Color Echoes: Variegated Dwarf Weigela and Clifford Moor Red Catchfly

Variegated-Weigela-with-Silene-Clifford-Moor.jpgVariegated Weigela with Silene 'Clifford Moor' These two plants are easy to grow and take little care to look their best. Variegated Dwarf Weigela, Weigela florida ‘Variegata Nana’, is a sturdy shrub to about 4′ tall and wide. It loses its leaves in winter, but comes back with fresh growth and masses of flowers each spring. Clifford Moor Red Catchfly, Silene ‘Clifford Moor’, is a softly-textured perennial with a clump of foliage that reaches about 1 foot tall and 2 feet around. The airy flowering stems are held a foot above the foliage, and it blooms off and on spring through fall. The basal clump of foliage is evergreen in my Zone 9 climate. Both plants were photographed on the same day in early May, and they both share a lovely golden variegation, soft texture and similar shape to their leaves, and both flower pink in spring. Full sun to partial shade will make both plants happy. If you’re looking to add a feeling of continuity to your garden by using repetition, but don’t want to use too many of the exact same plant, consider using this concept of color echoes to find plant combinations that will give the feeling of repeated themes, without actual repetition.

Plants to Love: Rainbow Drooping Leucothoe (Leucothoe fontanesiana ‘Rainbow’)

LeocothoeRainbow.jpgI know you’re wondering, so let’s get this out of the way: it’s loo-kow-thow-ee. You only have to say the name once though, when you’re looking for it at the nursery, and then you can call it anything you like. “That gorgeous variegated thing” is what most people call it. Andrew of Garden Smackdown suggests “Lew”. Whatever. It’s low-maintenance, very deer-resistant, and seems to be happy in a wide range of light conditions from full sun to shade as long as it’s given regular water, acid soil, and a thick layer of mulch to keep its roots cool. [Read more...]

Plants to Love: Snowmound Spirea (Spirea x nipponica ‘Snowmound’)

SpireaSnowmound.jpg‘Snowmound’ Spirea (USDA Zones 4-9) is a lovely thing, with deep green leaves, reddish stems, a graceful arching habit and rounded form. It loses its leaves, but doesn’t make a mess about it, and the white flowers in spring make you forget that you missed it all winter. ‘ Snowmound’ needs full sun to do its best, but is otherwise fairly unfussy, getting to 5’ or more in time without pruning (I usually keep mine pruned to about 4.5’ with great results). The deer seem to leave it alone, but deer vary everywhere, so plant with caution. After it blooms, it shoots out with a lot of new foliage growth that doesn’t really do much for me (it’s kind of a messy shape), so I cut the biggest stems out in June or so to keep the plant from getting to an unruly size. If the plant’s still larger than I’d like, I selectively prune out a few older branches throughout the shrub, taking the stems down beneath the rest of the foliage so you can’t see any cut stems. Those cut stems will often regenerate with fresh new growth. I like ‘Snowmound’ with Hebe ‘Wiri Blush’, Loropetalum ‘Razzleberri’, and other dignified plants that have a neat habit and some showy color. Spirea ‘Snowmound’ has a very similar tone of foliage to Chondropetalum tectorum, the evergreen Cape Rush, so they look good within the same garden areas to repeat the color but bring a different shape to things. [print_link]

Plants to Love: New Zealand Wind Grass (Stipa arundinacea/ Anemanthele lessoniana)

Anemanthele-lessoniana.jpgAnemanthele lessoniana New Zealand Wind Grass is a stunning low-maintenance grass that keeps its glowing orange foliage all winter long. I occasionally have to prune out some dead bits here or there, which I do by grasping a small clump of dead foliage and cutting it out at the base so you don’t notice it’s been pruned. Anemanthele lessoniana gets to 4’ around and 3’ tall, and will take even the worst seacoast wind. It’s also deer-resistant. It colors up all bronzey-orange in full sun, but is an attractive green grass in part shade as well. They’re gorgeous for highlighting any kind of green foliage, and I think they look great with plants that have purple flowers like Tibouchina/ Princess Flower or Salvia leucantha/ Mexican Bush Sage. [print_link]

Plants to Love: Rozanne Hardy Cranesbill (Geranium ‘Rozanne’)

GeraniumRozanne.jpgGeranium ‘Rozanne’ (USDA Zones 4/5-9) is a lovely tumbling plant that gets between 4 and 5’ around, and about 2’ tall. She’s been the darling of the landscape designer crowd since being introduced a few years back, and even though we all plant her all the time, we’re sticking our fingers in our ears and going “LA-LA-LA” whenever a whisper of her being over-used comes up. She’s only over-used once we’re tired of her, and we are not. She loves full sun and is somewhat deer-resistant, though not reliably so. ‘Rozanne’ even tolerates strong seacoast wind without looking shabby. If you put ‘Rozanne’ in a part shade spot, she’ll still grow and bloom nicely, but she may get a bit leggy and sprawl out more. She does go dormant, so I often plant her with evergreen plants so she doesn’t leave too big of a hole in the winter garden. I like her with ornamental grasses like the Acorus ‘Ogon’/ Golden Sweet Flag grass above. She also harmonizes nicely with Roses, Rhododendrons, and Heathers. Learn how to prune Geranium ‘Rozanne’ here (link to video). I gently lift one side of the plant up and trim out some of the longest stems that are flopping on the ground either back to a side shoot or all the way back, making sure my pruning cuts are hidden by the rest of the foliage, and work my way around the base of the plant to even it up. This helps to reduce size or get the plant out of a pathway if needed, because usually the longest stems are the ones sitting on the ground. After you prune, the goal is to have the plant smaller, but not see any visible sign that you pruned it – no cut stems or bare patches. Want to join in the Rozanne lovefest? Check out Susan Morrison’s post about her here. [print_link]

Plants to Love: Neon Flash Spirea (Spirea ‘Neon Flash’)

SpireaNeonFlash.jpgSpirea ‘Neon Flash’ (USDA Zones 4-9) is a Bright! Magenta! Pink! flowering shrub to about 4’ tall, which loves full sun and blooms off and on throughout the summer. It does lose its leaves in winter and gets a bit of reddish-yellow fall color, but the fall color isn’t anything to rave about. I love the fine texture of the leaves, the neat, compact habit, and the Bright! Pink! flowers. This is an easy Spirea to care for so long as it has reasonably good drainage, an application of organic fertilizer in spring and regular water. It can sometimes get a bit of powdery mildew around the blooms if it is unhappy, but overall it is a sturdy, easy-care plant that gives a lot more back than it asks from us. I make sure to deadhead it promptly to encourage rebloom, and sometimes I’ll get three blooms in one season from it – a good six months of color. If you’re keeping up with things often, just prune out the individual flowerheads as they go brown and leave the new buds to bloom. If you’re a more casual gardener, just wait until the whole thing is done blooming, then cut the entire flowering stem down into the rest of the foliage so you don’t notice the cut stems. It will rebloom for you soon! Deer-resistant but not 100% deer-proof, I love this Spirea with Hebes, Salvia leucantha/ Mexican Bush Sage, ornamental grasses, and that wild tropical-looking Alstroemeria ‘Third Harmonic’ shown in the photo. [print_link]

Plants to Love: White Parahebe (Parahebe linifolia)

ParahebelinifoliawithHeucheraCrimsonCurls.jpgParahebe linifolia with Heuchera 'Crimson Curls' White Parahebe (USDA Zones 8-11) deserves to be one of those plants like Geranium ‘Rozanne'; a plant that’s totally overused but nobody’s actually sick of because it is so ridiculously charming. It has deep green, glossy foliage that’s evergreen and very attractive, its delicate white blooms are lacy yet sturdy and incredibly profuse – and the plant simply goes with everything. You name me a plant that doesn’t look nice next to this Parahebe and I’ll name you a plant that I don’t want in my garden. [Read more...]

Plants to Love: Purple Pixie Hebe (Hebe ‘Mohawk’ or ‘Purple Pixie’)

HebePurplePixieorMohawk.jpgHebe 'Purple Pixie' or 'Mohawk' This Hebe is a lovely little evergreen thing which gets to about 3’ around and blooms off and on a good part of the year. It takes shearing well and usually comes back well from hard pruning during the growing season, though I try to avoid pruning into the wood if I can avoid it. [Read more...]

Plants to Love: Fragrant Sweet Box (Sarcococca ruscifolia)

Sarcococcaruscifolia.jpgSarcococca ruscifolia This unassuming little shade shrub is one that people often don’t notice at first. There’s nothing particularly showy about its graceful arching stems, deep green leaves, or the tiny white flowers that hang from its branches in winter. But when those small blooms open, people walk around sniffing all the big, showy flowers in the area, wondering where that glorious fragrance is coming from! After the flowers, Fragrant Sweet Box begins creating pretty little red berries which hang prettily off each stem. The red berries soon turn to black, and the shrub creates a gentle show for months on end. [Read more...]