Many years ago, when my children were young, we drove up to Door County to spend Memorial Day weekend.  The weather was quite cool–the tourist season had not yet started.  The peninsula was, however, exquisite; a beautiful time of year to visit.

The cherry trees, for which the county is famous, were all in bloom, a sea of white billowing blossoms everywhere, as far as the eye could see. Adding to the picture were carpets of Virginia Bluebells and  Great White Trillium beneath the cherry trees, a stunning blue and white composition.

While cherry (and apple) trees were common when I was growing up, one doesn’t see many cherry blossoms anymore.  But its relative, Wild Plum (Prunus americana) is common, seen in bloom in April and May in thickets along roadsides and at the edge of Forest Preserves.


Wild Plum (Prunus americana) grows to height of 15’ and suckers into a dense thicket.  The fragrant, snowy blossoms emerge before the leaves; in summer they produce sweet red and yellow plums to eat out of hand or from which to make preserves.  It’s not easy, though, to pick them before the critters get them.

In the home landscape, underplant Wild Plum with Virginia Bluebells and Great White Trillium–a stunning combination for anyone’s property.  Jens Jensen, who had a home in Door County,  used this combination in his designs.

Wild Plum combined with Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginiana)


Its pink buds turn into profuse, nodding clusters of sky blue bells on 18-24’ stems.

Close-up of Virginia Bluebells.

Great White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) with Bloodroot foliage.  It thrives in a moist, shaded,  diverse wildflower garden.



The three white, undulating petals of Great White Trillium form a funnel-shaped flower that stands above 3 green whorled bracts that grow out of a whorl of 3 leaves, triply earning its genus name.  As it species name states, It has large flowers, especially compared to  other local trillium.  As the flower ages it turns from sparkling white to dusty pink.  Great White Trillium grows from a short rhizome that produces a single flower at the top of a 6-12” plant.  The rhizome will often form large clonal colonies  (we can only  hope).

Then consider adding other wildflowers to the above composition:

Jacob’s Ladder, also in bloom now continues the blue color scheme.



Virginia Bluebells combined with Jacob’s Ladder at Chicago Botanic Garden, Mother’s Day, 2009.


The pinnately compound leaves of Jacob’s Ladder (Polemonium reptans) give it its common name;  the leafy clumps are decorated with clusters of nodding, china blue cups that seed themselves cheerfully about the garden.

One must consider hiding the dying foliage of the ephemeral bluebells that takes place after the flowers have bloomed and produced seed–it is neither quick nor pretty.

Arching clumps of Long-beaked Sedge (Carex sprengellii) will hide the fading ephemeral Virginia Bluebells.  My favorite sedge, it grows 1 1/2-2’ tall  and spreads fairly quickly by rhizomes and by seed.  It’s always welcome in my gardens, wherever it chooses to grow.


Here’s an announcement from Valerie Blaine, Kane County Naturalist.

GENEVA, IL — Learn about invasive plant species and how they impact us

all, at a May 16 nature program.

Natural Resources Director Drew Ullberg of the Forest Preserve

District of Kane County will discuss invasive species and their

effects on native flora and fauna.  “Invasive Plant Species of Kane

County” is Thursday, May 16, from 7-8:30 p.m. at Creek Bend Nature

Center in Saint Charles.

Ullberg will describe both the management challenges and successes in

the ongoing battle against invasive species. There will be a

question-and-answer session following the presentation.

This nature program is part of the Learn from the Expert series of

programs offered jointly by the Forest Preserve District of Kane

County, the Geneva Park District and the Saint Charles Park District.

Learn from the Experts programs are taught by experts in their field

and offer in-depth information about local ecology.  Advance

registration is required.

Registration for “Invasive Plant Species of Kane County” is $15 per

person. To register, call 847-741-8350 or e-mail


Creek Bend Nature Center is located within LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve

at 37W700 Dean St., Saint Charles.

You do not have to live in Kane County to attend this program.

For more information or a full roster of Forest Preserve District of

Kane County programs, visit www.kaneforest.com.



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