Bob was my sister’s back-door neighbor for years. He’s widowed now, and moved away to live with one of his daughters, but we’ll always remember him out in his garden, prowling and stooping and tending. His garden was a shady, sloping glen with beds of ivy and ginger around the tree trunks, and through the decades he had carefully nurtured swathes of spring ephemerals: bloodroot, dutchman’s breeches, bunchberry, and above all, trillium.
Bob’s trillium was a gift from his mother, who had it in her woods in Vermont. As a rule you never dig up native flowers: it’s sometimes illegal, and usually pointless as many species do not thrive when moved. But a gift of love is a gift freely given, so Bob’s mother gave him some of her trillium, and Bob faithfully divided it and replanted it year after year until it spread its stars all under his trees. And one wonderful afternoon he dug up a bucketful of it and gave it to me.
May is the perfect time to visit Garden in the Woods in Framingham, MA to see their trillium and other native wildflowers in bloom. You might be able to purchase nursery-grown trillium there or at their Nasami Farm establishment in Whately (call first to check). It likes a humus-rich, open-shade location: edge of woodlands is ideal. It does go dormant in summer, so remember where you planted it or put a rock near it.
The new children in Bob’s house are running riot through his careful beds and picking the flowers, which makes me wince. Then again, let them pick. Gardens, like trillium, are ephemeral. Bob loved that garden while he was there, and they are loving it in their own way – by using it and playing in it and growing up in it. Bob would be happy to see that his yard is noisy and alive again.
But I’m glad I saved some of the trillium.