Considered by many to be the most beautiful, and of the easiest culture in most gardens,
are the lowland species (or hybrids of them) that come from the west side of the
Cascade Mountains -E. oreganum, E. revolutum and from S.W Oregon, the loveliest
of all, (some say) E. hendersonii, and from farther south into California, E. toulumense
and E. californicum. They thrive in light shade and well drained, preferably humus-rich
soil. They like to dry out somewhat in summer, (but can take some water if the soil
is well drained). They do well under trees, where the roots of the trees can suck
up excess summer moisture. Once they start to bloom and set seed, which they reliably
do, especially E. oreganum and E. revolutum, they can form large drifts over time.
They bloom in late March into April, going completely dormant by summer.
The common name ‘Dog Tooth Violet’’ (though they are not at all related to violets)
refers to the shape of the narrow bulb, in which some see similarities to the shape
of a canine tooth. The bulbs (sometimes referred to as corms, but they are, botanically,
true bulbs) are somewhat fragile and lack the protective skin that covers the more
commonly fall planted bulbs like tulips or daffodils. This leaves them more susceptible
to drying out. They need careful handling and should be planted as soon as possible
on arrival in well drained, humus rich soil, in light shade. They are lovely interplanted
with ferns, hostas, Solomon Seals, and other later emerging shade loving plants.
They are excellent companions to trilliums and other ephemeral woodland plants. Once
established they are long lived, pulling themselves deeper into the soil, and getting
better each year, with some clones and hybrids forming very showy clumps. Others
will just seed around and naturalize, finding the niches they like the most, doing
your designing for you.
CULTURE: Plant the fragile bulbs carefully in well drained humus rich soil in light
shade, a few inches under the surface. They will pull themselves deeper over time
and are quite long lived. Top dress with compost yearly and/or give some organic
fertilizer for larger, stronger clumps .
Hardiness: Unless indicated otherwise, they have all been proven hardy to at least
Fawn lilies, Trout Lilies, Dog Tooth Violets, whatever you choose to call them (I
prefer the imagery of ‘Fawn Lily’, referring here to the lovely mottled markings
on the leaves of some species) these little lily relatives are some of the most charming
spring flowering bulbs you can grow. They look like small nodding lilies, from 6”
to over 18” tall, with basal strap-like leaves, often beautifully marked with shades
of brown or silver. There are over 20 species worldwide, though most are from the
USA. Various species can be cream colored, white, yellow, or shades of pink or pale
lavender, often with intricate markings at the base of the petals.