Shopping For Plants In Your Own Garden-Continued…

Inspiration, that most magical thing with feathers that starts the engine of project planning, comes when one is least expecting it. Reading and gazing at photos in print and online sometimes is the vehicle for the sweet bird of inspiration to fly inside the bubble above one’s eyebrows.

Above: Aristolochia fimbriata, white-veined Dutchman’s pipe, grown from seeds shared so generously by the inspirational Nan Ondra.

Looking out the window over the kitchen sink in August, the mass flowering is done and pink muhly grass is still only a gleam in the gardener’s eye. What is seen is a sea of green. There are wonderful textural differences, sort of, well not really wonderful for it is mostly grasses in the Fairelurie and the Lawn/Meadow. Since the creation of both of those garden beds in an area that was originally the gravel driveway of the house next door that became our garage then was traditional lawn, the vision has seemed far, far away.

Above: The aforementioned pink muhly grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris and the still a lawn, Lawn/Meadow on October 8, 2008.

Tweaking and more tweaking, planting and more adding has not revealed the jewel in waiting that is the former lawn. What we need is red in all of that verdant foliage. Red flowers in the way of tulips have been added for spring, but as every gardener knows, spring is easy. Finding that red for the months after spring has proven to be much more difficult than anticipated. There have been various annuals added, but they struggle in the dense mixture of Kentucky blue grass and tall fescue.

Crimson clover, click here for that story, was exciting earlier in the growing season. Trying to think of a tall enough to stand above the grasses, reddish leaved plant to offer more color in all that green, that can be mowed in the winter, we decided to walk around the garden for likely candidates after some budget busting pricing of mail order plants online.

This garden is twelve years old. I have an obsession with trying new plants. Some work out, some die within seconds of being planted. Anything still hanging in there after several years is eligible for the shopping cart. There is Japanese blood grass, but it is too short. There are various Heuchera ssp., but they are also too short and shouldn’t be mowed. There is Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ that has seeded all over, that might work. Then the wings of inspiration fluttered maniacally as we traipsed up the path between the Black Garden and the newly cleared Woodland Garden, trying desperately to get our attention.

Right there, completely ignored on a daily basis is the plant that will fill the need, Persicaria microcephala ‘Red Dragon’, seen above in March 2012 with Tulipa ‘Princess Irene’. This unassuming perennial had been planted as an edger, my default planting technique that needs to be stopped right now!, along the Woodland Garden. One plant purchased so long ago I have no recollection from whence it came had been divided into several to line the edge. It was too tall to use as an edger and had been added to the to do list to divide and move to the interior of the bed.

Most perennials will appreciate an occasional dividing, discarding the woody interior and replanting the younger bits. Red Dragon has not been touched for at least ten years and was long overdue for surgery, it was discovered as we began digging. Poor baby.

The clumps broke into pieces with very little effort, crying tears of gratitude for the attention of the gardener at long last. Some were planted among the hostas, ferns and blue fescue, situated to best catch the flattering light of the morning sun. The remainder was planted in the Lawn/Meadow, in groups rather than the one here, one there method that was used for the Verbena bonariensis and others that have been added.

Using plants that have passed the test of neglect, drought, heat, storms and dark of night makes perfect sense for the tightwad gardener, that’s me. Looking at every plant growing out there with the discriminating eye of a bargain hunting shopper, that’s me again, in your own garden when you need a certain size, color, sun or shade, evergreen or deciduous will pay off at the checkout counter. Happy shoppping!

Previous post on this topic:
Plant Shopping In Your Own Garden


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14 Responses to Shopping For Plants In Your Own Garden-Continued…

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Yes, this little tuffy should give you plenty of height color and an occasional bloom. It thrives here under the dreaded Ash tree without extra water or attention. It will be thrilled to grow in a meadow setting no doubt.

    Hi Lisa, it should work nicely. This plant is completely ignored here, for whatever reason. I am hoping the foliage shows more red with more sun, too, but the stems are quite red even now. The fall colors are reds, oranges and pinks. It should be perfect. Glad you have some, too. You might want to do a little shopping in your own garden this fall!

