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Plant of the week

Uvulalria grandiflora (bellwort, merrybells)

WHY YOU SHOULD PLANT IT

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Uvulalria grandiflora, also known as bellworts, bellflowers or merrybells, come out early and will put up with dry shade conditions, which makes them a rare breed indeed. The drooping lily-like blooms are a great bonus for the spring garden and ideal forage for pollinating insects. (The plant is native to Eastern Canada, where insects need all the help they can get in spring.) It has long, slightly twisted arching foliage that's rather elegant, making it a graceful design addition even after the enchanting golden flowers expire.

WHERE TO PLANT IT

This wonderful plant actually grows well under trees, gleaming like a jewel in almost full shade. But it does need good drainage – it will wimp out in soggy conditions. To enable it to thrive, it's wisest to create humusy conditions with lots of layers of the light, fluffy duff left by rotting leaves as well as adding compost – the plants will easily push their way through. They grow from rhizomes and form clumps that are usually 30 centimetres high and will spread very slowly to 45 centimetres wide.

WHAT IT OFFERS

This is a dependable plant and a good one to start building up a sound ecological system in your garden. Mass it in under the trees where almost nothing else will survive. It also makes a great companion to ephemerals, such as trout lilies and trilliums, which go into dormancy while the uvularia carries on looking handsome until autumn.

SOURCE AND COST

Find it for about $10 a plant at specialty nurseries such as Lost Horizons near Acton, Ont. (519-853-3085 or www.losthorizons.ca).

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Visit www.marjorieharris.com for more gardening and plant information.

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