These big bloomers you'll be proud to own! (Landsteward Article)

The Plant Man column for publication week of 03/26/06 - 04/01/06 (637 words) ###
The Plant Man by Steve Jones
These big bloomers you'll be proud to own!
Perennials, it seems, really are a perennial favorite with readers of this column. And no wonder. Perennials provide years of pleasure and a sense of continuity in your landscape as you see familiar friends returning season after season.
In the past few days, I have received via e-mail at numerous questions and requests for information on perennials that might be a little out of the ordinary. Rather than include all those questions here, I'll pass along some of the information that I sent to those folks who contacted me.
Scabiosa Grand Stone Think really big bloomers - and I don't mean oversized pantaloons - and you're describing Grand Stone. It has the biggest flowers I have seen on a Scabiosa: about 3 inches across with bold, blue petals. Unlike plants that spread out in a wide pattern, Grand Stone seems to concentrate all its energy into producing flowers, sometimes a hundred or more in a single season from one plant no more than 20 inches wide.
One reader wanted suggestions for plants suitable for cut flower arrangements and I immediately thought of Grand Stone. Cut off a few stems and it just seems to bloom even more, often all the way until really cold weather arrives in the fall. You can buy them in flats, but, in my opinion, you are better served looking for plants like these that are somewhat more mature, with an expanded root system. Those are usually shipped in two-quart containers and give you something of a head start.
Green Screen Bamboo (Fargesia robusta) After a brief mention here of bamboo, I received requests from readers for more information on different bamboo varieties. Here's one you can look for if you want something fast-growing and sun-tolerant. In fact, I bought a few to plant in my own landscape.
Fargesia robusta is large-clumping bamboo that will quickly reach a height of 15 to 18 feet with approximately a one inch diameter. It makes a pretty impressive hedge and also looks good in a container, either indoors or out. As always, let me know if you need some shopping information about this or any of the other "out of the ordinary" plants I mention.
Salvia x sylvestris "Snow Hill" Speaking of containers, here's a perennial that makes for an ideal container plant, although it also works well amidst roses or even in a vegetable garden. It has delightfully aromatic foliage and is a definite attraction for both bees and butterflies. But what makes it special for me is the sight of its glowing purple stems and the mass of clear white flowers that bloom from June to October. Snow Hill is a fast-growing perennial that is deer-resistant and prefers full sun and moist, well-drained soil.
Clethra alnifolia Sixteen Candles Remember the 80's movie "Sixteen Candles?" Or the hit record of the same name by The Crests? Of course, you're not THAT old! But this nostalgically named plant certainly does look like a cake decorated with stiffly-upright glowing white candles. Actually, rather than a mere sixteen, it can produce hundreds of 4 to 6 inch candle-like spikes in a single season.
These "candles" have a delightful scent, too! They'll do well in full sun, partial sun or shade. Again for best results, my advice is to search out plants that are shipped in containers that are one or one-and-a-half gallon, letting you enjoy a mature, thriving plant more quickly.

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