Spectacular Spring Ephemerals in Jay Sifford’s Back Garden

It’s always a treat when award-winning landscape designer Jay Sifford sends in photos of his fabulous home garden in the mountains of North Carolina. Today, we have an extra-special treat:

Many are familiar with my septic drain field turned stylized meadow in the front yard of my house called Rhodwood, located in the western North Carolina mountains at 3300 feet. We were 6b, now 7a. Fewer have seen the back garden, accessed by a series of switchback steps. This area is comprised of a large rhododendron maximum forest with a high tree canopy, complete with two natural bogs and a stream with rapids.

The natural plant palette contains mostly spring ephemerals that are gone by the end of June, just about the time the front garden peaks. Hundreds of native skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus, Zones 4–7) , Trillium sulcatum (Southern red trillium, Zones 4–7), Veratrum and marsh marigolds (Caltha palustris, Zones 3–7) form the framework. My goal was to embellish this natural wonderland with native and non-native plants that look at home in the space.

The sculpture of a male figure greets visitors as they step off of the boardwalk that spans bog #1.

Ostrich fern with purple woodland phlox and other foliage plant

Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris, Zones 3–7) , woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata, Zones 3–8) and Veratrum says spring more than any other plant combination in the garden.

purple woodland phlox behind pink bleeding hearts

Woodland phlox and bleeding hearts (Dicentra and Lamprocapnos spp. and cvs.).

close up of Ghost Dancer Japanese maple

I have a dozen or so Japanese maples in this lower garden, varieties that like partial shade. This one is Acer palmatum ‘Ghost Dancer’ (Zones 5–9).

maidenhair ferns emerging in spring

Emerging maidenhair ferns (Adiantum raddianum, Zones 3–8) glisten in the afternoon light. I love ferns!

close up of bright yellow globeflower bloom

Trollius chinensis (Globeflower, Zones 3–7) is new to me. I’m going to love it!

close up of purple crested iris

Naturally occuring Iris cristata (Crested iris, Zones 4–10) lives at the top of the switchback steps.

close up of Tiarella cordifolia in bloom

Tiarella cordifolia (Heartleaf foamflower, Zones 4–9)… I’ve planted hundreds.

close up of Arisaema ringens blooming

Arisaema ringens (Japanese Cobra Lily, Zones 5–9) blooming by the steps.

Jay sent a true treasure trove of spring plant photos, so we’ll be back in his garden tomorrow to see more of what he’s growing.


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