Friday, February 17, 2012

Tough Plants for an Easy Garden

I recently read an article that described a plant I've grown for years as obscure, unappreciated, and hard to find. Purchased locally and added to my garden years ago, stachys hummelo has been a stalwart performer since I plopped it into the ground. While I wasn't sure I agreed with the author, the article made me wonder what else I grow that could be considered unusual or obscure. Considering my unwillingness to pay big bucks for plants, the list is probably rather short. Listed below are plants I love that I often don't see in other gardens. I hyper linked their names to the nurseries where I bought them.


I completely redesigned the bed my stachys hummelo grows in. But they were so happy, I left them alone.



Bowman's Root with blue amsonia and epimediums


After the Bowman's root is done blooming, I cut it back by half to thicken it up.

Native to the east coast, Bowman's Root thrives in dry partial shade, and grows to 3 feet tall. White starry flowers open in late spring, while the serrated foliage makes an excellent background for summer bloomers. It's one of the toughest and easiest to grow plants in my garden. It doesn't attract wildlife, but it does attract me, and sometimes that's good enough.


Royal Catchfly (Silene regia)


Silene regia with trumpet lilies and heliopsis


Silene regia is a beautiful, easy plant to grow. With a native range from Florida to Illinois, it's adapted well to my zone 7A northern Virginia garden. The first year after planting, it spent all summer shaded by neighboring perennials and didn't do much. But after a bit of rearranging to give it more light, it took off. It's a true hummingbird magnet, which is why I planted it. They grow 3 to 4 ft tall.

Persian Cornflower (Centaurea dealbata) Purchased locally


I love the feathery flowers.


Part of this bed was also redesigned and the cornflowers were moved to a sunnier spot. This picture was taken in late spring before the crepe myrtle had leafed out completely.

My first introduction to Persian Cornflower was outside a grocery store in upstate NY. Sold in small square pots for $4 a piece, I designed and filled my front garden based on their weekly offerings. It sails through my hot, humid summers as effortlessly as it survived long, snowy winters. It likes moist, well draining soil, which seems like such an oxymoronic requirement. Very few places in my garden meet those standards but regardless of where I plant it, it grows.

Bush Honeysuckle  (Diervilla lonicera) 
I purchased my diervilla from Prairie Moon but they're sold out so I linked this to Bluestone Perennials.




This summer will only be the second summer I've had bush honeysuckle in the garden, but I'm already in love with it. It takes dry shade, clay soil, and is tough as nails. In late spring pale yellow honeysuckle shaped flowers bloom at the end of the branches, nourishing butterflies and hummingbirds alike. Diervilla lonicera is native from Georigia through the northeast and mid-Atlantic and grows to 3 ft tall.

Georgia Bush Honeysuckle (Diervilla rivularis)


Diervilla rivularis is just like diervilla lonicera, except it's a lot bigger. Mine is still just a stick, but it's a tough little stick that was covered in dark green foliage all summer. Both types of diervilla develop fall color.

What plants do you grow in your garden that I might not have heard of? I'd love to know!

26 comments:

  1. You've got a nice assortment of obscurity ;) Not much of anything obscure in my garden. At this point the criteria for planting is it must be tough as nails and drought tolerant. I just heard yesterday that Lake Travis is 36% full. The rain is falling right now though...yeah, for answered prayers. Have a great weekend!

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  2. Zrobiłeś zmiany w ogrodzie i z pewnością dobre dal kwiatów. "Gwiazdki" na płocie saą śliczne. Pozdrawiam.*** You have made changes in the garden of good and certainly gave the flowers. "Stars" on the fence Saa beautiful. Yours.

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  3. I bought Silene virginica at a native plant sale last spring. We had it in the Learning Garden in VA. Hope mine is as happy as its cousin in your garden.
    Will have to read up on the two bush honeysuckles, I have lots of room to fill.
    Great post.

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  4. I'm going to have to try some of these. I have two species of Amsonia (tabernaemontana and huchrichtii) but none of the other plants you posted about. Bowman's Root is one I've wanted to try for a while and I'd love to try to keep some Fire Pink going too. Both are so striking.

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  5. That was a fun tour of some interesting plants. I have to say I’ve never seen any of those lovelies before. That’s the fun of garden blogs, seeing what other folks have growing. Thanks for sharing all those plants!

