In the world of status plants for the garden, trilliums are right up close to the top. I am not entirely sure why. They certainly have a quiet charm and are a delightful addition to the spring woodland garden. They are not at all easy for most people to grow and are hard to source, but even that combination of factors does not explain the reverent awe accorded to their presence in a garden.
There are a relatively large number of trillium species (somewhere over 40) and most are native to North America, with just a few from Asia. They are deciduous perennials forming rhizomes below ground. The foliage dies down each autumn, to re-emerge the following spring (one hopes – it is not guaranteed) with fresh leaves and flowers – hence their common name of ‘wakerobin’. At times they are also referred to as ‘tri flower’ on account of their wonderful symmetry of threesomeness. Three heart shaped leaves hold three narrow sepals in the centre which surrounds the three petalled flower which has six stamens. How perfect is that? The dark red trilliums (usually T. sessile or descended from that species) are usually the most highly prized as garden plants, although different species introduce white, pink and yellow to the range.
Being woodland plants, trilliums want ground rich in humus and leaf litter which never dries out. They tend to do better in inland areas with colder winters where the clumps can get more size to them than we see in our coastal conditions. They can be raised successfully from fresh seed if you find a friend with a plant.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.