Darren's Hortus: Tips & Comments
(updated April 25, 2012) Copyright D&S Productions
Note: Darren's Hortus describes his experience in an
urban residential environment in St. Paul, Minnesota, in sandy-loam
& clay soil on fairly high ground. Your mileage and aesthetic
opinions may vary, especially if you have a higher clay content, or
more water. This, like the rest of this website, is a work
All of the plants listed here have existed at one time or another
in our garden. Plants that did not survive or that we intentionally
eliminated are included and noted. The majority of the
plants listed are currently found in our garden unless otherwise
noted. Planting dates are indicated, so you can tell how many
years it has survived under the conditions we have provided it. At
last tally in 2006, I count 225 distinct species of plants mentioned on
this list (including the bulbs and annuals). They are found, or once were found in our garden. 41 plants mentioned here
are not currently in the garden. Notations have been made
as to the reasons for their demise or removal.
Click here for general tips on soil,
Click here to read about our new Circumpolar
Achillea spp. -- Yarrow [Compositae] This easy
plant is available in white, yellow, ochre, pink and pinkish red.
It likes full sun and well-drained infertile soil. It does
not seem to need much water either. It's a great plant to
put in where you don't want to put a lot of work into the soil--like
a boulevard on a busy street, a back alley. Most of the species
tend spread through the roots and flopping stems. Control
and division are relatively easy if you keep up with it on a two
to five year schedule. I'm sure it propagates easily by layering
or tip cuttings in spring or early summer. Bend a stem down
so it touches the ground, and bury it partially with dirt.
Hold it down with a wire loop or a rock. The stem will root
by the following season, and can be severed from the mother plant
and divided. For winter treatment, cut it back in Fall or
Spring and remove dead stems from clump. They can form choking
masses of leaves. These masses of leaves make effective
mulching for fragile bulbs if you plant them at just the right distance
from the achillea and divide it regularly so that it doesn't overtake
All Achillea make excellent and easy dried flowers that
last as long as you can tolerate the collection of dust on it. The
'Coronation Gold' is outstanding for this purpose. White and
yellow cultivars seem to produce the best results after drying.
information on assorted Achillea click here.
- Achillea X 'Paprika'-- Yarrow [Compositae] Leitner's
1994. 2-3' When it gets too much water and fertilizer it
doesn't flower well. It needs division to flower well also. 2004
it seems to be fading, and in 2008, it seems to have migrated
outward toward the very edge of the alley garden where it grows
only a few inches tall.
- Achillea X 'Salmon' 1994 2' Actually, this appears
to have been an assorted hybrids that contained a dusty rose colored
variety and an ochre colored variety that is interesting and grows
quite well with neglect. 2004 it has been vanquished by
vigorous monarda incursion thanks to the installation of the
soaker hose to our back alley garden.
- Achillea X 'Coronation Gold' 1995. It would
appear that rabbits like it for nibbling. This one seems to be
the least trouble in terms of division and doesn't form dense
masses of ferny leaves that smother everything nearby. It is my
most recommended of the Achilleas. After seeing the
results of the rabbits nibbling it off, we determined that the
plant looks nicer it has been sheared off to about 2" when
it's about 3" tall. It produces more flowers.
Excellent dried flowers that hold their yellow color. For
the botanically correct, this hybrid hasn't produced a single
seedling in fifteen years, and has maintained a stable, very formal
appearance in fairly sandy, poor, hot soil in our back alley
facing south. It does get water from the soaker hose
system, but it doesn't appear to be that critical given normal
rainfall here. The size of the clump reached a peak
about five years ago and hasn't increased much since then.
In 2008 (13 years later) it's beginning to show signs of needing
to be divided, but I haven't gotten around to it. 2010,
this rather ignored beauty is looking fabulous.
Acontium spp.: The aconitum family are the darkly
ominous cousins of the ranunculaceae
family. This has two explanations: appearance and chemistry.
Bearing a strong family resemblance to its close relative the Delphinium,
whose phallic spurs correspond to the vaginal form of the Aconitum,
it has a distinctly mysterious or ominous aspect that permeates
its beauty. The leaves too are similar, but the Delphiniums tend
to be slightly fuzzy and pale in color, while the Aconitum
are more delicately incised and usually a bit glossy--especially
in bright sun.
Also, unlike the Delphinium, the Aconites have a
large tuberous root that looks like a turnip. This is probably
the greatest danger of the plant--that someone might confuse the
root for an edible tuber like a turnip. The aconitum tuber
is one of the most toxic vegetables on the planet. Other parts
of the plant are not nearly so toxic, especially in normal garden
interactions. The number of cases of accidental poisoning
from garden aconite are extremely low. Some people
have dermatological reactions to the foliage, but I do not.
More numerous cases of aconite toxicity occur in Asia where
herbalists still prescribe it for a variety of ailments. The
Chinese have long used aconite as a yang tonic (it is the most powerful
Yang herb) in small doses, but I doubt that this is worthwhile.
It is also a common ingredient in homeopathic cold remedies, where
it is used in miniscule quantities. Tinctures made of the
root are extremely dangerous--the sort of thing one might use in
a murder mystery to assure an agonizing death for Colonel Mustard
in the study.
Beyond these trifling details, the reputation is highly exaggerated.
For many years paranoid Americans feared it. Aconite is finally
making a big comeback in the garden shops. They are not very
dangerous to touch, though they are supposed to be highest in venom
right before flowering. If you get the juice from the stem
on your hand, I would imagine that quick rinsing to avoid getting
it in your mouth would be in order. I have not experienced
any ill-effects from the sap of the stems and leaves touching my
hands, though I do rinse them if I get juice on me. I even
rip up small seedlings with my bare hands. However, I would not
recommend ripping a large juicy plant out of the ground without
gloves. I generally wear gloves or wash my hands quickly
after handling. Apparently it is possible to be poisoned by contact
with the plant, and there is no known antidote for aconite poisoning.
Animals don't have any interest in it. It's highly unlikely
that eating a flower would do more than give you mild stomach cramps.
Drying or curing decreases the potency considerably, so that dried
aconite flowers are not so dangerous. Nevertheless, aconite
poisoning is extremely unpleasant, involving intense pain, convulsions
and the like. The vast majority of aconite
poisoning cases occur as a result of herbal Chinese medicine,
where it is known as Chaun Wu, Cao Wu, Rhizome Carmichaelii.
From what I can tell, aconite is not a useful herbal drug, in spite
of the fact that it is still common in Chinese medicine and homeopathy.
Don't fear the Aconite! (he says, as a crack of thunder splits
the silence, and hideous laughter rings from a distant hilltop.)
In normal perennial garden interactions, it's just not dangerous.
Keep it away from your vegetable garden, where I suppose a
person could confuse the tubers for an edible vegetable. In
spring, the shoots are finely divided so that an unperceptive person
might think they are an edible tuber of some other genus. Rabbits
will not bother it. Alas...
Aconite is lovely, and a must for the Gothic Garden. With
colorful names like "Monkshood," "Wolfsbane"
and "Venus' Chariot" you know it had to be in many witches brews as a narcotic.
It was used to make a poison for killing wolves, and the Indian
species A. ferox produces a substance that has been used
for poisoning wells to exterminate entire villages. If you
have a kid who is likely to pull one up by the roots and munch on
it, then you should probably have the kid examined for mental disturbances
and not worry about gardening for now. There are a lot of
poisonous house plants too. The Gloriosa Lily and the Castor
Bean (source of castor oil) are radically poisonous plants too.
It's funny how the aconite got such a bad rap. I think it's
really because up close the flowers are as erotic as anything Georgia
O'Keefe could dream up.
Give aconitums rich, acidic soil, medium sun, good water, and don't
let other perennials crowd them out. They like shade
from trees, but dislike other plants close to them. I think
it's a ventilation issue. Some varieties will need staking,
others are quite stout. All of them benefit greatly by
having some space around them. Companion plants should
definitely be under 12 inches high, or at least 1 1/2 feet away.
All of them are outstanding as cut and dried
flowers. The dropping petals could be a risk, but as far as
I know, nobody has been killed accidentally by monkshood.
I suppose if you have a cat or dog that's dumb enough to eat flower
petals, you might want to avoid bringing them into the house (either
the animal or the flower--take your pick). The petals are
certainly not one of the more toxic parts of the plant, especially
after they dry up and fall off. I notice that they are again fairly common in flower arrangements now,
so florists must not be too afraid of them. They also
dry very well. Dry them the same way you would use for larkspur
and delphiniums. We have cats, and we do this.
If you are fairly clean about picking up fallen petals, it's just
not going to be a problem. But, if you're one of the less
adventurous types, you probably shouldn't have aconite.
I have five different species and cultivars now. Ba-hah-hah!
Thin the number stalks if they become too crowded. Provide
acidic soil. Since they like acidic soil and shade, you can
grow them below oaks and conifers if they get sufficient water--a
tamarack bog would be a very good place for aconite. Taller
aconites seem to be good candidates for tomato cages (tall and narrow).
I am currently experimenting with a couple of plants under
blue spruce along with heathers in our rock
garden. I have had much better luck with Aconites
than I have with Delphiniums, which seem to be much more
prone to aphid attack, as are the Consolida (Larkspur). Aconites
are very pest-resistant, and they like a bit of shade.
- Aconitum carmichaeli 'Arendsii' -- Monkshood
or Wolfsbane [Ranunculace]
Leitner's 2001 This is (I feel) the most desirable of the Monkshoods
I have seen in the gardening books. It is new to our garden
in 2001, so I'll give updates as it grows. The flowers are
larger, more numerous and close together, and the color is more
azure than the others below. Winter 2002-2003 update:
The buds didn't start to appear until September. I think
that the reason was excess shade caused by an overgrown silver
maple. We had the tree severely pruned (limbed up from the
bottom), so the garden will get a much larger amount of sun in
Spring 2003. The stalks were about 36" high, which
was taller than I expected, but very sturdy for a tall ranunculaceae.
The foliage is also very attractive and sturdy--much more so than
a delphinium. The buds didn't start blooming until right
around frost time in October. The first real frost wilted
it a bit, but it kept blooming until about Halloween. It really was very
attractive. The key issue is growing season length. The deep blue flowers
were also darker than I had expected, but really nice. Tough,
waxy, dark green leaves stayed healthy all the way to frost.
Fall 2004 update: They bloomed a bit earlier this year, giving a
nice show from late September until Halloween. Now that I
have seen the 'Arendsii' and the 'Jupiter's Casque' bloom fully,
I think I can better describe the form. The Aconitum
napellus has the longest and densest racemes, making it most
like a showy, prolific delphinium. The A. carmichaeli/fischeri have
the largest flowers, but the racemes are much shorter and less
branched. I'd say they are about 10" racemes,
compared to the 2-3' of the A. napellus. But, the flowers
of the latter are only about 1" long, while those of the
former about 2-3". The shades of blue are definitely
remarkable. Since they bloom so late in the fall with big
purple, satin frills, they attract some attention. You may
have to cover them to protect them from freezing rain or early
frost. However, I must say that the A. carmichaeli
and fischeri would clearly be happier with another
month of autumn warmth because they flower in October.
Minnesota is not the ideal spot for these unless the obviously
warming climate here continues. I wonder if "hothousing"
these with a glass cloche starting around March 1st would
- Aconitum fischeri 'Jupiter's Casque".
I got in 2003 at the Society of Friends School plant
A. carmichaeli and A. fischeri are
the same. It is a late bloomer also. In the autumn
of 2004 they bloomed for the first time right after the Autumnal
Equinox, and have been staying pretty fresh looking through
Halloween. They can tolerate some cold, but I recommend
covering them on frosty nights until they finish blooming.
The color of this plant is absolutely stunning. It is a
cultivar of the previous, so read the above entry. It
died during 2004 while we were in Spain. Lack of water was
the culprit. I haven't seen it since in the
- Aconitum henryi 'Spark's Variety' -- Monkshood
or Wolfsbane [Ranunculaceae] Bachman's 1995 The flowers are larger
and more beautifully dark blue-purple than A. napellus, (see
below), but I suspect it's actually a cultivar of it. The
flowers are suspended out up to 6" from the main stem on
wavy horizontal stems, which makes it much more airy than the
densely packed A. napellus. 4 to 8 foot stems tend to be
almost vine-like. Ours are in a pretty shady location and
they reach 6 feet or more. They must be staked or placed in a tomato cage early
in the season, or tied into an adjacent shrub as I do. I moved them to the front yard to accompany
the boreal garden on the North of
our house. This
is the third season that I will be playing a prank on unwitting
gardeners who pass by. I placed a nice clump of this about
2 feet to the side and a bit back from a rhododendron bush so
that the tall, lanky and flexible stalks can be bent and
threaded through the branches and tied inconspicuously with jute
twine. The effect is stunning, as the bush provides a
canvas for the blue violet flowers, and the casual look would
give the impression that something that looks like a
rhododendron is blooming in July with the most unusual color--deep
blue-purple! 2010 I need to dig it up and move it out
because of the increased size of the rhododendron.
- Aconitum napellus -- Leitner's 1994 Much more
stout and full-flowered--similar in size and form to a delphinium.
Much better as a cut and/or dried flower, but the color is not
so pretty as the 'Sparks'. 3-4 feet high. Support with a stake
and string is probably advisable, but not so much as the 'Spark's
Variety'. There are also white and bi-color (white and blue)
varieties. I notice that this one and the bicolor version
thereof are the most commonly available in the stores. It
is difficult to find other species.
- Acontintum septentrinale "Ivorine"
Linder's 2000. White flowers, shorter in size--about 10-24".
It's leaves are very much like the A. napellus, but the flowers
are very different in shape--taller and skinnier. Very nice,
but reseeds itself vigorously. Cut the dead flower
heads off after blooming. The stems are sturdier than the
others, and don't seem to need staking. That's a plus.
I don't think they form the characteristic turnip tuber either. I
have this in a sunny location among vigorous growth of larkspur
and poppies. It does well there and seems to reseed a
bit. After dividing it, I placed clump of these right up
against the sidewalk in the circumpolar garden. These are
really nice plants. The white flowers are usually gone by
July, but it looks great in June, and the foliage is tough for a
Actea rubra -- red baneberry [ranunculaceae]
Spring 2004 Friends School plant sale, I think. Located in boreal
garden now in three locations in the circumpolar garden. A short version of the
cimicifuga ramosa with leaves that are a bit more raspberry
like. It is the only member of the ranunculaceae family that
produces berries, though the cimicifuga come close. The berries
of actea are poisonous. I have seen
them in the wild in both lime and acidic conditions. All three
of ours are in the boreal/acidic garden. In
2005, they all survived and expanded a bit. They
also bloomed for the first time. Of the three I put
in different spots, the one that gets the most sun has
expanded the most and flowered the best. They are
identified as shade lovers, but I recommend making sure
that they do get a bit of direct sun, or bright shade to
get the most beautiful plants possible. I would
describe their current best location as getting about 3 hours of direct
southern sun until the leaves of my maple come out, but
otherwise, it's pretty much bright shade. My general
impression at this point is that they are pretty tough,
bug resistant and fairly tolerant of variable water
conditions. (mild drought to overwatering) It
is also long-lasting with its beauty. It does not collapse or
get scraggly after blooming, so it would make an excellent
alternative to or accompaniment for astilbe. As of 2008 I have
only noted one seedling, and slow growth from the roots. I
expect that without bark mulch they would reseed more.
However, I would say that the clump that was the most pampered for
water, but least exposed to light looked rather diminished this
info and image]
Adiantum pedatum -- Maidenhair Fern 1994, another
in 1996. Very light, airy and only about 12-15" high. They are trouble free here
in Minnesota and spread steadily to form beautiful masses. It makes
a great companion to early spring bulbs like Crocus and hyacinth
because they don't really cover them until early May. Not good for
tulips, though, since they bloom later, unless you have taller species
that can shoot up through a canopy of airy fern leaves. This
is a highly recommended native to Minnesota, and very tolerant of
lime/alkaline as ferns go. In the wild it seems to prefer
limestone soil in moist conditions, and are often found in the presence
of early meadow rue (T. dioecum). I have them with
hepatica and thalictrum rochebrunianum. Our
maidenhair ferns reached a size where
they needed division after 5-6 years. They increase much more
rapidly after that division, so the clumps need division every 3
years. In 2008 they continue to expand and look
marvelous. The only weakness of this plant is probably its
major strength--it spreads too slowly.
Agastache anisata 'Red', aka Stachys foeniculum-- Anise
Hyssop-- [Labiatae] (not related
to either anise or hyssop, though it does belong to the Labiatae
family) Leitner's 1995 This plant is native to most of
the Northern half of the North American continent. It's flowers are
favored by bees, and its anise flavor makes it a favorite of
beekeepers as well, because it makes good honey. I'm puzzled as to why this cultivar is named 'Red', considering
that the only color I see on it other than green is lavender. As with other mints, the only
trick is to pinch off tops in early summer to encourage branching.
Unlike other mints, this one has woody stems and does not appear
to spread outward much at all, but I'm sure it could easily be root
pruned or divided given a strong, sharp cutting device.
Self-seeding is the primary issue with this plant. The growth dies back
completely to the crown in Winter. New growth comes
from the base, but the old woody stems from last season do not serve
any purpose. Removing flower
heads after blooming is strongly advised. It isnt difficult
to control if you are willing to pull up the plants before they
flower again. The maintenance technique we use is this: select a
zone for a parent plant, or large plants. Try to keep the
seedlings within a limited perimeter of that plant. Kill all
other plants that appear to be in their third season. Deadhead
as many as possible, and make sure those that drift into new
territory are controlled. Weed by hoe or hand the thousands of
tiny ones. Leave a few in their second season to bloom.
They can make pleasant, skinny surprises amidst other
plantings. Rip them up after blooming. Above all,
limit the number of full grown plants, which can reach six feet in
height with multiple flowering branches. Although these
produce the most seed, they rarely live more than 3 seasons.
Difficult to kill by accident, so it will work well for lazy
Ajuga reptans -- Bugleweed [Labiatae] Mom donated
a long clump about 15" x 4" in 1994 Sun or shade.
Give it average to rich, well-drained soil. Aggressive 4-10"
tall masses look like a cross between catmint and sedum. It spreads
horizontally with creepers like Monarda. You can propagate
it by cuttings or divide it anytime. It is somewhat vulnerable
to crown rot. Destroy affected plants and dust everything around
it with sulfur. Although it does spread, it seems to be easy to
train it around other specimens and use it for ground cover as long
as you keep an eye on it. Its flowers are beautiful in mid to late
spring. If you are one of those who actually likes to have
creeping charlie in your lawn because of the pretty flowers and
foliage, Ajuga reptans is also able to compete with lawn
grass and handle mowing, and it's considerably denser than creeping
charlie. It has been blending with our lawn for 16 years and
I'm only disappointed that it hasn't spread further. It seems
to grow very slowly in competition with grass.
Akebia quinata -- Chocolate Vine [Lardizabalaceae,
distant cousin of ranculaceae] Planted in Summer of 2003,
nursery name forgotten, but it's a small shop on South Lyndale where
it cuts over and turns into one way briefly before crossing
494. oooh! is this one ever cool. It survived the winter
of 2003-2004 with no die-back on the woody runner, which grew to 4
feet in length the first year. It's the end of April, and the
shoots are leafing out, giving signs that it will grow very rapidly
this year. It was slow getting going after planting, and it
blooms earlier than when I planted it, so I haven't seen it bloom
yet, but it looks very hardy. The leaves are pretty--like waxy
versions of a chleome, and the flowers are absolutely bizarre in a
cute way. In warmer climates it's supposed to produce a
delicious fruit. In
warmer climates it can also be invasive. It's a big problem
along the Atlantic seaboard. I'm going to keep a close eye on
it as it covers an ugly chain link fence. By keeping a single
plant, it's supposed to be very difficult to get it to set any
fruit. Spring 2005: somebody accidentally snipped off last
year's growth while doing spring garden cleaning. Not to
worry. New runners were shooting up the fence within two
weeks. Spring 2006: it is flowering for the first time.
There are a lot of flowers, but unfortunately the weather has been
wet and cold so we haven't been able to enjoy the fragrance.
The clusters of flowers are really interesting--male and female
flowers are together like planets around a sun. The female flowers are the more interesting.
Intelligent pruning will allow the flowers to show if you take
advantage of its talent. I have mine trained horizontally on a
chain link fence across the top bar, which allows the flowers to
dangle below the line of the leaves in a cute lavender chain.
Because the new shoots tend to grow quickly upward, it requires a
lot of vigilant pruning to prevent it from grasping and smothering
nearby lilies, bushes, etc. In order to sustain its vertical
aspirations the zealous akebia shoots will collaborate in twisted
clusters to provide themselves support. Beginning in Spring
2007 I have taken to more vigorous pruning beginning in May.
So far I see no ill effects, and it looks excellent. This
season it was absolutely covered with
flowers. Since it is evident that this plant is a rampant
invader in warmer climates, caution is advised, but here in
Minnesota it appears incapable of producing fruit, and I have had no
difficulty keeping it from rooting stems or suckers. The main
advice I have for using it in garden conditions is to be prepared to
prune it a lot. Spring 2008 I see three seedlings in the
garden that would have to have come from new growth extensions from
the woody base that defines its limits. At the beginning of
June 08 and 10, the old wood is rather slow to send out
new growth. The winter of 08 was moderately cold, but long, and the
Spring was quite cold. The winter of 10 was fairly mild,
decent snow cover and an early spring with many plants triggered
early. It could be the climate. I thought it might be
pruning, but I have really cut back on pruning it--especially since
it is so diminished now in 2010. New shoots are
coming out all over, but the old wood is just not vigorous. I
didn't see any blooms in 2010, and the plant seems to be recovering,
but I'm just not impressed with it. [click
here for info and pictures]
Alchemilla mollis -- Lady's Mantle [Rosaceae]
Give it sun or shade. Protecting it from the sun in hotter zones.
It prefers a rich, moist soil. Divide in spring or fall. Plants
supposedly reseed, but I have seen only a few. The spreading appears to occur
along rhizomes. It's really easy to grow and has very attractive
foliage. The flowers are not especially interesting.
It would be ideal around spring bulbs in deciduous shade that can
be smothered after blooming. Spring maintenance involves trimming
back the dead leaves to tidy it up in April. It
grows more horizontally than vertically. It's probably about
5-10" high. After ten years, they are each about two
feet in diameter at the base, and they spread to form masses of
leaves about 40" in diameter. I have not done anything
to them since I planted them. It looks like I could cut out
some smaller satellite clumps it has formed, but I'm going to leave
them there this year. One of the special gifts of this plant
is the way it holds drops of water on its leaves. It is enchanting
after a heavy dew on a bright morning. This is a
wonderful, anchoring plant, and it only takes about 3-4 years to get
a sizable specimen. I also think that this would be a
good plant around which to plant small spring bulbs (snow crocus,
chionodoxa, small fritillarias). The leaves will provide a
nice mulch. In 2007, an amazing 12 years later, this
original pair of plants has produced a small number of additional
plants, and expanded in a very reasonable fashion. I think
that this plant deserves high marks for low maintenance.
canescens Leadplant [Fabaceae] Spring 2004. The foliage of
this plant is really quite pretty--they are small and divided like
many Fabaceaes, and they are furry, wrinkly and faintly
lavender. It is
supposed to grow in really sandy, infertile soil. We put one in our
"boulevard bed" next to the street, and the
other in the Circumpolar garden. I now (May 2008)
have four years to think about it. Spring 2005: I read more about the
plant and got the idea that it was too large and assertive for the
area in which it was placed, so I moved it out to the boulevard bed
with the other. I dug it up and got a look at the
roots. It has fleshy roots that grow downwards. It is
allegedly "deep-rooted" which in my book means that you
better make sure that you want it. I like what I hear about it
and the images are impressive, but it needs to be in the controlled
conditions of the boulevard. In its fourth Spring, the
Leadplant is obviously putting its energy into growth underground,
which is fitting of its Saturnian appellation. The young woody stem is quite small--looking
rather like a year-old seedling from a tree that you ought to pull
out before it becomes a nuisance. Spring shoots aren't really
apparent until well into May. If you want to keep from killing it in
the Spring, you'll probably want to mark it well. In Spring
2008 the woody stems are only about 10"-12" long. It looks
implausibly small. By mid-May, the growth of the beautiful
leguminous leaves impressively accelerates in such a way that it
seems impossible for such a flimsy stem. Apparently, it grows
back primarily from the crown and not much from the old stems, and
this is in spite of being pretty much buried beneath a layer of
snow-plow wake and shoveled, packed snow.
Unfortunately, it's a pretty floppy plant at this point, but after
four years, I sense that it is still young. I am experimenting
now with light gauge aluminum bonsai wire to keep the stems from
lying on the ground. Using an 18" length of bonsai wire I
created a custom splint-support anchored in the soil. This
works, but the branches are also drooping, so I will need a second
wire for each plant. However, it is evident that this helps the
plants get more light. So, the most significant features to
keep in mind are
that it is very slow to grow, and in need of support. [more
info and image]
Andromeda polifolia 'Blue Ice'
[Ericaceae or Empetraceae] Bog Rosemary.
Fall 2002 Rice Creek Gardens. Placed in the
rock garden. Pink, bell shaped flowers on a plant
that does look a bit like rosemary. It gets about
12" high and 15" around and has steely blue
foliage for winter. The blooms are subtle and cute, yet very
visible. This plant has recently been
adopted into the English Heather Society.
description and images , and here
too. Now that we've seen it bloom in May
of 2003, this one gets high marks. It's very short,
which is what we want, and the flowers are really cute.
May 2006 starting last year just before blooming a quick and
virulent blight attacked about 2/3 of the shoots--perhaps the
effects of dog urine, because this is near a sidewalk. The
remainder bloomed nicely, and the plant seemed to recover.
Later, both plants looked fine, but the new one finally died. In retrospect, I suspect one of these
causes for this failure: excessive sun, garden sulfur, animal urine
(probably cat), fungus. That's a few too many variables, and
the attractive appearance I described above is only possible with
happy plants, and this one is way too expensive to treat as an
annual. In a last ditch effort, I moved it to the Northeast
corner of the garden where it will get only morning sun during
spring and summer. After a week, it looked better than it
did. In May 2008 it looks great. So far, no signs of
fungus or dog pee.
Anemone spp. [Ranunculaceae]
This large family of attractive and varied flowers includes
some of the most beautiful members of the Ranunculaceae family.
Most of them are easy to grow given the right soil and water conditions.
There is quite a bit of variability among them in this regard.
As far as I can tell, they are easy to divide and transplant.
Some of them reseed easily, while others depend more on spreading
through the roots. The smallest species are best in rock gardens,
and the larger ones can thrive even among vigorous meadow plants.
- Anemone coronaria 'De Caen hybrids' -- Poppy flowered
Anemone Linder's 1996 Sun or light shade. Rich, evenly moist,
well-drained soil. Plant tubers after soaking overnight. The colors
on these are unmatched in the entire flower kingdom. Although
they are like Papaver Rhoeas or P. Somniferum, the deep,
vivid, opalescent colors of the Anemone make the poppy colors
look like muted pastels. We have some difficulty with these
tuberous anemones. They definitely need well-drained soil,
so avoid using plastic pots. They don't appear to like to
be crowded by other plants. They seem happier when stuck
directly into the ground. Given the warm winters we have
had, these garish zone 5 show-offs might actually survive several
growth instructions available here.
- Anemone X hupehensis 'Honorine Jobert' -- Japanese
Anemone Linder's 2002 in rock garden. Sun or light shade.
