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Finding new plants is far from easy

We know exactly what will happen if we plant a zinnia seed. It will be up in five days, ready to plant out in three weeks and will spend the whole summer blooming prolifically. Some plants, however, we have never planted before and we aren't sure what the results will be.

I keep looking at marsh marigold, Caltha palustris, for my shade garden. I need more color there and this plant has bright yellow, daisy-like flowers on 1-foot to 2-feet tall stems. It blooms in mid-spring and sounds like it would fill the gap left by the daffodils that have finished their annual display.

I am a little concerned, though. I am unable to find a single source that doesn't mention marsh marigold's need for a wet site - which I don't have. Ferns do well in the area, but maybe there is a long reach from moist to wet. (Nobody ever mentions how wet.)

I've wanted trillium for ever so long, but it is an endangered-in-the-wild woodland flower and I'm not sure how you tell if the plants offered for sale are really "nursery propagated" or dug from the wild in the dark of night. One wouldn't want to encourage that behavior.

I've considered redwood sorrel, Oxalis montana, which has little-clover shaped leaves and dainty whitish-pink flowers. I've spent a lot of gardening time attempting to eradicate clover and oxalis in my flower beds, though, and I'm afraid this would be inviting the enemy into the fort. Sources do mention that redwood sorrel is more well-behaved than most sorrels, but ...

I just may have to take a chance on shooting stars, Dodecatheon spp. I have rich soil in partial shade like the research suggests I need. The flowers are white, pink or violet and they look like a little inverted rocket. The blooms emerge three or four at a time atop long stems. My only problem here is probably a source to purchase them.

Every now and then I consider trying to find some dog's tooth violets, Erythronium spp. Apparently they get their name because the corm is shaped like a dog's tooth. The flowers look like pagodas and you can find ones with pink or yellow blooms. One source did mention that it takes them years to bloom and assures the gardener that they will form a thick carpet if allowed to roam. Since I stay awake at night thinking of ways to do in my common wood violets, maybe this is another plant I need to forego.

Perhaps I'll just stick with hostas and ferns. Just so you know, I didn't have this much trouble figuring out who to marry.

Winder resident Dora Fleming is a Georgia master gardener. E-mail her at dfleming1531@adelphia.net.