Monday, May 9, 2011

New Spring Stars

I’m adding new plants to my garden all the time, but I’m not always very good at checking how they are doing, especially perennials. (In fact, sometimes I don’t even know whether they live or die because I don’t have a good system in place to track my where I put them, and their plastic plant tags are often lost or broken.) A few days ago during a sun break, I wandered around the yard to see how my plants were doing. A number of things I planted last year are proving to be delightful spring surprises.

Uvularia grandiflora (Great Merrybells, Bellwort)

I found this at Dancing Oaks Nursery because I was charmed by its nodding, yellow bell-shaped flowers. It’s native to the Eastern US and Canada; according to the USDA, it’s endangered in Connecticut and New Hampshire, perhaps because the deer find it tasty. The arching stems reach 12-24 inches tall and the flowers on my plant are almost two inches in length. Prefers shade to part-shade. I can’t wait to have this grow into a larger clump!

Erysimum capitatum (Western Wallflower)

Native to the western US, this tangerine-colored, short-lived perennial is supposed to attract butterflies. I sure hope so! I found it at Doak Creek Native Plant Nursery, a native nursery tucked in the hills southwest of Eugene.

Lamium orvala (Giant Dead Nettle)

This Lamium was recommended to me by Maurice Horn at Joy Creek Nursery (he assured me it was well-behaved and wouldn’t take over my garden like other Lamium are prone to do). A native of Europe, its hooded orchid-like flowers appear in whorls. It offers wide leaves and grows 26-30 inches high and 30 inches wide. Plant it in part shade.

Berberis thunbergii ‘Orange Rocket’

A new introduction that may be hard to find in the garden centers for a few years, but certainly worth asking about. ‘Orange Rocket’ is an upright, columnar form of Barberry. As you can see from the photo its new spring foliage is a vibrant coral-orange that ages to mid-green then offers bright orange-red fall color. Foliage colors best when grown in full sun. Deciduous and modest in size, it grows 36-48 inches tall and only 12-16 wide.

Viola glabella (Pioneer Violet)

I have been adding more natives to my garden, starting with those that are host plants for butterflies. The Great Spangled Fritillary Butterfly (don’t you LOVE that name!) lays its eggs on the Pioneer Violet; the caterpillars eats its leaves to survive. This lovely yellow violet is now a bright spot in my shady woodland garden. This is one violet I’d be delighted to have spread as much as it wants!

Share what you consider to be spring stars with us.

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