The Plant Man column
for publication week of 01/15/06 - 01/21/06
The Plant Man
by Steve Jones
Pandas and pygmies and kings, oh my! Some more new plant ideas
The trouble with "new" ideas is that they'll always be "old"
to anyone who already knew about them. I received quite a lot of
e-mail from readers following my recent column that featured plant
suggestions that were a little out of the ordinary. As I had guessed,
some readers were already familiar with my recommendations. But even
for the most knowledgeable horticulturist, it's good to be reminded
of plants we might not have considered for a while.
In fact, when Cheryl read that column, she reminded me of several other
plants that have caught our interest recently, and today I'll
describe some of them in case you're still looking at fresh ideas for
But first, if you missed that previous column, you can find it archived
at my Web site. Go to www.landsteward.org then click on "The Plant
Man" and look for the column titled "Some new plant ideas for the
And now to this week's planting ideas.
Crimson Pygmy (Berberis thunbergii)
As the name suggests, this is a dwarf variety of Japanese barberry. I
am fascinated by this plant, mainly because of the leaves which will
develop a hue of deep crimson in direct sunlight but will turn to a
lighter red or even green as shade increases.
In spring you'll just be able to see tiny gold-tinged flowers and in
the fall small red berries will appear that will usually remain
throughout most of the winter. At maturity, they grow to about three
feet high with a three foot spread. Crimson Pygmy can be planted alone
or grouped to make a low hedge or to surround a garden feature such as
Green Panda (Fargesia rufa)
If you lived in Western Sichuan province in China and you planted
Fargesia rufa, you might have to find a way to keep pandas out of your
back yard because they find this variety particularly succulent!
However, that probably won't be a problem for you if you live in the
United States where this variety is a relative newcomer.
Green Panda is ideal if you're looking for a screen or an unusual
hedge that will grow to about eight feet in height. I like the way the
orange-red sheaths are set off by the deep green leaves. This
non-running evergreen could add a unique flair to your landscape, but
might not be easy to find. If you're having difficulty finding a
supplier, drop me an e-mail.
Lily of the Kings (Iris pseudacorus)
Legend has it that this iris was the inspiration for the Fleur de Lys,
the symbol found on the coat of arms of numerous French kings. Whether
or not that's true, this plant will certainly add a sense of nobility
to your landscape particularly if you have a pond or a water feature.
Lily of the Kings thrives in wet areas and marshlands and I've seen
some landscapers plant it, in containers, directly into a shallow pond.
The heavy, grass-like blades will grow to a height of four to six
feet, and the cut flowers make beautiful arrangements, both fresh and
dried. If you have been wondering what to plant in that "wet"
area, this might be your solution.
Royal Standard Hosta
Don't quit reading just yet! Yes, I'm sure you're familiar with
the Hosta, perhaps the most popular perennial groundcover. However,
there are many Hosta varieties and at least one might be just different
enough to appeal to you. Take the Royal Standard, for example.
The deep green foliage will grow to about 24 inches high with a 30 inch
spread. I really like the extra-fragrant funnel-shaped white flowers
that bloom in July and August. Let it bask in morning sun and cool in
evening shade and it will flourish. As a point of interest, the Royal
Standard was the first ever patented Hosta and was introduced in 1965.
Need more personal suggestions for spring planting? Send me an e-mail
and I'll try to give you some specific ideas.
The Plant Man is here to help. Send questions about trees, shrubs and
landscaping to firstname.lastname@example.org For resources and additional
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