Rich, evenly moist, well-drained soil. Spreads by underground
stems to form clumps. New species with white irregular flowers
that bloom in September. When in bloom, it is covered with
flowers in airy masses about 30-40" above the ground. See
next entry for more info the cultivar we know better.
- Anemone X hupehensis 'September Charm'
-- Japanese Anemone Leitner's 1995 Sun or light shade.
Rich, evenly moist, well-drained soil. Spreads by underground
stems to form clumps. It took six years for ours
to get to the point that we noticed it was spreading
like that. The plant in our main bed, with
alkaline-neutral soil lived for eight years but vanished in the
cold, dry winter of 2003. The two in our boreal garden
also succumbed to the nasty weather. It benefits from some mulch for winter. Once it takes hold, it is fairly aggressive,
spreading 3-5 feet away from the main plant. You
will need to dig out those underground runners.
Use them to propagate by root cuttings. Divide
it after flowering in late fall. Supposedly it
grows from seed too, though only a few seedlings are
evident in my garden. It emerges fairly early in spring
(tulip time) with little leaves that look like grape
leaves. This is an absolute must for September-October
flowers in Minnesota, the pink flowers have irregular,
large petals that give it a whimsical look. When
in bloom, it is covered with flowers in airy masses
about 30-40" above the ground, and it does so
right up to the first frost. Click
here to see a picture.
- Anemone lesseri -- Grecian Windflower
Rice Creek 1995. Cute, brightly colored pink anemone. It's about
6" tall. The birds pick leaves off of it and just leave
them. Do they dislike it? Seems quite easy to please if the birds
would leave it be. Tiny, red and delicate, with interesting seed
heads. Texture and form are similar to pasque flowers, though
quite a bit smaller, and blooming about four weeks later. In 1999
it was finally vanquished by a vigorous growth of echinacea and
rudbeckia. It would grow well in a rock garden or small specimen
garden. I have also observed avian attacks on my Anemone
- Anemone pulsatilla -- Pasque Flower No longer
considered a member of the genus, it's now known as Pulsatilla
vulgaris, which is where you should look too.
- Anemone sylvestris -- Snowdrop Anemone
1995, 2002 Grow in partial shade in rich, loose,
evenly moist acidic soil for best results. Some sun is
clearly beneficial. Moist, humus-rich soil. Spreads by creeping
rhizomes, which need to be dug out periodically to prevent it
from taking over. It is a beautiful, lambent white flower that blooms in
late spring and repeatedly throughout the summer if
it's happy. Ours started on the East side of the raised
bed--along with a Max Frei Geranium. Neither did well, although
they were clearly alive and not diseased. I moved the anemone
to the south, sunny end of the raised bed. It reciprocated with
a profuse display of beautiful white flowers. It too looks somewhat
like the pasque flower, blooming about three weeks later.
Two years after moving it to this raised bed, it mysteriously
disappeared. I guess that it was overcome by columbines
that dominate the area. A few years later, I put one
in the boreal garden where it gets acidic soil.
Within a year it was clear that it was very
happy. In its third spring, my opinion is
changing. The rhizomes are about 4-6"
underground and spread two feet from the original
location, sprouting new plants every 6" or
so. To maintain this plant in its current
situation require a buried pot to control the
spread. That and meticulous deadheading.
However, if you want an attractive plant about 1 foot
tall that will fill in a large area of rich, acidic
soil in part shade, then this one is a good
choice. Clay will, according to some
sources, slow down its spread. In terms of
aggressiveness, this plant rates above such thugs as
daylilies, snow-on-the-mountain, etc. click
for image and info. In Summer of 2005 I
decided that it was doing too well for its location, and would
compete with the Wintergreen that is thriving in the same
area. I killed it because nobody wanted it.
Still, this is a marvelous plant if you have the space for it,
or at least the diligence to control and deadhead.
- Anemonella thalictroides -- 1998. Partial shade,
woodland plant. See above. You have to love the name, which
means something like: "anemone-like pseudothalictrum."
Clearly, they weren't sure what to call this most lovely of the
smaller anemones and thalictrums. It self-seeds, and is positively adorable. Purple or white flowers.
Ours is purple. It tripled in size in one year. Long blooming
too! (looks like hepatica flowers, but tiny thalictrum like leaves.)
Very highly recommended. I can't see any special needs or
problems yet. I predict that it will start to spread by
seed eventually. It's native to this area, so you don't
have to feel un-pc about growing it.
- Anemonella thalictroides ' double-flower' white
cultivar from Rice Creek Gardens 2003. This small shade
lover is absolutely gorgeous. The heavily-petaled flowers
are white, about 3/4" across and last for a long
time--mostly because it continues to produce more. Highly, highly recommended. in
2006 it has increased at least 4x its original size.
- Anemonella thalictroides 'double flower purple'
cultivar. Friends Plant Sale 2005. This is an
expensive exotic. It was so small and
fragile looking when I bought it--I'd guess that it was a second season seedling
when I got it. In 2006 it increased in size, but not
really any increase in the number of shoots, however, it is in a
fairly shady spot that gets bright shade without ever having
direct sun during winter. This one seems rather delicate
compared to the others. In May 2008 it has five beautiful
flowers on its delicate stems. I recommend placing
protection around it to prevent hose damage.
Anthemis tinctoria Kelwayi (dark yellow)--
Yellow Chamomile [asteraceae] This plant is much prettier than German
chamomile, but no good for tea. Leitner's 1995. I planted a dense
one gallon pot clump. It spread nicely--about like an achillea.
Blooms midsummer to early fall. Good cut flower. Likes hot, dry,
sandy spots. May need staking or caging. Divide frequently and remove
dead centers. Dead heading is beneficial, prevents reseeding. It
has a nicely aromatic foliage. The all-yellow flowers have handsome
short petals and pillow-like centers. Ours was exceedingly floriferous
for a couple years. It tends to spread, die out in its old center
of growth, and demand that you dig up its satellites, and place
them back in the old central core. After 3 years, ours appears to
have nearly disappeared. (Ten years later there isn't a
single stalk of it anymore). Apparently, a
very temporary plant, or one that demands frequent division. I
lost interest in it at about the same time I realized that I just
don't give a shit for daisies, even if they are bright yellow.
Aquilegia spp. -- Columbines [Ranunculacea]
Give them sun
or shade, but they prefer half shade. According to most sources,
they also relish chalky, alkaline to neutral soil. That makes
them perfect for Minneapolis metro area gardens. My
observation is that they do nicely in acidic conditions too. Taller
varieties need support and shelter from wind. Sow seed in May and transplant in
September or the following spring.
Common knowledge says that because of their taproots they don't
like to be divided or moved. Because of the rather
unpredictable and prolific nature of the genus, following this rule
can result in severe horticultural dilemmas. Because they are
such nice plants, I can't bear to kill them--though I have been
killing some. Because they tend
to reseed in all the wrong places, it's inevitable that you will
want to move some. My field observations indicate that with
deep digging and just a little care, they can be moved, but
definitely not divided. For transplanting a columbine
out of the ground, best results are obtained with plants that are in
their second season or earlier, though young seedlings in spring are
best left to mature until Autumn. Mature plants, which can
often be quite large, can be moved, but they should be placed in a
shady, moist intensive care regimen until they stabilize before
planting in a sunny location. I have seen A. canadensis that reach
almost four feet and spread out three foot
diameter. The taproots on these kinds of plants should
definitely not be disturbed. Don't move a big one unless you
are willing to lose it. Don't even think about dividing
one. It won't work.
If you are moving one, here is my routine: after digging, it should be placed in a pot deep enough to
accommodate the taproot in a fairly vertical position, and watered
heavily until it recovers. What usually happens is that the
central blooming stalk will collapse, especially if they are in
bright sunlight or lacking water. If you can put it
directly into the ground, make sure that you can provide some sun
protection for a week, and water it pretty freely. My preferred trick is to move them into
shadier locations, until they seem to recover. Shadier
locations are actually nice places for planting columbines because
they are less dense and reseed less. During a
transplant, if the central stalk
withers away, but it looks like the lower leaves are still alive,
don't give up hope. It will probably survive unless it is
already an elderly plant, which leads us to the major flaw of the
columbine: they tend to live about five years, and then come back
smaller and smaller for a couple of years, and then they
disappear. I have not had any trouble re-planting
columbines that were potted up for a couple of weeks to see which
ones survived. If they survive those first two weeks, they
will almost certainly survive replanting, given they are watered.
Hybrids are the shortest lived. Don't be surprised if an
exotic hybrid only lives one or two seasons. But, this
interesting phenomenon is quite possible to create and view for
yourself by taking advantage of the columbine's penchant for
promiscuous cross-pollination. If you have several species
near to each other, you are bound to get some interesting
combinations. As my gardening tastes have matured, this
particular trait has endeared me to these even more. For
better or worse, they are also vigorous reseeders that benefit
greatly from deadheading.
Rabbits and mice eat the seedlings
and young shoots in spite of being poison to humans. Many
people think these are called "honeysuckle bushes" and
claim that they drink the sweet nectar from the interesting flowers.
Since the seeds are indeed poisonous, I think this isn't very advisable.
They are not honeysuckle, and they are not bushes, but rather a
herbaceous relative of the thalictrum and monkshood. Plants
Ranunculaceae family are nearly all poisonous (except for
Goldenseal and the miracle herb Nigella/Charnuska).
Most species require constant maintenance to control leaf miners.
pull off affected leaves and dispose of them in your trash.
They are also susceptible to crown rot. The stems are most prone to rot as they
near the end of their bloom period. You can cut these stems
clear down to the ground, completely stripping the plant after blooming.
It will not harm them at all, and encourages new growth, prevents
fungal rot, makes room for other flowers, etc. This reminds
me--in the case of really large plants, I recommend hacking off a
good number of leaves to allow light in and facilitate weed
removal. Controlling the horizontal spread does not seem
to harm the plants, especially if you use the opportunity to weed
spent flowers during the bloom will extend the bloom period.
Flowers that come after the initial flush of blooms will be
smaller. As you deadhead, keep in mind whether you want a
plant to reseed and how many you want. Leave a few seed pods
to ripen. To keep them tidy after they start going to seed,
remove the flowers, then start shortening the stems. Watch for
tiny new buds extending from growth nodes, and cut the stems above
that point. These final blooms will occur closer and closer to
the ground as you cut the lanky stems back along with them.
When all the blooms are gone, you can take the entire stalk all the
way down to the ground, leaving the ring of leaves extending like
parsley from the core. I used to have a really nice red McKana
hybrid that lived for about nine years, and that thing would produce
blooms in a seemingly endless sequence from May through July.
The problem was that it just couldn't stand up without
is normal for most species to decline after blooming. In most
cases, they will return the following year without difficulty, so
it is best to cut away anything that looks bad. If you
like the foliage effect of the columbine, I suggest using Thalictrum
aquilegiafolium instead. Their leaves are vastly more
durable and beautiful. The Semiquilegia is quite a
bit smaller, but it appears to be a lot more rugged. Among the
various species and hybrids, the easiest to grow and the most sturdy
is the 'Nora Barlow.' The A. canadensis is also easy,
but can become a real mess of leaf miner tunnels.
They are easy to grow, but require vigilance to keep them looking
nice, and prevent them from taking over the garden. They bloom
from late May through June. Try a variety of species and cultivars
to see which does best in your conditions. They vary quite
a lot, and the same plant can vary considerably from one year to
- Aquilegia alpina aka Aquilegia montana
-- alpine columbine seeds
brought back from New Hampshire and planted in Spring of
2003. They flowered in Spring 2004. They are very
pretty, and so far seem to be very pest resistant. We
thought these were going to be A. caerulea, but the lack
of white color and the short curved spurs told me it was the
alpine variety. They are very nice, and they stay well
below 2 feet, which is a big plus in this genus. In 2006
the seeds I spread in 2005 have matured and the dense bed on our
boulevard was full of them. During the bloom, this
beautiful, deep blue-purple flower was absolutely
arresting. In 2008, the number of these was greatly
reduced. I had deadheaded pretty heavily in 2007. I
will not deadhead them at all this year.
- Aquilegia canadensis -- "" (came with
house--extricated from a mass of grass in the West raised bed
with about 4" of soil. It survived and did marvelously the
following year.) It reseeds easily. Deadheading is effective at
prolonging the bloom for about 5 weeks! These seem to be long-lived
and vigorous growers. I have seen specimens 30" around and
well over 36" high. Care as described above. They flower
in mid-May, and with deadheading, can have flowers well into June.
I am especially pleased with the specific genetics of our plant.
They seem to last about five years. Spring 2005: These
columbines are doing a bit too well. A few years ago I
went about sprinkling seeds around, and now they're full size
and crowding things out. I still like them, but I'm having
second thoughts about letting them get around too much so I have
pulled out about a dozen or so to give room for other
here to see an image.
- Aquilegia X 'Dragonfly Similar to McKana below
but the colors are assorted. I suspected it would be a short-lived
plant, and I was very right. This is not a very
stalwart species. They are showy for the season.
- (Semi)aquilegia Ecalcarata [Ranunculaceae] Rice
Creek Gardens Fall 2002. This incredible little rock garden
gem has rose-wine colored spurless flowers, otherwise, it's just
like an alpine columbine. Look at this
lovely picture. There is some debate as to whether or
not it's actually just an aquilegia. This seems an odd argument.
It's obviously a very close relative. As near as I can tell after
six growing seasons, the Semiquilegia is immune to most
of the problems that plague the larger leaved Aquilegias. It
is only about 3" high in its leaves, but a mature plant sends
up the lovely flowers about 10" high. The sellers on the
'net list it as hardy to zone 6, but one can safely assume that if
Rice Creek sells it, it's going to be hardy in Zone 4. I have
both specimens in a fairly sunny north exposure in fertile, acidic
soil. They both thrived for a season, and then succumbed to
crown rot, or something like that, vanishing almost
without a trace. I expect to see some seedlings,
though. However, unlike other
columbines, known for their interspecies promiscuity, this one
will not hybridize with other columbines. It is native to central
China and Tibet, which fits nicely into my design requirements. Spring 2006 the seeds I sprinkles about
are evident now, and doing quite well. However, there are
no plants more than 2 years old. Therefore, my advice is
to be certain to plant some of the seeds in situ to
assure their survival. In spite of the short lifespan, I
still recommend them strongly. They are tough for those
two years, and that counts for a lot.
- Aquilegia Flabelata 'Mini-Star'--Columbine
(White and Blue) Leitner's 1994. Reseeds easily, compact, well behaved, beautiful
in may, then the foliage is a pleasant ground cover. It seems
to be more resistant to leaf miners and has a glaucus color and
texture similar to Thalictrum Glaucum. Only 6"-12" high
with short, chubby white flowers held barely above the foliage.
The spurs are short and curled inward. Long lived, but sensitive
to crowding. Flowers in early May. The white ones are
really showy and lush. In a good year they can grow to be
about two feet tall. They are a lot tidier and more formal
in appearance than the A. canadensis or even the McKana
hybrids. Twelve years later, I noticed that only one of
the blue and one of the white have survived in the yard.
In other words, they have faded over time.
- Aquilegia X 'McKana' (Red & Yellow)
Care as above. Tall, vigorous plant. Our specimen was planted
in May of 1992 and appears to be strong as of May 2000.
Vanished in 2001, but it reappeared in several new places in the
garden. Considering that it lasted 9 years with an extremely
long bloom period for a columbine, this one gets my highest rating
of the spurred hybrids.
- Aquilegia X 'Nora Barlow' Another tall,
vigorous plant. We planted it in 1996 in a sunny spot and
it did very well. In fact, it has reseeded all over the yard,
and provides a nice show in late May. The bloom period is short.
The flowers on these are porcupine or hedgehog pointed doubles
that are colored almost like a candy cane. They also lack the
trailing spines so common to columbines, making these highly unusual
members of the family. It is an excellent cutting flower and foliage.
Other columbines have not been effective cutting flowers. Very
pretty when in bloom. The flowers grow in tighter clusters on
very erect, close, long stems, giving them a very different appearance
from the others in the genus, which tend to produce a more
chaotic cloud of flowers. Nora Barlow has a tendency to
look like a display of pinwheel peppermint lollypops in a candy
- Aquilegia viridiflora 'Chocolate
Soldier' 2005 Friends School Plant Sale. The foliage is nice, and the plants
are much more compact than the A. canadensis, and even
shorter than the small species like A. flabelata. May
it's blooming nicely, but it is quite petite as columbines go,
at less than a foot high. I was hoping for a bit more height, but given three
really solid seasons, I am pleased. It's really
tough--even takes road salt. Further, the bloom time is
long, starting earlier than most columbines, and extending into
the peak columbine season. Ideal for rock gardens. If
you can find a place where this low grower can be seen, then I
highly recommend it. [click
for info and image]
- Aquilegia vulgaris 'Granny's Bonnet' ? 1995 Care
as above. Vigorous grower. In form it has the vigorous growth
of the A. Canadense and the short flower stems of the flabellata.
The flowers are a curious dusty rose double similar to the flabellata
as well. Some flowers seem to hide in the foliage though. Nice,
but not as sturdy as others. Spring 2005 currently there
are none of these in the garden.
uva-ursi 'Massachusetts'-- Bearberry, Uva Ursi [ericaceae or empetraceae] Fall
2002. This low growing shrub will spread across dry,
sandy or gravel soil on hillsides, even with some salt
spray, so long as it has acidic conditions. It likes
sun, but will take some shade, which makes it an excellent
candidate around evergreens and oak trees where growing
grass is out of the question. The berries are edible
and medicinal, though not especially nutritious or
tasty. The berries endure to Spring, making them
important for late winter forage for birds and some
of information available at US Forestry Service.
One plant in a gallon pot exploded with runners in two
years so that it now covers about 6-8 square feet.
Its seeds need fire to open, then cold stratification, so
it's not likely to reseed in the average yard. The
USFS recommends it for erosion control, and notes that it
is an important plant for recovery after fire. Being
a member of the family of ericaceae, it has the
attractive, pale, bell-shaped flowers similar to those of
blueberry, but smaller and less showy although they are a
bit more colorful. In structure, it's vaguely
similar to the vaccinium, but
much more prostrate, with darker, waxier leaves on long,
running stems. I really like it, and have seen no
problems other than the speed at which it grows. Maintenance
obviously involves assiduous pruning of the fast growing
runners. In Spring 2006 it has a significant show of
flowers for the first time. Apparently it flowers
only on older stems--perhaps even three seasons old.
I estimate that it has some runners that are about 7 feet
long. Spring 2007 we had a tough early Spring
for ericaceous plants. Early warmth teased them into bloom and
new growth, but a hard freeze of several weeks had a harsh effect on
this and other similar plants. There was a lot of singed brown
foliage, and then some die-back. I think it's going to be
okay, but it is evidently not happy. The winter of 2007-2008
was similar. Clearly, this plant should have some light winter
cover through the months of March and April.
Arisaema triphyllum -- wild Jack-in-the-Pulpit
[Araceae--Arum family] (about 5 of them were given to me by a friend
'94) Easy to grow. Plant the ripe seeds in the fall. When these
pop out of the ground in mid-may, they have a radically reptilian
appearance. I have a large one that grows right out of the leaves
of a Thalictrum aquilegiafolium. The neatest thing
about these peculiar beauties is that they occupy relatively little
ground area, and their horizontal spread takes place largely above
20" over the soil. That means you can interplant them
with shorter woodland specimens like anemonella thalictroides
or any of the small species of thalictrum. Sweet
Woodruff, Vinca Vine, Hostas, Canadian Ginger, European Ginger,
Epimedium are just a few amicable companions that come to
my mind. The second coolest thing about them is that the seed clusters
that follow the flowers are almost as lovely as the flowers, and
they're a nice scarlet color, and look a bit like a giant
raspberry pointing upward. The third coolest thing about the
Jack-in-the-Pulpit is that when you put them side-by-side with such
tropical specimens as Peace Lily or Calla Lilies (to which the flowers
bear some resemblance), you realize that Arisaema Triphyllum
is more stunning. The palate of greens and reddish browns
that adorn them like strange lizards places them at the top of my
list for the Gothic Garden.
This hardy shade plant prefers moist, rich, humus-rich soil--peat
and leaf mold. However, I am pretty sure that it's harder
to kill them than it is to keep them. Propagate by seed--collect
red berries in fall, remove pulp, and sow outdoors right away. They
will easily and freely self-seed, so it's best to take control of
this. Seedlings have one leaf set the first year and take
2-4 years to mature to flowering size. They grow into rather
large bulbs or corms like a gladiola. In my experience, they
are very easy to transplant. Even if something happens to
them during the season, they will be fine the following year.
Plant them nice and deep--like 4-6" because the only enemy
they seem to have is frost heaving. Since they like to be
deep, you are avoiding problems by getting them down that far.
Even after heaving, and being quite exposed to the Minnesota elements,
I've seen them survive winter if you plant them before they thaw
and rot. The corm, which looks like a gladiola, grows
with the roots coming out of the top. Plants normally die
back before summer ends and emerge in mid to late May. This
seems to be most common with younger plants and those that succumb
to bugs. Age seems to lend durability to the plants along with size.
You'll want to look at them up close, so plant them in raised beds,
next to paths, etc.
Highly recommended for woodland gardens. Click
here to see a series of four images of the plant.
Aronia arbutifolia 'Brilliant' aka 'Brillantissima --
Red Chokeberry [Rosaceae] Spring 2006 from the Friends School
Plant Sale. This attractive shrub turns quite red in the fall,
and the berries, like a Highbush Cranberry (Viburnum) stay on
through the winter. The specimen I bought had a few berries
still on it in mid-May, and is sporting a prodigious quantity of
buds. The leaves are still quite small. It is about 3
feet tall now, and has a nice shape at the base. It's destined
for the West side of the garage. Spring 2007 it is very
dead. I am pretty sure that the cold winter got it before the
nasty spring would have burned it. I replaced it with Sambucus
nigra 'Black Lace', which is thriving there now in 2008.
Nevertheless, this is a beautiful bush, especially for its Autumn
colors. Grow it if you can because it's too cold here.
Aruncus sylvester -- Goatsbeard [Rosaceae] 1995
Partial shade, moist, humus-rich soil. Stout roots can be cut with
a sharp knife for control or propagation--leave one eye or bud per
division. Do not move them after planting. One source
recommended cutting it back hard
in fall at the slightest sign of withering. I have never
done that. I just leave them up for the winter because a male
plant will not bear seeds. Spider mites may take advantage of
a dry plant, so keep it moist. Given
adequate (not a lot) of moisture, this one is very easy. It
is an excellent
architectural plant that creates nice height. Be sure to
give it some support, like a high peony cage. Although it
is herbaceous (it dies back to the ground every year), its size
is comparable to a medium size bush, so give it plenty of room.
I estimate that this one takes up about 12 square feet of ground
area in full growth, and only about 1-2 square feet at the ground.
So, you can plant it with fritilaria, crocus, hepatica, haquetia
epipactis, or other plants that won't mind being somewhat covered
up by June. I have a variegated hosta and some primrose along
with Hacquetia epipactis and a clump of Thalictrum aquiliegiafolium
and a clump of Thalictrum rochebrunianum in a railroad
tie raised bed, with Lady's Mantle across the front at the ground
level to hide the ties. The Hacquetia is
spilling out and into my yard, where I plan to let it become a ground
cover. This arrangement is located on the south side of our
house, shaded on the west by our deck, and about 10 feet north by
northwest of a 40' silver maple. Overall, this spot is shady.
It gets a pretty good amount of early spring sun before noon.
Once the leaves are out, it gets only filtered light. It took
the plant three seasons to settle in to its home. Seven years
later, it's gorgeous, and thirteen years later, it is still getting
slowly larger. It reaches about six feet. Since
it's a male plant, it doesn't reseed. It has spread outward
less than it has grown upward and more full. If you have a
similar tricky spot in tree shade, but you can make sure that it
doesn't dry out, give this one a try if you're brave enough to forgo
the dull and unimaginative arborvitae.
Asclepias syriaca -- Milkweed (the common, wild variety
of the Midwest). [Asclepiadacea] This came to the yard on an
airborne seed. It was new, and I was curious and naive. I let it
grow, and in its second year it seduced me with its lovely,
intensely fragrant flowers. By the third year I realized it was
taking over the garden, so I started taking some out. The following
year it seemed to seek revenge by spreading more distantly and
aggressively. This is a truly nasty plant for the urban garden. It's
fine for a large meadow, but if you want less vigorous plants to
survive near these stout, towering beastly beauties, you better put
it in a tight pot in the ground. It spreads underground on rhyzomes
or stolons--not sure, because they are so large and thick. The
problem is that the travel fast and deep, both horizontally, and
vertically if allowed to settle in. After three seasons of vigorous eradication
efforts, I have still not succeeded in ridding this bed of the
Asclepias tuberosa -- Butterfly Weed or Milkweed (not
the Swamp Milkweed eaten by Monarch caterpillars) [Asclepiadaceae]
Full sun in sandy, loamy, average soil. Remove unwanted shoots as
they appear, as the plant can be invasive. Very late to emerge in
the spring. You will think it didn't make it, and you'll probably
not notice it until it's almost a foot tall, and then you can easily
mistake it for a weed. Be sure to mark it and get to know
what its foliage looks like. Somehow it manages to survive
and then surprise me with its candy orange flowers. The foliage
isn't much to shout about, but it is de rigeur for northern
prairie and meadows. This native plant is one that Minnesotans
(and I) ought to be more proud of. For creating an urban cottage
garden like ours, plant a couple in widely separated parts of your
garden, and let them do their thing amidst other plants.
Because this plant has a deep taproot, you cannot move it after
it establishes. However, that makes controlling it easier.
Interestingly, this rather stunning and exotic native Minnesotan
beauty is a relative of the Hoya plant. One look at the flowers
of each will prove the case. However, no Hoya ever produced
such an intensely orange flower. On the other hand, no Butterfly
Weed ever produced flowers that smell exactly like Hostess Ho-Ho's. Click
here to see an image.
Asperula odorata or Galium odoratum -- Sweet Woodruff,
Bedstraw [Rubiaceae] (also apparently genus Galium) Leitner's
1995 Shade, even moisture, average soil. Propagate by stem cuttings
in early summer (remove flower heads first). Pleasingly aggressive
grower and spreader that appears to be fairly easy to control. So
far I cant say enough good about it. Thin it in early spring
and fall. This evergreen plant spreads even under snow. It did not
survive in the raised woodland bed (neither did Brunera macrophyla)
It is fairly sensitive to cold and freezing rain in early spring.
Leave the evergreen plants covered until about April. If they are
killed back to the ground, they will return, but if it is sheltered,
its evergreen leaves will survive even a Minnesota winter. I recommend
uncovering it in very early March so that it CAN be killed back
to the ground, and not hide small flowers of spring bulbs. Or, sheer
it back aggressively (by mowing) in the late fall. They make an
ideal groundcover around spring bulbs because the roots are very
shallow. If you pull back the creeping stems and roots around
other plants, it can be planted with other less vigorous companion
plants if you pull back the runners from around those plants.
It looks great with all of them. It responds well to
mowing, and is a great substitute for grass in tough, shady locations.
to see an image.
Aster ericoides Heath
Aster, Goodbye-to-Summer [asteraceae] Spring 2004
initially placed in our circumpolar garden. This white aster grows
2-3 feet tall, and looks weedy like most native asters.
was tall and lanky last year when I planted it. In 2005, I pinched it off in mid-May to see if that
helps make it bushier. That didn't seem to have any
effect, so I nipped it off again in mid-June, and that
definitely made it bush out, but it's still too
lanky. I bet the soil is too rich and damp for it. Spring 2006 I demoted it
from its location to a more secluded spot where I can tie it up
easier. It's just too lanky for anything but a thick woodland
unless you are okay with having it flop over. Bottom
line--it's pretty much an attractive weed.
