Paris, a close relative of Trillium, will be exotic stars in your garden, if you can find them to plant.

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In the Garden

An irresistibly cool plant, too rarely seen in Northwest gardens, is Paris. A close relative of Trillium, these exotic, clump-forming perennials consist of a single stalk topped by two whorls of leaves, the top one surrounding a long-lasting exotic flower consisting of green, threadlike petals.

As long as there is more than one plant, cross-pollination will occur and the whiskery petals will be replaced by a single attractive berry in late summer.

I have two species of Paris in my garden, both purchased at plant sales, but other varieties are available from online nurseries. Paris quadrifolia grows to about 12 inches tall and quickly forms large clumps. Each whorl consists of four (or occasionally five) leaves and an equal number of yellow-green spidery petals. It produces a dark-blue berry in late summer.

Gardening Events

Ciscoe’s Picks

“Tales from the Garden,” presented by Seattle Garden Club:

7 p.m. Wednesday, May 4 (reception at 6:30). With Dr. Allan Armitage, known for his travels, writings and lectures as a “Plant Geek.” Cost: Tickets are $40 and include appetizers and drinks before the lecture. Address: The Seattle Asian Art Museum, 1400 E. Prospect St., Seattle.

Spring Green Art Festival:

Noon to 8 p.m. Friday, May 6; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, May 7. Enjoy free garden seminars with renowned speakers. Shop for handmade goods from nature-inspired artists and local specialty plant nurseries. No cost. Address: Lynnwood Convention Center, 3711 196th St. S.W., Lynnwood.

King County Master Gardener Plant Sale:

9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 7; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, May 8. Find beautiful plants, vegetables and herbs; plus educational booths. There is a Preview Party on Friday, May 6 from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Cost: $35 admission, includes appetizers, wine and first pick of the plants. Address: Center for Urban Horticulture, 3501 N.E. 41st St., Seattle.

Paris polyphylla, the other Paris in my garden, is one of my favorite plants. Slower to form a clump, but reaching almost 3 feet tall, the multi-leaved whorls are topped with radial filaments of gold, followed by a highly ornamental bright-red berry.

Paris thrive in the same conditions favored by Trillium: Well-drained, moisture-retentive soil, semi-shaded forest conditions, with normal watering and an occasional light sprinkling of organic fertilizer.

Plant a couple of these unique perennials and before long you’ll have nice-sized clumps of what I can almost guarantee will become a new favorite in your garden.

Give your houseplants some spring care

Early April is a good time to inspect your houseplants to see if they need a little extra attention.

If the water runs right through when you give it a drink, your plant is rootbound and needs transplanting. Gently wash the soil off the roots by soaking the plant in warm water; then repot in a container 1 inch bigger than the last one. Don’t put pebbles or broken crockery in the bottom to improve drainage. These additions actually do the opposite. Water well and leave the plant in partial shade for a few days before moving it back into the brighter light it’s used to.

As houseplants age, they often drop their lower leaves, or grow too tall for the room they’re in. If either of these problems are apparent, grab your pruners: it’s time to take remedial action.

Almost any type of woody stemmed houseplants such as weeping figs, rubber trees, Dracaena, Pothos and many others can be cut back two-thirds or more this time of year. Unless something serious is wrong with the plant, the stem will branch out with new growth from where the cut was made. There’s always a little risk associated with such radical surgery, so just in case, take cuttings from the leafy tops of the removed stems and root them in water. That way you’ll be less upset with me if something goes wrong and your plant dies.

By the way, don’t cut back your palm, or you really will get mad at me. If your prize palm is growing too tall for the room it’s in, you’ll have to cut a hole in the ceiling, because palms grow only from the top and the stems can never be cut back without murdering your plant.