New Plants For Better Design

The reasons new plants get added to the wish list here at the Fairegarden are many and varied. Books, magazines, blogs and garden visiting all prime the pump of a collector’s vision. There are specific criteria now, unlike the beginning of gardening for an oh so eager consumer. In those early years, it was all about flowers, colors, instant gratification. (Shown above: Oriental Lilium ‘Excelsior’. I thought this would be more pink, but it is incredibly fragrant and beautiful as is. It came from the very highly regarded Old House Gardens.)

Now there is more understanding about what makes a plant worthy to be added to an already overflowing zoo. Living in zone 7a, there are many plants that can survive here, but recent years have seen changes in the amount of yearly rainfall normal for our area. Xeric is now a necessary attribute on this fast draining, steeply sloping property. But winters are wet, whether from rain or snow and plants must be able to put up with those conditions, as well. (Shown above: Galtonia regalis single flower. Ordered last fall from Annie’s Annuals, two out of three plants survived the wet winter here.)

Winter dreaming and scheming finds plants mail ordered to satifsy the hunger for something new, something that will be just the ticket to make the garden perfect. Or so one thinks at the time. Fall planted bulbs are a favorite way to add yet more variety, for they don’t need to be obsessively watered to become established. (Shown above: Galtonia regalis whole flower stalk. I am not sure why the stem is not straight, perhaps too much shade?)

A quest to add more native plants, and learning what those are, gives an excuse to buy even more. If there is a crop failure, or a bed renewed, native books and lists are scanned to see if anything native seems appropriate for the light and moisture conditions. Height, bloom time, evergreen or deciduous all are figured in to the decisions. (Shown above: Lilium excelsior and Galtonia regalis planted together in the Black Garden to replace a rose that had been moved.)

Sometimes a new (to us) genus is discovered and several species are searched out and tried out to see if they will be good contributors to the garden. Such was the case with the Sanguisorbas. This genus was listed in the Piet Oudolf book, Designing With Plants, then seen in person in Chicago at the Oudolf designed Lurie Garden in Millennium Park in the form of Sanguisorba menziesii. We loved those little round button blooms and the statuesque form of the plant. Locally, the herb salad burnet, Sanguisorba officinalis, was purchased from Mouse Creek Nursery. The blooms were less than satisfactory, although the foliage was evergreen. Finally, S. menziesii was tracked down and ordered from Arrowhead Alpines. Also listed was the smaller Sanguisorba ‘Tanna’, and into the shopping cart it went. The menziesii has been moved several times and seems to be struggling in the climate here. (Shown above: Sanguisorba officinalis ‘Tanna’ exceeding expectations in its third year here. Pink Penta in the background.)

Also seen in the Designing With Plants book were tall Astilbes used en masse to astounding effect. Astibles should not do well on this dry slope, but they do well enough to please me, so again the search was on. Astilbe chinensis ‘Purpurkenze’ was found last year at the Garden Blogger Fling in Buffalo, New York at wonderful Lockwood Nursery. It was brought onto the plane with no strip search of the pot, but plenty of compliments of “Nice flower”. (Shown above: Astilbe chinensis ‘Purpurkenze’ in the Black Garden. It was divided into as many pieces as humanly possible this spring, in hopes of the mass swath sooner.)

Verbena hastata was included in the Piet book mentioned above, as well. (Do you see a trend here?) In the effort to transform this yard into a near-Piet paradise, the plants he uses have been hunted down and added to the plantings whenever possible. Some have been wonderful, some have been disappointments. Seeds were the easiest way to obtain many of these species, but the results of sowing have been muy pobre (very poor). Arrowhead Alpines was the source for this Verbena, but the flower heads are so twisted, bugs devour the foliage and the plants seem to be struggling. Oh well. It is alive, and sometimes that is as good as it gets.

Clovers do well here, so when we saw this one in, wait for it, the Piet book, it seemed a good addition. It is even a native, bonus points! (Shown above: Dalea purpurea, common name purple prairie clover.)

On occasion, we will give a plant a try when the odds of meeting its needs are low, even lower than low, such as when it requires constant moisture. But some people are simply stubborn and will try, and try again if the desire is a burning fire in the belly to succeed. Seeing pretty pictures on blogs and in English gardening magazines of the Queen of the Prairie inspired the purchase last year of one plant at nearby Mouse Creek. Ruth has several greenhouses of proven perennials, grouped by sun or shade loving, and wet or dry. She warned of this plant needing the moisture and deep soil of the midwestern praire from whence it hails. A bucket under the air conditioning unit in the garage caught drips of condensation all summer that was emptied onto the Queen. A mulch of gravel helped keep her from drying out. When a redo was planned for an area of the front garden, three more Filipendula rubra were added to the dug from the gravel plant to form the tall background grouping. Fingers are crossed for them to live long and prosper.

