More good news for those of us living with Juglans nigra! In his new book The Layered Garden, David Culp describes several genera that he has grown with success beneath these anti-social trees, including:
Smilacina — (Smilacena racemosa — False Solomon’s Seal — an interesting perennial with white flowers in spring followed by green/red berries).
Asarum — (cute little gingers!)
Aucuba — (Evergreen, Gold Speckles. Reminds me of the upholstery on the couch from my childhood family room, circa 1976. What’s not to love?)
Pulmonaria — (I am always reading about how great these are — why don’t I grow them?)
Convallaria — (I actually have Lily-of-the-Valley growing under a Silver Maple, which means they will officially grow anywhere.)
Helleborus — (Yup, I’ve got these under my Black Walnut, too. Splendid!)
Hosta — (It’s harder for me to get excited about Hosta. Probably because I’m only growing the boring green ones. I need to get out my Plant Delights catalog this spring and get my Hosta freak on.)
Disporum —(a little confusion here. One of the common names for this genus is Solomon’s Seal — though the group doesn’t include the common variegated Solomon’s Seal, which is actually Polygonatum. Also, be careful planting Solomon’s Seal and False Solomon’s Seal together, in case they hybridize and then you’re stuck with some sort of weird intermediate form, like Disingenuous Solomon’s Seal or something.)
Sanguinaria — (includes the lovely native ephemeral, Bloodroot. Culp says these “stop traffic” when they bloom in his garden.)
Cimicifuga — (another group that I’ve been meaning to try! Though I believe at least some species are grouped under Actaea now.)
Galanthus —(the bulb with the diminutive white flower. Daffodils do fine with Black Walnuts, too, btw.)
Tricyrtis — (Toad Lilies are FABULOUS, grow them immediately!!!)
I should add that some of the above genera include dozens of different species, so this list actually represents hundreds of potential plants that could live under Juglans nigra!
I have to say that I really appreciate when a garden writer doesn’t just dismiss Black Walnut trees out of hand, sticking them on a list titled something like “Trees That Have No Place in the Garden!!!” which I have seen people do, and which strikes me as rude.
Instead, Culp recognizes the difficulty of Black Walnuts, but he decides to work with what he’s been given and makes the best of it. Much like we do with our in-laws and co-workers.
On encountering the stand of Black Walnuts on his property, Culp says:
“Someone else might have cut down these trees and planted something more benign, but I took it as my special challenge to find genera that would live in their vicinity.”
Thanks, David! I will be adding these genera to the Society Page and I look forward to trying out some of them in the spring!