Saturday, August 20, 2011

8.19 Best New Plant of 2011





Some changes this year. Best pick of 2011 in the new plants category: The purple verbena in the so-called “purple room” of the garden. The leaves have a purplish tint and the tufted blossoms are filled with tiny purple florets. It was good for months and got really good in August. Constant color, very cheering. We’ll need to find it again next year, because the plant insists on being an annual.
I transplanted some zinnias into this area too, to fill in. They’ve blossomed, but I’m still hoping they’ll produce some new buds before the first flower fades and dries up. Also new in the purple room we planted another dark, purple-tinged leaf plant called a “beard tongue dark towers” Penstemon hybrid. That’s a lot of name. It showed some nice violet blossoms, but the flower stalks did not produce any new ones after these faded. And no new stalks either.
Two first-year red blue star Amsonias, acquired from different places, planted across a brick walk from each other in the purple neighborhood. Same story. Initial wave of buds, nice color, but no follow-up despite dead-heading. Have to learn the ways of these new residents.
In the rear of the purple room, where the purple theme stops and give sway to plants like stonecrop sedum and the ornamental lilies which blaze in July and attract a horde of bright red beetles, we planted a largish “summer snowflake” Viburnum, based on its reputation. The round, healthy shrub was purchased by a birthday gift certificate and planted in a spot where Anne had cleared out a thick patch of northern sea oats (which she doesn’t like). Given some bare ground, I dug a hole and sank the big new shrub, which positively hated July and displayed its displeasure by allowing leaves to wilt and turning its white blooms brown.
You’re supposed to get blooms all season – and scent – from this variety. Not this year. Is this one of those plants which earned high marks in a milder, more even-tempered climate? I hope it does not require, as we say these days, “high maintenance.” This is New England, we do a lot of “sink or swim” gardening here.
At the end of the brick path in this direction – kind of a spoke sticking out from the circumference of the tree circle (is there a name for this pattern?) and going as far as it can until it runs into the neighbor’s fence – I piled a few leftover blue granite paving stones in a sort of representative diorama of a stone wall. The stones are heavy; they stay put. I use them as staging for a rock garden motif, but it’s a challenge to keep enough dirt between and beneath the stones to keep “alpine” rock garden plants alive. We have an Iberis (white flowers in spring); a stonecrop, growing fat, a “Hardy” companion to the slender Stan Laurel iberis. This year I planted some white-flowering plants that have largely done the job, staying alive all summer through damp times and dry ones. One is opal innocence, which we’ve had elsewhere in the past, one a copa (actually “Bacopa”). And the catch is – once again – they’re annuals.
Across the brick walk from the purple room is a planting bed I call the “peony room” because the peonies are the biggest plants on that side. It’s colorless at this time of year, and I notice that one of the green groundcovers has run right over the top of another low green groundcover, a small-leaf euonymus, a plant whose tiny, dark-striped leaves are attractive all season. I don’t want it covered over; and I do want more color. The solution: dig up some of the other spring-blooming groundcover and replace it with – yet again – more annuals.
I set to work, the sunny sky clouds over, and in less than three minutes it’s showering hard. I’ll be working in wet ground (good for transplanting) later today.
The moral I guess, is that you have to keep trying new combinations and learning from experience. Which, I also guess (or perhaps conclude), is like any other activity, anything else in life, worth doing.