Early Spring Savanna Garden

Early Spring in My Savanna Garde

My lack of trees does limit my early spring flower display.

When I bought my house there were more trees shading the back yard then there are now: a clone of 5 Mulberry trees lined my next-door neighbor’s  back yard along the north side of my property.  They fell 1 by 1, over a 5 -year period and each one of them fell onto my yard.  Then the huge, full-grown Elm tree in the far corner succumbed to Dutch Elm disease and it, too, had  to be removed.

I made an island in my back yard reducing the lawn to a grassy path that encircles the island.  The back 1/3 of the back yard, including the island, receives morning shade, but full sun after that.  I want to plant another ornamental tree in the far end of the island to give more shade and more interest.  Many years ago I  planted a Witch Hazel there, but it didn’t thrive–I gave it to a neighbor, where it grew beautifully.  I planted another one, but it suffered the same fate.  I believe they were incompatible with the Black Walnut.   And my small Shingle Oak didn’t make it through this past winter.  I would like to plant a Red Oak there, but don’t know if I can find a small one that I can handle; I may try another Redbud, extraordinarily  beautiful in a spring garden.

Dutchman's Breeches and Bloodroot leaf

I mentioned last week that the Bloodroot and the Dutchman’s Breeches had been a near failure:the blossoms and the leaves were miniatures of their normal selves and I have no idea why.  They seem to have recovered somewhat.

blue cohosh savanna island

But wait!  What’s this?  These weren’t here before.  Why they look like Blue Cohosh!  Oh my gosh–there’s about a dozen of them!  Where did they come from?

blue ccohosh north wall

They must have come from here–the 5 Blue Cohosh that I planted in a shady nook under my studio windows at the edge of my patio in 1999.

blue cohosh flowers

They bloom inconspicuously in April soon after they emerge from the ground,    attracting bumblebees and flies.  (I enhanced the color of the flowers–otherwise, you might not have seen them)

blue cohosh berries 2014  2

They produce these gorgeous cobalt blue berries in September-October, the main reason I planted this species.  I read they are attractive to “woodland” birds–I haven’t been able to find out which ones.  A couple of years ago, I installed my hanging bird feeder within my patio area under the Redbud tree right outside my studio window, next to the Blue Cohosh.  Evidently some birds found the berries attractive (which are actually naked seeds) and ate those for dessert; then flew over my savanna garden and defecated the remains there.  And voila!  New plants.

Wait! There’s more!

trout lily 2016

A Trout Lily (Erythronium albidum) is in bloom!  And 5 more like it!  The trout-spotted leaves have spread quite a distance from where my friend, Karen, first planted them and now–6 flowers!.

I’m thrilled!

Read more about Trout Lilies here:


One has to look for spring in a native plant garden, but it’s thrilling to find treasures like these.









7 Responses to Early Spring Savanna Garden

  1. Medina Gross April 22, 2016 at 9:25 pm #

    I’m delighted that some of my trout lilies are blooming this year! Thanks for both posts.

  2. Suzanne Massion April 23, 2016 at 6:47 pm #

    Ray and I burned small woodland patches April 15,16,17, and 19, careful to protect a growing area of Trout Lily. Just love them. Pat, this might one of your best; maybe because it reads like a mystery and a discovery. Well I found a complete nest in the Eastern Bluebird house. They have arrived for sure.

  3. Peggy Timmerman April 25, 2016 at 9:22 am #

    Have you thought of trying a serviceberry or a pagoda dogwood? Both are small understory trees with beautiful shapes and flowers, and high wildlife/bird value because of their berries.

    • Pat Hill April 26, 2016 at 12:57 pm #

      I did try a Serviceberry, but it just sulked, so i gave it away to a friend where it is now thriving. i don’t now why I didn’t think of pagoda Dogwood–I love them. I’ll take your advide–thank you.

  4. sharon cross April 25, 2016 at 9:43 am #

    If you decide to try pagoda dogwood, I usually have volunteers and I could dig one up for you.

    • Pat Hill April 26, 2016 at 1:04 pm #

      Love one. Thanks, Sharon.

  5. Jason April 25, 2016 at 8:00 pm #

    I planted a blue cohosh a couple of years ago. It doesn’t seem to be thriving, at least not yet. Keeping my fingers crossed. Presumably some kind of woodland birds like the berries – maybe grouse or wild turkey?

Leave a Reply


Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes