Thursday, April 25, 2013

New Arrivals from Gardens in the Wood

Water beading on Alchemilla mollis (Lady's Mantle).  You can see why alchemists thought water collected from this plant had extra purity and magical properties. Photo by RayMorris1

I've been adding an awful lot of perennials to the garden this spring, and the arrival of a couple of boxes of plants from Gardens in the Wood of Grassy Creek (GITWOGC) concludes this spring's buying spree.

(I have still some seeds to sow, but those are all annuals, though some of them - like Cosmos - will hopefully return from year to year through self-sowing.)

Here are the plants I ordered from GITWOGC:

- Alchemilla mollis, Lady's Mantle, hoping to use this as a groundcover in a morning-sun, afternoon-shade sort of spot. This plant has a really interesting history in terms of the magical properties ascribed to the water that collects on Alchemilla's leaves after a rain or from the morning dew. Some sources say the root and young leaves are edible, but I have not tried it myself. The plant, which is actually in the Rose family, is supposed to self-sow vigorously.

- Aquilegia canadensis and Aquilegia vulgaris, Columbines - A. canadensis is a North American native, whereas A. vulgaris is native to Europe. Both are supposed to self sow.

- Dianthus barbatus "Heart Attack" - Despite its name, the "Heart Attack" variety of Sweet William reportedly lives longer than most Dianthus varieties. Many Dianthus are known for behaving like biennials, but some online reviewers report "Heart Attack" living for more than 15 years.

Helianthus microcephalus, Small-headed Sunflower, "Lemon Queen". This is a perennial sunflower and native to the Southeast, including Tennessee. Photo by Sericea.

- Helianthus microcephalus, Small-headed Sunflower, "Lemon Queen" - It doesn't look like much at the moment, but this plant is supposed to grow 5-8 feet tall and have flowers from late summer to early autumn. I believe the birds are supposed to enjoy the seeds quite a bit. Hopefully the bees and butterflies will like the flowers too. The Small-headed Sunflower is native to Tennessee and is reportedly drought tolerant.

- Penstemon digitalis "Husker's Red" - Native to much of the U.S. (including Tennessee), "Husker's Red" is supposed to be a good plant for attracting bees, butterflies and birds. Although it is drought tolerant, I believe it prefers a well-drained soil, so I'm not sure how it will perform on our heavy clay, but it is supposed to self-sow prolifically so hopefully I will have volunteers even if I lose the original plants.

- Penstemon strictus -Various online sources call this one of the easiest penstemons to grow. Supposedly it is very drought tolerant and also able to draw a crowd of bees and hummingbirds.

- Sedum tectractinum, Chinese Stonecrop - So I've been going a little nuts lately with adding sedums to the garden, but this one sounded too good to pass up. I've got a sunny, bare, windy area by one of the corners of the house. I'll probably plant some seeds there for zinnias and cosmos soon, but I'd also love to have more tough perennials holding down the fort there. Sedum tectractinum sounds like it should fit the bill. Hardy to at least zone 5 (maybe as far as zone 3) and evergreen with a groundcover habit growing to only 4-inches tall and spreading to more than 12-inches in diameter. A drought-tolerant full sun groundcover that can be easily propagated through division in springtime? Sounds too good to be true.

- Verbascum phoeniceum. Mullein, "Violetta" - I'm totally enamored with the photos of the flowers that I've seen on this plant online. Hardy to zone 5 and drought resistant, Verbascums have a reputation for self-sowing vigorously.

Vernonia noveboracensis, Ironweed, another native plant that is supposedly beloved by bees and butterflies. Photo by Gordilly.

- Vernonia noveboracensis, Ironweed - Here's another plant that is native to much of the Eastern U.S., including Tennessee. Hardy to zone 4 and tolerant of full sun, drought, heat and humidity? That's the reputation of this plant that is supposed to be long-lived and tough as a weed. Still, it's got its tender side too -- Ironweed is reportedly a magnet for bees and butterflies.