Devotedly Hoarding and Dividing Spring Perennials

It has turned out that I have a great passion for collecting Heuchera, Heucherella and now some Tiarella too.  Especially in part due to the eye candy of plants at the Terra Nova website. Dan Heims of Terra Nova Nurseries has built an empire of Heuchera and MANY other tempting delights. I never thought of myself as one of those gardener’s who would have a fixation for assembling great numbers of any one genre of plant, but these seem to be my thing. All right, you got me. That’s not ENTIRELY true I must have Euphorbia too!

My current favorite 'Berry Smoothie'

I did have quite a love affair with Nandina of ALL types for many years, they still have a place in my heart, just not as ardently. I had an extremely prized ‘Threadleaf’ Nandina that made it to an impressive size at one home. I couldn’t bear to dig it up and take it with me as it seemed to complete the spot near the front door where it thrived.

You could add on to my list of devotions, Hellebore’s and Conifer’s now, thanks to my friend Mitch, a serious collector. His influence on me has been profound in a Plant Porn kind of way. I go to his garden for a biennial fix. Mitch is going to give me a division of some of his gorgeous Blue ‘Willow’ Gentians. I am SO excited!

It occurred to me the other day as I was out on spring garden clean up day two of probably ten, that I had not divided the Heuchera’s since I had been at this house. So, I grabbed my camera to show you, if you have never done it. It’s a shame that many people simply let them die and don’t realize that Heuchera can be divided incredibly easily and with a fabulous ratio of success!
When your, let’s call her the “Mama” Heuchera gets to about 4 years old or so, you will begin to see the foliage diminish slightly and she will develop finger length “Pups” that stick up about 3-4″ with a little tuffet of leaves at the top. I know this is terribly technical, but, stick with me! 🙂

What I like to call a Heuchera "Pup"

In late March, I will either, dig up the whole plant, or if she’s a tough broad, sometimes I will just rip chunks off of her right from the ground. You will usually see anywhere from 5-10 “Pups”. Some that will be large and fat, about 4″ long and an inch around and some that are really small, only a few inches long and 1/3″ around. Yesterday, I got more than 40 divisions out of 5 plants. That’s a pretty great ROI on plants that are not inexpensive!

Simply plant them back in the garden, roots side down. 🙂 Then hurry up and wait! Smaller ones take longer, larger ones just take off. Easy peasy! Try it and save yourself a few bucks to go out and get obsessed about a new plant to spend your money on.


Hmmmmmm…. Terra Nova has these new Kniphofia I have been eying.

Plants with “Multiple Personality In-Order”

When I work with my Personal Garden Coaching clients, I am usually there to help correct one or more of these four problems:

  1. Correcting old, outdated landscape designs installed by a builder who did not care much about plant selection.
  2. Even more common these days NEW landscapes that are over planted for quick sale on a new construction home. Then the poor client’s landscape reaches that magical age of about 4-5 years old and they are really in a world of hurt when it comes to expensive refurbishment.
  3.  A former homeowner who did not have access to good plant selections back when the original landscape was installed 30-40 years ago.
  4. A homeowner who has been choosing plants when in the throes of Spring Fever, the garden has a fast blast of interest and then landscape the rest of the year is drab at best.When you add-on top of that our climate being predominantly gray for a potential 10 months of the year, it can take some time to teach the reasoning behind choosing certain plants or more likely why NOT to choose certain plants.

The plant palette in a short season, gray climate has to work much harder than in a milder climate or even a harsher climate where a clear blue winter sky or loads of snow can create a wondrous complexity of colors and textures. (This is where my college Color Theory class serves me well!) Under our skies, colors can look very drab and muted here. Foliage, textures and combination’s need to be viewed under the auspices of a close up lens not a wide-angle lens.

Placing a plant or multiples of plants with a one-dimensional performance or personality is possible, but it takes a larger area to pull that off, so that other plants have room to contrast against them from a distance. Not to mention the investment factor, if a certain plant is going to make it home from the nursery, it better be a solid performer, for what we pay for these beauties nowadays. I think of it as real estate agent would, dollars per square foot in design performance!

In today’s generally smaller lots, most people will be viewing a design or particular plant much closer from the street, patio, or window than they may have seen them in years past. Therefore, each plant that I recommend has to have more than one reason to make it on to my list of “Go To” or “Best in Show” plants. In every plant category, evergreens, deciduous shrubs, perennials, ground covers, there are choices that I have relied on for the last 20 years or more to execute more than one distinct trait and to collaborate with others to create a consistent WOW factor over the changing seasons. I call those plants, plants with “Multiple Personality In-Order.”

For example, a Viburnum Bodnantense ‘Pink Dawn’ with its lovely growth habit, early blooms before the exquisite foliage and last but definitely not least, the fall color. Now THAT is a home run example of a plant with all of the personality qualities that I would love to see in a top performer in the Northwest climate.

Another example would be a simple little evergreen shrublet that comes in many varying colors of foliage called Euonymous Fortunei. (Shown here with Sedum ‘October Daphne’ with its own personality that color changes through the season as well.) This plant has SO many options for sun and shade, as well as a wide variety of color mixes on the foliage to make a comfortable union in a white garden or a bold tropical inspired design. Even better though is that almost every cultivar turns a lovely rusty pink in the winter and then reverts to its former foliage color in spring. How cool is that?

Another great plant that has made its way on to my list of plants with multiple personality characteristics is the Pieris ‘Flaming Silver’. The show begins in early spring with the new foliage opening an intense hot coral color, then fading to a soft salmon just before it blooms with its dripping white clusters of sweet-scented bell-shaped flowers. In early summer it fades back to its original white variegated foliage, which is no slouch either!

Even though my “Go To” plant palette remains fairly consistent over the years, there has been a great shift in how they are used, by varying the combination’s, heights, drifts, textural mixes and matches, I have devised ways to design groupings that can fit many design styles and personalities.

My “Go-To” List also includes:

  1. Leucothoe ‘Rainbow’

2. Any Heuchera, but today’s favorite is ‘Berry Smoothie’

3. Nandina, ‘Firepower’, ‘Gulf Stream’ or ‘Sienna Sunset’

4. Arbutus Unedo, Strawberry Tree

5. Tri-Color Sage

How many plants with “Multiple Personality In-Order” are in your design “Go-To” list?
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Star of the Fall Show Needs Backup Singers

The focus on all of the glorious color of fall is righteous indeed. After a spring and summer of sumptuous floral displays and vegetable tableau’s that can rival any formal shrub border, it’s only natural to get a bit more introspective about the use of the giant color wheel of fall and delve into the details. I also think it’s important to take a good, long step back and see who else is out there helping to make that color sing.

Tri-Color Salvia with Nandina

Top performers know there is a bevy of behind the scenes action that lifts up and supports the lead. They are all of the names that are rarely on the fronts of magazines or books. They dazzle in a more understated way. I like to think of them as the back up singers of the plant world. Silver and grey are the back-up singers that I regularly look for in most plant combination’s that I design. They are reliable, show up consistently, and are rarely demanding of the limelight.

Hebe 'Quicksilver' is the perfect textural contrast to the fall standby Japanese Maple

 

Light colored foliage from Succulents, Ivy and Grasses - great contrast!

Wooley Thyme acts as an uplight under these hot fall colors.

 

Artemisia 'Cirrus' - one of my favorites for fall and winter

Sometimes the melody under the song is even lovelier when you listen close. You could even think of it as an up light on the stage. The bold and bawdy red lead singer out in the front of the house always looks better with a little supportive light from underneath, from the side, or in the back. Who sings back up in your garden designs?