Notes From Regional Herb Gardeners

| December/January 2000

Summer Memories

Elisabeth Sheldon 

LANSING, New York—I’m sitting here, bundled in a heavy shirt and sweater, thinking about last summer’s garden, and making a list of spring jobs: 1) Move tall white phlox and mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum) to back of fragrance garden; 2) Order more white lilies and roses; 3) Make serious war on trumpet vine; and the list goes on for two pages. How can I do it all?

Last spring we had so much rain that parts of the garden were under water and there was a small pond on the front lawn. The pond remained for such a long time that I began thinking of getting some ducks or planting cattails. The result of the perpetual rain was that established plants grew inordinately tall and lusty, but newly planted subjects just sat in the mud gasping for breath and not even trying to grow. I suppose they needed oxygen at their roots and weren’t getting it. Lily bulbs planted early in May painfully produced a blossom or so in August on top of one-foot stems—if they came up at all. Very sad.

But oh, the old wetland plants, such as the rodgersia, lythrum, and even bee balm, had a year of glory! In one section of the border many spikes of Lythrum virgatum ‘Morden Pink’ and smoky lavender Monarda ‘Thunder Cloud’ were fronted by that loveliest filipendula, the short (18 to 24 inches) ‘Kakome’, whose lacy pink blossoms go on for many weeks.

Another mass of pink was furnished by what seems to me to be the very prettiest echinacea I’ve ever grown, or seen, for that matter. It was given to me as Echinacea tennesseensis, but I suspect it is actually a cultivar of that species. My plant has small flowers of a good clear pink, whose petals extend straight out instead of drooping mournfully like those of most echinaceas. However, when I gathered its seed and raised its young, they were all different from their mother and all different from one another, all of them with large flowers with purple-pink drooping petals.

Tall sedums and perilla, with their maroon foliage, added a plummy touch to the composition of lavender and pink, while Stachys densiflora, a plant that carries short, stiff, straight-up spikes covered with whorls of rosy blossoms, repeated the pinks of lythrum, filipendula, and echinacea.

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