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Entries in easy care plants (4)


Chelone Obliqua: a Tall, Pink Perennial with Turtlehead Flowers 

HORT 218 Herbaceous Landscape Plants ~ Horticulture & Landscape Architecture - Purdue UniversityGardeners, who shop for plants only in spring, miss an opportunity to be seduced by the easy-care, cold climate perennial, Chelone obliqua. A late summer blooming plant, it has insufficient growth in early spring to draw the plant hunter’s attention. Even if one examines its label, there is little to attract because plant tag photography does this flower an injustice.

However, by reading the information on the tag, the astute gardener will notice that it is a tall growing, long blooming perennial that thrives both in sun and part shade. It reaches 23 to 35 inches in height [60 to 90 cm] has a wonderfully small spread of 18 to 23 inches18 [45 to 60 cm] and it blooms not only for a lengthy period but also at a time when most other perennials are waning.

I discovered this plant by accident. Seedling-sized plants were on sale at a ridiculously low price and I kept filling my basket with all of the pink perennials I could find. Of the hundreds that I chose, and then discarded because they did not please me, Chelone obliqua is one of the few that I kept. crept into my affection stealthfully. During the beginning and early summer, it remained unnoticed. Its deep green foliage did not project from far. However, just as I was beginning to dread that many plants were about to end their flowering, Chelone broke into bloom, unexpectedly. Its rich, deep-pink flowers and its tall, elegant shape were pleasing to behold.

Chelone obliqua is a neat, versatile plant that adds a lush background to the perennial border. Its height makes it a perfect candidate for the last row in the flowerbed, where its slow but steady growth adds texture, and form to a garden’s composition.

Up close, one may appreciate its polite lipstick-shaped floral buds that open into upward facing turtleheads. However, from a distance, this plant requires maturity before it can add its voice to the garden's chorus. When viewed at a length from the flowerbed, a young lone stalk of Chelone in bloom is difficult to notice; its flower bud is small and its shade of deep pink does not project effectively.  However, a mature clump, with a dense amount of flower heads, is impressive. is a disciplined perennial; it grows neatly and upright, with florets that are confined to the top spear- tips of its stalk, while its tight clump does not spread beyond three feet. When it reaches that width, not only is it impressive, in shape, color, and flowers, but it is also easy to propagate. In spring, its root ball may be sliced easily into many other plants. However, if propagated in late summer, or even autumn, the cuttings will regenerate into rugged plants by the following spring.

Do not be misled by its beauty. This is a tough, hardy perennial. On many occasions, when it would overwhelm me with pleasure, I would break off a few outside stems, at the point above ground where they grew away from the plant, and stick them into soft earth. They did not die. In fact, they began to grow roots imperceptibly and by the following season, the stems had generated into respectable plants.

This perennial shows better in the garden when several are planted within view of each other. One Chelone is impressive but subtle. Three Chelone, that can be viewed, all at the same time, have a more substantial presence that is enhanced by the rhythm of odd-numbered plants. have grown the species Obliqua and a variety called Hot Lips. There is no contest between them. I allowed Hot Lips three years to develop but it never grew into a satisfying perennial. The species, obliqua, grows taller, more floriferous, and richer in color.

Chelone Obliqua ia a versatile wildflower, native to North America. It grows under any pH conditions, in most soil types, and in most moisture levels. It performs well in both sun and part shade and blooms from late summer into mid fall. This plant is a northern gardener’s dream. It is a cold climate perennial, very easy-care, and it contributes structure, form, and beauty to the late summer landscape.

There is great benefit from using hardy plants native to North America. With absolute and total neglect from me, this perennial flourishes reliably in USDA Zone 4; and some sellers report that it is hardy to Zone 3. It is heat tolerant to USDA Zone 9.


Succulent Jade Garden Sculptures with Hot Pink Trim a plant that needs no irrigation beyond its establishing year. Instead of the gardener, nature is its primary caregiver. That right!  Simply plant it and forget it, even if the soil is clay. Welcome to the world of the no-care perennials of the Sedum family. Swollen, succulent foliage, resembling jade sculptures in both color and texture, enable these plants to withstand extended periods of drought and neglect. A shallow root system and water conserving habit also make this plant an ideal candidate for use in rooftop gardens.

