Gardening 101

New Plants to Love

Begonia grandis

Every year around around the end of the gardening season I realize that I have developed new favorite plants in the garden. The old loves still linger around in my affection although somehow they no longer grab my heart the way the current passions do. In other words, I am fickle.

We all have plants that we suddenly fall in love with. Last year one of my loves was spigellia, a native plant that fits in anywhere and still enchants me. This year I suddenly woke up to loving a plant that had long been in the garden, one that had long gone unnoticed.

Boltonia decurrens blooms when the summer is at its peak in heat. It requires little except for enough room to establish a nice patch approximately 3 by 4 feet. This is not a plant to stuff in between two stars in the garden as it insists upon spreading out, thereby suffocating the prima donnas. But give it enough space and the long-lasting, small daisy-like blooms will be an added attraction to your plantings.

The planting that really caught my attention this year, making me gasp with delight was one I’d had for four years. Hearing about Euscaphis japonica—the Korean Sweetheart Tree, I had finally tracked down two specimens, no easy matter, as it’s not widely offered in nurseries. One we planted in full sun while the other we planted in partial sun.

In the spring, insignificant yellow flowers appear, followed by red heart-shaped seed capsules. They will pop in the late summer to reveal black seeds. Before you accuse me of recommending a potentially invasive small tree, let me assure you that it is extremely hard to get these seeds to germinate, as they require a double dormancy.

This introduction by J.C. Raulston requires patience. For the first three years I yawned when I saw the tree. However. this year it burst forth with hundreds of widely visible red heart-shaped seedpods that have decorated the tree for a good three months. Patience and sun are the two qualities necessary to grow this tree.

Tied down by the echinacea curse that has haunted me for untold gardening years, I have finally found one that consents to grow in my garden: E. ‘Delicious Candy’ is a treasure. She’s only about 14 inches high so doesn’t have to be staked—a great plus in my gardening book. More importantly, she’s perky while putting out innumerable blooms throughout the summer. Perhaps the echinacea curse is nearing an end.

While the Kordes roses continue to delight me, ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ has proven to be a treasure. This is the rose I recommend for those tempted to buy Knockout rose. Showing no sign of blackspot, this rose has bloomed throughout the summer, even in July and August when temperatures soar above 89 degrees, a time when roses traditionally take a rest. She seems to require little attention, perhaps a deadheading here and there. An added plus in my book is that her foliage doesn’t engulf the blooms the way Knockout’s can. This rose is definitely a keeper.

Last year I planted Clematis virginiana, the native clematis we should opt for over the gorgeous—and invasive—C. terniflora, aka C. paniculata. Clematis virginiana grew last year but did not flower. This year she burst into bloom in late August. I had trained her to intermingle with a tall camellia. Unlike other vines, this clematis is not a threat to her host who is slumbering the summer months away. While she isn’t as striking as her cousin, C. virginiana holds her own in my garden.

As for my old loves, I still appreciate them. I relish when Camellia japonica ‘Jacks’ is in bloom, I still feast my eyes on Begonia grandis and spigelia, and get wobbly over my innumerable roses. It’s like getting a new dog: Nothing can replace your old companion but somehow your heart just grows and gets bigger so it can accept a new one.

My heart has gotten bigger.

After joining the Durham County Extension Master Gardeners in 2003, Kit Flynn now has emeritus status. She also writes gardening articles for the Durham County Extension Master Gardener newsletter, an online magazine “Senior Correspondent,” and “The Absentee Gardeners” column for “The Blowing Rocket” with Lise Jenkins.