Aster novae angliae 'Purple Dome' [asteracieae]
date and source long forgotten, but I'm going to hazard a guess
that it was 1995 and it probably came from Leitners. The principle interest of the asters is that they bloom quite
late. This one blooms right up to the frost, and perhaps a
little longer. Pinch the shoots off in June before the
Solstice to encourage branching and more flowers. Cut off the flower
heads in late fall to prevent reseeding. Divide early
in spring or late in fall. Very, very nice, trouble free plant.
It spreads most by rhizomes, and not a lot from seeds. Click here
to see an image
Astilbe chinensis (white and rose)-- False Spirea
[Saxifragaceae] These plants came with the house, so I'm
guessing they were planted around 1990. They will take sun or shade. Increase moisture
with more sun. Otherwise, they are extremely easy to grow--divide
it, move it, ignore it. Even moisture demands seem less serious
than the books imply unless they are in very sunny spots. Seed heads
can be left on the plant for a nice decorative effect. These are
as easy, reliable and architectural as the hostas and at least as
visually interesting. Click
here to see an image of a typical pink variety.
Astilbe thunbergii 'Ostrich Plume. False Spirea
Same as the others but the rose colored flowers droop. Later to
arise than the others by as much as three weeks. Much less vigorous
and more fragile than the others. Ours got crowded out by
Iris. It's also possible that it didn't like the raised bed
situation. It was pretty close to the edge. They are
nice, but I haven't been too interested in expanding my astilbe
collection. If I ever decide to rip out my white one or pink
one, I might put this one in instead.
Athyrium nipponicum 'Metallicum' -- Japanese Painted
Fern [Dryopteridaceae] 1995 Small, shade loving plant. Sturdy and easy to grow.
Late to emerge in spring. It looks oddly brown and artificial in
May, reaching its normal coloration and height by the beginning
of June. The multicolored leaves make it the closest thing to a
coleus in the fern family. Excellent idea for subtle color
and texture in a shady spot where you can cultivate such a small
plant. It's about 6-8" tall. Highly recommended,
this is my favorite fern. Period. After six years, ours
grew to a size where it was ready to be divided. I did that
in late Spring, and watered it regularly. No problem.
Eleven years later I have divided and moved them about 4 or 5 times
and never had the slightest problem. The only thing to keep in
mind is that they are slow to get settled in, and they are late
emerge in about mid-May.
Athyrium X 'Ghost' (Athyrium niponicum var.
pictum x Athyrium filix-femina) -- Ghost Fern
[Dryopteridaceae] 2003 I forget where I got this
one. It's very pretty, and easy to grow. Refer to the
entry on the Japanese Painted Fern above because the only
significant difference seems to be the color of the foliage--which
is an unusual pale green, almost white, with pinkish veins and
It's located in a pretty shady location in the boreal garden.
One thing I've noticed is that it seems to attract an inordinate
amount of attention from passersby. I tend to keep the
original plastic spike with the label on it near my plants until I
get them memorized, and they have enough gravitas to make their
location obvious in Spring. This particular plant's spike is
almost always pulled out of the ground and lying next to the plant,
indicating that somebody went to significant trouble to stand on a
boulder and lean across to pull it out and read it.
Betula glandulosa (unknown
if var. hallii) (Bog birch, resin birch, arctic dwarf
birch) Linder's Fall 2002 in rock garden.
This birch gives you all the beauty of young birch
branches (that reddish brown, textured surface) on a very
shapeable, tree-like shrub that runs about six foot high.
It's not supposed to get white, but from the looks of
my plant (which may be a garden cultivar--it was poorly
labeled) it could transform with age as birches do. After six
years, the stems are pretzel colored with fine white hash marks
around the stem. Old specimens can reach ten feet, but pruning should make
it easy to prevent this. It is hardy to zone one,
which means that it's perfectly happy in Alaskan Yukon
tundra. Although it's home is in land considerably
colder than metropolitan Minnesota, it appears to be
quite happy here.
It sits atop a small man-made hill--a little berm that I put in to
create a slope for drainage. I have watered it, but not to
excess. It looks to be very happy. The bog birch catkins are a food source for chickadees
and other birds. Internet searches revealed that
it likes well-drained acidic soil (which it has).
forest service has excellent information.
It's on the north side
of the house, but it's a sunny location in summer, and
fairly sunny in winter. Being that it's at
the top of the 20" berm, I thought that it would
be a very good idea to build a volcano crater around it,
building a water-retaining lip. It apparently does
not transplant easily. But, at this point,
there are no diseases, no bugs, nice leaves. In
2005 I noticed that it's getting kind of shaggy--the
branches get long and they are very flexible, so the whole
bush gets blown about pretty dramatically by the
wind. As of 2006, I see the same thing beginning to happen. In July I shortened them so that the
whole thing is about 5-6 feet tall. That should make
for a stouter infrastructure. After four years and
one pretty vigorous pruning last summer, I very much like this
tree. If you keep the suckers and side shoots off from the
lower portion, it makes a beautiful mini-tree. At first I was wishing
that I had gotten something a bit showier, or a full sized
birch. The leaves are really cute. For
pruning, I recommend using the same techniques as those used for
lilacs. I recommend it
Calamagrostis arumdinacea 'Karl Foerster'--Feathered
Reed Grass [Poaceae/Gramineae (grass family)]. Leitner's 1996. It is a clumping grass
that grows to about 4 feet high. After five years, the single
one gallon plant spread to a mass two feet across. I divided
it, and replanted another one-gallon sized clump inside a
3 gallon pot to restrain the outward growth. At first I
thought that it didn't reseed, but in 2003 I started to notice lots
of small clumps of seedlings in a radius of 4 feet from the
plant. Interestingly, almost all of them were to the north of
the plant. They are fairly easy to spot because they start
with very fine spidery clumps with short blades in spring.
They can be pulled easily when young. There are more colorful and exotic grasses,
but this one is very natural looking, yet charming.
Calluna vulgaris spp. -- Scotch Heather
[Heaths and Heathers, Ericaceae or Empetraceae]
Note: Heathers are not really hardy in zone 4b where we
live. They require some extra attention, like showy
roses. In climates of zone 6 (possibly 5?) they are very good on slopes with moist, sandy and acidic
soil. They will only reseed if they are
burned by fire. I tried toasting some seeds on the bbq, but
they didn't seem to germinate in the open garden. Maybe they
would in pots. I have layered several plants now.
(That means I buried a couple of branches so the tips
stuck out, held it down with a rock, and then I will cut
and dig the clump up.) This technique seems to be
working well, but I haven't yet severed the connection to the mother
If it's flowers you seek, then go for the Erica species.
The Callunas are beautiful enough in their foliage.
I have all three planted fairly close together, and I'm going to
have to move them apart this fall. They are starting to grow
into each other.
There are some simple rules to follow to keep Heathers and Heaths
in zone 4b (slight urban heat zone factor?).
- Cover it in leaves or snow for the winter. I anchor this
coverage down with bird netting used to protect
blueberries. I make metal wire tent stakes and push them
through the netting, form a loop, and then push the end into the
ground. It works very well to hold the leaves in place,
and assure some support during their interment under deep
snow. Anything that
is actually exposed to air at zero degrees or below will die back
or at least permanently loose leaves. I uncover it around
the first part of April, but I re-cover it with leaves if I hear
that an ice storm or extra cold weather is coming. Spring
snow fall won't hurt it at all. Dry, super cold air
will desiccate the leaves. They also seem to dislike
freezing rain. You might want to cover the mulched plant
with a burlap bag anchored to the ground to keep the leaves in
place. I always scoop snow onto them when I shovel in the
winter. I think that it is best to uncover them in early
April to prevent fungus, but to cover them again less densely
until you pass the frost date.
- Avoid watering it with tap water. I capture rain water
or use peat moss to condition water. I regularly use vinegar
(2 cups per 5 gallon bucket of water). Heathers are acid lovers.
I have used garden sulphur, but now after 5 years of
applications, I no longer do. I occasional coffee grounds, and
one application of iron
sulfate. I also have my soaker hose system
set up so it misses the heathers. I hand water them. Over
time, I have been applying more tap water, and no problems are
- They hate nitrogen. Do not give them things like blood
meal, fish emulsion or other high nitrogen foods. I
have given them low doses of balanced chemical fertilizers
recommended by a local gardener who cultivated many heathers I
have. During the past few years, I have been relying on
organic mixes for acid soil like "Holly-tone" from
Espoma, and applications of dilute vinegar.
- After blooming, it improves their appearance to cut off the
entire length of bare stem at the tip.
The Callunas aren't terribly difficult, but not recommended
for lazy gardeners. Don't let anyone tell you that they can't
be grown in Minnesota. Click
here to visit the Heather Society web page in the UK.
They have a very nice Handy
Guide to Heathers and Heaths. Heaths
and Heathers--a great commercial site in Washington. This
looks like a great place to order heathers by mail. There
is an excellent
article on growing heather in Canada. My experience reflects
his quite well, though I have not yet run into a species that isn't
able to survive the winter with the treatment I give to them.
I currently have 5 cultivars and an erica, so this next few years will
tell me a lot. This
article discusses the different species and their hardiness
in cold climates.
- Calluna vulgaris 'Drum Ra'--Scotch Heather. Rice
Creek Gardens in Fall 2002. Has white flowers on vigorous
deep green foliage.
- Calluna vulgaris 'Green Cardinal'--Scotch Heather.
Garden City 1996. 15"h x 18". Bright green foliage that
turns reddish purple in late season. It will be dark when
you uncover it in spring, and then it greens up. Trim off
any dead ends of branches that were singed by cold. It's
more stiff and upright than the sprawling, curly 'Sir John Carrington'
or Erica. This one is the more vigorous of the two
Callunas we have. It is also more sensitive to Winter
cold air--losing more leaves if it gets too cold. Bury it
completely in leaves as soon as the temperatures start dipping
below 10 degrees F. The flowers are lilac pink, and are
quite nice. This appears to be the easiest one for cold
climates. You have to keep it (and all the others) from
being exposed to the elements during winter, but given that kind
of care, you'll have little or no trouble keeping it in zone 4b
(or at least in urban zone 4b).
- Calluna vulgaris 'Kinlochruel'--Scotch
Heather. Rice Creek Gardens in Fall 2002.
Double flowered white--amazing pendulous flowers that
look like a Thalictrum 'Hewitt's Double' flower crossed
with a lilly of the valley. Medium green foliage,
and compact form. As of Spring 2006 I'm
going to declare this one too fragile for Minnesota.
- Calluna vulgaris 'Little Orchid'--Scotch
Heather. This one looks really good four years
later, but not
as vigorous in the rate of growth as the Green Cardinal.
- Calluna vulgaris 'Robert Chapman'. This one is doing extremely well, but not
as vigorous in the rate of growth as the Green Cardinal.
Very pretty pale green. Has survived three winters, and looks great.
- Calluna vulgaris 'Sir John Carrington'. Garden
City 1996. 12" h x 18". Chartreuse to yellow foliage
changes to red in fall. Dark maroon-purple flowers from Aug-Sept.
This one is tough, but it doesn't grow as fast as the
others. This one has colorful foliage and deep lilac pink
- Calluna vulgaris 'Tiny Trails'--Scotch Heather.
Rice Creek Gardens in Fall 2002. Interesting two-tone color
with a mute chartreuse and deep green color, and pink flowers.
It has a trailing structure, and the plant we got is wonderfully
shaped. However, by 2006, there aren't any surviving.
Campanula spp. Harebell, Bellflower, Bluebells
[Campanulaceae] This is a very popular and attractive genus
with a two basic forms--one is a long raceme of bell-like flowers,
the other is a short ground cover with bell-shaped flowers.
They are generally pretty easy to grow. Campanulaceae
include the Lobelia cardinalis.
- Campanula americana Tall Bellflower.
Native to this area, it was an indigenous weed in our yard, prevalent
in the shady area between my house and the neighbor to the East.
It's a pretty plant, but it is a weed. You have to control
it through digging and deadheading. Reaching 3 to 6 feet
in height, the racemes can spread the numerous seeds a good
distance. Deadhead it rigorously or you'll have it all
over. A mature clump has brittle, fleshy roots
extending down to a single taproot-like structure, similar to a
common violet. You probably already have some of this in
your yard, but you mow it over. It's extremely common
- Campanula carpatica 'White Clips' -- Carpathian Harebell
Leitner's 1994 Full sun to light shade. Average to rich, well-drained
soil. Propagate by tip cuttings. May self-sow, so deadheading
is recommended. After 3 seasons, it does not appear to have increased
significantly in size, nor has it shrunk. Healthy and well-behaved
clump plant. 1999 it needs replacing--it increased every year
until this year. This is clearly a nice rock garden plant.
- Campanula poscharskyana -- Serbian Bellflower
soil, full sun. Root prune and deadhead to prevent invasion. Ours
got too much water and almost faded away in a sweltering August.
Spring 1996, it is there but very much smaller. I moved it back
to the alley area and put a heather where it was. It was destroyed
by a careless child. I think it was bad luck. The plant should
be quite vigorous, and the intense electric blue flowers are very
Candy Lily (genus hybrid X paracanda or something like
that). 1994 Seems very similar to the species Belamcanda (Blackberry
Lily) of the Iridaceae family. I think they must have crossed it
with a lily. Full sun to light shade. In heat, shade prolongs bloom.
Plants self-sow easily. Seems prone to yellowing leaves and such,
but blooms well. I call it "autumn lily" because it blooms
starting in late August, and continues into September. Easy to grow,
and highly recommended. All of them disappeared in about
2000, so it's probably necessary to replace them periodically.
Celastrus scandens (American Bittersweet Vine, aka Zombie
Vine) [Celastraceae] Summer 1999 It is a native
to the Upper Midwest, and was once common in the woods. Its reputation
as an aggressive vine inspired us to plant it on the West side of
our garage. I made a trellis out of birch branches that I wove together
in an 8 foot high design like a snow shoe. It's a very pretty
trellis. Later we learned that it grows rapidly to 20' and
will smother anything it its path, including full grown trees. We
saw a LARGE arbor draped with old bittersweet vines at the Minnesota
Landscape Arboretum, and we realized that we might have made a mistake.
It's clear that this is a large and powerful vine like Virginia
Creeper. In the Spring of 2001 it appeared to be dead. In
July when I was doing some weeding, I discovered that there were
runners shooting out 3 feet from the original plant, sending up
new shoots, though nothing was happening anywhere near the trellis.
I immediately began surgery to remove the thick runners before it
destroyed my whole garden. Worse still, the uninteresting
flowers were eaten off by insects so that no berries formed the
one year of 2000 that it grew normally. Two years after attempting
to rip this sinister bastard out of my garden, two more large rhizomes
and shoots were found 3 feet away from the original planting spot.
I hope that I have it all out now. I definitely do not recommend
this thug. I renamed the plant Zombie Vine in reference
to its ability to die and resurrect from its roots back to the dead
main stem. Spring 2006 no signs of the evil plant. I
think it's okay to put up the "Mission Accomplished"
Chrysanthemum coccineum 'Doubles Mixed' -- Painted Daisy
[Compositae] Bachman's 1995. For all mums, average to rich, moist,
well-drained soil in full sun. Neutral to alkaline soil. Waterlogging
is bad especially in winter. Pinching and disbudding is effective
for increasing flower size, etc. Divide to remove and replace dying
centers of dense clumps. Aphids and spider mites may plague them.
I'm not impressed with this one. It's not very attractive.
By 2002 it faded away and died. I'm trying to feel bad about
it, but in general, I'm frustrated with mums. They aren't very
long-lived here and just don't seem to thrive in our garden. I
Chrysantemum leucanthemum 'May Queen'--Oxeye Daisy.
1-3' Leitner's 1996. Easy to grow white daisy. No problems
Chrysanthemum X superbum --Shasta Daisy. 1-3' high.
Short-lived species. Leitner's 1996 I've decided that I
don't care much for the hardy daisies.
This attractive genus is easy to grow in bright shade with rich
soil and good moisture. They reseed themselves, and can be
propagated by seed sown directly where you want them (the seeds
must be stratified to germinate.) Division is quite easy.
I have literally pulled a stem out of the ground with a root eyelet,
stuck it in a new spot, and presto. Given moisture and the
right balance of light, they are very tough. They do not like hot
sun, but they must have some light to thrive. Increased sunlight
requires more water. This species is rumored to keep away
bugs (hence its name) but the bees just love it. The roots can be
used to induce abortion, but it is a bit risky at that dosage. It
is a common ingredient in herbal menopause treatments. Click
to see an image. Click
here for an essay on the medicinal usage of the plant.
- Cimicifuga racemosa -- Black Cohosh, Bugbane
or Fairy Candles. Leitner's 1994 Partial shade, common garden
soil but need leaf mould. Emerge along with the Dicentra spectabilis.
Flowers bloom in midsummer. They spread slowly under ground from
eyelets kind of like bleeding hearts, but the snaky rhizomes
creep around, giving the impression that they are moving about
in your garden. I have tried them in numerous
locations in the yard, but the place they seem to be happiest is
on the north side of our garage, where a layer of snow and ice
remains until the Equinox. Cold and constantly wet soil
might seem inhospitable, but I can only tell you that these
plants receive a lot of neglect, and they are thriving.
The flowers are beautiful and the foliage is healthy. This
is one of my favorite plants based on its foliage, architectural
effect, ease of cultivation and appeal to
pollinators. The flowers aren't outstanding, but
they are interesting. During and after blooming they may
require staking, or cutting back. Seeds will form and
surely weigh down the stalks. If you let them drape over
your yard, they will easily reseed in your lawn.
Uncontrolled, this plant could easily take over my back yard, at
least in the shady areas. New seedlings will take about 3
years to bloom, and transplants may require a year to recover
before blooming. They will grow anywhere from 3 feet to 8 feet
tall depending on age and conditions. The foliage is only
about 2-3 feet high, and the remaining 1-5 feet is a long stalk
with a 10-15" raceme of white flowers.
- Cimicifuga racemosa 'Atropurpurea' Linder's
1995. Same growing conditions as above. Will not grow as tall
as the species above--more like 3 feet. Much prettier flowers
bloom in August-September. This is a beautiful plant, though
not really suited to the Minnesota growing season. It's
a bit slow in growth.
- Cimicifuga ramosa Leitner's in 1994.
Native to Minnesota. It has short flower racemes, making
it look almost like Actea. Three feet high total. It's
a very attractive companion for ferns and hostas in a shade
Clematis spp. [Ranunculaceae]
The clematis genus has some of the most beautiful and desirable
vines for the home garden. There is a wide
variety of forms, colors and bloom times. There are wide
variations in cultivation instructions, but the majority of them
need very rich soil. They also like to have cool, sheltered
roots, but the upper vine needs bright sun. Most species will
grow back from last year's wood. They will also send up shoots
from the ground. Pruning in early Spring is important to avoid
having a messy mass of dead vine twigs on your trellis.
- Clematis jackmanii--Clematis . Rice Creek late
1995. A beautiful vine that needs human help to attach to smooth
walls. It blooms twice in the season, and leaves attractive seed
heads like a pasque flower. Fertilize it heavily, shield the base
of the plant with rocks (hot, sunny vine, cool, wet roots) Plant
it in a deeply dug hole with lots of organic matter, bone meal,
etc. Prefers lime over acid. It grows back on old vines,
but it is advisable to prune it back in February so that there
are only about two to three feet of old vine stems standing up.
It's aggressive. We have it climbing over climbing roses,
which makes a spectacular display in June. Since I am trying
to get it to produce more stems and flowers on the opposite side
of this wall, I let a large portion of the old stems remain so
as to get more shoots there. In Spring 2002 (after the warmest
winter in my 42 year life) she has growing shoots popping out
of dry stems from last year as far out as six feet from the base.
It's going to be a good year for Clematis, I think. ;)
Spring 2005 it nearly vanished, and barely performed. In
Spring 2006 it seems to be recovering. I gave it a
thorough feeding. I think it was hungry. In 2007 it
was barely alive, and in 2008 it was gone. I suspect a
- Clematis tangutica--[Ranunculaceae] Rice
Creek late 2000. A rare, yellow clematis. It has wonderful
yellow, pendulous flowers that hang without opening wide, so they
look like oriental paper lanterns. The plant is a really
vigorous grower, suitable for climbing trees. Trim back
in the Fall or early Spring to about 15" to 36", leaving the straw
like stems to winter. New growth will appear from the nodes
of the remaining stems in the spring, so don't rip up the dead
straw. Its growth starts a bit late, so you will think it's
dead, then suddenly it explodes, almost flying up it trellis. After
four years, the straw developed into a more woody structure, and
the new shoots started as far as ten feet above the
ground. Therefore, it is extremely important to cut and
remove last year's growth down to a controllable height. I
take mine down to 3 feet. Awesome vine. We planted this one beside our Honeysuckle,
and the two twine together. The location is not super sunny,
so it does bloom kind of late--in 2002, it bloomed at the end
of August, and in mid-September it's completely covered with flowers.
By 2006, I have noted that it does reseed, but surprisingly
little. I transplanted one, and the results were very
good. The plant I have growing together with a honeysuckle
appears to have been seriously stunted eight years later.
The other one that is in a sunnier location is doing much
to see an image.
- Clematis "Nelly Moser"--[Ranunculaceae]
Rice Creek late 2001. Planted where the Bittersweet
vine used to be. It has had a slow start, but four years
later, it's beginning to look substantial.
Commelina communis -- Mouseflower, Asiatic Dayflower
[Commelinaceae] "native" to our yard when we bought
the house. It was apparently imported as an ornamental annual
flower around the turn of the century. I decided to cultivate
it and see how it does. On the East Coast it is an invasive
species. The little blue flowers are really cute. The
downside is that once you cultivate it, and let it go to seed, it is
a vigorous reseeder, and you'll have thousands the next year (as I
do now.) They are really easy to pull in mulched soil, so I'm
not especially concerned. Further, it doesn't do well without
a lot of water, so it won't likely get far from my yard. I'm not
sure that ours is identical to this species. Ours has two deep
blue petals, and one small petal. The one I found on the net
is lavender with three petals. It sprawls across the
ground, making a decent groundcover, but they are so weedy that you
might not want to try it. However, they are annuals, and the
roots are shallow, so you can surely mix them with taller, deeper
rooted plants. Why fight it when it's already here, and it's
not ugly? [pictures]
Coreopsis lanceolata -- Lanceleaved Coreopsis [Asteraceae-Compositae]
Leitner's 1995 Evergreen like a Digitalis. It takes it some
time to revive in spring. It did not appear to spread unpleasantly.
I suspect a cage would be beneficial for them, because the whole
plant has a tendency to collapse and flop about. Oh great, yet
another yellow daisy-like plant that flops around and reseeds.
It definitely benefits from deadheading,
which also prevents reseeding. They produce hundreds of flowers
over an extended period, so they do make up for the demands of deadheading.
Great flower if you are dedicated to deadheading.
Coreopsis verticallata 'Moonbeam' --Threadleaf Coreopsis.
Coreopsis verticallata 'Zagreb' -- ""
Leitner's 1995. Most books recommend poor to average soil,
sandy soil to avoid overgrowth and flopping. Both benefit from deadheading.
I prefer 'Moonbeam', but the two mixed together are fabulous. They
seem to form clumps of vertical stems connected by a rhizome.
After thirteen years, it seems to have stabilized its population in one
patch beside the Echinacea and Rudbeckia meadow. Easy to grow
Cornus canadensis - Bunchberry [Cornaceae (dogwoods)]
Spring 2004 Nothing could possibly be bad about getting this plant
to spread throughout your yard and garden. It's probably the
most characteristic plant of Northern Minnesota acidic soil
vegetation. This cute little shrublet spreads by rhizomes and
is only 3-7" tall. The berries are edible, used for jellies. It
can tolerate acidic conditions ranging from pH 3-7.9, but can't
tolerate soil temperatures warmer than 65 degrees in Summer.
This may be difficult to provide, but I gave it some bright shade
under the spruce. We'll keep our fingers crossed that it
survives in the acidic garden. In mid-May 2005 it appears to
be alive, but very slow in sending up new shoots. On
May 24th, the shoots are plainly visible, but the plant is
slow yet to unfurl. But, it means that it did
survive a Twin Cities summer. The following season,
it was strikingly diminished. It clung tenuously to life
during the summer and gave up the ghost by autumn. My
"autopsy" suggests that the area was too dry and sunny
during summer. I would put it in a different spot if I find
another one (which I have not). [more
info and image, better
Corydalis sempervirens, Rock Harlequin
(Superior Nat. Forest by seed) annual or biennial-- Rock Harlequin.
Date uncertain, but probably about 1992 or 1993. They are very unpredictable in their reseeding. One year you might
have many, the next year, you won't see any, then the following
there are a couple, and the next year you'll have dozens. Easy to grow. Keep in mind that a full-grown
flowering plant will die off. Plant the seeds by sprinkling them
in desirable locations. They are very prodigal, attractive little
surprise plants. I would describe them as a combination of
bleeding heart (to which they are related) and the columbine, with
leaves that look a lot like herb rue. The color of the
foliage is almost blue and the pink with yellow tipped flowers are
really cheery. The small size of the flowers and the blue
foliage keep them from
being too garish. Spring 2005 we have the biggest crop of them
I have seen. There are about 30 plants scattered around the
yard. Spring 2006 there is only one visible, and a few young
seedlings in my lawn that dropped from last year's seeds. For
2007 there were a few flowering plants, but at the end of May 2008
none are yet visible. As of 2012 they have disappeared, but I've
considered looking for seeds again this summer.
Cypripedium acaule - Pink Lady Slipper orchid
- [Orchidaceae] Spring 2004 [click
for image ] I tried one of these in Spring 2003,
placing it in a fairly shady and wet spot in newly
acidified soil. I incorporated a pine bark/manure
compost combo that might have been too nitrogen
rich. This time I tried it with a newly prepared,
but more established section of spruce impacted
soil. I added no compost, but instead added a lot of
ground up long strand sphagnum moss. That's the
light tan stuff that is used for potting orchids, and
that I also added a larger amount of professional potting
mix (standard brown peat, perlite and wetting agent), lots
of garden sulfur pellets, iron sulfate, rock phosphate and
green sand. I then added about 30% of that volume in
native soil, to which I added spruce needles from the
ground. That was mixed, and then mixed into the soil
of the area before planting. After placing it, I poured
about my diluted coffee dregs mixture around the plant,
but not directly on its roots. Spring 2005:
THREE HEALTHY SHOOTS erupting from the ground! May 24th
the buds of all three are visible, and should open by Memorial Day.
Spring 2006: There were two shoots, and they looked good at
first. But, after a few months it became clear they would not
bloom and that they were diminishing. By the end of the season
it looked dead, and there was no sign of it the following
Spring. It's difficult to determine what was wrong, but I
think that the earlier two seasons of vigorous growth suggest that
the problem was not light. Water is a possibility, but I can't
be sure if it was too much or too little. A stronger
possibility, I believe, is the applications of sulfur, which
may have been too harsh. I'm going to let the area
stabilize for a few years and then try again.
Cypripedium calceolus - Yellow
Ladyslipper [Orchidaceae] lime loving orchid. Very hardy,
and very native to our area. Two "rescued plants" were
put in the back garden in 2003 from the Soc. of Friends School plant
sale. It survived its first winter, and looks
good. It bloomed beautifully it's second season, but
something seemed to attack it in its third season. Fourth
season (2006) there's no trace of it.