Overhead shot of Sedum Carl in a client's gardenSedum will not interfere with any gardening scheme as it blossoms when most other perennials have completed their flowering cycle. Throughout the season, it supplies a neat, semi-gloss texture to garden compositions; the forms of the upright varieties resembls serene broccoli-shaped flower bouquets that seem to ground the flamboyance of other plants around them.

Alternating Sedum Carl and Hosta in the first season of a planting.Allowed to remain intact for the winter, its dead heads provide visual interest to gardeners and food for birds. As a design element in the garden, this plant is one of my favorites. Strategically planted, it may transform any messy flowerbed into an attractive, interesting garden composition.

However shade, wet soil, and a placement unaligned with the sun, will prevent this plant from performing impressively. Some believe that it will grow successfully in shade. That is stretching the point. While it may grow in reduced sunlight, it does not thrive there with the same robustness that it displays in a sun-filled location. In addition, wet soil will cause its root ball to decay. A sunny, well draining placement is best. Fastidious gardeners should bear in mind that some varieties of this, otherwise upright, disciplined plant might sprawl horizontally if they are not aligned with the sun’s path.

I found a Sedum plant of unknown pedigree in the first garden I tended. A neighbor, who previously had owned our property, placed it there. When I mentioned how much I admired this dignified plant, and asked where I might find another, he dug up mine, sliced the root ball in half, and handed me two plants. When a rootless stalk of one of the newly propagated Sedum fell away, he inserted it into the soil, like the peg of a tent tether, promising that it would grow into a third plant that same season. It did!

The Sedum propagating trick took place almost fifty years ago. Since then, the lone plant that I found in my flowerbed has generated hundreds of gift plants for anyone who admired it.

Recently, a client installed a new front walkway and asked for suggestions how to landscape around it. The first, and most effective, treatment did not sit well with her. Originally, I recommended bordering both sides of the walkway with small round boxwood shrubs, to delineate the concrete  from the grass. When the client found the round, neat shapes of the Buxus too severe, we agreed upon a treatment of alternating mid-height Sedum with low growing Hosta. The images above describe the final plan.

At the time, I could not propagate sufficient Sedum in my garden to complete the project, nor could I locate more of the same. The name of the strain growing there had always been a mystery. Therefore, I had no chopice but to select stock from among the newer varieties currently offered by the trade. I chose Carl, [a.k.a. Karl]  because it was the tallest Sedum available that season.

However, I had not expected Carl’s florets to bloom in a color so impressive. The almost-iridescent, dark, fuchsia-pink [a.k.a. magenta-pink] was a welcome change from the duskier shade, usually associated with Sedum. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised with the color impact that Carl created and the client was delighted with her newly trimmed walkway.


Perennials That Grow in Spite of Neglect

Echinacea purpurea is a work horse of the garden. This tough, drought resistant  plant is easy growing, resilient and undemanding. And yet, I won’t use it in any of my gardens because so many other landscapers do. They plant the mother species, Echinacea purpurea, in gardens where they are certain perennials will be neglected. Some clients are unwilling or unable to tend to their own gardens. Others won’t pay for perennial maintenance and those that are eager to pay, cannot find a gardener willing to do this work because it’s too labor intensive. Echinacea  purpurea doesn’t require attention. It thrives in spite of neglect.

Unfortunately, Echinacea is not elegant. If this plant is a good fit for your garden, some planning is required to artfully integrate it into the master plan. Echinacea pururea, the species, will grow in clay soil, it is deer and heat resistant, and the flowers are excellent both for cutting and drying. They bloom 4 weeks or more from summer until fall in zones 4 to 9.

New hybrids of Echinacea are also available, They are not as hardy and they will not survive in clay soil. They should be considerd as annuals to avoid disappointment.



Easy Care Perennials: Some Plants Thrive in Spite of Neglect.

Agastache “Blue Fortune”. This fragrant perennial loves the sun and heat, is drought tolerant after the second year of growth, deer-resistant and hardy from Zones 5a to 9b. It will grow from 2 to 3 feet tall and attract hummingbirds and butterflies. This plant likes a well-drained soil that is not too rich. It blooms with many powder-blue spikes from mid summer until October. Birds love its seeds but gardeners do not. Agastache is an aggressive reseeder and is considered invasive. However, the new seedlings are easy to thin out and most gardeners report that digging up new growth is worth the effort, considering the pleasure the plant brings and the neglect it will tolerate.