Each year local daylily farms are visited, usually with my daughter Semi. We each buy our favorites, with intentions of sharing with each other when the plants are large enough to divide. It must be admitted that a couple of times we both had to have the same one, right that minute and failed to be frugal. But usually we can and do wait, as was the case with Orange Velvet. The size and ruffles, the profuse number of blooms and overall vigor made this a must have for me, as I waited patiently for it to grow larger in Semi’s garden. Finally, last fall, the time had arrived and a nice sized clump was shared and planted in a special place. Orange is a beloved color here, especially in the designated butterfly garden that fronts the Azalea Walk. Hemerocallis ‘Orange Velvet’ is now proudly planted there.

The reasons for adding new plants are many, but the excitement of seeing them bloom for the first time never ceases to bring girlish squeals of delight. May it always be so for you, too.


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16 Responses to New Plants For Better Design

  1. Barbara H. says:

    Oh Frances, as always you’ve given us a lovely tour of blooms along with tons of information. Thanks for your generous sharing. I’m always amazed at how much you’ve learned, and retained, about your many plants. Happy Fourth to you and your family.

    Dear Barbara, you are so sweet to say those nice things, thank you. When writing about the plants we grow, I do have to consult my journals and the internet for correct spelling and things, especially the new ones. I can’t remember everything, sad to say!

  2. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    It is true that the more mature ones garden becomes the more selective we are about plants. I dont’ think the excitement of a new plant(s) will ever wear off. I am known to dance with delight for a start given from the heart or the ‘moments’ heart’s desire to be found at the local nursery. 🙂 Have a great weekend.

    Dear Lisa, you are very wise. I hope your excitement for gardening never lessens. You too have a great weekend and holiday.

  3. I have the same book. It’ll be interesting to see how you faire (no pun intended) with a few of the species as your climate is very different to that of northern Europe. That said, many are US natives or cousins of and so on.

    By the way, I’ve just bought Noel Kingsbury’s Natural Garden Style and Designers at Home. I recommend both.

    I’ve just realised, your clover above is the same as the seed packet I’m holding in my hand as we speak, although it’s called by it’s old name petalostemon purpureum. I’ve just bought them from chiltern seeds in the UK. I’m going to sow them now and see what happens, try and over winter them in big pots and put them out next spring. They look superb and your photo spurs me on.

    Dear Rob, I think that is why some of these plants are so difficult, if impossible to find here in the US, that they are from northern Europe and not well known here. Some I have only been able to get seeds, and was unsuccessful getting germination. Good luck with Dalea. It is not exactly vigorous, but getting larger each year. It is quite pretty with ferny foliage. I have Natural GArden Style, enjoyed it. Will look for the other book, I really like his writing style and views on making a garden following nature’s ques.

  4. Elizabeth McLeod says:

    Thanks again for introducing me to a new plant…..verbena hastata….very unique. I too have “Orange Velvet” lillies and they are wonderful to behold and enjoy when they bloom. Enjoy every scent and living creature in the garden…..fairies too!

    Hi Elizabeth, I am glad to hear you have Orange Velvet, a wonder among daylilies. I am not in love with the Verbena hastata, though. Verbena bonariensis is a million times better, IMHO.

  5. ricki says:

    So true: a year without something new would be a dull year indeed. Thanks for sharing your additions, many of which are new to me, and well worth seeking out.

    Hi Ricki, thanks for stopping by. I am glad to have brought some new plants to your attention for your gardening pleasure. A year without something new would be worse than dull, it was be a tragedy! HA

  6. Beautiful, Frances. I have very weak resistance when it comes to adding new plants to the garden. I like your additions.

    Thanks Helen. I am more picky now than before, and already grow nearly everything that will grow here. That is what is so fun about discovering new genus!

  7. Lola says:

    Happy 4th to you & family. Have a great time.
    Thanks ever so much for all the beauty & information the you provide. I must try some of the ones that you told us about.

    Thanks Lola and may you and yours have a happy holiday, as well.