  2. Mark and Gaz says:

    We all love toughies, tried and tested plants that are so rewarding and reliable 🙂 Great shots too btw!

    Thanks Mark and Gaz. Anything that has been growing in my garden for several years must be considered a toughie. We don’t baby stuff here after the first few months, and even then it is not really babying, just a little watering.

  3. Layanee says:

    There is a fine line between tough and thug but you seem to have it well figured out. Gardening is certainly a learning process isn’t it?

    It certainly is a learning process. Funny thing about thugs, we don’t really have any. I either removed them all long ago, or what is considered a thug in some places just isn’t here in my garden.

  4. Dee says:

    Sometimes, thugs are all that will grow here, you know? Japanese blood grass is supposed to be a thug. I would say it’s just a pretty element in one part of the garden.~~Dee

    You are exactly right, Dee. The Japanese blood grass is a good, if not the best example of a plant that is a thug in some places, even listed as such in Tennessee, but that does not behave that way in my garden. It only spreads when I dig it up and spread it.

  5. sharon says:

    what zone on the amazing pink grass? lovely

    Thanks Sharon. Here is a post with all the info and more pix, it is hardy zones 7-10.
    Muhly Grass-See You In September.

  6. That pink muhly grass is absolutely stunning! I don’t know it at all and I want to imagine it comes from Never ever land, where fairies dwell and magic reigns..

    Thanks Ronelle. The link in the comment just above yours describes the pink muhly and how we grow it here. It is certainly full of fall magic!

  7. commonweeder says:

    Frances – your climate is so different from mine on a hill in western Massachusetts, but I wonder if a red bee balm would add a note that you are looking for? Or it might be too tall? I my garden I have a local variety, or at least we have a local name – Colrain Red which is a brilliant scarlet. At least three feet tall. It is a toughy.

    Hi Pat, thanks for that suggestion. We actually grow Monarda ‘Raspberry Wine’ in the Fairelurie, but it bloomed long ago and is now just green foliage. I will be adding more of it, for you are right, it is tall enough to stand above some of the other stuff. We are often more dry than it likes, but this is a lower spot in the garden, so it does okay.

  8. Gail says:

    Frances, The meadow is evolving beautifully! I’ve loved your choices and thought the crimson clover inspired. So is the persicaria! xoxogail

    Thanks Gail. The crimson clover, and the singers were fantastic! The persicaria should do well, it is a cast iron plant.

  9. You mention two that I want to put in my garden eventually. I am coming to terms, sort of, with the need to amend the soil and fix the run-off before adding a lot more plants. I do like Husker Red and Red Dragon…have lusted after them in other gardens for a good long time.

    Hi Janet, thanks for visiting. Dealing with run-off and trickle down soil erosion was a major issue in this garden early on. What we did was add large rocks, the largest my husband could safely lift, at strategic spots where heavy rain had made gulleys. That, and mass plantings, including small trees like dogwoods and small shrubs like quince, magic carpet spiraeas and blue star junipers help hold the soil. Now every inch has plants, and there is no erosion, even in the hardest rains. Red dragon and the huskers, which will seed all over the place are both excellent.

    • We have the rocks, just got them this week. Maybe tomorrow we will start adding them to the areas where there is the runoff. There is a plant sale in late September where I can get a lot of plant material to fill in around the rocks. I was thinking of some ornamental grasses. (Stipa) thanks for the suggestions of other plant material.

      Good deal, Janet! I am so excited for you! The plant sale sound terrific, too. I love the look of grasses and rocks.

  10. Rose says:

    Looks like you have found the perfect fit for your meadow, Frances–those red stems of the persicaria make a striking accent in all that green.
    Glad to know I’m not the only one who plants perennials as edgers when I can’t find or decide on a better spot:)

    Thanks Rose. The Persicarias have already settled in and put new growth out. It is so much better to have larger clusters of them, easier to notice. That edging thing, I have been doing it forever! HA

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