Thursday, September 1, 2011

Garden Fail/Garden Win - Part II

So, a week or so ago I posted about a spot in my front garden that I found perpetually troublesome. Heavy soil, strange light conditions and a steep slope wreaked havoc on the plants I had initially tried planting there...some Echinacea purpurea. While there is too much hot sun in the middle of the day for shade-lovers, there isn't enough to keep things like Echinacea from getting too tall and flopping. Last fall, after watching the poor Echinacea struggle all that summer, I decided to move them...I was tired of how pathetic they looked. I was left with a lingering question though, what to plant in the problem area???

astrantia patch 4  461
After doing a little research, I decided to give Astrantias a try. I hadn't really seen them used around Portland much, but after seeing them repeatedly in books and magazines, I was very intrigued. I wasn't sure what to expect...they looked to dainty and fragile...would they really be able to survive in soil the consistency of potters clay? I waited until a local nursery discounted their stock last fall and snatched up 3 'Abbey Road'. I planted them right away, and a few weeks later, bought a trio of un-named Astrantias at the fall HPSO sale. Right at the end of our growing season, I bought a few more 'Abbey Road' from the same nursery. A week later, we got our first freeze. I didn't hold out much hope for them to return...especially the ones I had JUST planted a week before.

astrantia patch 3  460
I was pleasantly surprised this spring when every single plant returned! I couldn't quite believe it. Here they are in April, forming their little crowns of foliage. I could already tell at this point that I'd be moving them around a bit...the spacing is a bit wonky, but that's what you get when you're try to squeeze plants in between full-grown plants in the fall!

astrantia patch 6  463
Here's a view from on the porch, looking down at the garden. They seemed to take a while to get going in the spring, but grew rapidly once temps warmed up a bit.

abbey road blooming 3  471
Here's part of the patch, showing both the un-named variety (which I think is probably 'Alba') and 'Abbey Road' blooming. While 'Abbey Road' was about the size I expected from reading the tags it came with (about 2' tall and 18" wide) 'Alba' had much larger leaves and taller flower stems...I'm pretty sure it gets substantially bigger than 'Abbey Road' and will overwhelm them in a few will probably get moved this fall.

abbey road blooming 4  472
Both 'Abbey Road' and 'Alba' bloomed from June until the end of August...and were absolutely beautiful...I could't have been happier. The three 'Alba' plants were just plugs when I planted them last only produced a few blooming stems each, but 'Abbey Road' put up dozens of blooming stems on each plant. The charming, papery blooms last quite a while, but aren't in-your-face showy...they have a subtle beauty.

abbey road blooming 2  470
This photo is a wider view and shows more of the whole you can see, the flower stalks of 'Alba' are far taller than the basal leaves, making me think the clump will eventually expand vertically and horizontally to support stems of such length. These taller stems did flop over a bit, but 'Abbey Road' was perfectly compact and has sailed through summer looking great!

The past few weeks, the flower bracts have faded a dried a bit as the plants set seed. While I sort of liked this phase, I cut off most of the seedheads to send the plants energy back into growth. Sometimes Astrantia will re-bloom in the fall as temps cool, but I'm not counting on it.

astrantia patch
Here is the patch after I've cut off most of the seed heads. After less than a year, it's completely filled in the area...and I'm already planning where to move a few of them to keep it from getting congested as the clumps expand next season. I'm thinking of moving two of the larger 'Alba' clumps to another shady area that I have trouble with...and replacing them with the smaller, more compact 'Abbey Road' or 'Roma' when they (hopefully) go on sale again this fall!

astrantia patch 2
I was a little afraid our (typically) warm, dry and windy summers would prove too stressful for Astrantias...but luckily they've been totally happy so far, granted, we've had a super-mild summer for the most part. A few of the lower leaves on the ones that get more sun are slightly yellowing, I wonder how they will fare in warmer summers. In front of the Astrantia patch is another problem area...which gets a bit more sun, but still not enough for full-sun plants. What do you think...should I plant more Astrantias there as well...or is there something else I could try???

astrantia alba
Oh...and the 'Alba' are starting to bloom again this week :-)


  1. Very nice. I really like the Astrantias. Very pretty and seems like they fit in there really well. Sometimes that's what it takes is keep trying until you get exactly what you want.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  2. Scott,

    I have Astrantia, Lars Major and Red Star and this year was not a banner year for them. Only one of them bloomed even though all had nice leaves. They can be a little fussy so I assume it was our very hot wet weather.


  3. Very pretty. Great solution! I don't know this plant, so I'm happy to be introduced. I'm amazed how fast everything filled in.

  4. I'm not at all familiar with Astrantia but am completely smitten with those sweet flowers! I bet they are pretty dried.

  5. Here I go changing the subject...what's with that creepy dirty hand (glove?) in the third picture....

    (oh and the Astrantia are pretty!)

  6. These are pretty and unusual, at least to me. I have to say I like the spent blossoms as they get a little orange, but I imagine they don't exactly go with your other pinks and violets. It's really helpful to have your step-by-step information... it makes me feel a bit braver about trying things and I don't feel quite so stupid when I'm not successful!

