By Robert Woodman, Plant Specialist
I miss the garden desperately. My feet are getting itchy to get outside and I need to feel the dirt between my fingers again. I know I’m
going mad without that connection to my garden, and I’m not alone.
My daughter became so infatuated with a dark pink-flowered dianthus ‘Firewitch’ that we had to buy it for her. She insisted that it be with her during her afternoon nap, and then it joined us at the table for dinner. I love seeing her interest in plants continue to flourish. But I realize my free reign over the garden is now over. From now on, we’ll be sharing the garden.
Design needs to be my focus this year. So far I’ve been building my garden on whims, only buying plants that I have an interest in. My wife has accused me of not liking flowers. Of course, I like flowers. But I don’t rely on them as a design feature. A plant’s form, foliage color and/or texture coupled with how it looks paired with other plants is most important to me, but I admit my garden lacks a little dazzle.
Now my plan, with the help of my daughter, is to fill the ground around the existing plants to tie everything together. To accomplish this, I’m going to utilize more perennials to provide some punch.
Topping my list of must-haves are the ground-covering, mossy phlox. I’ve used them before to sweep around the feet of shrubs and provide a colorful carpet of flowers in the spring. I’m quiet keen on ‘Emerald Blue’ with its soft lilac blooms. But ‘Candy Stripe’ is equally attractive with a white stripe running down the center of its soft pink petals.
Likewise, the evergreen candytuft provides a great transition with dark green, glossy foliage erupting in the spring with white flowers. I’ve always like using candytuft in borders, and they’ve proven to be a reliable workhorse.
Hardy geraniums bring back fond memories of growing up in England, where it was used to edge a fieldstone path in our backyard. Just seeing one of these plants evokes warm childhood memories, so it’s an easy choice to include it in our garden. I’ve grown ‘Rozanne’ before, but last year it slipped away from me during our furiously hot summer. It’s a beautiful compact, repeat-flowering cranesbill that doesn’t need to be cut back.
Without a doubt, peonies are one of the best flowering perennials. They come in a wide range of choices. What type and what color is a matter of personal preference. I’ve got my eye on two of them. ‘Gay Paree’ features fragrant, two-toned flowers of raspberry pink ‘guard’ petals at its base topped with a fluffy white center. The other is the large, delicately bloomed tree peonies, particularly the Itoh hybrids, a cross between tree and herbaceous peonies. ‘Sequested Sunshine’ and ‘Bartzella’ are yellows that are catching my attention, though it’s hard to resist some of the others, too.
This promises to be an exciting spring as I re-acquaint myself with perennials and leave some of the decision making to our 4-year-old daughter. My challenge will be to work in her selections while maintaining the aesthetics of the garden.
It’ll be fascinating to see the sense of ownership grow within her as she tends to her new plants. I guess I better leave space at the table for our next dinner guest, perhaps a peony.