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  6. I've bought three centaureas this year. Looking forward to seeing them in flower. I don't recognise any of your other plants though. I like to see something different.

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  7. I'm not sure if it's the difference in our garden zones or if I'm just so inexperienced but I haven't heard of a single one of these plants! Thanks for the introduction though. At this point in the early stages of my garden so much of what I have are common plants that I have gotten from others so I can't imagine there's a plant there that others wouldn't know.

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  8. All of these look unusual to me. I love the Persian Cornflower especially, a really lovely plant.

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  9. I doubt that there are any you have not heard of in my small garden. Galium Odoratum, or Sweet Woodruff is one many up here do not know. I like your combinations too.

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  10. Thank you! I have added two of your plants to my list of prizes to search for at my garden centers this spring; Persian Cornflower and Royal Catchfly.

    ~Debra, Gardens Inspired

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  11. I see so many plants that are new to me. Wow, I am definitely going to be looking for those.

    Thanks so much for dropping the Word Verification, it's so hard to read. I tried again on another blog, but had to give up.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

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  12. These are pretty! I don't grow a lot of unusual plants, as I am never sure if they're going to make it here. Thanks for the recommendations - and all the information on these beautiful plants.

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  13. very interesting list of plants, most I'd never heard of. Several familiar but in different forms, e.g. Stachys lanata, Lambs Ears very popular (don't want to demean it by calling it common!) and honeysuckle, silene and cornflower familiar in different forms. Always knew cornflower as deep blue. Love your blog Tammy and enjoyed reading about your dogs and your cool bugs.

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  14. Excellent choices for your area. Beautiful flowers on some of them as well. Honeysuckle loves it here....Coral Fountains for the hummers, Orange Tecoma Stans, Lantana for the butterflies....just a start:) And for those reading the comments, this is for zone 9 in Tucson. Hope you have a good week!

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  15. I wasn't familiar with Bowman's Root. Thanks for the info! It is fun to take stock of the common and not-so-common plants in the garden. The Persian Coneflower is a beauty!

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  16. I have heard of bush honeysuckle and it is already on my list. I love your Bowman's Root and think I will have to add it to my wish list also. Your garden is lovely. Thanks for a look at some great plants!

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  17. I'm afraid I don't have any interesting plants in my garden that you haven't heard of, but I've liked looking at yours! I'll be starting my ground cherries and other seeds in the next week or two. Can't wait!! Did you get much snow last night? We got a dusting, and it has almost melted by now. Fine with me!

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  18. Those are all very pretty! Love them all. Also, I wanted to say thank you for your sweet comment on my post about my dad. I appreciate your prayers!!

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  19. This is what I love about garden blogs, I am always discovering new plants. I have fallen for Bowman's Root and it seems to be readily available here.

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  20. Beautiful specimens. I love trying new things or things from another area. So many different zones in my loft garden, always pushing the envelope here.

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  21. I am hunting for the stachys hummelo. Saw a show on the Chicago Botanical Garden and they had a huge bed of them....stunning!

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  22. Were you ever able to get catchfly to stay perennial in SC when you lived here? I really like that stuff and have yet to find a variety that doesn't slowly die.

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  23. You have introduced me to some very interesting plants. I am especially drawn to the Royal Catchfly because it is beautiful, delicate, and attracts hummingbirds. Something new I have added to the garden is Blackberry Lily. I got some seeds from a fellow Master Gardener, and I am looking forward to watching them grow this year.

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  24. I've had Bowman's Root on my list for years now. You have motivated me to get some now! The Bush Honeysuckle is very appealing and I will see if I can find it at some of the local native plant sales. Thanks for sharing your excellent recommendations!

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  25. I was just browsing the plant lists for some of the exhibitors at next month's plant fair and I noticed stachys hummelo but the photo wasn't quite convincing. Now that I've seen yours I'll definitely be looking for it.

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  26. Hi Tammy, I have the cornflower and the stachys hummelo (love it!), but am completely unfamiliar with the rest. I particularly took interest in the combination of Bowman's Root, blue amsonia and epimediums. Hey, I am up for anything that does well in dry shade! Moist shade is easy to buy for, but dry shade, now that's a challenge.

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