The Rest of my Plant Order

– Posted in: Acquisitions

This is a continuation of the post started on May 4th.
Over the past couple of days it’s dawned on me that my plant acquiring habits have changed. When I started out gardening, I drew a map of my first bed to scale and decided on a color scheme. Then I looked through the catalogs and books at my disposal and picked out plants to fill the space. Then I bought them in three’s and sixes from Bluestone Perennials. Let me say right out front that there is nothing wrong with this approach, and I continue to recommend Bluestone to anyone who is just getting started gardening with perennials.

Nowadays I am much more likely to fall in love with a plant and then figure out where to put it. Said plant will be from a specialty nursery, the only one of its kind, choice, rare, etc. etc. and therefore quite pricey, so that, far from buying multiples, I agonize over buying just one. This is a reflection of where I am in my gardening life. I am not making new beds; in fact I struggle to maintain the ones I’ve already created. I’ve already got color schemes, some of which I’ve tired of. I’ve killed my share of plants, and even gotten rid of a very few that just didn’t suit me, which is about the only way I can justify buying more. The last garden bed I did make, I was more concerned about improving the soil as much as possible than what I would plant there. I knew I could fill the space easily by dividing what I already had, if nothing else turned up (which of course it did).

Having said all that, here is the rest of my order from Seneca Hill. (I haven’t personally taken photos of any of these plants, so you’ll have to go to the website to see pics.) I have always wanted to try growing cyclamen, and I took owner Ellen Hornig’s word for it that Cyclamen purpurascens is the hardiest species of the ones she offers. I am going to plant this in the ell of the house which, rightly or wrongly, I regard as having a warmer and more protected micro-climate. If it multiplies for me there, I will probably move some to the north and east of the house, and then try Cyclamen hederifolium, the second hardiest species. Stewartia pseudocamellia is another one I have been wanting for a long time, but I have been well aware that it would be a gamble in my climate. The one year old seedling from Seneca Hill makes it easier to take that gamble, as it is priced about the same as a perennial. I want to use it as a continuation of the lilac hedge that screens our favorite recreational lawn from the road. The seedling of Styrax obassia that I ordered is reputed to be from a very hardy genotype. Like the Stewartia, it is also a reasonably priced seedling which makes me more willing to take a chance. It wants a partly shady, moist site, and the perfect place for it is the bed I made expressly for the Cornus alternifolia ‘Argentea’ I purchased a few years ago from Roslyn Nursery–which has since died. (Now that was an expensive plant.) I am considering getting some form of tree shelter for these two trees to help them along, but I’m not sure where I can buy a mere two shelters without being charged a premium price for not buying in bulk.

A long-term goal of mine is to build up in the wilder parts of our property populations of ornamental plants known to be native to our area. At one time in the past virtually our entire 14 acres was cleared of forest and turned to pasture. As the fortunes of dairy farmers in this state declined, the forest has gradually reclaimed most of the cleared land–but it is a very different forest. Younger, of course, than a northeastern climax forest, and containing many alien and invasive species. After losing a good half dozen hepaticas (to voles, I think) that I planted straight into “the wild,” I now try to baby my natives in the shady north bed, and then move the extras on to the tougher real world. Yes, I have voles in my garden bed, and chickens, too, on occasion, but in all the soil is more fertile and humusy and the plant competition is less fierce. So, my native plant acquisition for this year is Delphinium tricorne. It likes a moist to wet spot of which the Secret Garden has many. (The Secret Garden is the woods/hedgerow closest to the house. It’s a story in itself.) God willing, this perennial Dwarf Larkspur will multiply and eventually grace the Secret Garden. I have to confess that my first two choices, the pale pink Dutchman’s breeches and the semi-double Anemonella thalictroides, were both sold out, and that is how the native delphinium came to have a home here. And last but not least, we have Iris laevigata ‘Variegata.’ This plant is as much a souvenir as a garden subject, since Ellen Hornig got her original plant from Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd of North Hill, whose garden I visited and whose books I love. She carries a few other plants from this same source, which I have so far resisted buying, as I had no other reason for getting them except that they were North Hill plants. This one will go in the northeast bed, playing off the variegation of the bulbous oat grass and the hostas growing there. And if it multiplies well, I have several soggy spots I can place it in.

So, did I dash out and plant all these treasures the moment they arrived? Not on your life! They were all to the greenhouse born, unaccustomed to the vagaries of a cold climate. As a matter of fact, the first night they were here it dropped to 22 degrees F. I am giving them a week in the shelter of the porch, where they mostly have to adjust to moving air, and then I will gradually harden them off and plant them as their allotted spaces are (ahem!) weeded and perhaps amended. I just might have to pot some of them on until their permanent homes are ready.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

Now, the digging and dividing of perennials, the general autumn cleanup and the planting of spring bulbs are all an act of faith. One carries on before the altar of delayed gratification, until the ground freezes and you can’t do any more other than refill the bird feeder and gaze through the window, waiting for the snow. . . . Meanwhile, it helps to think of yourself as a pear tree or a tulip. You will blossom spectacularly in the spring, but only after the required period of chilling.

~Adrian Higgins in The Washington Post, November 6, 2013

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