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Friday, February 08, 2008

Spotlight on Perennial Foliage

Today I'd like to expand my foliage topic and shine the spotlight on specific perennials that I rely upon to add dimension to my garden. When reading about my experience with these perennials please keep in mind my growing conditions here on Long Island. The conditions in your garden might be quite different. Here in South Huntington we are a zone 6b garden even though most of Long Island is zone 7a. Snow cover cannot be counted upon (we've had none this winter) and yet even with many days well above the freezing mark, our nights dip well below freezing so there's a constant freeze/heave/thaw cycle going on.

In this first photo we have the blue/gray foliage of Dicentra eximia (Bleeding heart) and Lysimachia nummularia (Creeping Jenny). My first inclinations with Bleeding hearts were always to plant them in the shade. Yet when my Dad was alive, he had the most stunning border of Bleeding Hearts in a spot that received full sun shine all morning long and they were glorious! Bleeding hearts have a very long bloom season for a perennial and the foliage on this type doesn't go dormant once summer arrives.

Spread about like a lovely skirt is the golden glow of Lysimachia nummularia. Now this is why I want to you note my growing conditions here because I don't know how this plant behaves in other zones. For a few years creeping jenny spread it's way around enough that I began to worry if I had let a monster loose in my garden. Then ZAP, either a harsh winter, or a long cold wet spring and suddenly there was no more creeping jenny here. So my observation is that 6b is the edge of hardiness for this plant (unless perhaps thick snow cover gives it protection). This year I will be on the look out for more creeping jenny since the color makes for amazing contrasts and it's tiny roots make it very easy to pull from unwanted areas.

Photo number two shows some of the true stalwarts of my perennial borders. At the top left corner is the ferny leaf of Coreopsis verticiliata 'Zagreb'. While there are other verticiliata varieties to choose from 'Zagreb' is the only one for me. Some people don't like the color of it in bloom, it's a strong yellow/gold, not soft and buttery yellow. But the big selling point for me is that it doesn't flop at all and is wonderfully vigorous in it's growth habit. I can always count on 'Zagreb' to look perfect and a simple shearing when its bloom season is done brings it right back into shape.

Peeking up in the center here is Liriope muscari variegata, another great plant. If you have bunnies that frequent your garden, they do love Liriope so you might want to have some red pepper flakes on hand. One year I put a ring of milorganite (fertilizer sludge) around the base of the plant and not only did the bunnies stay away but the next year it was three times the size! Liriope blooms too, very simple lilac stalks in the autumn.

Spilling down along the belgium block is one of my many sedums. I've lost the names of the earliest varieties that were added to my garden so I can't pinpoint this one. One of these days I'll go visit the wonderful site at and see what jogs my memory.

Moving along a little further down the driveway perennial border you will find yet more Sedum. This one is easy, it's 'Vera Jameson' and I highly recommend this plant to somebody looking for pretty foliage and something that will cascade out the front of your garden beds. I'm going to guess that the little plant coming out of the pot is a Saponaria. I say 'guess' because I think it only lived long enough for me to take this photo.

At the right you will see one of my favorite plants, Alchemilla mollis, also well known as Ladies Mantle. People are probably tired of hearing me say this but I think that having Ladies mantle in your garden is like putting up beautiful crown molding in your dining room. It makes everything near it look fantastic. This far north I have no problem growing Ladies mantle in full sun although it holds its own in partial shade too.

Finally, photo number four for today is one of my favorites. I can't take the credit for this one, Mother Nature had her say here. Just making it in the right edge is more Ladies Mantle, at the very top right corner is the tiniest shot of Achillea (yarrow) foliage. Spilling down along the curb here is yet another lost-name Sedum, this one with nice tight growth habit and yellow star shaped blooms. But the ultimate for me is the combination of the deliciously fuzzy gray leaves of the Stachys byzantina (Lambs ears) interwoven with the finely cut leaves of the Geranium sanguinium (Hardy Geranium). The bright purple blooms on the Geranium are just icing on the cake.
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1 comment:

GardenJoy4Me said...

You have a gorgeous site Melani !
I have the same combination of Bleeding Heart and Gold Creeping Jenny .. I have the "Jenny" through out my garden and I am zone 5b .. we don't get snow like we have this winter most years.
Your pictures are stunning and I'm going to be back to visit many more times !
Joy : )