  7. Don't you just LOVE a flower that hangs around for that long? I love the blooms on it. Wish it would work here. Personally, I think a big patch of it would work well.....but then again, you have such nice variety in your garden, maybe you could find a nice companion. Hmmmmmm.

  8. Hi Scott. Your Astrantia's look so beautiful on the banking. This is the first year I have tried them and I fell in love with those silver tinted blooms that glow in the sun.I cut mine back too so now I am excited after seeing your that maybe mine will rebloom also. Have a wonderful weekend.

  9. Astrantias flower and self seed profusely here. I think they are a great addition to your garden Scott. there are so many more astrantias to try. You could go for a national collection!

  10. We've got Astrantia on quite a few of our properties. It's been blazing hot this summer and they've all done great. One client has them in full sun on the hillside facing Lake Michigan (so it's hotter than hell when the sun is reflecting off the lake) and those ones did brown out about two weeks ago BUT they also had a flush of new growth from the bottom so all we had to do was cut off the old growth. I don't think the heat would be a giant problem for you.

  11. Scott, It is a rainy and humid evening. Good time to check in with your Blog and others I am following. I think you did great research and it shows by how well the new plants are doing. Here I have hundreds of coneflowers with lots of sun so they have never been a problem. Looks to me like you solved your problem by replacing them. Congratulations. Jack

  12. As the realtors say, location, location, location. Mine survive meekly, don't thrive, and the rabbits and/or groundhogs eat them--one of the few ornamentals they do eat. I'm glad to hear they like your heavy clay. Perhaps that means I can move them around to find a better location for them.

  13. It all looks real good to me, like the changes you made.
    Ohio Outdoors

  14. Sunray: I love them too…and you are so right…sometimes we just have to keep trying different things!

    Gatsby Gardens: I think that's probably true…from what I've read, they seem to prefer cooler summer weather (which we can typically provide). I hope yours recover…maybe you'll get some fall blooms!

    HolleyGarden: I was amazed too…honestly, I hadn't really heard about them until a few years ago…and back then, didn't have a garden of my own!

    Cat: They are super-pretty and pretty tough (with some shade and moisture). They are surprisingly vigorous!

    Danger Garden: ACK! OMG…I took a look just now and had a very "The Call is Coming From Inside the House" moment…seeing that there! Yes…it's a dirty glove…I do sometimes need to crop stuff like that out!

    MulchMaid: I agree…I rather like the dried flowers, especially at this time of year when the oranges and yellows are getting more prominent!

    Sue: Me too…love those blooms that just go on and on! I still haven't decided what to do…we'll see how the mood strikes me later!

    Lona: So glad to hear you're liking them too…aren't they lovely! I have 'Roma' as well, which definitely has a silverfish tinge to the pink flowers…so lovely :-)

    Janet: Hahahaha…if I had the room, I would seriously consider it!

    Tom: Good to know…I won't worry about mine then…it's always good to hear about the range of growing conditions things will survive in!

    Gardens at Waters East: Research is our friend…sort of the gardening equivalent to "Measure Twice, Cut Once", eh! I wish I had more sun, as I dearly love Echinacea…and still try to squeeze them in the little bit of sun I have!

    James Golden: You are so right…"right plant, right place" is probably the single best piece of garden wisdom there is. I think you might be able to find a good spot…then again, they apparently dislike heat and humidity…maybe in your new city garden?

    Ohio Outdoors: Thanks!!!

  15. I'm surprised to read you don't see astrantias around much near you. I'd think that heavy soil would suit cimicifuga, veronicastrum. In that trouble spot, what about astrantias for summer, japanese anenomes for fall?

  16. hey whats that liquid on the sidewalk. rain? hmm.

  17. The Astrantias really did the trick, didn't they? I hope you can figure out something to put in front of them.

  18. I planted my first Astrantias this spring, they were a bit slow to start flowering ,but once started ,they were on there way. I didn't think they would like my sandy soil. I've been given them extra water and they are doing really great. Think I'll be shopping for more at the HPSO sale!

  19. Well if it was mine I would add a textural contrast such as some Sempervirums. A lot of delicate fine foliage could be set off by something completely different.

    Gorgeous photos, as usual.

  20. If you were a nursery website, I think I would have to buy one of everything that you've shown. The pictures just pop with vibrant color and detail. I'm in the market for a new camera to replace my 10 year old hand me down and I'd like to know which one you are using. I'm new to your website, do you have any posts on garden photography? I found the one on filters.

  21. I have not grown those before. They sure are pretty. I'm not sure what would grow well in your other area. I have a couple areas that are not as sunny as I thought they would be, either. One of the areas is in the curb, and the other across from it in the lower part of the new planting area in the front. The neighbor next door blocks the afternoon sun. I think I'm going to have to move my autumn joy sedums in the curb area, because they keep getting leggy, even though I trimmed them back this summer. It's full sun until 1 or so in the afternoon, so I'm not sure what to plant, either. Both areas are full sun further east. I wonder what some dianthus would look in your area.

  22. Change is all about being able to adapt and to meet new challenges that will enhance your life, and move us forward to a more prosper tomorrow..

    Flights to Santiago Chile | Cheap Air Tickets to Santiago Chile