ... I just went along with Fernymoss' enthusiasm at finding a specimen, and relied on his "Don't worry, they're really cool!" advice to get it and put it in our (then nascent) shade garden we call the Woodland Garden. It didn't bloom the first year (not unusual for small Tricyrtis plants just getting established), but from the second year on it has been a real performer for us. This particular variety is one I'd definitely recommend to the novice Tricyrtis gardener, because as long as its needs for partial to deep shade and a consistenly moist growing situation are met, I'd say it's practically foolproof! Just plant it in a good spot and be patient, and you'll be rewarded many times over as it increases and colonizes the area over the ensuing years. Oddly enough, of all the Toad Lilies we have in this area, this is always the last to start blooming (and usually the last to die back). Its companions 'Raspberry Mousse,' 'Amethystina,' and the unknown white variety (coming soon here), were ahead of the game and started blooming a few weeks previously to this one. So, at this point we currently have four lovely varieties blooming their hearts out, and it's great to be able to just look out the dining room windows and see such beauties just outside....

Over the course of the next week, I'll be posting examples of our other Toad Lilies, just to show off the amazing variations in color and flower structure this species offers, and if you're anything like most gardeners who suddenly discover success with them, you'll soon be hooked and wanting more and more to tuck into shady spots in the garden. One of the very best resources in Garden Blogland has to be IABoy's collection currently on display over at An Iowa Garden. Of all the gardeners whose blogs I've come to know over the past year or so, he has by far the best Tricyrtis collection and all the requisite wisdom behind it ... if you're not familiar with his blog, it's time to pay him a visit for his marvelous Tricyrtis and all the other amazing shade plants he has in his garden. You'll be happy you did! (And for those already in the know, I suspect you'll back me up on this praise!)

On another tangent, we've been working our way through the first season of Pushing Daisies on DVD, and just finished it on Friday night. I have to give Annie in Austin a big shout out for guiding me in the direction of this positively magical and engaging new series. Thanks, Annie! I'm usually really resistant to getting hooked on new TV series (I've never seen Lost, 24, Grey's Anatomy and the like), but this one is more than worthy of our time and attention (and I haven't given such praise since Six Feet Under premiered in 2001), with its imaginative premise and stunning visual style (at times reminiscent of Tim Burton and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amélie). We haven't watched the Season 2 premiere yet (though I recorded it on the DVR), but are looking forward to taking it in tomorrow night, and I expect equally wonderful results ... I certainly hope that this series has a long and productive arc, because everything up to now certainly points in that direction! If you're not already familiar with the series, give it a shot and see what you think ... you may or may not agree with my effusive praise, but for those who appreciate a series that's way off the beaten track of the usual network reality shows, lawyers and doctors typically offered, it's a wonderful reward for the time spent watching. (BTW, it's on ABC on Wednesday nights at 7:00 p.m. CDT (8:00 EDT) if you need that particular nudge....)


Roses and Lilacs said...

Good morning IVG. That is a stunning photo. I know absolutely nothing about toad lilies but the picture of that bloom is worth a thousand words;)

The name is such a put-off. Who ever labeled them with such an ugly moniker, should be scolded quite harshly.

Annie in Austin said...

Well, with all the spots and a shape that could be seen as splayed amphibian legs, the name doesn't seem that bad to me...maybe it depends on one's view of actual toads? If you like toads the name sounds cute! Your flowers may not have a fancy name but they sparkle with personality.

IVG, my unnamed passalong toad lily came from a friend early this year, and as I watched the parade of blooms go past on your blog and Don's and a few others, it seemed that mine had no chance. But a few days ago I was shocked to see tiny little protuberances pop up along one there are buds, and if frost holds off long enough maybe all the Bloggers' flowers will help it be identified.

I sure hope you like this year's Pushing Daisies, too!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

FARfetched said...


Very nice. I mowed down the spring lilies, at the request of Mrs. Fetched. That's supposed to help them get going next year. Stupidog was after something smack in the middle, though; I don't know if he got it but he likely dug out a few lilies.

I would be happy with four less dogs around here.

Gail said...

I am completely captivated by my Toad Lily! I cheated and bought it fuller grown but hope it acquires the presence yours has in your garden. Right now it is looking good!

How have you been?


olivia said...

Hi all.

As you know IVG, I've learned all I know about Toad Lilies from you ... and I LOLed at Fernymoss' Don't worry, they're really cool! ... :D

They are magical flowers for a few reasons ... first, I'm captivated by their names (having a severe fondness for frogs and toads), they really are cool - fantastical looking petals etc., as Fernymoss states, they're hardy and strong-willed blooming in the fall! Can't wait to see the other photos you captured ... :D

Oh, and I second your rec for IABoy's blog and toad lily pix.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Marnie,
I think these have long been an open secret among gardeners, though they are increasingly more common in garden centers. You should see if you have a nice shady spot by your house you could grow a few. We love having them so close to the house so they are easy to view when blooming!

As for the name, I'm not sure quite how that took hold, but our theory is that perhaps they got the Toad denomination because of the blotches and spots on the flowers ... at least that's our take on it!

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Annie,
Personally, I'm quite fond of toads, and we improvised a toad house in the herb garden when I found a little one back there earlier in the summmer. For some reason he really seemed to like hanging around the sage, so we put a broken pot there for him to use.

Yay for you! That's exciting to see them bloom the first time, and make sure you get a photo for your blog. I'll be interested in seeing just what got passed along to you! You can look forward to a few this year, but every year following, they just increase in number and keep on giving....

We watched the season premiere of PD tonight and were just as thrilled as with the first season. Again, many thanks for the tip!

But poor Olive! Gotta be tough to be such a secret repository ... and that little Sound of Music moment had me in stitches of laughter. (Can you believe I've still never seen more than snippets of that movie? hehe)

Do you think the Betty's Bees storyline might have been related to Burt's Bees product line having been bought out by big pharma not so long ago? That thought occurred to me after it was over... Betty, Burt, Bees? Hmmm

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hey FAR,
Spring lilies? You sure have topsy turvy bloom times down there, because summer is prime Lily time around these parts. Time for us to cut our peonies down, they're turning brown, along with so much else around the garden. The corn stalks are practically dried now, just in time for Halloween!

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Gail,
That's not cheating to buy a bigger plant! When I plant them now, I always look for a more mature plant after having planted tiny withered ones I got in the mail and seeing them take so long to get established. I bet you'll be hooked on these next year and will be out Toad Lily stalking in the garden centers. :-)

Just give them time and patience (and water in dry spells) and you'll do fine.

ACK, I'm still way overwhelmed at work, but trying to keep my head above the flood waters! :-)

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

I'm honoured to have introduced you to our Toadie friends, and still think you need a few of your own so you can work your magic on them! They're sometimes tricky to get good shots, but this particular one is so photogenic and loves to pose ... the other ones are a bit more difficult to capture. So we just take tons of shots and look for the best, lol.

They are magical, and the colour variations from flower to flower are really amazing. We're hopelessly hooked, as you know. :-D