Since I'm behind on everything these days, June seems like the perfect time for me to post about something that bloomed in March. It's Chinese Mayapple, and it's one of my favorite weird plants.
Chinese Mayapple (Podophyllum pleianthum, zones 5- 9) is getting more write-ups these days, but a few years ago no one was talking about it. I got mine as a pass-along from a fellow gardener I met in 2012 when we were both doing stints as seasonal workers at Plant Delights, the mail order nursery in Raleigh. No, there were no staff discounts, but it was still possible to end up with some great plants. Our job was cleaning up the plants in preparation for shipping; if in the process you had to snip off a ratty-looking stem, you were allowed to bring it home and try to root it. Then there was the "Reject Tree." Plants that for whatever reason were deemed not sellable were left under a tree near the parking lot, and on your way out at the end of the day you could grab some. I did only one season at Plant Delights, but the source of my Chinese Mayapple was in his gazillionth and between the ratty looking stems, the Reject Tree, and some actual purchases, his home garden was like a Plant Delights museum.
You can't help noticing Chinese Mayapple. The leaves are gigantic and sit perpendicular to the stalk, which makes the plant look like a green toadstool or something out of a fairy tale or Maurice Sendak story. In March it gets borderline-creepy dark red flowers that droop from underneath. And if you like this kind of thing, you're in luck, because unlike native Mayapple, the plant doesn't go dormant until September or so.
In my garden, Chinese Mayapple is a substitute for Hostas, which did not make the cut of plants I deem worth lying awake at night thinking of ways to save from being eaten by deer. One of Chinese Mayapple's best features is that it does not taste good to ravenous animals. It has similar growing conditions to Hosta (moist shade) and can serve the same design purpose (bold foliage, nice contrast with ferns).
But who am I kidding? One of my favorite things about Chinese Mayapple is that it's unusual. I can't deny it - I enjoy having plants no one else in the neighborhood has. It's not my most admirable quality but it's also not one of my worst, so I've decided to live with it.
The Galloping Horse Gardener is a native New Yorker who packed it in in 2005 to live under the radar in Cary, North Carolina. In 2014, she removed to a new secure location somewhere in Raleigh.
Follow the Blog
Problems signing up? Send me an email and let me know.