Dahlias -- [ go to Bulbs
Page, Dahlia section ]
Daphne x 'Lawrence Crocker' [Thymelaeaceae] Spring
2006 this hybrid daphne is absolutely beautiful,
and is very fragrant. However, it is such a short
plant--just about 4" after three seasons--that it is necessary
to stoop down to catch its perfume. The smell is similar to
hyacinth, but even more pleasant. It blooms in May, and seems
to bloom again later in the summer, but not as profusely as the
first Spring bloom. This Thymelaeaceae Juss.
family of plants is new to me. Although there are a
number of species, it looks to me like the daphnes are the
only genus in the family. They are toxic, and
temperamental. In appearance, the structure is rather
similar to Andromeda, but the flowers aren't as unusual,
and the semi-succulent leaves are darker green. Although they prefer a more neutral soil, I
am going to put it in the circumpolar garden, where I
think it will look right at home if I can keep it
alive. A site I linked below states that an expert
said of these miniature glories that they can die suddenly
and inexplicably. That sounds rather like the
andromedas. I had no experience of these, and have
never heard of anyone growing them here. In May 2007 it looks
great, and in May 2008 it continues to expand and look beautiful. It
has increased in size slowly, but steadily and has very healthy leaves.
It does not seem to have any insect pests at all, not even
aphids. I have been giving it pretty much the same treatment
as the heather (see calluna), which means keeping it covered
through winter, and then making sure in Spring that it doesn't get
exposed to freezing rains, or sudden dips below 20 degrees. [more
garden info, extensive
botanical info, extensive
history and tips, nice
image at Dave's Garden.]
Day Lilies (Hemerocallis) [go
to the lilies section of my Bulb Page ]
Delphinium ? probably a X Belladonna or Pacific
Leitner's 1994 Fertilize Mucho! Cut to ground after flowering for
a fall rebloom. Sun, rich, well-drained soil. The hollow stalks
provide shelter for undesirable insects, so cut and remove them
in late fall. These tall plants require stakes to keep them from
pitching over or growing irregularly. Apparently all lend
themselves well to cloning. There is probably no better plant for
producing shades of true blue.
All delphiniums are susceptible to bugs and slugs. We have found
the hot pepper wax to be effective protection, but they are really
aphid magnets. But, if we're
lazy in applying it, the delphiniums are quickly destroyed.
We don't have very good luck with them here. Aconitum
spp. are similar and better suited to our garden. Both
of them produce luscious racemes of blue flowers in interesting
shapes. Currently we have none in the garden simply
because my past experiences weren't very good, and these garish,
tall dandies require more sun and insecticide than I am willing to
Delphinium chinense grandiflorum 'Blue
Butterfly'-- Dwarf Delphinium [Ranunculaceae] A short
lived perennial that needs to be treated as a reseeding annual or
will produce flowers in the first year. I planted it for the
first time at the 2004 Vernal Equinox, and it started blooming at
the end of August. They are incredible!!! The plants are
short and broadly branched rather than tall and spiky like the showy
delphiniums of the garden centers. The huge, single flowers
are a rich, deep blue. Dead heading encourages more blooms,
but this first year, I lust only for more seeds. More!
More! More! Click
for image at the wonderful Dave's
Garden. Not only has it been easy to grow, they are
actually thriving in our boulevard in some pretty crappy soil.
I can't say enough good about this plant. Bear in mind that
it's more akin to a columbine in form. Unlike the popular
hybrid delphiniums, the Delphinium chinense does not create
racemes. The structure is more similar to the larger
columbines, but denser. After seeing these airy delphiniums in bloom, the
others will seem garish and tawdry.
Dianthus simulans -- [Rice Creek 1997] Tiny, mounding,
rock garden "pink." Very attractive. Well-drained soil.
We lost our plant in two years. They probably need rock garden
Dicentra exemia (one pink and one white) -- Fringed
Bleeding Heart [Fumaraciae] 1995 Needs some sun, rich soil.
Flowers all summer. The pink one is an impressive grower. It reached
the size of a mature hosta in its first season from a 6" pot!
The white one was only 30% its size. The red also bloomed more and
longer. On its seventh season, neither has expanded undesirably.
It is obvious that the pink/red cultivar is much more sturdy than
Dicentra spectabilis -- Old Fashioned or Common Bleeding
Heart [Fumaraciae] 1994 Partial or bright shade. Little or no full sun. Soil
is unimportant. Dies down before summer ends, especially in sunny
locations. Good cut flower. Give
it a peony cage pushed down as far as it will go just before its
shoots really climb suddenly at the late spring flush of bloom.
We have it on the north side of our garage and it seems very happy.
It retains its foliage until frost. This is a vigorous grower, increasing
in size each year, but self-seeding only very lightly. As of
2008, it has produced maybe a dozen seedlings, which means about 1
Dictamnus alba 'Purpurea' -- Gas Plant [Rutaceae]
1994 Sun to part shade. Rich soil. Left undisturbed, this is a very
easy and long-lived plant. The flowers are spectacular and short-lived,
but the star-shaped seed pods are attractive to leave on all season.
Unfortunately, it is a slow grower. These plants have a distinctive
and unusual appearance. I recommend them as a surprise specimen
among others or as a foundation plant on the south side of a home.
The dense sphere of foliage rises 1-2' above the ground and the
3' racemes of flowers look something like a gladiola or orchid.
After four years, it is finally starting to offer a notable presence.
The star-shaped seed pods are very interesting, and make attractive
design elements for dried flower projects, but you must spray the
plant with hot pepper wax after blooming in order to keep bugs from
snipping off the cool seed pods. These are very easy to grow.
Because they are slow to mature to a showy size, plant them early
in the development of your garden, and then build around them.
I would describe their height and form as medium in size, so they
aren't a background plant, and they are too tall for foreground. They
are quite tight and formal in appearance, so a row of mature ones
would make an excellent formal garden element. 12 years
later, it seems to have reached its peak size, and remains fairly
Digitalis purpurea 'Excelsior' -- Foxglove [Scrophulariaceae
(Figwort Family)] mixed colors 1995 Biennial--divide
annually or replant from seedlings. Mark and even date the markers.
Plant them in partial shade. Remove central stalk to encourage secondary
stalks. It's a fantastic cut flower. These are obviously prone to
crown rot from early mulching, or leaving mulch on too late. They
also dislike freezing rain and exposure to cold air. In spite of
being a hated farm weed, they seem very vulnerable in the garden.
Moody and fragile, they are extremely easy to start from seed. Although
the foliage is not very attractive, one look at the lovely flowers
will convince anyone of their value. I would describe them as a
rewarding pain in the ass. Consider yourself luckier than me if
you get more than 1/3 of the plants to survive the winter and bloom.
Grow from seed sown in situ or purchase plants ready to bloom
in larger pots (the best way, in my opinion is to treat them as
annuals). It takes them two seasons to reach blooming size in Minnesota,
hence they are biennials. Another option for those with greenhouses
is to start them by seed indoors in about October. I think
that will give them enough time to bloom in the first season.
I haven't tried it yet myself. The winter of 2001-2002 was
very warm and somewhat dry, followed by a cold period after the
Equinox. All but one of my Digitalis were killed by
this weather. I suspect that during the warm months of January
and February that it succumbed to some fungi, and the freeze-thaw-freeze
thaw resulted in some frost heaving. All of them were under
some amount of leaf mulch. It appears that these are rather
difficult to grow here. The Digitalis produces a powerful
cardiac stimulant that is still used medicinally. However,
eating the leaves of the plant could easily kill you. It's probably
more dangerous than the Aconitum, but it's much more common
and popular. Because I really like them, what I do is
buy a couple as annuals each year, and then put them in 10"
decorative clay pots in a bare patch in the garden. They do
really well in pots, and the extra elevation is helpful.
Digitalis grandiflora Perennial species. 1999 from
a neighbor and 2003 from unknown garden store. EASY to grow, long blooming, considerably shorter
at about 10 to 12 inches, buttery yellow/cream flowers. Really
nice looking. I wish it spread more quickly. Kind of
looks like a large yellow flowered Penstemon. Recommended.
Dodecatheon meadia--Shooting-Star [Primulaceae,
along with cyclamens] Leitner's 1996. Moist, humus-rich soil in
sun or shade. It is adapted to woodlands and prairies but only reaches
about 1 foot. They go dormant after blooming in spring and then
can be covered by other larger plants. Neutral to acidic soil. Divide
fleshy roots or take root cuttings after flowering. Seeds germinate
quickly and mature slowly, only blooming in their 3rd year. The
flowers look rather like darts, or even Jarts (remember that game?)
Our plant was in a bad spot. It was crowded out by larger
plants, so it faded away. I might put in a new one eventually,
but haven't gotten around to it.
Dryopteris erythrosora 'Brilliance' -- Japanese Shield
Fern, Autumn Fern [Dryopteridaceae] Spring 2006 from Linders.
This fern caught my eye right away. It is unusual for its
fall coloration. Also, it's relatively compact and
non-invasive--both of which are highly valuable traits in the fern
family. Although it's native to the southern USA, it's
supposed to be able to take our cold winters, given that it doesn't
get much or any direct sun. I gave it a location in the
circumpolar garden that gets absolutely no direct sun during
winter. It did not survive its first winter. According
to Dave's Garden, it's a zone 5 plant. Shame on Linders
for offering this one. However, if you have the money to
spare, this is definitely one worth considering for a fancy annual.
Dryopteris felix 'Femina Nana' aka Athyrium filix
femina "nana" ?-- Miniature Ladyfern.
[Dryopteridaceae] Rice Creek 1996. This 3-5" ultra dwarf fern started out in
our raised bed. It was pretty happy there, but was apparently
stunted by the excess sun it was getting. I moved about half
of the clump to the front circumpolar garden to a spot that only
gets a bit of morning sun in the Spring. It's a star
attraction in our fern collection amidst
another small fern: Athyrium nipponicum 'Metallicum' (which
spreads horizontally more than vertically--about 4-5" tall.)
They are both simply stunning. Ferns require acidic soil and
some shade. I have not done a thing with this fern other than
water it and give it acidic conditions. It spreads very slowly.
This is an awesome specimen if you have a place for such a tiny
fern. I have not been able to find any information about this
particular species anywhere. All of the other cultivars are
pretty large. This is probably the smallest fern I've seen.
Echeveria unknown species/cultivar--Hens and Chicks [Crassulaceae]
these came with our house, and have been here for about 25
years. Easy to grow. Not my favorite, but no talent is required. The
Echeveria spp. are best used as ground cover. They seem
to tolerate a wide range of water conditions, but they work best in
rock gardens, away from water and tall plants. They have a
nice texture, and can probably be used around some spring bulbs to
fill in after bloom. They are only 3" tall at the most,
but a mature plant will flower with an odd, stout stalk that will
reach up about a foot, and then flop over to spread the
colony. When I started gardening, I had a fairly strong
disinclination toward the Crassulaceae. They include plants
like Sedum, Jade Plants, Kalanchoe. The Echeveria
remind me of the succulent rosettes of Agave plants and Yucca, but
much, much smaller. I suppose that the abundance of water and
lush growth in Minnesota made them seem unappealing. I have
since grown to appreciate them because they are so hardy and so
easy. They are also easy to control. According
to internet comments at Dave Gardens, the larger plants will
grow even larger if you remove the babies that form around its
perimeter, hence the common name "Hens and Chicks."
I pretty much ignore them.
Echinacea purpurea -- Purple Coneflower [Asteraceae-Compositae]
long tap roots that can be dug if you get down deeply. Don't
remove flowers in their first season. Leave the stalks till February
for bird seed and self-seeding. Late to emerge in Spring--mark them,
or simply be careful when digging near plants until you know where
they are. Aster
yellows can be a serious problem for these. If you take
care to eliminate infected plants on a regular basis, Echinacea
will be the star of your summer garden, and the butterflies will
love it. Aster yellows has very obvious symptoms in this plant.
The flowers will be radically distorted, or have tumor-like growths
of freakish flower heads right out of the center of a larger flower
head. Sick plants show no purple petals in most cases, though sometimes
a plant will show some petal growth before the disease sets in.
If you see plants like this, kill the ENTIRE PLANT and dispose of
it someplace other than your compost pile or edge of your garden. Leafhoppers
spread the disease. Highly recommended with that caveat.
Empetrum nigrum 'Compass Harbor' --
Crowberry from Maine [Ericaceae or Empetraceae] Fall 2002 from Rice Creek Gardens.
This beautiful, low, sprawling plant looks something like an Erica, but
vertical. This is a real boreal trooper--found in tundra areas
and boreal bogs around the entire globe. According to the
owner of Rice Creek, it's quite durable. Considering that
a substantial plant in a half-gallon pot only cost $8.50, this plant
must be fairly vigorous too. She said that it doesn't require
a lot of moisture, though it does appreciate it. It is apparently
both a bog plant and dry forest floor alpine. It produces
delicious blueberry-like fruit that can be harvested during the
winter and early spring--frozen. Hikers can use them for emergency
water. Links to sites with more info and images: Ethnobotany
Forest and Ascentia
Forest Service. Apparently it grows well in highly polluted
boreal areas, where it seems to love
heavy metals. May 2006 it has little green berries all
over the stems for the first time. Apparently the wild life
gets them before I do. That's ok. In May 2008 it has a
lot more berries. What I especially like about it is the fine,
herringbone texture, and the range of shades of deep green to
yellow-green to red that are often visible. Reddish colors
result from dying foliage. It does tend to lose some stems in
the spring, but it doesn't slow it down much. This is an excellent
plant for a part sun location on a slope, rock outcropping or
spilling over a retaining wall. This is a very easy member of
the Ericaceae family. The winter of 2012 was very dry and
warm. Thanks to a nice layer of mulch and every available bit of
snow from my sidewalk, she is blooming like crazy this spring, and
will probably have the first round of berries worth noting. We have
been upgraded to zone 5, and I suspect that this plant will survive
with protection to zone 4, but will not bloom well below zone 5. Go here and click
Epimedium spp. beginning in 2006 we started to
expand our collection beyond the two common species we have had for
years. These are outstanding and easy plants that are surprisingly
underappreciated. They are a remarkable substitute for the
common hosta, though they take longer to establish and spread.
After about ten years, the E. rubra has grown the most, and
has been divided and moved, and moved again. It is tough as
nails in spite of its delicate and exotic appearance. The exotic
species are obviously smaller and less vigorous, but that's
rubra -- Barrenwort [Berberidaceae (Barberry Family)]
I forget the exact date, but I think that it was 1995. Shade. Avoid waterlogged soil, but otherwise they grow anywhere
in shade. Divide in late summer, but they can be abused like astilbes
(anytime, anyway). I really love the flowers on these. They have
an unusually angular, four-lobed form that dangles daintily above
the airy leaves. Close examination gives me the impression of futuristic
space ship. This is a distinctly "mercurial" plant. The
flowers of the yellow cultivar look more like tiny daffodils.
The leaves of the rubra are probably more attractive with their
reddish tinge. Epimediums start out as dainty and airy plants, but
after three to four years, they begin to form serious masses. Give
them room to spread. Obviously they make excellent architectural,
border and foundation plants, doing the same jobs as Hostas, but
with a completely distinct appearance. A cute plant will become
large enough to divide within three years. They are nicest when
smaller, unless planted in a large, continuous mass. Once
they take off, you'll probably be dividing it frequently.
Since mine is in a small assorted specimen area, I divide it every
year. I use what I call
surgical division. This plant is very vigorous and easy
- Epimedium unknown species 'Chen
Yi #4' Barrenwort [Berberidaceae (Barberry Family)]
2006 Friends School Plant sale. This rare species was "rescued" from development
in Southeast Asia by a Chinese
woman named Chen Yi, who sells a vast array of
botanical treasures from Asia. I didn't research
that before I bought it at the Quaker "Friends School
of Minnesota Plant Sale." I was surprised to
learn that the Quakers had chosen to buy from such an
unpopular source. I
did some research on Dave's Garden for reviews or
critiques of the nursery and found this. It is
fairly typical in appearance, except for the fact that the
leaves are elongated and more pointed, the edges have
stronger "spines" and the fuzziness of the
leaves is more pronounced. Overall, it gives the
impression that it will be about 1/2 the height of the
normal garden varieties. It has white flowers,
tinged with violet, and they're about twice the size of typical
epimedium flowers. In its third season it has spread, but
is a bit less vigorous in appearance. No flower this
year. Even if it doesn't flower, the leaves are
striking. Very nice. [Image
- Epimedium x 'Youngianum' -- Young's Epimedium,
Barrenwort [Berberidaceae (Barberry Family)] Spring 2006 Linders.
Shade. Young's epimedium looks pretty much like all epimediums
except for the all-white flowers. One source says that they are slow
growing. In May 2007 it is quite dead. Apparently it's
not hardy enough for Minnesota. [Image
from Dave's Garden]
- Epimedium ? probably x veriscolor 'sulphureum' purchased
in 1995, I think. It has the typical leaves of an epimedium
with yellow flowers. It is very healthy, but not nearly
as fast growing as the E. rubra. It has beautiful
foliage, but the flowers aren't as spectacular as the E.
Erica carnea 'Springfield White' --African Heather [Heaths
and Heathers, Ericaceae or Empetraceae] Rice Creek 1995.
Sandy, acidic soil with consistent moisture. Prune to stimulate
side shoots and prevent sprawling appearance. Cover with leaf mulch
and bury in snow. Pink (not white) flowers are ready bloom as soon
as the snow melts and you uncover it. The appearance of the Erica
is quite different from the Callunas. The leaves are a bit
more substantial and needle-like, and the flowers of the Erica are
much larger and attract the first bees to awaken after the winter.
For a quick jolt of spring, spend a half-hour on a sunny April day
watching the sleepy, slow-moving bumble bees greedily ransack your
Erica. It's comical to see such big bees trying to stick their
heads into such small flowers. The flowers are mostly gone by mid-may,
but the new shoots are rocketing out of the plant.
See also Calluna above. All instructions seem to
apply to both species, except that Erica spp. are more
sensitive to low temperatures, and require careful covering.
However, the fragile, woody stems make this difficult. A heavy
pile of snow on top of some leaf mulch or straw easily breaks off
major branches. Hence, it must also be carefully
weeded around. Leaf removal in spring should not be performed with
a rake anywhere near this plant--I knocked off three nice branches
in one light sweep. It didn't even phase the plant and it is sending
out new growth even before the last of its flowers have faded. A
beautiful evergreen plant! Protect from freezing rain and very cold
air. After seven years it was fairly large--about 3 feet
in diameter, and about 10" high. Very cool. After
a particularly dry winter, it was reduced to a mere shadow of its
former self. By Spring 2006 it does not appear to be
recovering. It's barely alive. The post-mortem
implicates dryness and perhaps insufficient winter protection.
It looked pretty good for seven years. I would plant another
one if I saw one in the shops, but I have not seen one ever since we
lost the quirky and exotic Rice Creek Gardens nursery. That
was a very sad and unfortunate loss for the Twin Cities.
Erythronium X 'Pagoda' (Tuolumnense) -- Dog Toothed
violet [Liliaceae] Fall 2002 in rock garden,
bulbs from Linder's. 3 bulbs planted. This is a very lovely small yellow
flower. Spring 2003, the bulbs did not come
up. See next entry for more thoughts on this difficult
Erythronium americanum -Dog Toothed Violet, Adder's
Tongue, Trout Lily [Liliaceae] We first planted
a couple when we set up the garden in the first
place. They never came up. I tried them before
in the back yard. No luck. However, I know
they are fairly easy to grow, so I assumed something else
was wrong. Spring 2004, we
bought four new ones potted and growing. They aren't
supposed to be difficult, but the bulbs are very
perishable. So, if I'm right, these will have a much
better chance of survival. Another strange thing--the bulb dies
each fall with a new one below it so that they dig
themselves deeper each year, eventually vanishing.
One list serve I read suggested placing a flat stone
2" beneath the bulb to give a stopping point.
I'd think that this might be impractical. Perhaps a
layer of coarse stone. It grows wild in this
area. Stay tuned for updates. Spring
2005: As of May 24th, there is no sign of any of them, and we put in
about 6! Hmmm. Not promising. Spring 2006 there is
definitely nothing there. Spring 2012 I am still thinking
about making another attempt, but have not done so.
Euonymus fortuneii 'minus' variegatta. [Celastraceae]
(Wintercreeper) Fall 2002 in rock garden. From Rice
Creek Gardens. A replacement in 2003 from Leitners. Stay tuned for updates. In
the Euonymus species is a more bushy and large plant commonly
known as the burning bush. Others are large creepers
or ground covers. This is apparently a dwarf version
of the creeping
variety. The flowers are not notable, but the
green and white foliage is very beautiful. The
tough winter killed it. We bought another one, much
larger from Leitner's in 2003. In 2008 it is
really doing well. It survived the winter quite nicely and
once the growth started, there were no dead branches, although it
does lose a lot leaves on branches that stick vertically up above a
variegated foliage is very nice, and it appears to be a quick
grower. In Spring 2006 it looks extremely good. I
love this thing, but it is a fast runner. The creeping shoots
are well over eight feet now. I had to remove 4 runners
that weren't variegated this year. I am starting to
sculpt it more to fill in like a background between the other more
showy plants in the circumpolar garden. It takes some maintenance,
but I recommend this plant for a bright ground cover in a
Eupatorium maculatum, Joe Pye Weed-- [asteraceae]
Bachmans? 1996 Very late to arise in spring. It is quite large (5'
to 8') and reseeds. Give it fertile, moist soil. This is a very
attractive and very tall plant. It is very easy to grow here, since
it is a native. Its typical habitat in the wild is lowlands
near rivers where it can get lots of moisture and some shade. I
recommend it for a background. The flower tops make excellent
dried flowers if cut while still attractive. Once the flowers drop,
they turn to gruesome dandelion-like puffs that will spread these
deep rooted giants all over your garden. I strongly encourage you
to grow it, but for an urban garden be aware that it will require
serious and timely deadheading. The plants are basically 7
foot tall dandelions. I would not worry about this if you have
a very large area of moist soil you would like a towering plant
to fill. The plant is easy to control if the newer plants
are removed before they turn into established colonies. Given lots of peat in the soil, they don't seem to require
a lot of supplemental water. They like water, but don't seem as
thirsty as I would have expected. Another plus is that the canes can be
cut and stored for drying to provide beautiful and fairly sturdy garden stakes for holding up other
plants (not as hard as bamboo). The mature plants form
tough crowns that come up out of the ground. I have never
divided ours, but ten years later I'm starting to think about it,
as it's now starting to crowd the other plants. It looks like it would be difficult to do without
a really sharp spade, or perhaps some dynamite. The crown structure of the plant is
very hard, so lifting and dividing a mature clump looks like a tough
task--which I haven't tried. Twelve years after planting, the clump is
about 36" in diameter at the base. Actually, it is fairly
stable--increasing more slowly now. Click
Euphorbias: We have four different species.
Tropical and subtropical euphorbias make impressive, unusual and
easy house plants. The hardy euphorbias are as easy as Sedum.
Our favorites are the Crown of Thorns and the E. platyclada.
The outdoor species we have is one of the few that escaped having
its name recorded. The Succulent
Euphorbias page in Denmark has useful information. I just
started looking through it to identify ours. The variety
of plants in this family is amazing. The genus ranges from cactus-like structures
the size of large trees to small, soft Snow on the Mountain and
Festuca glauca -- Blue Fescue Grass [Poaceae/Gramineae
(grass family)] Tolerant of
dryness. Easy. Trim and shape the clumps into tidy hemispheres,
or it will drape its 12"-15" blades all over your garden.
Cut the seed heads off before they ripen and fall. Receptive to
shaping, division, transplanting. As our garden grew, this
was crowded out. I rescued it, and plan to cultivate it in
several new locations.
Filipendula rubra --Queen of the Prairie [Rosaceae]
Bachman's late 1994 Give it full sun, and plenty of water,
rich soil. Dead heading will lengthen flowering from early July
through August. If the leaves become unsightly, cut it down anytime--it
regrows. It spreads quickly underground from large, shallow rhizomes
that can be easily divided and transplanted. It begins to
bloom in June. The rapid vertical growth seems to be variable,
depending on light, water and fertilizer. Given plenty of sun
and water, they sometimes get 7 feet high, but generally are 4 to 6
feet high. I have seen stalks limited to 3 feet in less
favorable conditions. Given its height and the top-heavy
structure of the blooming plants, you will need to provide a cage or
something like that to hold them upright. It smells like
roses and looks like a glorious pink floral cotton candy. It is a marvelous
background plant. Great with Thalictrum rochebrunianum, Ligularia, and Angelica.)
We have a patch of this flanked by a clump of Eupatorium, forming
a towering back wall to our garden. In front of this is a
large clump of Ligularia stenocephala flanked by another
clump of Siberian Iris. Filipendula is Native to Minnesota,
and looks swell next to Eupatorium, which also is native to this
Fritillaria [ go
to Fritillaria section of my Bulbs Page ]
Galium odoratum--see Asperula odorata
Gaillardia X grandiflora 'Goblin'--Blanket flower [Asteraceae]
hardy but sometimes short-lived. Average, well-drained soil. They
do not like rich moist soil, which they will probably get in our
garden. We thought that the Aster yellows had claimed it too, but
it had reseeded, and new ones are thriving in 1998. As of
2002, none remain. Being that I'm not an enthusiastic fan of
the Asteraceae, I haven't bothered to replant them.
Galax aphylla aka Galax urceolata --
Beetleweed, Wandflower [Diapensiaceae] Rice Creek
Gardens, Spring 2003. Appalachian native with
ability to adapt to a wide range of temperatures provided
that it has moisture, shade and acidic soil.
Spreading by creeping rhizomes it makes a great
groundcover. Spring shoots are late to emerge, so
mark its location. In Minnesota, it just started to
become visible at the end of May. The leaves are
highly prized by flower arrangers and crafty folks.
The flowers are pretty white racemes. [click
for image, more
info ] Spring 2005 update: Last year, the plant
didn't do so well. It hung in there, but something seems to be
screwy in the soil in the area that it is. A small evergreen
died, a rhododendron nearly perished, and my bog rosemary was
reduced dramatically by something--cat or dog piss, perhaps?
But, as of late May 2005, it looks pretty good. I hope it at
least blooms this year. In 2006 it disappeared. I
think that it needs more water than it got.
Gaultheria procumbens (Wintergreen, Box Berry, Ground
Holly, Mountain Tea, Ground Tea, Partridge Berry, Petite the du
bois, Teaberry, Spice Berry or Checkerberry) [Ericaceae] Rice
Creek Gardens Fall 2002 Another larger
specimen from Highland Nursery in Spring 2004 in rock garden.
Spring 2006: added a Monrovia brand 'Red Barron'. That means
we have three slightly different cultivars. It's a 6" high ground
cover with waxy leaves and red berries. The leaves contain
the aromatic oil that provides wintergreen flavoring for candy.
The berries are edible, said to be much loved by birds, but they
don't seem to recognize it around here.
It's a circumpolar plant found in the Minnesota
Boundary Waters area. It does very, very well in our
yard. I give this one my highest endorsement for
shady acid soil. It spreads nicely from the
roots. Spring 2012 update: all three plants are
spreading steadily and controllably. Wow. I only love it
more every year. Click for picture
Gentiana dahurica 'nikita' - [Gentianaceae]
Friends School Plant Sale 2005. This Asian native is hardy to
zone 4. As of Spring 2006 it looks very good. It's
obviously winter hardy. The past winter was not an easy one.
