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A tough-as-boots flower for your spring garden

Saruma Henryi

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Plant of the week

Saruma Henryi

Why you should plant it

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The name may be a horticultural joke (it's an anagram of Asarum, a.k.a. ginger), but the plant isn't. It handles bitter spring weather bravely, standing out among the bulbs like an abandoned bridal bouquet. Brilliant yellow blooms nestle among silver felted leaves that have a slightly tropical look most unusual in spring gardens. And while it's closely related to wild ginger, it's in a genus of its own (i.e., it's monotypic, which means there's only one). In other words, it's special.

Where to plant it

Saruma henryi is a tough-as-boots shade plant, but it does need a humus-rich soil. Add lots of compost and other organic matter such as well-composted mulch or manure. It will tolerate a bit of dry shade, making it ideal for woodland gardens. Make sure the location is well-drained and give it lots of room.

What it offers

This deciduous, slow-growing plant is always a surprise in my garden: When I've almost forgotten about it, boom, there it is in early spring. Though it can get quite large – 39 to 90 centimetres high and wide – it takes a few years to make that kind of an impact. It's not easy to find, but it's worth the search.

Source and cost

Lost Horizons in Acton, Ont. ( www.losthorizons.ca) sells Saruma henryi for $16. Visit www.marjorieharris.com for more plant and gardening information.

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