Six on Saturday: Tough and Tenacious

Ivy geranium, Verbena, Dichondra and Euporbia hypericifolia ‘Stardust Pink Shimmer’ share this newly planted basket.

May feels a bit like a ‘family reunion’ as I get reacquainted with old favorites making their spring re-appearance in the garden, and as I meet a few new plants each year. May can also feel as overwhelming as a big family party with so many different personalities all wanting attention at the same time!

The ‘to do’ list is long, made longer in recent weeks by our dry spell. I’ve been doing more watering and less planting than usual, procrastinating on the spring exodus from winter storage back out into the yard until there was a break in the weather.

And finally, we have rain. It is wonderful listening to the wind-blown rain today, watching the shrubs perk up, and seeing all of our pots refreshed with moisture that didn’t flow from the hose! Now, finally, I’ll begin moving our moisture loving Caladiums, Begonias, ferns and Colocasias back out to their summer spots.

Most of our Caladiums are still in their starting trays. I planted a few at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden earlier in the month, but I waited for night time temperatures to settle before moving most of them out of the garage. Once things finally heated up, our weather turned hot and dry. Planting out Caladiums is top of my ‘to do’ list for the week ahead.

Euphorbia ‘Stardust Pink Shimmer, like the earlier E. ‘Diamond Frost,’ makes a tough but delicate ‘filler’ plant in pots and baskets. It has a slight pink blush to its leaves and flowers.

I did begin re-planting hanging baskets this past week. I am working with a lot of hot pink and purple Verbenas and ivy geraniums this season, and even found a new Euphorbia hypericifolia cultivar, Euphorbia ‘Stardust Pink Shimmer,’ with a tinge of pink on petals and leaves. If you like E. ‘Diamond Frost,’ you will find this a nice upgrade with a subtle blush to the flowers and leaves.

Euphorbias tolerate drought, poor soil, full to partial sun, and they bloom continually until frost. I stopped by the nursery this morning in search of another E. ‘Stardust Pink Shimmer’ to find them already sold out. But they have at least three other white flowered cultivars in addition to E. ‘Diamond Frost.’ These are such airy, elegant plants to use as fillers in pots and baskets. I’ve come to rely on them as much as I rely on Dichondra for a shimmery silvery spiller in large baskets.

Last summer I discovered an easy hack to help those hanging baskets stay moist through our hot summer days. I snipped up a cellulose kitchen sponge into small chips and distributed those evenly around the edges and bottom third of the basket. They absorb water quickly when I water or when it rains, and then they release their moisture as the roots need it. I also want to mulch pots and baskets with fine gravel, seashells, glass marbles, chips of old ceramics, or moss. Anything that helps conserve moisture and cool the soil helps sustain plants through our hot summer days.

I generally plant tough, drought tolerant perennials in my hanging baskets with the expectation that the Verbena and Lantana will overwinter and sprout the following year. Sometimes the scented Pelargoniums even reappear in May. That plan is complicated this year. The baskets are full of old roots, making watering difficult. The dry weather left my baskets feeling like bricks. I’m giving up and starting over with fresh plants and soil now with basket after basket, and looking for ways to repurpose and salvage the struggling plants of yesteryear.

I was excited to receive an email from friends at our local nursery inviting me to see a new variegated Agastache cultivar they have grown this year. A sport of A. ‘Blue Fortune,’ this A. ‘Crazy Fortune’ has beautifully contrasting leaves of deep green and cream, with the same beautiful lilac blue flowers of its parent. I bought two, one to trial at the WBG and the other to trial at home. I’m looking forward to the first blooms.

Agastache ‘Crazy Fortune’ has a lavender blush on new growth. I’m still waiting to see its flowers.

And finally, I’m thrilled with the first flowers from the Iris pseudata I ordered last summer. The plants themselves are lovely, with a golden flush to their tall, elegant leaves. These sterile hybrid Iris are a cross between the European Yellow Flag Iris, considered an invasive in our area, and the always lovely Japanese Iris. They can grow in standing water, damp soils, or even manage in a regular garden bed so long as they don’t dry out.

