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Syneilesis aconitifolia, The Shredded Umbrella Plant
My start of this fantastic perennial came in a trade. In spite of my placing it in the "wrong spot" in my garden it has impressed me from day one and continues to fascinate me every time I walk by. Simply put, it is in the top 10 foliage plants for my shade garden.
If you were fortunate enough to follow this species home, you would be walking the hillsides of Japan and Korea. There it would be found in a somewhat dry, woodland, habitat. I placed my start in rich soil, heavily mulched and shaded. While the plant has formed a clump over time, it has not obtained the full height expected. I expect to move the clump to a more open spot so I can get both height and faster multiplying, for it looks best in good size clumps. Expect a tight clump of stems and foliage about 2 feet across in 5 years, with a height of about 18 inches.
Only one line on blooms for they are nothing to write home to your gardening Mother about. It is all about the foliage. As they first emerge the first 4 inches of the plants masquerade as a tiny cocktail umbrella needing a shave. They are completely covered in white hair for a felted-gray over-green color and texture. As the plant matures the umbrella opens and the silky gray disappears to become deep green.
When reaching full height, the stout stems will be about 18 inches in height. Each stem will have one leaf perched on top like a spinning plate on a pole in an acrobat's act. The leaves will be about the size of a dinner plate and very much divided. Each long division has serrated edges and forked division at the tip, forming intricate patterns as they find ways to layer themselves among the clumps.
Finally, it is hardy from Zone 4 thru 8, so most gardeners can easily add this fascinating plant to their gardens for one-upmanship on their gardening friends. My stands have ferns and trilliums as companions. Groundcovers such as creeping woodland phlox (Phlox stolonifera) would make a great background. Almost any broad leaf perennial would work well with the shredded umbrella plant.