Among all the woodland wildflowers of eastern North America, trilliums rank high among people’s favorites. Named for their three-petaled spring flowers sitting atop whorls of three leaves, they’re found all the way from northeastern Canada to central Alabama and Georgia (USDA Zone 8). White trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) is both the showiest and easiest one to grow. That’s why I just planted some and you should too.
I got my plants from a remarkable nursery in West Virginia called Sunshine Farm & Gardens, a 60-acre refuge atop a 3,000-foot mountain smack in the middle of nowhere. Actually, that’s not true. It’s just outside the little town of Nowhere and a few miles from Lost-as-Hell and Black Hole. It’s operated by plantsman extraordinaire Barry Glick, who in between moonshine runs to Nowhere grows more than 10,000 kinds of plants, most of them legal.
I became acquainted with Barry some years ago when Southern Living did a story on hellebores. Hellebores are Barry’s passion and he has 6 acres of them in bloom every March, many of them his own hybrids. But his plant selections go way beyond that. He’s a great source for many of Grumpy’s favorite native plants, including Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica), merrybells (Uvularia grandiflora), Indian pink (Spigelia marilandica), liverwort (Hepatica sp.) and about 10 different kinds of trilliums. If you’re looking for ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), he has that too, along with that legendary Appalachian delicacy, ramps (Allium tricoccum).
White trillium grows 12-18 inches high and features brilliant white blooms 3-4 inches across in early to mid-spring. As blooms age, they take on pink tones. The plant likes dappled to full shade and moist, acid, woodsy soil containing lots of organic matter. I planted mine at the edge of my woods in soil liberally amended with chopped up oak leaves. The foliage dies down in the heat of summer, but to keep the roots spreading, water the area every once in a while during extended droughts. A few handfuls of organic fertilizer sprinkled over the bed in spring will help too. Happy plants form ever-expanding colonies, giving you more bang for your precious buck.
Although Barry sells a lot of plants wholesale to nurseries, fortunately he ships to average Billy Bobs and Wilma Janes too. The plants come as bare roots wrapped in moist moss with detailed planting instructions.
If you’d like to tour wooded hillsides blanketed by thousands of hellebores, trilliums, and other flowers, you can visit Sunshine Farm & Gardens whenever the truck driver you hitched a ride with dumps you off unceremoniously at Renick, West Virginia, and says, “This is as far as you go.” Barry requests that you call first to make sure the revenooers have departed. The number is (304) 497-2208. You should also pay very close attention to these directions, lest you end up sleeping in the hayloft with Jeffro.