Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Red Heads To The Rescue!
I don't know about other gardeners, but for me, Autumn is when I generally take stock of what's going on in the garden...assessing its successes...as well as its shortcomings (which always seem to outnumber the successes, for some odd reason)!
Every year I garden in this location, I learn more and more about what does and doesn't work...so I'm constantly moving things around, whether it be a place that gets more water, less water, more light, less light, etc. While our mild climate here in Portland can be more forgiving than in many other places, "Right plant, right place," is definitely one of my gardening mantras!
Over the past few years, it has become more and more obvious that there were a few plants that, no matter what I did, no matter how many chances I gave them, were repeat offenders. They were floppers.
Pennisetum 'Karley Rose' was one of the first plants I planted in my garden...and I've seen them elsewhere looking stunning. Sadly, my garden doesn't have the sun she needs to keep upright. Here, in early summer, she is gorgeous...and I love the color and texture she contributes to the garden.
Here...probably in August or so, she's already flopped over and I've tried to prop her up...but she's obviously been partying too hard...and keeps falling down.
Ugh...and here she is in September...really, Karley, really??? I don't think this looks good to anyone. Luckily, I found a new home for Karley...one with the sun and good drainage that will make her a highlight of the garden...not an embarassment. Of course, I waited until it was about to pour rain on the day I removed her...so I got to make a huge, muddy mess...the sidewalk still has the muddy tracks from my shoes ot prove it.
I decided months ago to move Karley, but what to put in her place...hmmmm. For the longest time, I went through plant after plant in my mind...but in the end, realized that I really wanted something like 'Karley Rose'...but one that kept that gracefully arching form all season...without falling apart. Enter Pennisetum 'Red Head'.
'Red Head' is one of my new faves...it blooms far earlier than the similar 'Moudry' and maintains it's form much better than any of the Pennisetum orientale hybrids I've tried ('Red Head' is a Pennisetum alopecuroides hybride...which are much sturdier in my garden...for whatever reason). I love the full, cascading habit it acquires after a few years...and those nearly-black, fuzzy blooms...LOVE THEM!
I'm realistic with myself...this front slope has the worst soil and weirdest light in my garden...so time will tell if 'Red Head' fares any better than poor 'Karley Rose'.
Another plant that has tried my patience for the last time this year was Schizachyrium 'The Blues'. It looks great all summer until it starts to send up its long blooming stems...then FLOP. This is another plant that needs GREAT drainage and FULL sun...which isn't going to happen in my garden...like, ever. Luckily, Carolyn Kolb, of Wind Dancer Gardens, introduced me to the new cultivar 'Blue Heaven' this summer, which was completely upright in the same conditions...which means I FINALLY get to have Little Bluestem in my garden...and it's not just an exercise in pure masochism. Out came 'The Blues'...but what to put in its place?
More Pennisetum 'Red Head', of course! I pondered for a few weeks what to replace 'The Blues' with...but when I saw this 'Red Head' at Portland Nursery during their annual Apple Tasting that same weekend, I knew it was coming home with me. Having several of these in the front garden will also now help give the whole area a better feeling of unity, since there are several of the same plant repeated in the area.
What about all of you...have you made any revisions to the garden this fall...have any of you also been "editing" your garden?