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, , 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 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.