Iris pseudata ‘Kinshikou’

It has to be a special plant if you tend it all year in order to enjoy its flowers for only a week or two in late spring. Thank goodness they are excellent foliage plants to serve as a backdrop or accent among other blooming perennials.

The last plant I’ll mention today, that I’m so happy to greet for another season, is the always tough Verbena bonariensis. Sometimes called ‘Lollipop’ Verbena, this is a very tall and airy plant that blooms reliably from May through November and is impervious to any grazers.

Like all other Verbenas, including Lantanas (part of the extended Verbena family), V. bonariensis attracts every butterfly and hummingbird around. Their long-lasting flowers seem to float in mid-air from a distance. The Iris border I tend at the local botanical garden has exploded in its best display yet of this special Verbena, and they are showing up at home, too. These reseed, root easily, and also spread a bit. Once you have V. bonariensis, it is persistent and reliable.

As with families, we treasure those tough, dependable individuals who keep going through tough times. I have been happily greeting perennials that not only survived winter, but have also hung on through our unusually hot and dry weather these past few weeks. I can’t wait to see what they do in the days ahead, now that we’ve been blessed with a bit of rain.

Verbena bonariensis blooms at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden

With appreciation to The Propagator who hosts Six on Saturday each week.

2 comments

  1. Wow. so much going on there!

    I’m familiar with caladiums from when I lived in the northern USA. so colorful. they are available here too, but I have only ever bought annuals one year, since being here. They are 6€ a piece or more, and that adds up quickly. So much for hanging baskets, they are pretty much something I likely will not ever do here. I’ve had 0 luck in germinating seeds, so there’s no way I’m shelling out 100 € just for plants I’ll throw away at the end of the season. There’s no overwintering here!! 🙂

    Luckily, we’ve had ample rain and while I like it a bit warmer, it’s been on the coolish side so far this spring – so those two things have helped. Our watering hoses are out of commission until Pekka finishes the interior of the shed where one of the line runs. Most years I’ve already been out for weeks hauling the hoses around the yard watering new plants. Lucky stars for the rain we’ve had!

    I hope your new Agastache does well. I really like them and have the Blue Fortune and Golden Jubilee varieties.

    Hope you continue to get enough rain and have a great weekend!

    -Kate

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Kate, So sorry I am tardy in answering you. I hope you have gotten your rain, too, and didn’t lose too much while your hoses were out of commission. Is the shed completed now? If you truly want to try your hand at Caladiums, without blowing the budget, you might try ordering the rhizomes (not true bulbs) in winter for spring delivery and starting them yourself. You’ll find several ‘how to’ articles on my old Forest Garden site about how to start them, and how to store them simply. Brent and Becky’s Bulbs (in Gloucester, VA) does international orders. They are simple and rewarding. I ended up with WAY too many this year and I’m still struggling to get them all set out for the summer. I ordered new ones for uses that didn’t pan out, and so I have four trays of them left to plant- probably close to 100 plants. Full retail on the bulbs here is about $2.00-$2.50 each. I rarely pay full retail, and usually order in quantity from Classic Caladiums in Florida. They also supply Brent and Becky, and may do international orders. Their stock is top-drawer and they have an extensive breeding program to improve their offerings. If you are interested: classiccaladiums.com/

      The Agastache ‘Crazy Fortune’ has its first flower buds and is growing vigorously. Its leaves are so pretty, I’m not too concerned about flowers. My grower friend also gave me several Agastache ‘Morello’ to grow out this summer, and they are blooming in the most beautiful shade of pink. I had requested them early on for some pots I was re-planting at the garden where I volunteer, and they weren’t ready in time. But I have them in a variety of pots and one of the raised beds there, now, so I’m looking forward to the show!

      Take care, and happy gardening! ❤ ❤ ❤

      Like

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