In Spring 2008 I saw that other, taller plants were beginning to
crowd it out. It is very short at about 6". So, I
dug it up and moved it a bit. It didn't look like it enjoyed
being moved, but three weeks later it's still alive. Make sure
that it has an open space where it gets light and you can see it,
because it is such a small plant. [click
for more info and image ]
Geranium X 'Johnson's Blue -- Hardy Geranium or Cranesbill
[Geraniaceae] 1993 from Leitner's. Cut back after flowering for rebloom, and dead-head
regularly! In four years, a cute little plant will be a thug
covering 4 - 5 square feet with its sprawling leaves. It's really
easy and nice, but keep it away from less vigorous plants. Nature
gave the seed capsules an amazing catapult that launches seeds about
fifteen feet. They also have an efficient system for spreading
underground. These popular plants are a lot more aggressive
than most people are aware. I like them, but encourage
you to be careful with these deep rooted spreaders with the flying
seeds. For the botanically correct, this is a hybrid and they
reseed a lot if you don't deadhead them.
In order to divide or control, dig deeply. Religious deadheading
is essential, unless you don't care about them taking over in
a 30 foot circle around the plant. Hardy Geraniums are definitely
a bad idea for lazy gardeners, unless you really do want an invasive,
tough plant. The blue flowers are very pretty, and the foliage turns
red in the fall. They will need to be dug out every 2-3 years.
I don't recommend them in assorted perennial beds, except for
a cover around spring bulbs. They make an excellent fill in for
daffodils and crocus. They are ideal for more formal plantings
with a few species and
for erosion control. They can be mowed. Here in Minnesota,
the native species of geranium is the first thing to appear after
clear cutting or forest fires. It's nature's way of keeping
the soil from washing or blowing away, and it's quite effective. The
native species is pink and fairly tall. The Johnson's Blue
is shorter and more spectacular in the garden.
For division, I have found that the only thing you can do wrong
is to plant the rhizomes too deeply, or let them dry out before
you plant them. Dig it up. Tear it apart. Plant
the growing ends upright. It's fairly self-explanatory once
you've dug the mother plant up. I put gobs of them into 8"
pots that sit around for a month or more waiting for a hapless victim
to come take them. They actually do nicely in pots, and look
fairly attractive. I would suggest that the lazy gardener
plant them in bottomless plastic pots submerged in the ground
to retain the roots. These pots will need to be divided at
least every two years. They grow very quickly.
For spring division I use a technique that I call surgical division.
I have a very sharp knife about 12" long. Without lifting
the whole clump, I determine which part of it I want to get rid
of and which part I want to stay. I plunge the knife into
the soil and cut across that line, and then cut around the sides--leaving
more clearance on the outside of the plant so as to capture as many
roots as possible that are not along the main line of cutting from
the main plant. Geraniums send rhizomes out 6-8"
I recommend doing just a single cut across the main clump, then
create pockets on the sides where you can sink your hands in around
it, and then rip the clump out of the ground slowly while feeling
around it for the rhizomes. Lift the small clump away, fill
the whole with new soil, and deal with the divided piece as needed.
It can usually be broken down into smaller pieces. What
I like about surgical division is that it's easier than lifting
the whole clump and it doesn't disturb anything to the other side
of the cut. In other words, it's less destructive to the garden.
Geraniums respond very well to this technique.
Geranium X 'Max Frei'
[Geraniaceae]Leitner's 1995 A smaller
and shade tolerant species. Slow grower. Disproportionately large
and deep taproot. So far it isn't very impressive. I
think that ours isn't getting enough sun. It eventually
succumbed to overcrowding. We no longer have it.
However, given a good location, this is a very cute plant with nice
leaves. It's not a good choice for a wild cottage garden like
Geum ? [Rosaceae] Leitner's 1997 Red flowers. Frequent division
to maintain vigor. Intensely colored flowers. This entire family,
like the Anemone pulsatilla seems to attract the contempt
of birds, who seem to enjoy tearing parts off of the plants, and
leaving them to rot. It didn't make it. I'm interested in
trying it again in a different spot, but I haven't seen it in the
Geum triflorum -- Prairie Smoke [Rosaceae]. Landscape
Alternatives 1995. Slow growing Minnesota Prairie native.
This is a very attractive small plant. Beautiful
seed heads similar to pasque flower, but waved to look like a wisp
of smoke. They leaves are only about 3-8" high and the
flowers stand at about 6-12", so it's best in a front row
position. Ten years later, and three changes of location,
it is finally doing very well. They divide easily. Cut
a chunk out with a knife and scoop it out. Stick it in the
ground. Water it. They are very tough and
well-behaved. It has formed a rather large
and attractive clump. A large mass of seed heads will
demonstrate where they got their name. Interestingly, I have
never seen evidence of reseeding, though I bet that they are like
pasque flowers in that regard. I really like this
plant. Unlike other geums and similar plants the birds
only abuse it occasionally.
pubescens -- Downy Rattlesnake Plantain [Orchidaceae] Spring 2003 and
2004. This plant has beautiful leaves that lie flat
on the ground or mulch, like a plantain. The flowers
are sent up on long racemes, like a plantain. But
it's an orchid. Further, given a dry, somewhat shady
spot near a spruce tree, it's very undemanding--suitable
even for dry conditions. Our first pair survived
vigorously--one of them is even sporting an
offshoot. At $5.00 each, they're not nearly as
expensive as other orchids. They appeared to be easy
the first and second season. Perhaps it got too much water,
but I tried not to water much in that area. They disappeared
by Spring 2005. I have decided that I am going to try again
with this and other acid loving orchids, but only after I
actually succeed in getting the pH down to 4.5. [click
for excellent pictures]
Gypsophila paniculata 'Snowflake Double White'
-- [Caryophyllaceae] " Leitner's 1994. The regal beauty of Thalictrum
D. 'Hewitt's Double' makes this plant seem like "white
trash." However, if you must have one, this is better than
other species. Unfortunately, the flowers smell like parmesan cheese
or dirty socks. Not an especially attractive
plant. I have grown to love mine by placing it in a small
clearing in the middle of my Echinacea and Black-Eyed Susan
meadow patch. They hide its uncomely infrastructure and even
provide a sort of natural support for the unwieldy clouds of
flowers. Whatever you do, don't put it where you're likely to
smell it. Depending on conditions, it tends to fluctuate in
size, but this year, ten years after planting, it promises to be
really showy. At first I didn't care much for it, but
I've come to appreciate it more. It makes an excellent
companion to native compositae/asteraceae and sundrop primulas.
Gypsophila repens -- Creeping Baby's Breath Bachman's
1996 Not very attractive--condemned to the back fence alley garden.
After about 2 years, it seems to have disappeared, or merged
imperceptibly with the indigenous alley flora.
Hacquetia epipactis [Apiaceae] We got this gem from
Creek Gardens in 1995. The following year, I didn't see
it in their catalog, and have not seen any since. I call
it "Hellebore anemone" because it seems like a cross between
the two plants, though it is actually more closely related to the
Eryngium (Sea holly) a rather thistle-like alpine plant native to
Europe, and more distantly related to parsley and fennel. The flowers are
5 petaled bracts colored like a euphorbia--brilliant
chartreuse. Click here to see a
picture of my oldest colony of hacquetia epipactis from
2005. The flowers shoot up first, then come the
leaves--somewhat similar to a hellebore in terms of its seasonal
development cycle. Anemones do this too, but not with the
sturdy, waxy and jagged edges. Once the flowers fade, the seeds are nearly ripe, and they drop
off as the bracts turn into leaves and flop over. True leaves
come up behind them, looking something like a hellebore. The
flowers stand about 3" high and about 1" across.
After blooming, the heavy, waxy leaves stand about 5" high,
and form a dense clump. The bract flowers turn darker green,
the stems lengthen and droop over, perfectly designed to deposit
seeds right at the perimeter of the colony. Ours is spreading
steadily, but not rapidly from its roots and reseeding modestly
just beyond its perimeter. After I saw how readily its seeds take
simply by dropping them in desirable locations right after they
ripened, I started gathering the seeds for more careful planting.
I'm not sure if the seeds need stratification or not. Now
we have starts all around the garden, making a cheery display that
attracts more attention than anything else in the early spring garden.
It seems to draw people like a magnet. I gave one to my mother,
and some jealous neighbor stole it out of her front yard.
Once they set their seeds, they loose the vivid color, turning
a deep green like the leaves. They make a very nice ground
cover for a rock garden or bouldered area. They grow nicely
in pretty deep deciduous shade, but they need early spring sun.
I have only just started some in full sun, and a clump in deep shade
is doing well, but spreading less quickly.
In order to pull off a successful harvest of the precious seeds,
you really need to keep an eye on them. They ripen quickly
and drop to the ground.
Cup your hand under a flower and very gently stroke the seeds in
the center of the flower--they're fairly obvious. When they
are ripe, they will fall out of the flower at the slightest touch
or flick. The problem is that you you have to catch them before
a breeze knocks them out. If you have good eyes, it's not
impossible to see fallen seeds on the ground and pick them up.
They are usually pale green when they are ripe, so you can't tell
by looking. Once they drop, they turn dark quickly.
I put them into an open container to dry for a few weeks, then I
just plant them about 1/8" deep in loose soil. This is
a very easy plant, and a prize possession in our garden. The
seedlings will bloom in their second season. This plant is
extremely highly recommended. Click
here to see a nice picture, and this is a shot
of my oldest plant, published at Dave's Garden. Apparently it is occasionally a
companion of Hellebores in the wild.
Helleborus niger 'Winter Dreams' -- Christmas Rose
Leitner's Spring 2006. This Hellebore appears to tolerate a
more acidic soil, but I have placed my first one in slightly
alkaline conditions among my H. orientalis. It could be
a bad idea, but after 3 weeks, it still looks very pretty.
What I like about this one is that the flowers and leaves have a
strong maroon tone to them. It's a very dark and somber plant
that would look beautiful amidst fritillarias. They are
in their third season now in 2008, and they are great. Except
for dry winter, this is a very tough plant for cold climates. I
almost lost mine in the nearly snowless winter of 2012, so I will
remember to water it, and mulch it better. The H.
orientalis is taller, but not nearly as tough. I am able
to make both do well here, but the H. niger is clearly a lot
hardier. Here is a list of the features in comparison to the
H. orientalis features: very pretty, and many named
cultivars exist with showy blooms. It's fairly tall at around
15-18" for a mature colony. The lighter green foliage
will brighten up a shady corner. The main weakness is that it
is more fragile--susceptible to fungus, and more sensitive to
cold. The flowers should be carefully covered if you get a
freezing rain during its bloom. Spring is the most dangerous
time for them. Also, the flowers hang downwards, so the real
beauty isn't visible unless you cut them like tulips--plunging them
quickly into water.
H. niger pros: even prettier, with much more colorful
blooms, and rich, deep green leaves. The blooms stand facing nicely
outward, nearly parallel with the ground. It's extremely
tough. The only weakness I see is that it's short, with the
tallest bloom stalks reaching about 8", and the leaves lying
fairly flat on the ground.
Helleborus orientalis -- Lenten Rose, Hellebore
Leitner's 1995 Prone to black fungus especially in early spring
and late fall. Warm sun seems to straighten it all out. It's
happy beneath trees that do not leaf out until it has bloomed. We
have it under the north side of a silver maple. Lime added to the
soil is said to improve coloration and vigor. The simple, petalless
flowers last for several months after the the seeds form. This is
another plant that I would place high on my recommended list, and
well worth the high price tag. A bit finicky--susceptible to bacterial
and fungal infections. Not recommended for lazy gardeners.
Extremely highly recommended to serious gardeners. Because
they are very slow to grow, and you can't divide them, you should
plant them as soon as you can so they will have time to develop.
We have one that is now nine years old. It took about seven
years to be "full
grown." The root structures are small, and
fragile. I had some initial luck in transplanting them, but
after nine years, I can say only that it works best to buy them
nursery grown, or let them grow wherever they reseed
themselves. In Fall of 2003 I
planted a package of Thompson & Morgan assorted Helleborus
Orientalis seeds. As of May 2006 there is no sign of germination yet. Come to
think of it, I think that all of the attempts I have made to sow
the seeds have failed, whereas they seem to self-sow nicely.
Go and figure. One important warning that goes along with a
plant that only does well if cultivated professionally is that
nurseries obviously know that they have us where they want us.
The price for a 1 gallon pot is usually around $15-20 Click here for more info
Hemerocallis -- Day Lilies: see Lily
section of bulbs page
Hepatica acutiloba -- Sharp leaved Hepatica [ranunculaceae]
Spring 2004. Aside from more elongated stems and the
different shaped leaves, it appears to be basically the same as the
more popular H. americana, so see the description below
Hepatica americana (blue or white) -- aka Anemone
Hepatica (no common name known) [Ranunculaceae]
Rice Creek 1996. Native Minnesotan beauty, supposedly the first
wildflower to bloom here amidst its evergreen ground-covering leaves
that resemble tiny Jack-in the pulpits or Trilliums seen from above.
The previous season's leaves provide the energy necessary to revive
the plant in spring and then die, like the Tiarella. This is probably
the most diminutive of the Ranunculaceae with a height of about
three inches. Apparently a lime-loving woodland shade to part-shade
plant. The leaves are mottled with darker green to maroon veins
or swirls. This is probably my favorite Minnesota native.
They come in purple and white flowered forms.
Heuchera X brizoides 'Mt. St. Helens' --Coral Bells [Saxifragaceae
(like Astilbe)]. Remove dead or damaged evergreen foliage in spring.
Tends to look unattractive in early spring. However, it's an
easy plant, and it looks quite nice now on the north
facing slope of our front yard. They have really
attractive red flowers and they flower for a long time. Low
maintenance. Inexpensive. Bright flowers for a long
time. Check, check, check. This is a nice
Horseradish Cochlearia armoracia [cruciferaceae]
EVIL! EVIL! EVIL! I suspect that the species name "armoracia"
refers to its resistance to all forms of attack. Don't plant
this invasive, difficult to eradicate vermin in your yard.
It took me at least five years to kill my neighbor's plant.
The only way to get it is by deep excavation. Commercial herbicides
have no effect on it. This $#&*@ plant is so sinister
and aggressive that I broke my rule to never use herbicides.
It was a total waste. Round-up and Ortho were both harmless
to it. I finally got rid of it by digging a 3 foot deep crater
six feet around. The roots are pretty easy to spot, but they
can creep outwards from the source up to ten feet! These creeping
roots typically spread at about 10" below the surface of the
soil, so pulling the plants up at the surface is an exercise in
futility. Invite over a bunch of burly friends with shovels
and have a plant killing party. Sort through every bit
of soil to find all the pieces of root, otherwise, resign yourself
to watching horseradish take over the whole neighborhood.
Besides being very aggressive and hard to control, the plant is
quite large and unattractive. The only redeeming quality it
has is the flavorful root. Better to let a professional grow
it and sell you the stuff. Anyone who plants horseradish
in an uncontrolled situation should be arrested and flogged. If
you must have it, put it in a large container, or prepare to be
drawn and quartered by your neighbors. Expect to see me in the
front row at your Auto de
Hostas, hostas and more hostas--This large
family of "plantain lillies" is commonly found around
sidewalks, foundations, raised beds, everywhere not in full sun.
They are hardy, easy, shade tolerant. The variety of colors, shapes
and sizes is surprising, so seek out a nursery that supplies unique
ones. They are large and expand enough to divide
nearly every other year. This is good, since they are among the
more expensive common garden plants. Plant them in deciduous tree shade,
so they get spring sun. Surround them with small crocus and species
daffodils, or grape hyacinths, anything that finishes its show before
Memorial Day. Hostas are late to spread their large leaves, so they
are valuable for filling up the spring bulb garden--provided that
you divide them regularly to prevent them taking over the bulbs.
There are a surprising variety of textures, sizes and shades of
green. Small species are about 6" high. The
larger ones stand about 3 feet high. Some have very smooth
leaves, others are crinkly. Some are solid in color, others
are variegated. Some have leaves that droop or curl.
Others stand quite erect. The leaves have shades ranging from
parchment yellow to deep green to blue-gray. Mixing species
is an excellent idea. Serious gardeners will seek out unusual
varieties at a specialty nursery. Expect to pay about $7.50
per pot for common species at other nurseries, but they will have
very little selection. Fancy named varieties may cost
up to $40.00. There is a sad truth about them. The more
expensive plants don't spread fast enough for their owners to be
offering me divisions. Naturally, the hostas that most of us
had on our lots when we bought our houses are probably the less
expensive, and often less unique in structure. There
are still a handful of hostas on our lot, but I've only maintained one of
the probably 4 varieties that were here when we moved in. The less
interesting ones have been progressively losing their homes to
hellebores and various ranunculaceae, and I've moved them to my
neighbor's yards. I only maintain two at this time, and would
gladly sacrifice both for something more erect, bluish and
large. Alas, nobody has given me any and I find it hard to
spend money on them when they seem so aggressive.
The range of colors available in hostas is really kind of
surprising. There are bright amber and chartreuse as well as
blue and a chilly gray--not to mention the typical deep green and
pale green-beige. As if that weren't enough, there are
different textures and leaf shapes. The worst part is that
there are so many to choose from. In my personal opinion, the
strongest suit of the hostas is their unusual colors--golden, acid
green, blue and gray. There are so many other plants that can
do green and variegated green and beige, so why not use hostas for
the other shades of color? They are especially nice for the
shades of blue.
Most species do not appreciate full southern exposure. They
are pretty tolerant of most conditions, and they do like some light.
They will do well on the North, West and East sides of
buildings. On the south side, they seem less happy without
water, but they do flower better in bright conditions.
These valuable plants are still the landscape architect's favorite
ornamental. They really add structure to a garden, with an amazingly
small amount of effort. They appreciate fertilizers, but will thrive
on neglect. Water well after transplanting, then forget about them.
Soooooo easy, and with a bit of effort and expense, they can be
very stylish and eye-catching. .
Many novice gardeners think that the flower stalks that pop up
in mid summer should be snipped off--as if there is something wrong
with them flowering. The flowers are not spectacular,
but they are usually pretty, and almost always fragrant. Don't cut
them off unless you are bringing them indoors for a bouquet. They
make nice additions to cut flower arrangements. Don't worry
about them going to seed. Getting the seeds to germinate
appears to be nearly impossible. They will spread
quickly in tight clumps by expanding roots.
Most species will cover an area much larger than the crown of shoots
in the ground might indicate. A single leaf on an average sized
species of hosta will reach out horizontally from 12 to 20 inches,
hence a clump eight inches across of a typical hosta will spread
in a radius of nearly 36 inches when the leaves fully emerge in
June. When creating large plantings of hosta, buy a few, spread
them apart by at least three feet, and fill the space with annuals
and early bulbs. Within three to four years, all will be full, and
the annuals will not be needed. Don't be afraid to cut a new plant
into smaller pieces to save money. A gallon pot with a full
root ball could easily be cut into four pieces. As
long as they get water, I don't think you can harm them much.
The main deal with hostas is that if you want a tight, formal
planting you'll need to divide them frequently. If not, then it's best to use them like day
lilies--a low maintenance way to completely fill in open space
amidst foundation plantings of shrubs.
All of our Hostas came with our house. I
have yet to take the initiative to replace them with more attractive
- Hosta crispula -- Curled Leaf Hosta [Liliaceae]
What is there to say? Easy. Valuable. Dividable. Hardy.
It does better
with attention and dislikes lots of sun, but they can take quite
a bit of abuse.
- Hosta lancifolia -- Narrow-leaved Hosta.
Not very cool. I don't recommend this one. As of
Spring 2006 I have given all of mine away to neighbors and
friends. Dark green, small leaves.
- Hosta montana 'Aurea-marginata' (two-tone green)
Low, pretty and wide horizontal spread. This one is my favorite
among the ones we own. It's fairly bright colored through
May into June, and then turns darker.
- Hosta plantaginea -- August Lily. Wonderful
unremarkable foliage. This one is the most vigorous
grower, requiring frequent division. Want
I like the looks of the following selections, all
available at Direct
Source Hostas: American Halo, Blue Angel, Deja Blu, Dream
Weaver, Earth Angel, First Frost, Frosted Dimples, Halcyon,
Lakeside Cupcake, Liberty, Paradise Glory, Paradise Joyce, Queen
Josephine, Rascal, Rich Uncle, Sagae, Striptease, Touch
of Class (super-blue),
Humulus lupulus -- Hops Vine [Urticaceae]
This vine is well-known for its use in beer. It is relatively rare
as a garden plant. It is a vigorous vine, growing up to thirty feet
in one season, then dying back to the ground each year. The pine
cone shaped flowers of the female plants (male plant is unnecessary)
are attractive and make great fall dried flowers, and can be used
for a high nitrogen mulch. (Apparently the nitrogen content is high
enough to burn seedlings.) It's supposed to take 2-3 years for the
plants to really take off. After discovering that ours included
both a male and female, I dug it up and killed it immediately.
The decision was obviously a good one. The roots were spreading
quite far from the plant. Another year, and we would have
been taken over by hops. If I did it again, I would have to
make sure I had ONLY a female, and that I planted it inside a plastic
container so as to control those amazing roots. The overall
appearance is very similar to a grape, but with completely
herbaceous stems. It dies back to the ground in
winter. It's really very attractive,
but really aggressive. Think twice before planting it,
unless you have a large piece of land to play with.
Hydrophyllum virginianum -- Virginia Waterleaf [Hydrophyllaceae]
(--1994 stolen from private property--this stuff grows wild and
rampant around here.) Put it in the ground and forget about
it. If you don't want it to spread, take the seed heads off
quickly after blooms fade. They grow in a manner similar to
geraniums, and they are found here in the wild together. (refer
to the geranium) It's essential for creating authentic Minnesota
woodlands. In 2008, fourteen years after introducing it
to the garden, it has gotten around a bit, and I've been
increasingly aware of the fact that I have to kill a lot of
them. Yet, it does not appear to be difficult to eradicate
them by digging. I do not regret its presence, and recommend
them to you too.
Hypericum polyphyllum -- Rockery St. John's Wort [Clusiaceae] 2004
Friends School Plant Sale. I like this plant. It's a
unique alternative to yellow daisy like flowers, and it has a more
tidy, formal appearance than daisies. The flowers are big,
orange-yellow and eye-catching. It is described as a rock
garden/alpine plant. I have not given it anything like
that. It's in fairly bad soil with some clay and it stays
pretty wet all the time. It survived a pretty dry winter in a
location near my foundation. Three years later this is a
really nice plant. It kind of straddles that ambiguous zone
between herbaceous perennial and shrub. The bright flowers are
really attractive, and stimulated by vigorous dead-heading. It
will reseed, but not overly so. The seedlings have appeared
quite far from the the plant, though. Spring 2010 I
noticed that it is sending rhizomes out horizontally. I
thought the new plants were just seedlings, but when I started
removing some that had advanced about 12 feet from the mother plant,
I realized they were all connected together by several rhizome roots
that were taking over the raised bed. I quickly and carefully
removed most of the plants I had, leaving only the original plant,
which I also divided and reduced. No wonder my honeysuckle
vine looked like it was starving. I still like this plant a
lot, but recommend restricting its roots by planting in a pot or
raised bed. This plant could easily invade your lawn with
bushes, and would easily send its roots underneath standard
Hyssop officinallis -- Hyssop [Labiatae].
1992--forgot the source. Evergreen mint like lavender and
rosemary, but it's hardy here. One of the first plants we bought, it lived
until the dry winter of 2003. It was nearly destroyed by the winter of 1996 in our
raised bed while a ground-planted cutting grew larger than its parent
in one season. Moral? dont plant them in raised beds and be
sure to give them lots of sun. They require some serious pruning
back of the woody stems and dead foliage in spring or the woody
branches will sprawl unattractively and take up much garden space.
Be sure to leave some growth nodes. Bees love it, and it does
make a wonderful bath herb. It's not especially attractive, though.
Lavender is much nicer for fragrance purposes. Since it died,
I will not replace it.
Iberis sempervirens -- White Candytuft [Cruciferae
(Mustard Family)] We haven't had very good results with this one.
It always looks kind of scraggly and doesn't flower well. It
seems to be similar in form and care to the creeping phlox, though
it is larger. Like the creeping phlox, it does look great
when it's in bloom, but that period is short, and the folliage just
isn't that nice. For low flowering ground covers I prefer Ajuga.
Both thumbs down on candytuft.
Impatiens pallida -- Jewel Weed [Balsamineaceae]. Native Minnesota
plant. It came with the house between two garages in a secluded
spot where nettles had overgrown. Most people would have wiped
them all out, but I realized that the jewel weed has some value,
so I only killed the nettles (though they seem to return
surreptitiously in all
sorts of mysterious places). First of all, it is the aloe
vera of the prairie and northwoods. It is especially effective
on nettle stings, insect bites, burns, and even poison ivy/poison
oak. Oddly, nature decided to pair this plant with the nettle,
so when you get stung, look around for the jewel weed. But,
that's not enough to sell me on growing it. It has some other
1) it has a beautiful flower, and the foliage is similar to the
tropical impatiens that people plant as annual bedding flowers.
However, this Minnesotan is about 3 feet tall and the flowers are almost
orchid-like in their beauty. Ours are orange-yellow with veining
and details in darker orange. In other words, it is actually
2) it is an annual, and it is extremely easy to spot them and uproot
them. The roots are very rudimentary, and the plant is very
fleshy. If you're out weeding anyway, this one is super easy
to control. It's at the opposite end of the weed difficulty
spectrum from dandelions, though it does create a lot of
seedlings. I should stress this. After giving it
tolerated status, it has definitely gotten itself all around the
yard. I bet that every spring we kill about 2,000 of
them. But, remember, it's not at all difficult to kill them by
3) it is tall enough that it makes wonderful little surprises amongst
tall perennials. I always let a few go in my main flower bed,
and I keep one dense little patch. I try not to let
more than two or three of them grow in my more intensely cultivated
areas, and I try to rip the entire plant about the time that it
looks like it's starting to set seeds.
4) the spotted orange variety (as opposed to the yellow) is an
excellent flower for hummingbirds.
The only drawback is that it really does cast its seed around.
If you don't control it, it will take over your garden.
Mowing and easy pulling will eradicate it. I would guess that
two to three years of consistent pulling could purify a
garden. In summary, this is a very desirable weed. It's
ideal for mixing into fairly dense perennial beds with lots of
plants at around 3 to 6 feet high. Excellent for that area
behind the woodpile where you prefer not to mow or do anything at
Imperata cylindrica rubra --Japanese Bloodgrass.
Unknown date, but probably 1995. About 10" high, and unable to flower or seed in our short season,
but this red-leafed grass is marvelous. It's not supposed to be
hardy here, but ours made it with little more than snow mulch through
the winter of 1996, and the very dry winter of 2003-2004. It is slow to restart in spring, and
look convincingly alive until the Pasque flowers are in full bloom.
In 2001 it is spreading significantly, forming a beautiful ground
cover around the many thalictrum rochebrunianum. Now there's a nice
combination! At the State Fair bonsai exhibit, we saw a beautiful
indoor display made in a shallow tray with only this grass growing
in it. I told the woman that the plant is actually hardy in
Minnesota, so we both learned something new about this lovely monocot. It
took about eight years before it grew enough that I wanted to divide
it, so this is a very slow growing, well behaved grass. In
2007 the whole thing seems to have vanished--probably light starved
by the throngs of papaver and thalictrum around it. It was
doing well, then all of a sudden it was just gone.
