The life of a plant is a rough one. Especially if you are an ornamental plant. You are expected to flourish with little or no love. You are expected to grow in less than ideal locations and situations. You may even be expected to starve because you are not being fed properly, although you better perform or else you may become the top of the compost pile if you are not careful! It is also helpful if you fall into a category called native, a very current theme right now. As time goes on that term will become more blurred with the global everything phenomenon.
This may all seem a bit far fetched, however there is a bit of truth to every joke as they say. I have taken notice of these unreasonable demands we place on our plants and with our current selections are trying to include as many natives as possible. I am looking for plants that thrive in heinous areas, and endure our current weather trends.
Two plants that fit this profile would be Lobelia, also known as Cardinal Flower and Asclepias also known as Butterfly weed. Both of these plants would do well in an area around a gutter where other things die. They would also do well in a rain garden or wet corner of the yard. I have both plants growing in a wet crummy area where almost everything else I plant dies, they have been there for three years. This year we will have 3 different varieties of Lobelia Fan Scarlet, Lobelia Fan Blue and Lobelia Giant Blue. Lobelia are also very attractive to Humming Birds and Butterflies! We will have one variety of Asclepias which is Asclepias tuberosa which has beautiful true orange flowers. We had an Asclepias that thrived in the ditch out by the road for years. I think when we expanded the parking lot it met its match!
I am also particularly excited about the Desert Eve series of Achillea to help withstand those hard to grow areas. Achillea are also known as Yarrow. Back in the day, in the 90s there was one main Achillea that everyone was using called ‘Moonshine’. This was a good plant but the same old yellow color got boring and everyone kind of forgot about it and never really got back to it. There were a couple red varieties that came out but nothing that really stuck. I think the Desert Eve series will change that. We will be growing a terrra cota, and a red variety. These plants are very promising because they will keep a nice compact shape at 12-18” tall and wide and have large flower heads up to 4” across! The plants in this series also start flowering before some of the older varieties. Once established, Achillea can handle some of the hottest and driest areas out there in the yard. At the nursery in our natural area the native achillea which is white has grown well without any help from anyone but God for as long as we have been here, which is 25 years this December! Wow!
Amsonia is another plant that is native and not well known. We have grown a 12” tall variety for many years on and off called ‘Blue Ice.‘ Blue Ice is a cool little plant because it gets these clusters of true light blue flowers in mid summer for about a month, usually July. In the fall the foliage turns gold and has a real cool textural appeal to it. Amsonia has earned its way into this blog because it can grow right along side the Achillea.
So if you have high expectations for a plant, try some of these “ornamental” plants that have a good history withstanding harsh conditions.
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