Pandas and pygmies and kings, oh my! Some more new plant ideas

The Plant Man column for publication week of 01/15/06 - 01/21/06 (714 words) ###
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 spring planting.
But first, if you missed that previous column, you can find it archived at my Web site. Go to then click on "The Plant Man" and look for the column titled "Some new plant ideas for the new year."
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 a birdbath.
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 For resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed newsletter, go to

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