The shiny green May Apple leaves come up like a closed umbrella then twist open to form a thick wide canopy. Deep below the leaves, a large white flower is hidden from human view. But people are not the plant’s target audience – insects are. They can find the flowers easily by flying underneath the plant’s skirts, especially when the flowers are bright white with large round faces.
We never cut a May Apple stalk before and are delighted to see how long it stays fresh and erect in a small pool of water. Looking the hidden flower in the eye is a rare treat in itself.
Sprinkled on the imaginary forest floor of the vessel are single blooms from the May Apple’s colorful neighbors – two types of evergreen Anise, deep maroon with long waving fingers and a rounder, rosy-salmon pink color that’s too luscious to describe in words. Using the magnifying glass on this one, a delicate ring of blueberry purple is visible like a secret jeweled collar.
Bright yellow Chrysogonum virginianum ‘green and gold’; the cartiledge-hard jugs from a later-blooming ginger; tiny purple flowers of Scuttelaria ‘skullcap’ and the ever-versatile Helleborus foetidus round out the composition. The yellow-green foetidus seed pods are full and fecund, developing even larger than the flowers which have been blooming away since January. The rare chartreuse version of Calycanthus ‘Sweet shrub’ adds a star-burst motion that echoes the long fingers of the maroon Anise. They’re called ‘Sweet shrub’ because they smell like Juicy-fruit gum. Really.
Season: mid-April in Atlanta
In the background, large watercolor by Shirlee Frank.