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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

My Love Affair with Rodgersias

RodgersiaHeader
I wish I could remember exactly when it was that I discovered Rodgersias...all I know is that it was love at first sight. There is just something about those big, bold foliage that leaves me a little weak in the knees. You know me, I like foliage that is big without looking too tropical, and these fit the bill...I can just imagine them growing in a cool, misty valley on the banks of a slow-moving stream.

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When they first emerge, as above in the north border against the house, they look completely prehistoric, like wicked claws pushing their way out of the soil.

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As the stems lenghten, and the leaves spay outward, however, they take on a more graceful habit. As you may remember, I used to have these in a spot where they got about a half day of sun, but they scorched badly once summer's heat and wind set in. So, last fall, I moved them all closer to the house, an area that is pretty much full shade. When the leaves first unfurled in this new spot, they definitely didn't have the rich bronze coloring that they had always shown in full sun.

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After a few days, however, they actually started to color up a bit...

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...and right now they look as good as they ever did in sun! I'm not sure how well the color will hold up in the shade, but if I can at least avoid the scorching, I'll be happier (and so with they)!

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Rodgersia clumpRodgersia bloom stalk
Above, you can see the Rodgersia plants stretching the length of the border. When it came time to move them last fall, I realized they had produced quite a few runners underground, so I had quite a few more plants than I anticipated. Above, on the right, you can see one of the bloom stalks of a Rodgersia podophylla 'Rotlaub'. Even though I'd never think Rodgersias were grown for their flowers, they are nice to see...and always make me imagine that the plants must be happy.

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Unfortunately, as is so often the case, weather can wreak havoc with big, thing leaves like these. Last week we actually got a short-lived hailstorm. Even those the hailstones were no bigger than peppercorns, they left their marks on any plant with leaves of substance. Sadly, I'll be looking at swiss-cheese Rodgersias this year.

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The first year I had these in the ground, each Rodgersia produced a single stem...which made me a little impatient for them to ever clump up. I'm please to say that this year, they are pushing up many more new shoots per plant...looks like I won't have to wait as long as I thought after all :-)

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While most of the Rodgersias I planted are 'Rotlaub', I've also added a few others over the years. This one, 'Chocolate Wings' has wonderfully dark foliage when it emerges, which was a huge relief, as it was totally green by the time I bought it last spring...and I was a little dubious that it was, in fact, 'Chocolate Wings'. As usual, I worried for nothing!

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Rodgersia podophylla 'Rotlaub'Rodgersia 'Chocolate Wings'

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Another type, Rodgersia aesculifolia,named for its resemblance to the leaves of the Horse Chestnut

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I got this Rodgersia on sale for $5 at a local nursery...and unfortunately, it wasn't labeled...I'm guessing Rodgersia pinnata...and look, another bloom stalk!

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And just to prove that no matter how much we gardeners think WE decide what happens in our garden, look at this. Apparently, I left a little bit of root in the location I moved the Rodgersias from last fall and it has sprouted...gotta love that!

What plant are you loving at the moment...or do you have a plant you can't help but baby along, constantly fretting about it's well-being?

40 comments:

  1. The foliage is fantastic on them. I love great foliage plants as it's something to look at when the blooms are gone.

    Cher Sunray Gardens

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    1. Totally...they have such a long season of interest...I honestly do try not to buy a plant that doesn't at least have decent foliage, let along interesting foliage. Of course, there are some plants I still adore, even if their foliage is dreadful (Hello, Echinacea)!

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  2. This is a plant that is really starting to grow on me. I HATED it a few years ago, but as I've been out and about I'm finally starting to see decent looking specimens and can see why people find it worth growing. Dare I say the photos you posted even make it...tempting?

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    1. I think that's such a good point, Tom...there are lots of plants that I hated at one point, but seeing a really good, mature specimen in a garden totally changed my POV!

