Hillenia is little known to our growers, but it is widely grown in European countries. You rarely find it on sale here, although winter hardiness allows you to grow it in central Russia and further south. This plant of exceptional beauty, during the flowering period, is completely covered with light white or pinkish flowers, like myriads of small butterflies circling over the bush. Light and gentle, it fully lives up to one of its romantic everyday names - Fawn's Breath.
Genus hillia(Gillenia) belongs to the pink family (Rosaceae)... Named after Arnold Gillen, a 17th century botanist. Until recently, the genus included 2 species similar to each other - three-leaved Hillian (Gillenia trifoliata) and hillia stipular (Gillenia stipulata), but at present the second type has been abolished.
Hilllen three-leafed (Gillenia trifoliata) also occurs under the obsolete name three-leafed porteranthus(Porterathus trifoliata)... It is endemic to the east of North America, where it grows from Ontario and New York to Michigan, Georgia and Missouri, in open rocky deciduous forests and among forbs.
Hillia three-leafed is a vertically growing shrub from 60 to 90 (120) cm in height; in our zone it behaves like a perennial. It grows up to 60 cm wide. It has reddish stems, on which short-petiolate leaves of 3 elliptical, serrate along the edge, lobes are located. Stipules are linear, almost invisible. Young leaves have a spectacular bronze tint. In July, graceful white flowers up to 2.5 cm in diameter bloom at the thin ends of the shoots from red-pink buds, consisting of 5 loose, thin, slightly twisted, elliptical petals, the whiteness of which contrasts with the red five-part calyxes and pedicels. Flowers have 10-20 stamens and 5 pistils, pollination is carried out by insects. They resemble gaura flowers in shape. Inflorescences are loose openwork panicles. Flowering lasts up to 2 months, after which the fruits ripen - dry leathery pubescent leaflets with 1-4 seeds.
After flowering, the plant remains decorative due to the deep reddish-bronze autumn color of the foliage, and in winter it is decorated with leaflets' stars, which persist until spring.
Flowers can be pinkish, like the variety PinkProfusion, which grows 75-90 cm tall and has bright bronze foliage, especially in an open, sunny place.
Hillia grows well in the sun and in spotted partial shade. It is good if shading occurs in the hottest part of the day in the afternoon. This rhizome plant prefers loose rich soils of weak and neutral acidity (pH 6.5-7.5). It develops better with sufficient constant soil moisture, although it tolerates short dry periods well. Not affected by pests.
Plants are planted at a distance of 75 cm, the root system is mulched with compost. Growth is proceeding at an average pace. The plant is hardy in zone 4, and the Pink Profusion variety - in zone 5a, for the winter it needs mulching and shelter with leaf litter. Cutting the stems is best done in the spring rather than in the fall.
The plant reproduces well by dividing in spring and autumn. To do this, it is not necessary to dig it out completely - in well-developed plants, you can dig in the rhizome and separate the part with a sharp tool.
Seed propagation is also acceptable. Seeds are sown before winter or in spring through seedlings. Spring sowing requires cold seed stratification at + 5 ° C for 1-1.5 months. Stratified seeds can be sown directly into the ground after the end of the spring frost.
Hillia three-leafed looks great in mass monoplanting, forming a large openwork cloud. However, in a single arrangement, the lateral stems may lie down and require support.Therefore, it is still better to include the plant in compositions with other perennials that will support them and protect them from the winds. Hillenia perfectly complements with its airiness the hosts, peonies, lilies, veronicastrum, broadleaf bells, penstemons, and stethos. In English and Dutch gardens, they love to combine it with amsonias and baptisias. This is a great background plant. Suitable for container planting.
The inflorescences are suitable for cutting and stand well in the water.
Hilllenia three-leafed in 1820 was included in the American Pharmacopoeia as a medicinal plant. American colonists gave the plant the corresponding everyday names - Indian Physic, Bowman's root - the first English settlers often called Indians by the word Bowmen (archer). The medicinal raw material of Hillene is mainly the bark of its reddish-brown roots, which has an emetic, laxative, expectorant, tonic and mild diaphoretic effect. Sometimes all parts of the plant are used as an emetic and antidote. But let's leave these useful properties to the natives of America.
We will admire the hillenia, contemplating the flight of butterfly flowers and thinking about the mythical breath of a faun.