Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today


NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.


NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.


New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.


Plant Profiles

Korean Fairybells



"Fairybells"?  The name is too twee by mile for such an elegant performer.  Try the Latin, instead.  "Disporum."  "dih-SPORE-um."  That's the sound of muted erudition, much the better for such a singular but still obscure tribe.


New stalks spring forth in (duh) Spring, but without being so blatant or show-offy as to point skyward in triumph or arrogance.  None of an ornamental grass's "Take that, foul Winter!" as it spears upward into the chilly air.  And none of a peony's "We're here, we're ready, now let's get to business" plump promptness either.  They're as quick and no-nonsense as the vendors when they set up their stalls, rain or shine, at the Saturday market.




Disporums—or at least this one, the Yellow (grrrr) Fairybells, Disporum flavensdo soar, and they do it on-time and in a hurry.  But with reticence and modesty.  Even at their apogee, the stem tips gaze groundward.


The flowers are cool too: Big (for a disporum), showy, daffodil-yellow.  But dangling so strongly, straight downward, that they almost seem embarrassed about being hoisted so high in the first place.


This is a Spring perennial whose genetic inability to hog the spotlight and "Sing out, Louise!" only makes it more showy, more desirable.  Quite a show—but not at all a demanding performer.  Disporum flavens is just about the least challenging disporum of the bunch.  It's only uncommon and astonishing to the degree that disporums as a race are uncommon and astonishing.


Which, yes, indeedy, they are.




Here's how to grow this elegant shade-garden stalwart:


Latin Name

Disporum flavens

Common Name

Korean Fairybells


Colchicaceae, the Autumn Crocus family.

What kind of plant is it?

Herbaceous perennial.


Zones 5 - 8


A colonizing rhizomatous perennial with erect stems.  Spreads out diligently but not alarmingly into a nice colony.

Rate of Growth

Slow to establish, then gratifyingly energetic.

Size in ten years

A colony of thirty inches tall and three or four feet wide.


Thick and dense enough for a tallish groundcover.  Nodding stem-tips round-off the energy of the otherwise uncompromisingly vertical stems.

Grown for

the foliage and growth habit.  Quick out of the gate in Spring, like its relatives the Solomon Seals, but without the Seals' characteristic leaning-tower-of-Pisa look.  This disporum's pointed, pleated green leaves are striking, and similar to those of Lily-of-the-Valley, but ranked alternately up the stem.  The stems themselves aren't shabby either:  Much darker at the base, they are a good contrast to the green of the leaves.  If the Summer isn't a scorcher, there can sometimes be showy yellow Fall foliage, too.    


the totally-pendant narrow bells of yellow flowers are showy despite their seeming intent on hiding under the foliage.


Flowering season

Early Spring; late April into early May in Rhode Island.


Rich soil, mostly shade, enough water.

How to handle it

Locate so that you and your friends can—as you inevitably will—kneel down to check out the subtleties of plant's foliage, stems, and flowers more closely.  Despite the plant's mature height, then, this means right at the front of the bed.


As long as it doesn't get too much sun or too little water, this disporum is easy and long-lasting.


Untroubled by diseases or pests, except possibly slugs.


None of this species itself, although there are many other disporum species and cultivars to try.  Foliage can be variegated, brightly yellow, or deep mahogany; mature height can be only inches to several feet.  The taller species, alas, are more at home in milder climates than mine— Zone 7 and up—where they can look like evergreen clumps of bamboo. 


On-line and in destination nurseries.


Division as well as by seed.

Native habitat





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