Iris ensata Japanese Iris--[Iridiaceae] 1995 This
is the most impressive and rewarding member of the iris family.
Well worth the extra water. It is usually thought of as a pond plant,
but we keep them quite well in our main garden by watering them
more. I give them organic fertilizer too. The three
starter plants we got are all different colors, and they were very
tiny root cuttings. After six years they had formed the characteristic
iris ring clumps, so I divided them and placed them in various places.
They are very attractive and appropriate companions for Thalictrum
rochebrunianum and T. dipeterocarpum.
Each bud produces 2-3 spectacular flowers in quick succession.
If you aren't in a hot, dry area, you want these. Trust me. Very highly recommended.
here for images.
Iris lacustris -- Dwarf Lake Iris [Iridaceae] 2003
Rice Creek Gardens. From
Lake Michigan's North Shore, this beautiful fall blooming acid lover.
Ours didn't survive. The roots, which look like long, skinny
bird toes, were exposed as some soil washed away. I think it
just desiccated. I might try it again in a different
spot. The flowers are beautiful and it goes for quite a
while. No chance to get another plant yet, because Rice
Creek is now gone.
Iris sibirica 'Caesar's Brother' -- Siberian Iris
[Iridiceae] Dig and divide after flowering every year for best results.
Replant the rhizome just under the surface. Dull, common,
but nice plants. Everyone needs some. They need
feeding to get good blooms.
Isopyrum biternatum -- Spring Beauty (anemone) (wild
import '94. Yes, I confess that I dug it up from the wild,
but it was private property, and I made it thrive, OK?) [Ranunculaceae].
Slow start, but once I cleared away all the hostas that shaded it,
it has been impressive. I have seen rounded clumps 15"
by 12" and 12" high. Obviously, it appreciates some sun,
but disappears after blooming (gone by July). Delicate and charming.
Its many white blooms and airy foliage last from early April until
the end of May. Reseeds nicely, and transplants quite easily.
One problem is that it is very difficult to catch the ripe seeds
before it launches them like a geranium. Since it has
short-lived flowers that keep coming for well over a month, it's
difficult to tell which seed pods are ready. I think that it would
work very well in the lawn since the best part of the flower show
would be over before mowing time, and it just disappears after that.
It has light, airy foliage that wouldn't have a dramatic effect
on the lawn. Similar to Anemonella thalictroides, but more
delicate and ephemeral. Very highly recommended.
Jasminum polyanthum Franch. Synonym: Jasminum blinii,
Jasminum delafieldii family: Oleaceae [click
for "Desert Tropicals" site info on plant] The
Oleacea family includes such plants as the Lilac. Not hardy
in Minnesota, but it keeps very well indoors, and loves to be taken
outside in warm weather. It is not as thirsty as the J.
but it has prettier leaves. Unfortunately, our 8-year-old
plant never bloomed. It has had a total of about ten blooms. It's a vigorous grower,
and can be used to rapidly cover a wall on a patio in one growing
season, and then can be cut back to take indoors for the winter. In
spite of the lack of flowers, I very much like this vine. It is
a true clinging vine with no tendrils, similar to a clematis--long,
straight snaky stems, and the leaves are used like tendrils.
It grows rapidly. It appears to be non-toxic to cats.
My two cats chew on the leaves frequently, and seem to like the
taste. I gave up trying to stop them. As to why
it doesn't bloom, I can't figure it out. It supposedly blooms
in February. Last year I thought it was related to blooming
on "old wood". I tried leaving large amounts of
stem from summer growth during the winter, and nothing came of it.
I fertilized it all winter with dilute Miracle Grow. I tried
strong organics. Nothing. In the winter of 2005-6 I
left it outside to freeze to death. I now have a Peruvian Glory Vine to replace it.
Jasminum sambac [(L.) Aiton family: Oleaceae] [click
for "Desert Tropicals site info on plant] I'm
unsure of the date, but I think that we first got it in 1994, from
Linders, I think. It's not hardy
in cold weather, but we haul it out to our deck facing south during
the summer, and place it in a south window during the winter.
It usually blooms 2-3 times from Spring to Fall, and generally blooms
2-3 times during the winter! In fact, it practically blooms
all year around with about 4 week periods without flowers.
Of these, there are approximately 3-4 heavy blooms per year.
The blossoms are intoxicatingly wonderful--this is the REAL jasmine
used in perfumes and tea. The only difficulty in growing it
is its thirst. We have an old plant--about 11 years old--in
a 14" pot, and it consumes about 2 gallons of water per week
in 2-3 doses per week during the winter. Indoors, I give it
a dilute solution of Miracle Grow once a week, and about one gallon
of clear water in between. Feeding it makes it bloom. Outdoors, it must be watered almost
daily. Propagation is easy from young shoots, but it takes
a long time for the new plant to start growing. It's
not a true vine, more like a sprawling shrub. The woody stems
have a tendency to grow in irregular, unattractive structures, so
it's a good idea to train it on a regular basis. Prune it,
tie it, turn it, etc. During its indoor winter period, it
gets kind of rough looking, but it recovers quickly once it gets
outdoors. When it gets dry, it will drop leaves. I recommend
this plant highly. Imagine plucking your own jasmine blossoms
to toss into your teapot. Imagine the smell of jasmine filling
a room in December.
Jeffersonia diphylla -- Twinleaf -- Ground Squirrel Pea
-- [Berberidacea (like Epimedium)] Spring 2007 from Linders.
This underappreciated woodland wildflower is a native, endangered
species. I was pleased to find them at Linders because I feel
pretty confident that they were cultivated rather than
pilfered. It's a bit early to comment on its viability, but the
appearance is wonderful. Imagine an epimedium with leaves that
look like butterflies. The flower is rather like Hepatica, but
larger. Mine hasn't flowered yet. It's very enchanting
because, like Epimedium, the wiry stems make the
"butterflies" quiver in the breeze. Six weeks
after planting it in May 07, it was alive, but clearly starting to
fade. I wasn't sure if this was a normal late summer situation
until the following May of 08 it was up, and looking absolutely
beautiful. We have had a cold, long winter in 08 and the
location is in bright shade on a slope facing North. Spring
2009 was the first season that it bloomed, and it was really
Juniper horizontalis 'Blue Chip' -- Blue Chip Juniper
[Cupressaceae] Linder's Fall 2002 in rock garden. This
is one of those sprawling, ground hugging junipers with the growth
that tends to go off in points like a star (click
for good image of the typical form, but this is a different variety
that is more green in color). They are fairly fast growing,
making up to a five or six foot wide carpet of very blue foliage.
It is native
to our area, and is known for its hardiness well into zone 2.
It is recommended for xeriscaping situations, but it is suggested
that you water it during winter in warmer climates. Click
for image of plant growing in sand dunes. Click
for image. More
information. The needles aren't as unpleasant to touch as some
junipers, but you want to wear gloves when you work with it.
I am doing a semi-bonsai with it. Starting with an 24"
wide, angular plant in a gallon pot, I pruned out most of the vertical
growth, and all of the growth from the center, thus exposing the
branches there for bonsai wiring. I cleaned up lots of dead
growth, and generally made it look as "oriental" as I
could. I then washed as much soil out of it as I could, root
pruned it, focusing on removing only larger roots, and leaving feeder
roots. Then I placed it into a broad shallow pot with stones
in the bottom, and a layer of composted bark. The pot I used
is one of those plastic green pots used for hanging baskets that
are ready made at the greenhouse. I was pretty careful to
bang the pot to knock the compost back down into the roots, and
do the Japanese technique of chop-sticking the soil mix into the
roots. The idea is to stunt the growth, and get it accustomed
to root pruning. This pot was then buried in the soil so that
the top part of the roots is slightly above the rim of the pot,
and the rim of the pot is below the soil. I mulched right
up to the stem of the plant and out the full root radius with long
strand sphagnum moss, and placed a water retaining crater around
the whole affair, and placed bark mulch up to the sphagnum mulch.
I will water it well this fall until frost, then I will give let
it grow for one year in the pot in the soil. I will then dig
it up, pot and all, root prune it again, but place it into a larger
pot, and bury that pot the same way for two years. I plan
to put some bonsai copper wires on it once I see if it adapts to
this first session of abuse. At the end of that period, I
will dig it up one more time, assuming that it is stunted and used
to being root pruned, and then I will just let it grow in the soil.
Since it will be adapted to root pruning, I will be able to dig
it up again if I think it's getting too vigorous. My
hope is to create an exotic juniper bush that will ripple up and
down off the ground, and spill over some boulders near it.
I will focus on getting the wooden stems in the center to be visible.
Spring 2005 update: It has had a second root pruning last Spring,
and it is doing fine. It's definitely stunted. It looks
about the same as when I first put it in. Maybe it needs
a bigger pot. Spring 2006: the results have been quite
good. The only complaint I'd have is that it really did stunt
the growth quite a bit. It has gotten bushier, so I am able to
thin the growth some, but the overall diameter has not changed much
Lavandula angustifolia -- English Lavender [Labiatae].
Snow mulch is important as the evergreen growth is prone to
frost damage. Prune back in fall. Not very hardy in Minnesota
Lavandula dentata -- French Lavender not hardy
here, but we replace it because the fragrance is much better and
it grows much faster. It's also prettier than English Lavender.
Leontopodium alpinum --Edelweiss [Compositae].
to be very easy to grow, but I don't actually like it. It certainly
is unusual, but it's rather weedy in appearance. The foliage and
flowers are fuzzy like sheeps ears or dusty miller. A novelty
specimen. They were demoted to a less prominent place in the garden.
In the end, it died off, but I hardly missed it. Not recommended.
An ugly duckling. Never mind that silly song in the Sound
of Music. The Germans think that sauerkraut and blood sausages are
delicious too. Click
here for image.
Lewisia 'Pinkie' - A L. longipetala x L.
cotyledon hybrid -- bitter root [Portulacaceae,
on the family] Spring 2004 Rice Creek Garden. Small
and cute like an alpine saxifrage, with a bit of a "hens and
chickens" look, and a bit of a sedum look. It has cute,
cute pink, waxy flowers. They are alpines native to Western North
America. Spring 2005, they bloomed for the first time, and
look just great. Spring 2006 they look excellent. They
are on a west facing slope in the less acidic part of our circumpolar
for image, more information
Liatris spicata 'Kobold' -- Blazing Star or Gayfeather
[Compositae] This variety is probably the most attractive and useful for cutting/drying. 2-3
feet. Tie a string around the entire clump in early July to hold
them together--somewhat like a peony, they tend to sprawl out and
fall if not held tightly with a peony cage or string around them.
They spread outward in dense clumps that are easily divided. Excellent cut
flower. You must have these. It puts out 2 foot racemes
of purple flowers that bloom from the top down--which is unusual.
Unlike other members of the compositae family, this one makes an
onion-like bulb. It makes me wonder about those plant
Uprooted seedlings clearly show the onion-like bulb at the base,
and can be transplanted easily.
Liatris spicata 'Floristan White' -- ""
taller and more prone to seeding. 5 feet. Not very attractive
for small gardens. It is almost too big and sprawling to be
appealing. It is a "presence" in the midsummer garden,
then the spent racemes become rather unattractive. Cut
them off after blooming. Eventually I got rid of them.
Liatris pycnostachya --Kansas Gayfeather. Very similar
to Kobold but taller--5 feet. Pretty darned nice compared
to the previous one, and you just might want some really tall racemes
for flower arranging.
All Liatris seem to be vigorous growers, but the Floristan White
is too vigorous. Cut them to prevent seeding, which they seem to
Ligularia stenocephala 'The Rocket' [Compositae]. 1994
Leitner's. Two words: WATER! and fertilizer. Really a bog/pond plant, but in
shade it is much easier to keep. In sun, provide it with about ½
to 1 gallon every day through the hot periods. Although thirsty
and hungry, this plant is very much worth the trouble. One of the
most attractive members of the compositae family. Given these conditions,
it seems trouble free if slugs are not present. Self-seeding is
easy to prevent by cutting the spent racemes. We have had too few
seedlings, and vegetative spreading is pleasantly slow. I have been
unable to coax seeds to germinate artificially. If you have some
partial shade and wet soil (or willing to water it a lot), this
is an absolute must-have plant. Highly recommended if you can satisfy
its thirst. I love them with Cimicifuga and Japanese Iris.
A sunny pond would be ideal. Spring 2006, twelve years
later, the first specimen I put in has increased to about 10x its
original surface area, and I keep making more room for it because
it's such a beautiful flower. There are other species in the
Ligularia family. Click
here form images and more info.
Lilies-- Tiger, Asiatic, Oriental & Trumpet [go
to the lilies section of my Bulb Page ]
Lilium superbum -- Turk's Cap Lily Spring
2003 It took a while to pop out of the ground in 2004, but in
just a couple of weeks since, it has grown about 15". A
young secondary shoot is coming up alongside. It had a total
of about 5 blooms on 3 stems. Spring 2005 it just disappeared
without a trace. Click
for info and image
Lobelia cardinalis: Cardinal Flower [campanulaceae]
Spring 2003 Tall, sage-like flower found in wet areas. It is very,
very red and grows well here. Although it is supposed to be
Winter hardy zones 2-7, ours did not survive in the raised bed.
It's possible that it got too dry. The new one is located in
our rain garden, and it does well. The main thing to note
about it is that it is very late to start in the Spring. You
might not see real shoots coming up until June. It attracts hummingbirds.
It contains nicotinoids, so it should be considered quite toxic--just
like tobacco. Click
here to see an image. It survived its first winter and
increased about double. In the area it is growing, its blue
cousin, the Campanula americana pops up here and there.
Summer 2005 it disappeared. Of two plants I put in for 2006,
one has returned for 2007. This plant continues to
thrive into Spring 2010, so I think that it's going to
Lonicera sempervirens 'Magnifica' --Honeysuckle Vine
[Caprifoliaceae] 1999 Linders. Very prone to aphids, but easy to control with
pyrethrin. We were surprised by how fast this one grows.
Nice vine that's easy to train. Pruning is a must, and it
really doesn't matter how or when you do it. I trim mine up
in the early spring, cutting away everything that looks messy, and arranging
it so it will look nice on the trellis. Don't be afraid to
cut away lots of this fast grower. I cut mine so that only
main stems remain bonded to the trellis. Anything that sticks
out away from the trellis goes. The blooms come on new growth.
It will become a nasty mess if you don't prune it heavily every
spring. After ten years, the old wood is fading, so it's
time to cut it back low, and let new growth take over.
Lunaria annua (Honesty, Money Plant, Moonwort, Satin
Flower) 2001 a
biennial with pretty purple flowers and interesting seed pods
that are popular in dried flower arrangements. It reseeds,
but like Foxglove, each plant takes two years to flower, and then
it dies. In order to have a constant display, plant nursery
plants two years in a row (which should be ready to bloom) and let
them reseed. If you let a few reseed each year, you will have
a constant display. Click
here to see an image. This is our fourth year from
one planting. There are many seedlings that will flower next
year. I plan to eliminate the adults as soon as their seed
pods are ready for harvest. I will also remove some of the
seedlings. They are obviously invasive, so they are not recommended
for lazy gardeners. Nevertheless, they seem to be easy to
control if you are willing to pull them. Ours are in the back
alley zone of the garden. Within about 4 years, there were
none left, so they clearly need replanting, but I wasn't that
impressed with them, so I won't.
Luzula sylvatica 'auslese' [poaceae?]
Greater Woodrush 2005 Friends School Plant
Sale The descriptions sound wonderful. The
flowers are not showy--like most grasses--but the foliage
is really interesting. The hollow structure is
strongly reminiscent of bromelaids, and they allegedly
make nice ground cover in fairly moist shade. Spring
2006 it is very late to emerge from the dead, brown matter from last
season, which I cut back to about 1 1/2". The first real
evidence that it was alive wasn't visible until early May, and two
weeks later it's just starting to go. By the end of May,
there is evidence of life, but it really decreased in size
dramatically, and looks pretty bad. I'm going to remove it and
replace it with something else. The problem is that this
location has been very difficult for all plants I have put here, so
I'm not sure that the problem is zone hardiness. Perhaps it
needs more sun than it got. I moved it in Summer 2006 to
a sunny but somewhat hot spot. It survived to Fall, but in
Spring 2007 I definitely don't see it any more. Not
recommended for Minnesota.
Lysimachia nummularia -- Creeping Jenny, Moneywort -- [Primulaceae]
Spring 2007. Two 4" pots are in the circumpolar
garden. I am trying them in shadier locations where I am
having difficulty getting other things to grow. The foliage is
quite nice, even if I don't get blooms. The upside of not
getting blooms is that they can't reseed. The reviews I've
read suggest that cold weather and shade slow it down. One of
the plants I put in a place that tends to get dried out from the
Spruce roots. If I can get it to run around under those trees
without taking over the garden, I'll keep it. So, I'm not
ready to recommend this one. A month later they both look very
happy and healthy. So, two years later, it's obvious that the
plant I placed in a drier location under a spruce tree was not
getting enough moisture. It died... The other, which
gets more consistent water is doing well. It has spread quite
a distance. It covers ground fast, but like creeping charlie,
it looks rough after winter and takes until June to get back into
shape. It is a rampant spreader, like creeping charlie,
so watch out.
Mandragora officinalis Mandrake [Solanaceae]
Thanks to Harry Potter, a local plant seller got a few of these, of
which we purchased two in Spring 2003. One appeared to die
almost immediately. The other clearly survived until late
November, and then, judging from the results of digging them both up
in Spring 2004, they rotted because of cold, or poorly drained
soil. The Friends School isn't carrying them this year. If they
are hardy here, I suggest trying a very well-drained soil with no
clay. Still, I thought they were worthy annual
plants if only they had been larger.
repens -- Partridgeberry [rubiaceae ]
Friends School Plant Sale. Spring 2004. This is a new plant. It's located
in a fairly shady spot in the Circumpolar garden.
Stay tuned for updates. Spring 2005: It's still
alive. Too early to note new growth, but apparently
it's evergreen. It's kind of a meek looking plant so
far. June 8 2005 pronounced dead. Likely
cause: too much shade combined with a fairly meek looking
starter plant. If I could find a more stalwart
specimen next time, I wouldn't be afraid to try it again. One
criticism of the Friends School sale is that among the exotic plants
they carry, many are just not ready to be sold, and look
scraggly. This was a good example. If it had been a less
exotic plant I never would have bought it. Live and learn. [click
for pictures, more
info and more
laevis -- Bells of Ireland [Lamiaceae] Spring 2003 Hardy, reseeding
annual. Easy to maintain if you don't let it reseed. The
tall racemes can toss seeds up to ten feet away. We put six
large plants in our boulevard bed in Spring 2003, and in 2004, the
seedlings were all over the place. Easy to spot and pull, it
wasn't a tragedy, but keep that in mind if you dare to grow this
attractive green flower. They make excellent cut and dried
flowers, but the stems actually have pretty nasty thorns for a
herbaceous plant. Not recommended. It took me until
Spring of 2007 to assure myself that they had been eliminated.
Monarda didyma 'Cambridge Scarlet' -- Beebalm [Labiatae].
Unknown garden center 1994. It is supposedly very difficult to
eradicate, but I don't believe it. M. didyma is native
to Minnesota. The 'Cambridge Scarlet' cultivar is only subtly
different from the "natural' species. There is at least
one other species that is more common around here. I think
it's the M. fistulosa. That one is more of a lavender
color and not so showy. Actually,
in Minnesota this plant doesn't seem to be much trouble, and it's
more difficult to keep them from dying off. I think they're
pretty well-behaved, but they do migrate around. This is a
terrible plant for control freaks. It took ours
about six years to get a good hold on the garden. We let them
run wild to a certain extent, which goes along with the tall fantasy
prairie feel of our garden. In our back alley, we have
a section of quasi native fantasy prairie where this thrives.
In the summer of 2001 added a soaker hose irrigation extension to the area where they grow.
They were too dry before, and now they are finally starting to
escape from their desiccated isolation and mingle with the denizens
of the meadow section of the garden. Now in Spring 2002, the beebalm
is lush and thick. I've been killing it in many places because
it creeps in and chokes out everything in its path. It is
fairly easy to control it by ripping up the creeping stolons.
Further, it doesn't easily leave the boundaries of our irrigation
system, which makes it a very botanically correct plant, except for
native-only garden nazis who turn their noses up even to
cultivars. The species is native to Minnesota, so I think you
can safely and ethically ignore them. So what if this plant
escaped cultivation? The flowers are beloved of insects in our
garden. The red color and structure makes them especially
attractive to hummingbirds. Click
here to see an image.
They are very attractive and they make great cut flowers.
I like the deep red 'Cambridge Scarlet'. Thin them out in spring
because dense clumps mildew easily after blooms fade. The early
leaves make a wonderful addition to summer sun tea. Once they
flower, the leaves are no good for tea.
Myostis -- Forget-me-not [Boraginaceae] My neighbors
have planted some with Thalictrum Rochebrunianum that I gave them.
The combination is very, very nice. I don't have any growing
now because they got choked out. In my opinion, they aren't
pretty enough to justify dedicating an open area for them.
Nepeta 'Blue Wonder' [Labiatae]. One of the most
attractive, best-behaved and compact of the entire labiatae family.
Easy and formal like a hosta. An excellent sidewalk edging plant
because of its tidy, rounded appearance. Neighborhood cats come
roll in it and chew on it. After five years the neighborhood
cats have finally killed it off. It's not as hardy as
real catnip, but it looks nicer. Eventually, the neighbor's
cat destroyed it by lying in it.
Oenothera fructicosa (from Mrs. Thomas '83, family heirloom)
easy and slightly aggressive, though fairly easy to control. No
requirements at all, tolerant of vicious abuse and drought. A real
gem if you are willing to control their growth. We grow it
in our main prairie flower bed--mixed with echinacea and black-eyed
susans. It competes pretty well with those thugs, though you
will have to create some open spaces for it to thrive if it's going
to compete with taller plants like these. Recommended for
Papaver orientalis 'Salmon' (3 foot high) Leitner's
1994 Beautiful and trouble free. Be sure to cut the
seed head stalks out after blooming. They will reseed and
make a mess. I love the flowers, but the leaves are not exactly
beautiful. One small clump is all you need. Oriental
poppies do not transplant well because they have taproots.
It's best to leave them alone until you're ready to kill them.
Dig very deep if you want to try to divide it. It's probably
best to divide only a very old plant. After eight years, it
appears that this one has reached its full size, with about 30-40
showy blooms. Two years later, it's down to almost
nothing. After I cultivated around it and worked in some
organic matter and fertilizer, it's perking up again in
2006. After 18 years with this same plant, I think
everyone needs one nice oriental poppy, and it should be the most
shocking color you can stand, but no more than one. The leaves are
big and kind of gruesome, and the flowers aren't there long--kind of
like a peony that way.
Papaver orientalis (dwarf red 1-2' high) Linder's
1995 Similar to the previous, but smaller and red. I
don't have any recommendations. It took a while to settle
in. I had to move it in 1997, and only in 2001 did it flower
and look nice. Shortly afterward, it vanished...
Penstemon barbatus 'Elfin Pink' [Scrophulariaceae](1 1/2 to 2' high)
Leitner's 1995. Good drainage is essential--sandy or loamy soil
with good humus. Dense clumps should be divided every 3-6 years
to keep them vigorous. They are supposed to reseed easily too. Vulnerable
to very cold freezing rain. Leave covered until April. Beautiful
and cute. Ours have not reseeded in any noteworthy way.
I have not seen the development of dense clumps in ours. However,
they are competing with beebalm, agastache and annual grass. May
2007 they have been overtaken by their neighbors, and no longer
Penstemon digitalis 'Husker Pink' Beardtongue [Scrophulariaceae]
1996. Sandy or loamy, humus-rich, well-drained soil in full sun
or light shade. This plant is a bit larger with more attractive
red-purple foliage and less appealing flowers than the 'Elfin Pink.'
It was the 1995 perennial of the year. Vigorous and easy. Highly
recommended, but the spent flowers are ugly enough to demand removal.
Crowded out by other plants, it eventually disappeared.
Perovskia atriplicifolia -- Russian Sage [Labiatae].
1994 Cut back in fall to about 15". It takes quite a while
before this plant recovers from winter. Don't count it dead until
June. Even if the top sticks die, the plant can still regrow from
its roots. This silver and purple plant is an exercise in dry, airy,
subtle beauty. It makes a good addition to cut flowers, though a
bit messy. Extremely easy to grow. Prune it in
April so that you remove everything to about 18" above the
Phlox divarciata ? -- Wild Blue Phlox (perhaps hybrid
or cultivar) [Polemoniaceae (Phlox)] Leitner's 1994 Not very happy
in our garden--too small to compete. 4 to 6 inches high, this one
is a spreader almost like heaths. After its May bloom, it's
not very interesting, though it tends to choke out anything else.
I notice that most people who have it have nothing else around it.
Although it's wonderful in Spring, I'm not crazy about it..
Phlox paniculata 'Ice Cap' -- White garden phlox.
Fall 2002 in alley, because it's pretty aggressive. It
seems to have disappeared as of Spring 2005.
Physalis alkekengi -- Chinese Lantern, Ground Cherries.
Exact species unknown, but the internet descriptions I see match
it well. We started it from seed in perhaps 2008. It took a while to
get going, but by 2011 it was obviously a problem. I started to
remove it last summer, and this summer I did a second genocidal
campaign on the bed where it was, and I now have three words to sum
up my reaction: OH MY GODS. The stolons grow fast and deep. The
horizontal velocity is frightening, and the reviews I have read on
the internet make it clear that this plant is an aggressive,
invasive species. I am approaching it with latex gloves and a garden
surgeon's care. It is ugly, and the flowers are rarely visible.
Standing two feet tall of scruffy solanaceae leaves, the cute dried
flower pods and the ground cherry fruit are just not worth
destroying the ecosystem of your whole block within 20 years. This
plant should be illegal in urban areas. I have similar feelings
about horseradish, also found in this Hortus.
Picea abies "Little Gem" [Pinaceae]
Rice Creek 1997 Incredibly cute ultra dwarf spruce tree with
juvenile leaves. It's a favorite of ours. We just moved
it in Fall 2002 to the front yard. It was being smothered
and hidden by the Calluna plants in the small specimen garden.
Now it's out in the open. After 5 years in our garden, it's
only 11" wide, and 9" high. After transplanting,
it still looks good, but that was on August 26th. Spring
2005: Something attacked the poor thing. My guess is that a
mammal has been using the spot for urination. The tree
completely died in the late winter of 2005. It was a sad
Pinus mugo pumilio-- Dwarf Mugo Pine, Mountain Pine [Pinaceae]
Fall 2002 Linder's in rock garden. Click
for image Excellent container plant for bonsai, excellent
for rock gardens and coexisting with perennials. The tag says
they get three to five feet tall, and six to ten feet wide.
Native to the Alps, it loves acidic soil, which it has. It
apparently is very tough, and can even tolerate fairly dry and sunny
conditions, though it can take some shade. It should be very
happy on the northwest corner of the berm, about half-way down the
side. I am doing a semi-bonsai with it. Starting with
an 18" spherical plant in a gallon pot, I pruned it to clean
it up in the center, and remove lots of small internal branches.
I then washed as much soil out of it as I could, root pruned it,
focusing on removing only larger roots, and leaving feeder roots.