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  3. What fun plants, now you're making me think I need some of those also. I planted Darmera peltata last summer and am hoping it made it through the winter. I keep looking at Astilboides tabularis (which I think is related to Rodgersia, but without the split leaves?) and trying to figure out a place for its gigantic self. I also prefer a non-tropical look in my garden, and these plants with giant leaves are so cool. As in 'awesome' and also 'not hot', like 'not tropical' . . . I'd better stop now that I've beat that pun to death and it's no longer funny at all :-)

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    1. OMG...I would love some Darmera (alas, don't think I have room for it). I have some Astilboides as well (planted right in the middle of the Rodgersias), they are really east to grow in the same conditions...although the slugs love them. I believe Astilboides was actually classified as Rodgersia until just a few years ago. I agree...big without the tropics ;-)

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  4. I am on the hunt for "Chocolate Wings", so if you have any leads, please tell. I have been dividing my Phlomus russeliana like mad to spread around and give away. The leaves are lush, the flower spikes amusing and it seems to do well anywhere I put it.

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    1. OMG...just posted to your Facebook earlier...definitely check out the Division Street Portland Nursery...they had a few in stock last weekend ;-)

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  5. I love rodgersias too! I'm at my first experience though. I bought just a plain one (think it's pinnata) in a small pot. They are expensive and I don't remember seeing other cultivar in none of my usual nurseries... Anyway i'll keep it in a shady spot for now, I guess my sun would kill the plant instantly!
    I reckon Rotlaub is the best one you have anyway, so I'm glad it is spreading around!
    I have a very large leaved hosta (Sum and Substance) under the cherry trees that has been spoiled by a light hailstorm too. It's the time of the year they have very tender leaves so they are more exposed and the only hailstorm of the year comes...
    I am actually keeping a mother's eye on myriad of echinacea seedlings that sprout in the garden. I guess I won't buy any other echinacea in my entire life and I'm so happy, I know they're easy from seed, but you know they're family....

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    1. OMG...yes, they are normally very expensive...I shudder to mention how much I spent on my trio of 'Rotlaubs' a few years ago...it was more than I'd ever spent on a plant...ever! I do love them...and yes, they're by far my favorite of those I have. Aren't these early hailstorms awful...so much damage to all that tender growth. I even had the growing tips of a Clematis broken off by the hail...argh! Glad to hear of your success with the Echinacea...there's nothing better than free plants ;-)

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  6. They are are worthy addition to any garden aren't they. Great photos as always.

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  7. Hi Scott, I think I'm going to side with Tom on this one. This is one plant that I have wandered by at the nurseries and not stopped to investigate much further. However, you have this uncanny knack for making me question my prior opinions. I blame your fantastic photography. Cheers, Jenni

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    1. Hahahahahahaha...I do try my best to tempt you all ;-) To be honest, they aren't always much to look at in those nursery pots...but seeing a patch of them in a garden will tempt you heartily!

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  8. Love your Rodgersias!! Most, wait, no. ALL of the plants that I've babied along are all either dead or I don't care anymore. How's that for resolve? I do need to get slug bait out there though...

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    1. Oh no! I'm the same...I've pretty much given up babying anything at this point...but the Rodgersias remain the only plant I REALLY fuss over. Oh yeah...the slugs are BAD this year...so bad!

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  9. I was thinking we had the same collection until I got to your ($5!!!) unlabeled one, nice! I don't know if you noticed that I got mine mixed up last week and called what was clearly Rodgersia podophylla 'Rotlaub' Rodgersia 'Chocolate Wings' by mistake. Moving plants out of the way for the painter last spring got me all confused. I realized my error yesterday and need to correct that. I'm also hoping that the demise of the Rhody that used to shade 'Rotlaub' from the afternoon sun doesn't mean I have leaf scorch this summer!

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    1. Hahahahahahaha...I'm unabashedly proud of that $5 find, to be honest...especially considering how much I paid for the others ;-) It's easy to confuse them early on...I wasn't at all sure which was which until a few weeks ago...especially with all the moving around I did in a hurry last fall! I'll cross my finger fro your 'Rotlaub', yours may fare better than mine.

