We have a beautiful Dawn Redwood in the sloping bed next to the driveway to the parking lot on the west side of our townhouse. Ever since we got here (2006), a bunch of plants with lovely little purple bells have appeared under the tree, apparently getting enough sun slanting in under the lower branches to keep blooming.
My neighbor, a much more experienced gardener than me, warned me that these plants would spread through their root system throughout my garden. But they continued to provide a beautiful spot of color in a shady area, and I was reluctant to dig them out.
Another neighbor said she thought they were some kind of Canterbury Bell, but neither could remember their name, and in several internet searches, I couldn’t find an exact match. In a search about how to divide another perennial, I suddenly saw a picture of exactly this plant: Adenophora Liliifolia, or Ladybells. Finally, a name for the plant! A little more research turned up the information that they are, indeed, very aggressive, spreading both by seed and roots.
This year’s blooms were much reduced, perhaps partly because of the long rainy spell in the beginning of the summer, but also, I think, because the Dawn Redwood has spread so much further out, making this space really shady.
So earlier this weekend, I decided to make the big switch, dug up all of the Ladybells (they will go to one of those challenging sidewalk tree boxes, where we will welcome their invasive tendencies), and moved in some of my favorite dry shade perennials: a Leather Wood Fern, a couple Heuchera, and a Foam Flower. Then I added a beautiful new Barren Strawberry plant (thank you, New England Wildflower Society) up near the top of the slope, where it will, hopefully, start to colonize the area, moving downhill and gradually filling up the space where the Ladybells had been. I have a few of these around my garden, and they seem to do better in the more shady spots.
The Heuchera were already in the vicinity, but they were too far down the slope and all sunlight was blocked by the yew (I think) that had grown up in front of them. They suffered from insect or slug damage this summer, and aren’t looking great, so I’m hoping they survive the transplanting okay. I’ve put all of them close to the irrigation hose, and have been running it every day to help them get established.
It all looks very sparse now, and I’m sure I’ll be pulling up Ladybells for years to come, but I’m looking forward to seeing it again next spring.