Then I placed it into a broad shallow pot with stones in the bottom,
and a layer of composted bark. The pot I used is one of those
plastic green pots used for hanging baskets that are ready made
at the greenhouse. I was pretty careful to bang the pot to
knock the compost back down into the roots, and do the Japanese
technique of chop-sticking the soil mix into the roots. The
idea is to stunt the growth even more, and get it accustomed to
root pruning. This pot was then buried in the soil so that
the top part of the roots is slightly above the rim of the pot,
and the rim of the pot is below the soil. This allows the
shallow feeder roots to spread out horizontally, but they
can be easily sheared when I lift the plant for root
pruning. I mulched right
up to the stem of the plant and out the full root radius with long
strand sphagnum moss, and placed a water retaining crater around
the whole affair, and placed bark mulch up to the sphagnum mulch.
I will water it well this fall until frost, then I will give let
it grow for one year in the pot in the soil. I will then dig
it up, pot and all, root prune it again, but place it into the
same pot, and bury that pot the same way for two years. I plan
to put some bonsai copper wires on it once I see if it adapts to
this first session of abuse. At the end of that period, I
will dig it up one more time, assuming that it is stunted and used
to being root pruned, and then I will just let it grow in the soil.
Since it will be adapted to root pruning, I will be able to dig
it up again if I think it's getting too vigorous. My
hope is to create a bush about three feet wide and two feet high.
Fall of 2005 I noticed that it was growing vigorously. In
Spring 2006 I observed that some thirsty roots had gotten over the
rim of the pot and were gorging the thing. I pruned it heavily
in late April, and now it's looking great. The stunting effect
is very obvious very quickly. More
info on mugos
Platycodon grandiflorus -- Blue Balloon Flower
[Campanulaceae]. Leitner's 1994 Very late to emerge in spring. Do
not transplant mature plants because they are taprooted and fragile. Self-seeds
easily. A must have! No demands. No problems except
reseeding unless you dead head, which will also extend the blooming period. I can keep mine blooming all
the way to the first frost.
They grow on rather lanky plants about 2 1/2-3 feet high.
Great among vigorous, taller plants like meadows. Let them
pop up as surprises. I have moved plants in their
second and third seasons without any difficulty.
Polemonium caeruleum -- Jacob's Ladder [Polemoniaceae]
Leitner's 1994. Medium demand of water, reseeds itself very well
in spite of religious deadheading. I really like its electric blue
and pink next to the shocking yellow-orange of Trollius chinensis
'Lemon Queen' for an intense color effect in June. Coool!
This is a wonderful plant, but expect a large plant to die off and
be replaced by its seedlings. These do well in scattered growth
amidst meadow and prairie plants. They seem to want to
wander around, and won't pay much attention to your efforts to
sculpt them into formal clumps.
Polemonium reptans 'Stairway to Heaven' -- Creeping Jacob's Ladder
Spring 2006 from Linders. This pretty woodland denizen
tolerates more shade than the more famous P. caeruleum. May
2007 it looks really nice, and has not spread much. I like
this one a lot.
Polygonatum biflorum -- Solomon's Seal [Liliaceae].
Weedy and very large--full grown plants can be five feet tall.
You have to be willing to control their spread unless you have a
large woodland. Native to Minnesota, you really should have
them in an evenly moist woodland here. They reseed easily
from their berries that appear after the flowers. It's easy
to grow ground covers like Virginia Waterleaf around them.
Polygonatum odoratum var. thunbergii 'Variegatum'
-- Fragrant or Japanese Solomon's Seal
[Liliaceae]. (1993) For the first
two seasons we had one plant, third season there were three, then
there were eight. Then following year I divided the rapidly expanding
mass into about six clumps, and now we have about 100 of them all
over the shady part of the garden, and they are spreading quickly.
The neighbors are getting them as gifts now. These are a must
have for any garden and their beauty far outreaches the native species.
Easy, easy, easy in shade. Stems are no more than 3 feet long, and
the strong arch of the stems makes them only about 24" tall.
In the fall the foliage turns a lovely yellow. They grow on horizontal tubers that creep underground at about 1"
depth. You can dig and cut or break them and replant them
at about an inch down. Water them fairly regularly for a couple
of months, then forget about them until you have to divide them
again. In Summer 2005 I gave away about 30 stalks with the
complete rhizomes attached. Like a hosta, it seems to love
being dug up and divided. Highly recommended.
Prenanthes alba -- Lion's Foot [asteraceae] Spring
2004 A native Minnesotan wildflower. It's supposed to be 2-3'
tall, and the flowers seem kind of interesting--combining the
compositae with the columbine. The leaves are also attractive
and large. Update Fall 2004: The flowers are really
interesting. I have one plant in the shade of a
spruce and another about four feet away in a brighter
spot. The one in shade grew really tall and bloomed
profusely. It was so tall that it required
support. The other in sunnier conditions languished
at ground level. It never sent up a blooming stalk,
but the plant looks very healthy. Weird. I'm
going to wait another season to make a judgment, but it
seems that the plant is a bit too tall for my
garden. Spring 2005 update: The one that bloomed
last year in the shade did not make it through the winter. It
might have dried out. The other in the sun was looking as if
it had been putting every ounce of energy into growing beneath the
ground. I decided that it was not going to stay in the garden,
and I dug it up, being careful to check to see if it had sent out
rhizomes or some evil roots. I'm sure glad I looked because it
was startling to see how far the thing had gotten. I took the
time to do "oncological excavation." The fleshy
roots are similar to those of the campanula americana (a
local weed/wildflower) but much larger, deeper and more structured
for horizontal growth at about 6" depth. Not recommended
for small gardens. [more
info images of flowers]
Primula vulgaris -- English Primrose (red, violet,
cream all with yellow ctrs) [Primulaceae] 1995, then at
various times a few here and there since. Wonderful,
cheery spring colors. They only live 3-4 seasons, and then
must be replaced.
Porteranthus trifoliatus -- Bowman's Root, Indian
Physic, Fawn's Breath [Rosaceae] Friends School Plant Sale
2005. This attractive plant looks a bit like a Goatsbeard, but
with showy flowers. All descriptions sound
pleasant. In Spring 2006, it looks very, very
nice--somewhat like a small version of Meadowsweet (Filipendula)
which is its
cousin. Spring 2007 it is beautiful, and has doubled in
size each year, though it has not reseeded. This is planted in
one of the driest parts of the yard under a roof overhang. I
check the moisture with a probe occasionally, and it is usually bone
dry there, but the plant looks great. Staking may be
especially if there is any significant wind. It blooms at the
same time as Thalictrum aquilegiafolium, and is about the
same height, so they work very well together.
Pulsatilla Vulgaris spp. Pasque Flower [Ranunculaceae]
You absolutely must have lots of these. They will do best around
cement or limestone. They are not demanding of anything, though
mine get some fertilizer. They are the kings of the late April garden.
I haven't had any real experiences of note with them. After
leave a mass of dead leaves that should be cut out in spring to
allow other plants to grow. I am going to start planting fritillarias
around them because the spreading leaf masses cover the holes left
when the bulbs disappear. The seed heads are as nice as the
flowers. I experimented with planting some seeds in the
garden last year, and they came up! They are difficult to
Pulsatilla vulgaris 'Papageno' --Pasque Flowers
Smaller than the species, but attractive nonetheless. 2 in 1995.
It is more maroon in color and has double flowers, so the petals
are more daisy or windflower like than anemone like as in the common
species (see above). Eleven years later, it looks very good,
but has not expanded much and has never reseeded. It gets
about 15 blooms on the cluster. Twelve years later, the winter
of 2006-2007 it vanished completely, though it looked wonderful that
Ranunculus X 'mixed' -- "buttercups" in
highly decorative double flowers. Hardy only to zone 6 but I left
them in the ground because I found them to be of marginal beauty--too
garish--and one group survived the winter of 1996 with only snow
mulch. This year I am planting those in a pot mixed with De Caen
Anemones which I find far more attractive. See Anemones, De
Caen for more growing tips.
Rhododendrons [Ericaceae or Empetraceae]
at this point, we only have two specimens in this family, though
we are beginning a collection of ericaceous plants. There
are almost 1,000 different species within the Rhododendron
genus. This page is a nice starting point for information
on them: Vireya Website's
- Rhododendron 'Karen Seleger' [Ericaceae or Empetraceae]
Fall of 2002 in rock garden from Rice Creek. Stay
tuned for updates. This little beauty is only
15" tall with violet purple flowers. It is
supposedly quite hardy, and its compact form should
make it very durable in its location. This plant
is extremely expensive for its size, so we only got
one rather small one about 8" tall. Spring
2006 it's looking much better after almost losing it
last year. It bloomed nicely, but is a bit
sparse because it lost so much foliage, and it's an
evergreen. It has increased to about 10" in
height. The color of the blooms is nice--a
deeper red tone than the usual PJM pink. Spring
2007 it took a bit of a hit in the cold Spring, but it did
bloom, and it's getting lots of new leaves. The trick
is to bury it in leaves and strap them down with bird netting
for the winter. The leaves desiccate easily in Minnesota
- Rhododendron X 'P.J.M.' -- PJM Rhododendron [Ericaceae or
Empetraceae] Fall 2002 in rock garden from Linder's.
As all of this genus, it needs acidic soil and more shade than
sun, but good light. Ours is on the east edge of the rock
garden, up behind the blueberry. It gets bright violet
pink flowers, and grows 3-5 feet tall, and may spread much more
than that. Monrovia
description An observation I have made is that it is
very thirsty planted near a spruce tree. Make sure it
doesn't dry out or it will lose leaves.
Rose --Canadian hardy climbing rose. [Rosaceae] Red Andrew
McKenzie and pink William Baffin. You gotta have climbing roses.
Really. Feed them regularly, and don't let them get dry.
We use the fertilizer mulch described
on our tips page. Also, monitor them closely for insect damage.
They either need to be pruned or tied up to a trellis. Even
the laziest gardeners can handle hardy climbing roses. Just get
some good sturdy rose gloves to protect your hands when you train
Rosmarinus officinalis 'White'-- Rosemary. [Labiatae].
A bit fussy, but well-worth the trouble for beauty and spice. They
need large pots to accommodate their very large root systems. In
fact, I suggest a pot that is about the size of the plant you want
above the ground. They do better in the ground, but you have
to dig it up or replace it for a Minnesota winter. Give
them a compost dressing several times during the warm season. Dont
let them dry out, but be more careful of overwatering! They
are prone to root rot. Outdoors in the ground, they need little
or no maintenance. Indoors, they are prone to powdery mildew,
etiolation, and elongation. Overwintering indoors is not easy
without artificial lighting. Because I am willing to set up
lights, we have a very prolific source of rosemary year around. They are pest free. I
am currently applying some wire shaping to my plant, somewhat like
bonsai, but the pot is huge--like about 4 gallons--so it doesn't
look at all like a real bonsai. By pulling the plant out horizontally,
you can increase the yield of tasty, fragrant sprigs. By stripping
the lower leaves and branches, you can create a more tree-like and
attractive plant that you'll be proud to have under a bright light
during the winter. It smells better than a Christmas tree
too. Under a strong light, the smell can be intense.
I keep mine in the basement, and then bring it up to a sunny window
for the months of March and April while I start my annual seeds
and tropical bulbs.
Rubus chamaemorus -- Cloudberry [Rosaceae] Spring
2003. This yellow raspberry grows rhizomes underground, which could make
it a nasty pest except for one thing: it is very short and the stems
die back to the ground every year. I bet you can mow
it. It did very well in 2004, and obviously is of the
underground spreading ilk. It quadrupled in size.
Hmmm. It's so small and cute. Spring 2005: It is
continuing to spread underground, reaching up to 3 feet from the
original planting. The flowers are visible for the first time
this year. They are a bright, strong pink/mauve. I am
completely seduced. Spring 2006, the spreading is continuing,
but not as quickly as I thought. It's quite well-behaved, but
the location is rather shady. No blooms and some caterpillar
must have stripped it. Spring 2007 it is more vigorous looking
this year. It bloomed. So far (four years later) I'm not
greatly impressed, but I think that more sun would help. The
owner of Rice Creek gardens personally recommended it for shade, and I
think it's cute, but not enough blooms and no berries yet. The
blooms are very pretty and quite large. Click
for image and info. more
Rubus leucodermis Raspberry, Black [Rosaceae] Unknown date. Came with the
house, and before that apparently from across the alley where it has
been probably since the 1960's, judging from the size of the thicket. I'm in zone 4b and have had good results with this plant. I
love to eat raspberries, but they're kind of a pain to keep. The main
positive feature of the black raspberry is that if you prevent the
canes from touching the ground and the berries from just falling and
reseeding, it's very easy to control this one. It does not spread
underground like the red ones I had briefly. In an urban lot it's not
a good idea to plant ones that spread by rhizomes. The black raspberry
sends up new canes from the crown each summer that harden over the
winter and bear fruit the next year, and then die. You can prune the
fruiting canes out by the end of August and train the new canes
upward. I don't usually prune the canes until the following season
reveals how much of the length will bear fruit. Mine was planted by a
previous owner at the base of a maple tree which I use for a sort of
trellis. Canes on my mature plant often reach ten feet in length. I
don't like to prune them to make them bushier because in April I
lower, wrap and arrange them around the trunk. It has been there for
at least 16 years and there is still only one plant. There is no
spreading at the base, and it seems to maintain a fairly constant size
now. It is a lot more thorny than a red raspberry, but less so than a
climbing rose. You'll definitely need some rose gloves to work with
it, and you definitely do need to keep an eye on the fast growing
canes, but it's much easier than digging rhizomes out six to eight inches under
the surface. In other words, it's much better behaved in tight garden
conditions. With more land, you can let the red ones run rampant. The
flavor of the black raspberry isn't quite as good, primarily because it has more seeds. They
freeze nicely. We smash and strain them to make a tasty sauce. The
flavor is recognizably raspberry, but a bit like blackberry with a hint
of tartness like a blueberry.
Rubus idaeus Raspberry, Red [Rosaceae]
A friend gave me a plant about five years ago, and I thought it
was a dud. It languished fruitlessly for several years, and
then suddenly I noticed it had spread all over our raised bed.
Much to my horror, I discovered that this variety doesn't have dying
canes, and spreads by rhizomes beneath the ground at a depth of
about 8". EVIL!!! In Spring 2004 I mounted a
serious eradication campaign. I'm sure that I'll be pulling
out rhizomes for years. What a mistake. If you a
have a lot of land or you really want to dedicate the land you have
to raspberries, then this is the one for you. Spring 2006, I
think that I have pretty much eliminated it, but it was not
easy. I was wrong, though. It took another 3-4
Rudbeckia columnifera -- Red Coneflower or "Mexican
Hats" [Asteraceae--Compositae] Very short-lived, whimsical and
pretty red & yellow flowers. Happy in desert conditions,
in Minnesota they lasted one season. I didn't buy them again. Probably the thing to do
is to get them to reseed. I think they want a warmer
climate. Maybe there's a reason they look like yellow and red
sombreros. They are recommended for Arizona, Texas,
for image and info,
Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii 'Goldstrum' -- Black-eyed
Susan [Asteraceae--Compositae]. Masters of self-seeding, they are
prone to aster yellows. Kill infected plants immediately by
and dispose of the remains. No other problems observed.
You should not leave seed heads up for the winter unless you want
them all over your garden. This is a true garden
workhorse. It is beautiful, elegant, and native to
Minnesota, though this cultivar isn't botanically correct for the
They require little maintenance as long as you don't let the seed
heads stand for the winter. They can appear quite a long way
away from the parent plant--probably due to spring action of the
stems in the wind. In spite of the concerns, this is a highly
recommended plant for late season blooms.
Rudbeckia nitida -- (Giant) Green Coneflower
[Asteraceae--Compositae] (the books say it's only 5 ft, but mine consistently gets up to
8 or 9 ft.) Native to Minn. from Landscape Alternatives 1995. Yellow
flowers that resemble a fragile black-eyed susan atop a vigorous,
tall plant. It used to get spittle bugs, which are easy to control
with pinching or pyrethrin. This was only a problem during early
season. Now that the clump is quite mature, it seems to be
trouble free. Maybe it's just so big that I can't see the
bugs. It needs to be staked with a 5' stake to prevent wind
damage. Because it reseeds freely, it is weedy, but it is native!
In small numbers it is okay in our wild garden. In spring 1997,
it had self-seeded as far as ten feet away, and was sending out
root extensions with shoots as far as eighteen inches. Seedlings
are large and very easy to spot and fairly easy to eradicate with
a small hand shovel. This plant is not recommended if
you arent willing or able to control its spread, unless you
have a large wooded lot. I highly recommend it for large
meadow and transitional zones. This is a very large and impressive plant
through the month of August and into September. When it finishes
blooming, cut off all the flower head bearing stems and dispose
of them. Root prune it in fall or spring. If you
are trying to create an authentic Minnesota woodland, this plant
is an absolute necessity. With a bit of attention it
can be a spectacular, huge plant. The seedlings are
spreading up and down our alley, but most of them are getting mowed
down. After 10 years, I am now reducing the population to one
vigorous clump. It had spread along the side of the garage.
Basically, this plant requires vigorous control, though you can take
care of one managed clump fairly easily. Even though every
Spring I throw away about 10 pound of roots and new shoots for over
ten years, I still keep it. I wouldn't do that much if I
didn't like it. Yet, I caution that for small gardens, only
the most dedicated gardeners should plant it. Another
observation I have is that after 12 years it has worked its way
across the alley and a garden-negative neighbor doesn't impede
them. Since he has a thicket mess there already, the Rudbeckia
nitida is actually a scenic improvement for the alley. In the
Summer of 2011 I decided to eliminate it from my yard and replace it
with the Japanese Anemone from the front yard.
Sambucus nigra 'Black Lace' -- Elderberry, Black Elder,
European Elder, Bourtree [Caprifoliaceae
a relative of Honeysuckle and Viburnum] Spring 2007 Leitners.
This replaced the chokeberry that we bought at the Friends' Sale
last year. The latter did not survive the winter. This
gorgeous shrub-perennial looks like an excellent substitute for the
Japanese Maple. I'm hearing really great things about
it. It survived the winter, and looks really great. It
was slow to send out new growth, and the old stem was actually
slower than the crown in producing new growth. The dry, warm
winter of 2012 revealed that this plant is root hearty to zone 4,
but will not bloom unless it's in zone 5 or warmer because the old
wood dies to the ground, and it blooms on the old wood. So, the good
news is that for Spring 2012, it's covered with blooms, and much
larger than previous years. Even without flowers, it does make a
nice, dark purple foliage. Here is a great
picture at Dave's Garden.
Sanguinaria canadensis -- Bloodroot [Papaveraceae].
Leitner's 1995. Foliage fades by midsummer, but the short-lived
early spring flowers are a sight to behold. We put in a single flowered
specimen in 95 and a double flowered, lotus-like one in 1996. These
are larger and more fabulous. They grow from creeping rhizome that
can be cut apart after flowering. They also self-sow. The
double-flowered one was eventually crowded out of existence. I
will definitely get more because they did very well when they had
some breathing room.
Saxifraga Crustata [saxifragaceae]
2002 Rice Creek Gardens. Looks like a "hens and
chicks", but much finer and smaller. 2006 it looks very
nice, but the eunymous is crowding it out, so we'll have to move
it. It's still alive in 2007, but it is still very small,
barely hanging on.
Saxifraga 'Peter Pan' Mossy Saxifrage [saxifragaceae]
2002 Rice Creek Gardens. Four years later, this is doing
extremely well in a pretty shady spot underneath the miniature birch
tree. It is ultra small at about 1" and cute pink-white flowers
on 2" stems. It's spreading like a bed of moss. Spring
2007 it has spread a lot, though the original core has died, so it
looks like one of those that probably likes division. I really
Scabiosa caucasica 'Fama' -- Pincushion Flower
[Dipsaceae (Teasel Family)] Seed start from T&M 1995 Easy. Nice
dried seed heads. Not good as a cut flower, because the stems are
rarely straight, but rather gnarly and snaky. They were eventually
crowded out of the garden by vigorous companions. They
look a lot prettier on the seed package than real life.
Sedum spectabile (?X 'Autumn Joy')-- Stonecrop
[Crassulaceae (Stonecrop Family)] Fall blooming, about 24"
tall. Needs a cage or tie up. It's a nice tall sedum,
but I find it to be uninteresting. It's a good structural
plant, like a hosta, and it can tolerate dry, sunny locations.
Sedum ? perhaps Sieboldi or Spurium
Sedum spurium 'Bronze Carpet' Stonecrop [Crassulaceae
(Stonecrop Family)] Linder's Fall 2002 in Rock Garden.
Summer flowering, prostrate bronzy red (or purplish with gold).
It's supposed to be good as a ground cover or rock garden plant.
It looks like it would be great with stone. The location we
put it is the sunniest spot in our rock garden zone, but for now
there are no stones near it. We are going to try to get it
to cover the sunny corner of the berm. It is not known for
liking acidic soil, so it may not work. Spring
2004--it's quite dead. I think that the soil is too moist for
it. Spring 2007 I realize that I have given away all of
this. I'm just not much of a sedum fan, but the short alpines
are far more attractive than the tall fall bloomers. The main
attraction would be the deep mauve flowers in September.
web site has way more information than you'll ever want to know
about this incredibly easy-to-grow succulent. It's excellent
for dry, rocky locations with little soil. If divided regularly,
these make outstanding xeriscape groundcovers. It's too bad
that they don't work well for golf courses, because dry climates
should not have bluegrass. We have one larger species, with
adult rosettes about 5" across, and we placed two Sempervivum Ar.
'minus', from Rice Creek in Fall 2002 for the rock garden. This is the smallest of all Sempervivums, so
wanted to use
it in a narrow crack between the granite slabs and one of the basalt
boulders. Since this kind of an area is prone to washouts
from rain, I thought that this tough plant would do well.
They didn't survive the first winter, and I rethought the idea of
trying to grow things in those cracks anyway.
Senna hebacarpa -- Wild Senna [Fabaceae, subfamily
Caesalpinioideae] May 2007 source forgotten? This is a big
plant, and it's really attractive. It will need some staking and
restraing. It makes a hell of a lot of papery pea pods , but I
don't see any seedlings yet. At around the first or second week
of May I saw no sign of life, but noticed that the old stalks were
very firmly anchored in the ground--generally, a dead plant will pull
up easily if the winter killed it. I finally saw the new shoots
coming up at the very end of May. In 2012, the plant seems to be
the same size for the last three years, consequently, I confer a
highly recommended rating for this unusual, tall, cheery plant. Just
be sure to cut the seed pods off before they open.
Smilacina racemosa--False Solomon's Seal, Solomon's
Plume [Liliaceae]. From a friend 1994. Smaller and more fragile
than the "real thing", but the plume-like flowers are
far superior to the ephemeral flowers and berries of the Polygonatum.
Moist, humus rich, neutral to acidic soil. Divide in spring or fall
to propagate or control. It is extremely difficult to
eliminate completely. I have been attacking them pretty
vigorously for about 8 years, and I still get about 5 plants every
Spring. It's not that I dislike it, but it seems to me to be
too invasive for the urban yard. After 13 years of fighting
it, I'm starting to leave some and let them scamper
Smilacina stellata (L.)
Desf. var. crassa Vict. -- False Solomon's Seal,
Solomon's Plume [Liliaceae] Rice Creek Garden 2004. Placed
in sunny North exposure in our acid soil garden, these are
incredibly short and cute. This naturally ocurring cultivar
from Rice Creek is a dwarf that only gets about 3-6" tall with all
the leaves compressed vertically, as if the stem were a
telescope. Shortness makes it perfect for moist alpine and boreal woodland
settings. As the rhizomes run outward and develop, the roots
disappear along the older lengths of rhizome. Spring 2005,
after mistakenly thinking that they died late last Summer, they
spread. Now there are about three plants for each of the two I
put in, and they are clearly spreading underground. All
Smilacinas should be considered slow to start, but quickly turn into
vigorous thugs. Fortunately, like the Solomon's Seal, the
rhizomes aren't terribly deep and they're easy to find. They are very
happy in the sunnier side of the boreal garden. In Spring 2006 they
are sprouting all over the place. Like the other
members of the family, they run about in the garden,
covering a surprising distance, and never appearing in the
same place twice. The ultra compact size helps keep
them from being considered total pests. In Spring
2007 they are spreading widely about the garden now, and look great
peeping up through low ground cover. They are also known as Maianthemum stellatum and
Convallaria stellata click
for general information, more
information and more
on uses and cultivation, closeup
cernua odorata -- Lady's Tresses (fragrant Chadd's
Ford) [Orchidaceae] Spring 2003, Spring 2004 and
Spring 2005. Friends School Plant Sale and Rice Creek
Gardens (which had much larger specimens).
This is an excellent plant. It grows about 1 foot
tall and has cute little fragrant white flowers and pretty
strap foliage. It blooms very late--September to
frost. It's a really unique addition to your autumn
blooms. Now, don't let this description mislead you
into thinking this is a showy flower--the blooms are
subtle, and only impressive when viewed very closely or in
large masses of mature plants. [click
here and scroll to bottom to see photo] The main
thing about them is the smell--jasmine-like. Not all
of ours have survived, but the majority of them are doing
well. I'd guess that at this point there are about
seven or eight of them in the garden. I am hoping
that one day they will naturalize and create such dense
masses of fragrant spires. Apparently it is native
to the East Coast and South, and many on-line venders
suggest that it's for zone 6 or 5. Perhaps that's
why mine seem a bit small. However, I'm not having
much luck as of Spring 2006. I still haven't given up, but the
location is probably bad. I think they belong in the main bed
with the smaller plants. In May 2007 no sign of the 3 I had.
I am giving up on them for now. [click
for image and info, click
here for nice close up of flowers. ]
Thalictrum spp. I
have appended a separate document describing this genus in general.
Click here. Specific species
and brief commentaries are below.
- Thalictrum aquilegifolium 'New Hybrids Mixed'
(white to mauve) [Ranunculaceae] 2-3' grown from seed 1995. This
species is the most similar in form and size to a columbine, hence
its name. After blooming, these are still very attractive clumps
of leaves--nicer than columbines. I think that there are actually
a couple of distinct species all classified under this name--there
are two very different stem/leaf structures among the plants,
and one of them is completely unlike that of the others in the
genus. Click here to see a photo
of my favorite specimen. These and other meadow rues
are affected by temperature in the early growing period. Cold
spring weather stunts the leaf growth, and causes smaller plants.
The only thing I have seen kill them is frost heaving.
- Thalictrum aquilegifolium 'Purpureum' (pink) Rice Creek
1995 Probably the most beautiful and popular is the T. aquilegiifolium--native
to North Asia and Europe. They range from 2-6' in height, depending
on genetics, light, soil conditions and water. The foliage and
stalks are almost indistinguishable from the rochebrunianum,
but this one has a curious lobed structure at the juncture of
the stems, unique to this Thalictrum species. The flowers are
the pride of the genus, but not very long lived (15 days).. The
deepest red and the white cultivars are the most striking while
the pinkish are light and alluring. The flowers are clusters of
stamens and pistils, giving the impression of a Dr. Seuss illustration.
The sepals drop early, leaving the clusters of airy puffballs.
These puffs are far less dense than the T. flavum, but
stand more erect like a starburst of pink rays. Hybrids are available
that produce the full range from white to deep mauve. Seeds
I purchased in about 1995 produced the hardiest Thalictrums
in our garden. Most of those plants are still around
ten years later. It is the first one to bloom in the late spring.
These plants are not believed to be quite hardy enough to survive
our winters unprotected, but the five hybrids and two species
purpureum that I planted in 1995 survived the winter
of 1996 with flying colors. T. aquilegiifolium is supposedly
more heat resistant than others. The red-violet cultivar 'Thundercloud'
is an awesome sight. I found the closest thing to it yet in pretty
red cultivar from Leitner's in 1996. The pinkish-white 'purpureum'
is available at Rice Creek Gardens for about $5.50 (1995). My
observation is that these are the toughest non-native species
- Thalictrum aquilegifolium Thundercloud
(?)(red) Leitner's 1996 Click
here for an excellent closeup of the flowers. Click
here for picture of whole plant.