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  10. I have two of these too, I am so jealous of your row of them. I have several stalks coming up this year too, I guess mine like where they're planted. I have a love for crazy big leaves too.

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    1. Yay...so glad you have some too! I think they take a few years to really settle in...but once they are happy, they really start to spread about :-)

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  11. I've always wanted to try growing them. I hear that they do well here. I never see them in nurseries. I guess I would have to mail order.

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    1. You should look into it...I got most of mine from Forest Farm in Southern Oregon...but just checked their website and they don't list any for sale at the moment :-(

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  12. Hi Scott, i am not jealous with your plants like some of the above friends, but i am with your photos! And the way you did your first photo is really lovely. Anybody can really be in love with your plant, although of course we dont have it here in the tropics.

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    1. Awwww...thanks, Andrea! We all have plants we love, depending on our conditions, right!

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  13. I ordered four Branulab from Digging Dog. I hoped to use them on my sunny side, but from your experience, that may be a mistake. What do you think?

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    1. Hi James...you know, it's worth a try. I think the key is moisture...because I've read that with enough moisture they can take full sun (and the leaf color will be better). Part of the reason my scorched was the hot, dry wind they were exposed to, as well...so perhaps in a more sheltered spot they could take the sun. I kept the soil where they were consistently moist...so I'm not sure exactly how much water would be enough to keep them happy in full sun. Do let me know what you decide on...you could certainly give it a go in the full-sun location, and just keep a spot in the shade available should you need to move them later.

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  14. Between you and Loree, I'm starting to think that I need to get some of these. :)

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    1. You definitely need some! If you like, you're welcome to the little volunteer I found...it's small now, but will be beautiful :-)

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  15. The color is amazing. They're like copper pennies that have developed a patina. And I'm jealous of the plants and the photography. :)

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    1. That's the perfect description of their color!

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  16. Very nice Scott. I'm new to Rodgersias, but can see we are about to be introduced in person shortly. Thanks! Oh, and do you have an milkweed in your garden, Asclepias? If so do you have a favorite?

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    1. Hey Tom...I hope you find some...they are amazing! I actually (sadly) don't have any milkweed at the moment...I can never decide which one I actually want (only have room for 1 these days)! I think the ones I always gravitate to are the ones that remind me of those from where I grew up, those with the soft silvery-pink flowers...Like Aslepias speciosa, which I've seen for sale at Annies Annuals. I'm strongly considering getting one for the front parking strip this year...just waiting to see how everything fills in, and where the empty spots are ;-)

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  17. Lovely foliage, you should link this post into GBFD 22nd of the month, it would be perfect. I remember loving these the first time I saw them too, but I've never had a garden where they would be happy. Christina

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    1. Great idea...I always struggle to put those posts together...I think it's why I'm always late (just like I never make the Bloom Day post on time)! I'm hoping they are happier now that they are in more shade...we'll see.

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  18. Wow, they look almost exactly like Cimicifuga racemosa (Bugbane) as they're emerging! But then they look totally different as the unfold. I can see why they're a favorite.

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    1. Absolutely, they hard to see when they fist come up, they sort of blend with all the fallen leaves...but yes, once they are up and growing, they are spectacular!

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  19. I really like the color of the leaves. Too bad they are not locally available (I think).
    What plant do I baby? Almost all of them, I think (hehehe) but mostly the ones from seeds from temperate countries. They are very trying to germinate and care for in tropical conditions.

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    1. Hahahahaha...so true...when it comes down to it, we do tend to baby all of our plants to a degree, right?!?

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  20. Hi, I need HELP! I bought a rogersia 4 years ago, when it was in flower and it looked magnificent. (don't know what kind, it was labelled as an astilbe). Ours is a moist woodland garden and I planted it in semi shade. Azaleas and rhodies do well here so soil must be acid. For the next 2years it grew well, but will not flower so I moved it last autumn to a sunnier spot, and it still won't flower. Any thoughts?

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  21. Mine never flower either though they do spread and look magnificent - with gunnera astilbes arums and other moisture lovers in damp part of garden

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