May's Plant of the month

It’s that time of year when one of the oldest parts of the garden begins to wake up and burst into life

Trillium chloropetalum var. giganteum just openingThe Peat Terrace* wraps around the back of the bathhouse and along the lowest section of the woodland edge. Over the last few years, and with the hard work of one of the gardeners, this area has been gradually reclaimed after having been slightly neglected. And it’s amazing how through this process we’ve rediscovered many unusual and exciting plants, and many more have been reintroduced.

An all-round favourite is the bold and beautiful giant wake robin, Trillium chloropetalum var. giganteum AGM. We have several of these that sit at the top of one of the beds under the dappled shade of a large acer.

One thing we notice and delight in is the fact that there’s a certain amount of variability between the clumps. This can be down to many reasons, including where the seed was originally collected and the maturity of the plants themselves. Generally they have handsome green foliage with darker green to purplish markings, and if this wasn’t reason enough to grow them the flowers are particularly impressive, varying from deep maroon/reds to a striking cerise pink. 

Trillium chloropetalum var. giganteum further into its floweringA slow-burning pleasure

Trilliums can be quite expensive to buy as they are very slow to mature, a seedling taking on average from five to seven years to flower. But if you keep them cool and shady they aren’t difficult. Gardening is all about patience, after all. The extra care and attention ours have had over the last couple of years has indeed paid off, and not only are the plants looking strong and vigorous but they have also set a fair bit of seed. This means the conditions they now have are perfect for them to thrive. Happy plants!

They are fairly easy to grow from seed providing it is extremely fresh, but for the first year it is very likely you won’t see any visible germination, as all the activity is happening under the surface - so for the impatient gardener you may think that they have not been successful when in fact they could be. 

The moral of the story: take time to enjoy tantalising trilliums. It’s definitely worth it.

*Please note - peat is no longer used in the upkeep of this feature.

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.