- Thalictrum coreanum (pink) Rice Creek 1997 expensive,
only 6" high. A real beauty, T. coreanum is a
pretty unusual member of the family. The wiry stems attach
to the underside of the leaves giving it some of the personality
and structure of an epimedium. The shape of the leaves is
about halfway between T. aquilegifolium and a Nasturtium.
The flowering occurs from mid-May throughout the season.
The flowers are sparse puffs like the T. aquilegifolium.
Mine are white in color with a faint pink tint. The
leaves are mottled--green, chartreuse and russet, especially in
Spring. It likes neutral soil, and seems to tolerate some
acid. It likes moist shade, but I find that they do quite well
in more sunny locations, given the soil is good and watering is
consistent. Extremely highly recommended.
- Thalictrum dasycarpum (Tall Meadow Rue, native
to Minnesota) Landscape Alternatives 1996. These have male and
female separate plants. 3-4' This species grows tall without spreading
far horizontally. As a specimen, it needs support. Best for background
in wooded gardens where brush and small trees prevent growth of
other light-hungry flowers. Not highly recommended. I use it for
cross pollinating to create more hardy hybrids. In Fall
of 2002, I dug mine up and gave them to my neighbor so that I
can still tinker with them, but not have them in my space. He
likes wild, easy, weedy plants.
- Thalictrum delvayi 'Hewitt's Double' (tiny mauve
flowers with yellow eye) 3-4' 1 from Linder's, one from
Acidic soil, some sun, and not terribly water demanding. Very
late to send up its first fragile, ghostly shoots. Undoubtedly
one of the best cut flowers of the species. Unlikely to live long.
Definitely needs support. Intricate untangling is often required
to cut sprays of the delicate flowers that occur in airy conical
clouds of mauve babys breath-like flowers. Spreading is
not the problem. These tend to fade rather than increase unless
conditions are ideal. Worth treating as an annual if you have
difficulty keeping them. Very unusual, beautiful and great cut
and/or dried. Highest recommendation, in spite of the fuss
- Thalictrum dioicum Early Meadow Rue, Quicksilver
Weed. Spring 2004 This species is
extremely common in Minnesota woods, but I have neglected to
collect seeds and plant it. You'll find these along the
heavily trodden river bluffs of the Mississippi right through
the River Road regions of the central Twin Cities, so it's not
delicate. I found this lovely little native gem in the parking lot of
Whole Foods in St Paul. Like the other American species,
this has gendered plants, with the males being the most
showy. Unlike the T. diptercarpum below, this one
is shorter, generally about two feet high and very airy.
For foliage, this one is outstanding. It's obviously a
pretty effective reseeder. It is commonly found in moist
hardwood forest near growths of ferns like Maidenhair. The
Maidenhair fern is lime loving, and I suspect that the T.
dioicum is capable of withstanding a fairly wide range of
conditions from slightly alkaline to fairly acidic. You'll
have best luck finding it at transition zones between forest and
clearing, especially along railroad grades near rivers where
limestone outcroppings occur. I have planted mine adjacent
to a T. aquilegiafolium to see if I can get some cross pollination.
germination tips, better
- Thalictrum dipterocarpum (flowers nearly the same
as Rochebrunianum below) 3-5' high. Late to start, but a rapid
burst of secondary stalks makes its increase almost magical. Very
much like the Hewitts Double but with flowers
like the Rochebrunianum. This one is probably the most
beautiful and delicate for foliage and overall form. Dianne Kellaway
fairly described it by saying that it awakens a child's belief
in fairies. Delvayi--native to Western China, source of
'Hewitt's Double'. T. dipterocarpum often sold falsely
as Dipterocarpum, (Yunnan Meadow Rue) also from W. China.
The latter is, I have read, a less desirable plant for its smaller
flowers, so it is probable that the deception is a product of
ignorance rather than malice. Unfortunately, I do not know which
I have, but I find it lovely. The flowers of both have lavender
sepals surrounding yellow pistils and stamens. They are tiny,
and form pleasant sprays that rise high above the delicate, low
foliage. One important fact--these are quite late to emerge in
the spring and produce very spindly stems with tiny leaves. Mark
them carefully and do not disturb. They require staking, but the
'Hewitt's Double' is more compact and less likely to fall.
- Thalictrum flavum glaucum (syn. speciocissimum)
-- Meadow Rue " (yellow and white) 3-6'. Leitner's 1994
(our first Thalictrum) and then 3 more in 1995. Its foliage
is not as pretty as some, so try to hide it with something appropriate
like lilies, astilbes, geraniums, even prairie grasses. The foliage
could be attractive in arrangements. T. Flavum--4-6', native
to Europe. Flavum glaucum or speciossissium--native
to Iberian peninsula and Northwest Africa--which is more desirable
in the garden. Available at Rice Creek, Leitner's and maybe Bachman's.
Linder's is convinced they aren't hardy. They are quite wrong.
This is a tough plant. Most will recommend mulching. I say
don't worry about it. Large clumps at least five years old
thrive in the Chanhassen Arboretum. The flowers are similar to
the aquilegifolium but are a soft sulphur yellow and white,
with a somewhat more drooping form. They also drop their sepals
early and leave the clusters of puffballs. Even for those that
resent the garrish yellow of the compositaes, this is a soft,
regal color truly reflecting the light of the sun. The stems have
a somewhat twisted form in comparison to the purple, rigid stalks
of T. aquilegiifolium and T. rochebrunianum. Although
I find them all attractive, there is a coarseness and leathery
texture to the foliage of the speciocissiumum that prevents
it from having the airy, delicate loveliness of the other species
in the family. Yet, I find it highly appealing in its own right
and enjoy the way sunlight shows through the veins in the slate
blue leaves at sunset. The first signs of spring growth are deep
purple and otherworldly. It would look lovely at the wooded edge
of a grassy meadow. The green stalks, striped with purple lines,
twist and gnarl their way up to the sunny yellow flower clusters.
The lower stem is always straight, but the last 6" to a foot
is usually rather gnarled. It is the second to bloom, along with
the oriental poppies and extending to the blooming of the astilbes
into early July. The twisting habit of the flower stems gives
it a robust wildflower or meadow appearance while most of the
other garden species seem fragile and needful of pampering.
These are bee magnets. I suspect that they actually have intoxicating
effects on bees judging from their behavior when these are blooming.
The bees in your neighborhood will love you for planting these.
- Thalictrum isopyroides -- Zi
jin ye tang song cao (Chinese) Rice Creek Gardens Spring
2006. No flowers yet as of mid-May 2007, but it looks
great. This tiny Chinese alpine is probably the most
delicate and beautiful for its foliage--perhaps even more so
than the T. kiusianum. However, I'm waiting to see
the flowers and such before recommending it. This
Canadian garden supplier has some pictures of it, and you
can even by it and some other very exotic beauties. It survived
for three years, and it was quite pampered.
- Thalictrum kiusianum (pink) (Kyushy Meadow Rue) Outstanding
small meadow rue. Very expensive. They seem
to be trouble free and slow to spread. They need some light,
and because they are so small, they are easily shaded out by other
plants. Give them rich soil, even water, and apparently
they can tolerate some acid in the soil. I have not seen any reseeding.
Spreading is by rhizomes. They look like
tiny versions of the T. aquilegiafolium, but the leaves
are more like the Anemonella thalictroides. There
is an image
of the plant in a large mass, which indicates how floriferous
it is, but it doesn't capture the essence of the plant because
it is so small. This
picture is better, but too dark. They range in color
from faintly lavender-white to mauve. In Spring 2002 I put
in a couple in the circumpolar garden, and four years later,
they are definitely starting to spread into a nice ground
cover. I really love these.
- Thalictrum rochebrunianum (mauve sepals w/yellow
stamens) 5-8' high. Tallest and most eye-catching of the species.
Grows very vertically and spreads at the roots only if very happy.
It should be planted in close clusters to form a clump or wall
of at least 2 to 3 feet in width. Though not as floriferous as
others, the buds and flowers are long-lasting and very beautiful.
I can imagine a very large cluster of these.... Rochebrunianum
'Lavender Mist'--native to Japan. This is the most impressive
of the family, although it does not like the extreme heat. Undoubtedly,
Duluth would be a marvelous place to grow these in full sun. Its
mauve sepals surround bright yellow pistils and they remain for
quite some time. In foliage and form, it is scarcely distinguishable
from the aquilegiifolium. It is definitely more desirable
than the Delvayi or Dipterocarpum, since it is considerably
more stout and has larger leaves. The flowers are larger and more
impressive. The foliage is sturdier and the leaves are larger.
The flowers do not rise so high above the plant, instead the plant
itself rises from 5' to 8' with the beautiful display of flowers
sitting just above the foliage, similar to the aquilegiafolium,
but the flowers are more notable for the lavender sepals. This
plant is a real show-off and could easily upstage any more diminutive,
formal plant. They easily reach 7-8 feet in the right conditions,
and spread like columbines from self-seeding. I recommend
seeds for propagation. They are easy to grow from seed.
Plant them in the late fall, and they will sprout in the spring. When
transplanting, it is advisable to dig them and pot them for three
days in the shade to recover from the shock. They almost
always wilt after digging. However with plenty of moisture
and some shade, they come right back and will transplant easily.
I move them without this precaution, but it is important to water
them heavily for a week or so.
I have found that they prefer some clay in their soil, as opposed
to peat moss. So, plant them in rich, black soil with leaf
mold and clay in a fairly moist location. I have given them to
friends who put them in natural clay soil without additives, and
theirs do better than mine with all the soil amendments I use.
The more moisture they get, the more sun they can tolerate.
They are very susceptible to sun wilt, that will turn the young
shoots and leaves black and crispy. This will not likely
kill the plant, but will harm the season's flowering. The
exact amount of water for them is still a bit of a mystery to
- Thalictrum X Witweri Hybrid of Flavum and
Dasycarpum female. Hardy seeds. After two years, I have
determined that these are not worth propagating. They look
like a taller, weedier version of the T. flavum.
- Thalictrum X Hecate (Witweri 2) Hybrid of Flavum (mother)
and Rochebrunianum (father). Click
here to see a picture of it. It bloomed for the
first time in 1999. Leaves are textured like flavum, color is
half way between the glaucus flavum and the purple-to-green
Extremely vigorous growth to eight feet by mid-June, then it spreads.
This is the best one I have developed. It is
sterile. This is an attention getter of statuesque
proportions. The flowers are very similar to the
rochebrunianum, but the yellow is stronger, and the pink is
slightly pale. The strength of the flowers is that they
stay on a good deal longer than the non-hybrid meadow
rues. The flowers are nice, but its strength is the extra
hardy, dark green foliage and the chocolate purple color in the
stalks and young leaves. I am starting to get enough of
them through vegetative propagation and spontaneous breeding that I can move them and maybe even sell some.
- COMING SOON! Thalictrum X Witweri 3 Thalictrum
dasycarpum father and Thalictrum aquilegiafolium
- Thalictrum zhongdian (from China). Spring
2006 Rice Creek Gardens. Located in the Circumpolar
garden, this Chinese alpine specimen appears to be similar in
structure and proportions to the Hewitt's Double and T.
diptercarpum. It did not bloom for me last year, but
seemed content. This year there is just one stalk, and it
might not bloom this year either. It looks really healthy,
but it is definitely taking its time getting established.
I can't find any images of it, but I found this gallery
of images of its native landscape.
Thuja 'Teddy'. (Arborvitae) Fall
2002 Rice Creek Gardens. This is a dwarf cultivar.
In the rock garden, this 15" dense ball of glaucus
juvenile foliage will make a very attractive and interesting
impression. Rather expensive for its size,
but these are the kind of plants that you want to spend
that kind of money on. Exotic
evergreens are a specialty at Rice Creek. It
survived the winter, probably because we planted it in
the shade of a large stone. It doesn't like winter
sun, but it gets some after the Equinox. Four
years later it increased in size quite a bit more than I
expected. It's about 15" tall and very full.
Because of its lush growth I had to create a girdle to hold all of
its vertical branches together because it has developed a tendency
to collapse on itself--probably with the help of the neighbor's cat
who thinks it makes a really nice cozy bed. It is a very nice
looking mini bush, though. I recommend it.
Tiarella wherryi -- Wherry's Foamflower [Saxifragaceae
(like Astilbe)] 1995 Evergreen but the leaves only serve to
give energy to the newly emerging leaves from the roots. Late to
show new growth. Spreads very slowly by the roots. It
does not seem to reseed. It's attractive, but can't compete
around taller plants. Nice plant for low-growing formal garden
in bright shade.
Tradescantia bracteata -- Prairie Spiderwort [Commelinaceae]
Spring 2004 A native Minnesota wildflower that is actually
rather impressive in appearance. This came in a six-pack pot,
and I planted these in separate locations among the prairie flowers
in the older part of our garden's "Main bed." It
tolerates damp to dry conditions in well-drained soil. It is a
vigorous reseeder, but I'm kind of hoping that it takes off through
the neighborhood. I deadhead mine to maintain control.
Stay tuned for further commentary. I have not yet decided what
I think. It was very happy in our garden, but let's see how
far it got in spite of deadheading. In its second season, it had a
bit of spreading, and the plants are quite a bit larger. Still
it seems manageable. They are really pretty, but the flowers
don't last long. In Spring 2006, I see a few that I left and a
few that have survived my attack. However, I'm thinking they
are fairly manageable with vigorous maintenance. As of May
2007, I am having second thoughts because there are lots of
seedlings coming. They're just not pretty enough to justify
their vigor. [More
information, and images]
Tricyrtus hirta -- Toad Lily. [Liliaceae]. 2-3'
woodland shade plant. Best planted where it can be viewed close-up.
Its fall blooms look like tiny orchids on plants similar to Solomon's
Seal. Evenly moist, rich soil in light to partial shade. Long-lived
and easy to grow. Divde clumps in spring. Self sown seedlings are
common if the season is long enough for them to ripen. A real gem
of the late summer garden. However, the growing season is
short here in Minnesota. Be sure to give it good light so that
it gets an early start. I think that a sunny location in
deciduous shade is ideal, but it must have space to do well.
This one got crowded out by Siberian Iris and Thalictrum
Rochebrunianum. On the North side of the house, the extra
cool microclimate that has developed there retains snow and ice well
into March, so it got a late start. After the second winter it
was gone. Oh well, back to the drawing board...
Trillium (I forget which species/cultivar and I forget
where I bought it in 2001. I think it's T. recurvatum--prairie
trillium) It is a native Minnesotan beauty that looks
somewhat like the Jack-in-the-Pulpit, but the flower is on top of
the leaf structure. There are quite a few varieties.
This nursery in England has an amazing selection with pictures.
to see images. Click
here for cultivation and medicinal usage information.
Trollius chinensis 'Golden Queen' -- 1996 Globe Flower
Water and fertilizer. Easy to grow from fresh seed. A fabulous plant.
The intense yellow flowers stand high (about 3 feet) above the attractive
foliage. I have mine next to Jacob's Ladder, with bright lavender
flowers. The two bloom together to produce a really loud color
combination. Since the trollius is so bright, I think it silly
to try to find a color to complement it. Instead, use it for
its attention-getting nature, like an oriental poppy, which also
blooms at the same time. In Minnesota, this is the time
for the "hawaiian shirt" colors anyway. In Spring
2002, I finally noticed a number of seedlings--because I let some
seed pods develop. They must reseed pretty easily. I
can't stress enough how loudly colored these can be. If you're
looking for subtle yellows, forget this one. It's appearance
is rather like a tall buttercup, with a strong hint of single-flowered
peony structure. The 15"-high leaf mass has leaves that
look a bit like a delphinium. The flowers stand about 12-15"
above the leaves on long, sturdy stems. Very cool. In
Spring 2006 (ten years later) I notice that I now have about 15
plants scattered around the central portion of the main bed. I
have yet to kill any, but as of May 2007 I'm starting to have
phytocidal thoughts. They're all over the place now.
Vaccinium angustifolium 'Burgundy Dwarf' -- Low bush
blueberry [Ericaceae or Empetraceae] Spring 2004 This particular
species creates dense foliage and a really compact, low growing
structure of less than a foot in height. That makes it ideal
for coverage in a rock garden like our Circumpolar garden. It
doesn't appear to be mature enough to bloom this year, but the plant
filled up the four inch pot it was in. It has many leaves and
stems. In its second Spring, it looks vigorous, but close
to the ground in May. It looks like it will get a growth spurt
in June. In Spring 2006 it is blooming for the first time and
has increased by about 2-3 times its original size 2 years
ago. As promised, it is a low grower at about
8". In 2008 it is completely covered with
Vaccinium 'Northblue' -- Blueberry [Ericaceae or Empetraceae] Fall
2002 Highland Garden Center, in the rock garden. This self-fruitful
variety does not require two plants. It also provides the
best combination of large berries on a small plant. We are
not expecting to get many for ourselves. The birds and passersby
will probably get them before we do. Blueberries like very
acidic soil, so we planted ours on the edge of the root range of
a large blue spruce. They can tolerate some shade, but berry
production is reduced. This location is bright, but has
limited direct sun. Most of the brightest sun it gets is
between sunrise and 10:00 AM, and from 4:00 PM to 7 PM. The
second season yielded only about five fruits. This third
season the plant is obviously thriving, and covered with beautiful
blooms. For more information
on cultivation, check these links: Growing
Blueberries in the home garden and Blueberries
for the home garden I did a soil test in Spring 2004 and
found that the soil near this plant was only about pH 5.5, so I
added more sulfur and some coffee dregs. Spring 2006 it looks
very nice with lots of flowers, but the growth in size has been
minimal. It is still only about a foot tall and maybe a bit
more than two feet wide. After 10 years it is showing
some visible spread along underground stems.
– Ironweed [Asteraceae] Spring
2004. New to our garden, this native wildflower attracts
butterflies. In the fall it has large panicles of reddish
purple flowers similar to most asters, but the overall appearance
from a distance is similar to Queen of the Prairie (Fillipendula
rubra). It likes moist soil and sun. I see varying
statements of average height, ranging from 3 to 7 feet.
According to one source, the flowers can be used in dry flower
arrangements. In Summer 2005 it bloomed beautifully, and in
Spring 2006 it looks very vigorous, with about 3-4 times as many
shoots as last year. As with most of the asteraceae, you
really have to deadhead it, but other than that, it's a marvelous
native plant. [ Click
for image ]
Veronica 'Blue Reflections' [Scrophulariaceae]
Fall 2002. This creeping Veronica is only about
3-4" tall, but has spread in four years to cover a
large area. In a location with Winter sun, be sure
to mulch it so that it's not exposed to the air. We
have it in the sunniest location in the circumpolar
Viburnum Worthington? -- Highbush Cranberry. Nice
bush that grows bird attracting reddish-orange berries. They
really do taste like cranberries. It has attractive
creamy white flowers and the leaves turn a deep red-maroon in
autumn. After ten years it has become a really strong presence
in the shady corner of our garden. Old wood needs to be removed
Viola ? 'White Freckled'The bugs or slugs attack
it viciously. By mid summer, there is nothing left of it.
I'm not impressed.
Viola evilus weedus (aka Viola and V. sororia) The common garden violet is now on the list
of most unwanted weeds in my garden. It's actually less
troublesome in a lawn than in a cultivated garden. A mature
clump will drop a million seeds, and when you dig it up and then
cultivate the spot, you'll leave a good number in ideal conditions for
germination. Worse yet, the plant you dug up had a mother
"bulb" at the base of those fleshy roots that tied the whole
clump together. The following year the whole big plant will be
there again, like the mythical Hydra. If you must have these,
get the Johnny Jump Ups and Pansies, both of which are pretty hardy
here in certain situations. To eradicate large violets, I strongly
suggest digging up the top 4" of soil and screening it to remove
the rhizomes and bulbs, or whatever the hell keeps this nasty thing
alive. Herbicides are not very effective on mature plants because the
"mother" resides about 4-6" beneath the ground.
Chemicals and ambitious hand weeding usually only get the upper part
of the plant. It will be back the next year as if you had done
nothing. They like acidic soil, so it is believed by lawn
fanatics that lime applications help control its spread. I don't
think it matters. The trick is having healthy grass to suppress
Annual Flowers and Tender Perennials (recommended by Darren and
French Lavender--a saw tooth lavender with a paler green
leaf and much more vigorous growth and pleasant aroma. Even if you
plant them new every year, they will out perform a mature clump
of English Lavender.
Impatiens--the ordinary red variety are easy, and
are effective in attracting hummingbirds.
Moss Roses: easy, cheap. Sometimes reseeds and survives
Salpiglosis: beautiful, big flowers on a medium
sized stem. New species for us in 2001. No problems.
Aside from a slew of sites I have linked throughout here for
images and more info (too many to list!)...
Deborah Kellaway, Clematis
and the Ranunculaceae This wonderful book will teach
you about this remarkable family of flowers at the same time that
it teaches you to see and write about your garden.
Diane Benson, Dirt:
The Lowdown on Growing a Garden with Style. This humorous,
opinionated book is full of wisdom, even if she has the aristocratic
snobbishness of Martha Stewart. Fortunately, she is much
more humorous and a bit more twisted than the pop culture jailbird maven
Illustrated Encyclopedia of Perennials
Reader's Digest Illustrated Guide to Gardening ISBN 0-89577-046-6
It gives much more detailed instructions for cultivation and propagation.
Excellent resource for shrubs, annuals, house plants, bulbs, vines....
You wouldn't expect such quality from these folks who do for literature
what McDonalds does for potatoes.
National Audobon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers--Eastern
Francesca Consolino & Enrico Banfi, Simon
& Schuster's Guide to Climbing Plants
and of course, the excellent resources at Dave's
I also use lots of resources from the Internet. Links to
relevant information are provided in the text of this document.
Plant family names are not universal. Here is
a good cross list of the different classifications of plants by
PBIO 250 Lecture notes
Twin Cities Nurseries
These are not advertisements. These are personal endorsements
and reviews. I am focusing on the East side of the
Metro Area. Minneapolis residents already know the virtues and
weaknesses of Bachman's, Lyndale Garden Center, and the rest.
Rice Creek Gardens
Way the hell out North of Blaine, but well worth the drive.
They are probably one of the most expensive nurseries in town, but
they have an amazing selection of unique plants. They also
have enough land to set up lots of different display gardens so
you can see the full grown plants doing their thing together.
It takes at least four hours to comb the display gardens and then
browse carefully through their plants. They never have sales
and they don't get their plants out until a bit late in the season.
However, since most of it overwinters on the ground outdoors, they
aren't artificially accelerated (don't you hate buying a delphinium
in full bloom in May?) That also means that their plants survive
Minnesota winters without difficulty. They have some specialties
at which I think they excel: alpine perennials and teeny weeny
evergreens. They have produced impressive stone
landscaping for beautiful rock gardens done as they're supposed
to be. They were behind the rock garden on the North end of
Lake Harriet. They breed their own varieties of Day Lilies
and Hostas, so they have the biggest variety of both in the area.
If you want a really special specimen that you can't find at Bachman's,
go here. They also have an astounding collection of exotic
evergreens for those who are adventurous enough to put in a weeping
Fir instead of a Juniper, Hemlock or Arborvitae. We don't
spend as much money here as other places, but we almost never get
through a Summer without making a couple of trips there for five
to ten unusual plants. The owner is a fascinating treasure
trove of horticultural wisdom.
Linder's Garden Center: They have everything you need, from potting
soil to pots, to perennials. The perennial collection is respectable,
but not outstanding. Volume over variety seems to be the goal
here. They specialize in annuals, water garden supplies and
plants, as well as bulbs and seeds. They have been really
improving their Spring bulb collection. They had three different
Fritillaria species last year. I haven't seen that anywhere
else in town. They also stock a lot of
seeds. They are affordable for most things. They
are also pretty close to us. Because they are a great one-stop
shop, we buy the majority of our supplies and plants here.
Their annuals are uninteresting, but they have good prices and lots
of them. If you need petunias, mums, impatiens, lobelia, begonias,
snapdragons...in the common colors, this is the place to go.
If you have gardening questions, or need guidance of any kind, don't
expect much help here--it's about like trying to get a clerk to
help you at Target or Home Depot. I like their professional
potting mix and their bark compost.
Leitner's Garden Center: Parking can be a problem at this place,
though they did expand their lot a bit. We have purchased
many things there. Their selection is impressive for a small
shop. If we don't go to Linder's, we go here. Usually
their annuals are more interesting than Linder's. Their perennial
selection is better than Linder's too. They cram a lot of
stuff into their small space. If they're at all busy, you'll
have to park 1/2 block away on the street. It's best not to
go here at peak garden shopping hours. Besides the surprisingly
broad selection of interesting plants, they are also well staffed
for answering questions--something that Linders fails at miserably.
Leitner's is a very friendly place. The weakness is definitely
in the gardening accessory and fertilizer area. They have
very little space for this, so they have high prices on hoses and
sprinklers. Nothing organic. Just Scott's and Miracle
Grow... BUT, they had the best real pine bark mulch
in town for the 2002 season. That stuff is beautiful.
Highland Nursery Garden Center: This wonderful little shop has an
amazing and extensive collection of perennials, shrubs and
trees. They also have one of the best selections of decorations
for the garden--at least in terms of aesthetic value. Linders
has many things, but they cater to a more popular taste.
Highland obviously is marketing to a more discriminating clientele.
This place is really amazing, so you should go check it out.
However, since the building itself is small, they put almost no effort
into stocking tools, fertilizers or other gardening accessories.
I don't find their annual selection to be outstanding either. If
you want an exotic shrub, or perennial, a statue or a pretty wrought
iron fence to edge a bed, this is the place to go. I think
their prices on plants are reasonable, but much of the artistic lawn
ornaments are expensive. It's somewhat like the big Bachman's in
Minneapolis, but much smaller in scale. No coffee shop or
Odds and Ends
I was ego-googling
the other day for this page--which is actually ranked pretty high
for a non-commercial, unprofessional web page. On the day I did
it, there were about 89 hits dehydrated to 2 pages. The first
two links were on this site, of course. The rest were all
plagiarized from some indeterminate source. Each of them
provided the same appraisal and review of my site. Since it's a
reasonable description, and the writer obviously did read a
significant part of the site I quote it:
Describes a garden in Minnesota along with an extensive list of the plants that grow there and gardening how-to tips. Emphasis on Ranunculaceae (thalictrum & aconitum). Numerous links to images and other resources.
The fact that roughly 87 websites contain the exact same statement
is slightly uncanny. But, the strangest thing for me was seeing
what kinds of pages could be so obviously automatically generated to
contain that text. This really showed to me how weirdly
cannibalistic and parasitic the web is. No doubt there are
robots that comb through site ranking lists, then snatch links to draw
unwary surfers in for spyware installation, or some such
Here are a collection of my favorite weird links to this
page. In most cases, you'll need to do a page search (Ctrl-F)
for the word "Darren's".
A Pet in Ireland
Health--Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Ar
Florist Choice @ Flowersources.com (Don't just search. search a
lot!) This page is shockingly ironic. I don't sell
plants, and Heuchera's are only briefly mentioned, and not especially
enthusiastically, yet I am one of only five links, all four of the
others being exceptionally "weak links" that weren't
searched well at all. The same folks also have me listed on
Balance Stability Running Shoes.
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