Trout lily

This wood­land-lov­ing plant is worth wait­ing and watch­ing for as spring ar­rives.

Canadian Gardening Annual 2016 - - Native Plant - Text STEPHEN WEST­COTT-GRAT­TON

When I was a child, I re­mem­ber see­ing huge swathes of trout lilies ev­ery spring in the de­cid­u­ous wood­lands that bor­dered the Credit River in what has be­come Mis­sis­sauga, On­tario. And mim­ick­ing th­ese for­est con­di­tions is key if you want to grow them in your own gar­den: Trout lilies re­quire a part- to full shade lo­ca­tion in moist, hu­mus-rich soil that has been heav­ily amended with com­post, shred­ded leaves or leaf mould. Trout lilies grow from small corms (mod­i­fied plant stems) that are planted six cen­time­tres deep and 10 cen­time­tres apart in au­tumn. In early spring, two shiny green leaves mot­tled with brown and pur­ple (they re­sem­ble lake trout – hence the com­mon name) give rise to a sin­gle nod­ding flower with golden re­flexed “pe­tals” (perianth seg­ments) that are shaded with a pale pur­ple on the out­side. Left undis­turbed in op­ti­mum grow­ing con­di­tions, trout lily corms pro­duce un­der­ground stolons that en­able plants to slowly spread over large ar­eas. Spring ephemer­als, trout lilies go dor­mant af­ter flow­er­ing, so we rec­om­mend grow­ing them among del­i­cate maid­en­hair ferns that are slow to emerge in spring. Plants culled from the wild don’t trans­plant well, so en­sure that the corms you pur­chase are grown in a nurs­ery set­ting.

“This is one of the most el­e­gant of our na­tive Lilies. It blos­soms early, and we hail it with glad­ness when it bright­ens us with a grace­ful golden bell at the edge of the dark for­est.” —Cather­ine Parr Traill (1802-99), Stud­ies of Plant Life in Canada (1885)

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