  8. Gail says:

    My dear, Lusciousness abounds on that magical hillside. You once again inspire me to push the envelope of growing conditions while always keeping in mind the extreme power of crossing my fingers, while hoping that they will live and maybe thrive! I might have to try QotP~she’s a beauty. xxoogail

    Thanks dear Gail. So far, the Queen is holding her own. There are new leaves popping up out of the ground already, a good sign.

  9. Wanita says:

    I love reading everything you put on here. My yard and garden are quite small, and I have crowded in all the things I love. I am doing 2 apple and 1 peach tree espalier. They are in their 2nd year and I think doing quite well. Information on what to do when letting them finally branch out would be welcome. I have one producing lavender plant so far (a Munstead) and made some of the lavender wands. Your instructions are really great. What fun, I am trying to sell them at a nice consignment shop in our area. Your pictures are wonderful, I’m following your instructions and trying for better pictures to put in my garden journal.

    Thanks Wanita, for those very kind words. I have not done an espalier, but there should be plenty of how to info online. Whatever did we do before the internet? I am glad you mastered the lavender wands, too. They are fun and can be good sellers. Better photos do make keeping records easier. Good luck!

  10. I love orange also and ordered some new ones for the front garden. I also love a lot of other colors which gets me in trouble sometimes with combinations. I am getting more and more into lilies since they take up so little space in the garden. I have Astilbe Chinesis Visions which is blooming now and just striking on the north side of my house.


    Hi Eileen, I am glad to hear someone else believes in the all colors credo! Lilies add so much with such a small footprint, lots of bang for the root. We have Astible Visions In Pink and have found it to be fabulous. Happy 4th!

  11. We have to try, don’t we? I just wish it didn’t take 1-2 years to get results!

    As you know, I’m also a Piet Oudolf fan. Just saw The Battery Gardens in NYC and am currently blogging a series on the different vignettes. Xeric is very important to me now and I just have to accept the fact that I cannot grow moisture-loving plants unless they go directly into our stream.

    Hi Freda, patience is a gardener’s requirement, no matter what, isn’t it? How fun about seeing The Battery and cool that you are writing about what you saw. I will be sure to check it out. Xeric in a region that once had the same rainfall as the Pacific Northwest is quite an adjustment for us. Will that rain ever come back, I wonder?

  12. Wonderful additions!

    I look forward to getting my hands on that book! Thanks for the high recommendation.

    Happy 4th!

    Thanks Julie. I hope you enjoy the Piet book as much as I have. It still is the go to when I am stumped about how to handle the plantings in my garden. Happy 4th to you!

  13. Alistair says:

    Great additions to your garden Frances. I have tried the Galtonia regalis on a few occasions, it is a lovely plant, however I always found that it was strong in the first year becoming weaker in subsequent years.

    Thanks Alistair, for that first hand info about the Galtonia. I do love those greenish flowers but will give it more time before deciding to add more.

  14. Holley says:

    Yes, I have a long list of “want to try”s, although I do try to research their needs before committing $. The ones that I have never seen around here, but my garden should have the right conditions for them, and they live and bloom are the ones that are the most special to me. I absolutely love the way ‘Excelsior’ looks!

    It sounds like you are following the right path to finding new plants, Holley. The plants have to be able to survive our conditions, what ever that might be. Excelsior is wonderful and so very fragrant! Happy 4th!

  15. It’s wonderful getting new plants and introducing them to the garden, isn’t it, then rushing out each morning to see how th, which means lots of seed sowingey are doing. As I get older I am getting more selective, at one time it had to be one of everything, now it is more drifts of plants that are doing really well and like the conditions in my garden. Your photographs are stunning as usual and your words just make us want to rush out and buy everything !!

    Hi Pauline, thanks for visiting and those kind words. Going out into the garden each morning is the ritual here, too. There is always something to check on. Happy 4th!

  16. Those are just beautiful blooms, Frances. I just love the first picture of your Lilium Excelsior.
    I like adding and trying new plants and flowers in my garden too. Unfortunately, in our climate I have to be very careful about what to add. If the plant sticker says “Full sun” so I have learned it hardly never means they will stand our full hot Texas sun.
    I had to learn that the hard way several times.

    Have a happy 4th of July
    Paula Jo

    Hi Paula Jo, thanks so much. Having lived in Texas, I know what you mean about the blazind sun there. Almost everything needs a little shade there, and people need a lot of shade! Happy 4th back to you!

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