Scary Plants!

They say (whoever THEY are) that the chilling descent of rain and darkness upon the Pacific Northwest breeds creatures, nay, organisms, that defy explanation or categorization. We at Tadpole Haven, coupled with our eco-friendly practices, impose a strict discipline upon our plants — under which some simply snap. Ugly, sometimes gruesome, some belonging to the brotherhood of the walking dead, these threaten to “go tadpole” on us … Lisa and I, fearing for our welfare, dare not spend the winter surrounded by them.

If you are brave enough, take the opportunity to come to the nursery and peruse these frightening specimens to determine whether you are capable of reforming them.  Over the next few days, we will hunt, stalk, corner, capture, exhume, root out, seize and otherwise incarcerate these gnarliest denizens of our horticultural establishment. We will make them available for adoption for a mere pittance-$1 for plants 1-gallon or smaller, $2-$5 for larger plants. Perhaps you, more saintly members of the community, have the spiritual wherewithal to inspire these plants into wholesomeness once again.

Our Scary Plant Sale runs through November 6. We will be OPEN (no appointment needed) on Friday, October 30 from 10 AM to 4 PM & Saturday, October 31 (Halloween) from 10 AM to 3 PM. We will be available by appointment on the other sale days.

Of course, we will have our usual wonderful selection of perfectly well-adjusted native plants which are also seeking good homes.

Sins-eerily,

Shirley Doolittle

Tadpole Haven Native Plants

The Laying on of Fronds

The fronds of Maidenhair Fern nod on slender black stems. Their horizontal orientation and gently curving black-veined pinnae remind me of green hands hovering over the forest floor, blessing the denizens of the duff: sow bugs, black beetles, microscopic creeping critters, long-toed salamanders, mosses, and of course, congenial companion species — Piggy-back Plant (Tolmiea menziesii) and Bunchberry (Cornus unalaschkensis a.k.a. Cornus canadensis). I wonder if (on a dry day) I could lay down on my yoga mat so that I can look up through the Maidenhair Fronds. I could really use the blessing of a Maidenhair Fern. I bet it would be more healing than a therapist, and way cheaper. I am going to try it!

Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum pedatum)

Never far from moisture, these beautiful natives can often be seen beside ponds and trailside rivulets splashing down a hill. They thrive just behind the dripline of our tumbledown garage. The insurance inspector may disagree, but to my eyes, the garage’s gracefully sagging, mossy, lichen-covered shake roof and ancient red siding is time-and-nature’s artwork. The Maidenhair and Lady Ferns (Athyrium filix-femina) hugging the north wall complete the picture.  

Practical info: Deciduous. Likes moisture, but doesn’t have to be wet. Grows best in bright shade; NO direct sunlight- it will bleach the leaves! Its basal fronds average about two feet tall. Naturally grows both in the lowlands and in the mountains.

Long-toed Salamander

Companions

When I am weary of humans, I look to nature and digging in the dirt for hope and connection to creation. And I am reminded always that I am a part of that dirt, that I am one bit of nature, along with nematodes, fungal filaments, plants and people. That recognition prepares me to again seek human companionship, at least with simpatico family and friends. That sense of connection bolsters hope and strength to re-engage with the harsher aspects of the human world.

Or not!

Sticking with the gentler elements of nature, where interdependence is a given and dominance can only take you so far, I’ll focus on the natural companionship of three native plants currently abundant at Tadpole Haven: Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum pedatum), Bunchberry (Cornus unalaschkensis a.k.a. Cornus canadensis) and Piggy-back Plant (Tolmiea menziesii). In the interest of brevity, I’ll tackle just one today: Piggy-back Plant.

This moisture-loving perennial inspires sentiment in those who grew up playing in the woods west of the Cascade Mountains. And who wouldn’t love a plant with a name like that? The very name says friendliness, helpfulness and mutuality. Little kids love this cute, easy-to-recognize plant. And a number of older people have come to the nursery just to buy Piggy-back because it reminds them of when they were small.

Practical information:

In early summer new plantlets form at the base of the mature heart-shaped leaves. As the “mama” leaves get heavy with their own weight and the weight of the baby leaves, they settle to the ground and root. In this way, they gradually spread and make a nice ground cover.

The foliage gets about 12-15” tall, but the thin flower stalks sprout up another foot or so, bearing inconspicuous purplish flowers. It grows well in full shade to partial sun, in moist to soggy soil that has lots of organic matter.

Great in a woodland setting under Big-leaf (Acer macrophyllum) and Vine Maples (Acer circinatum) or evergreen trees such as Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata), Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) and Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii). It will also do well tucked in the shade of a fence or a garden shrub. It makes a great houseplant for children who enjoy the idea of baby leaves riding the mommy and daddy leaves.

Along those lines, Piggy-back Plant is also known as “Youth-on-Age”: as the old leaf deteriorates into the soil, it nurtures the new leaf. Hard to miss the reminder of mortality, but it is a gentle reminder, especially if you are lucky enough to know a child who is happy to point out this playful-looking plant.