Strange Plants to Make Your Garden Unique

Why plant the same things that everyone else does – ones that are sold in all of the local garden centers?

Your garden could contain unique colors, foliage and oddly-shaped plants for all to admire.

Here are a few suggestions.

                                        Sea Holly

                                        Sea Holly

There are quite a few “black” flowers on the market.  Black is usually a dark purple or blue but unless you look closely, you may not notice.  ‘Onyx Odyssey’’ Helleborus is striking and ‘Silver-Laced’ Primrose stands out with bright yellow centers and white edges to make the black petals look even darker.  If you would like an unusual potted plant, look for the Bat Flower.  It is subtropical so bring it indoors when the nights start to cool off.  For black foliage, check out ‘Black Mondo Grass.’

 Blue Zebra Primrose is a truly unique flower with yellow and orange centers giving way to narrow striped petals of blue and white.

                          Corkscrew Rush Spiralis

                          Corkscrew Rush Spiralis

 Sea Holly looks like a cross between teasel and thistle and with its blue-purple coloring and grey foliage it is truly a beauty.  Tell your friends that you’ve added Raspberry Mousse or Blue Wonder Toad Lily to your garden and watch their reactions

Tell your friends that you’re growing Spiny Bear’s Breeches and watch their looks of amazement.  Some people who name plants truly have a sense of humor.

 Other plants to check out are:

  • Japanese Blood Grass

  • Drumstick Allium

  • Blue Evening Primrose

  • Night and Day Snapdragon

  • Caramel Coral Bells

  • Corkscrew Rush Spiralis

  • Wheee Hosta

  • Cerinthe Blue Shrimp Pride Of Gibraltar (Blue Shrimp Plant - annual)

  • Red Edged Pig's Ear

  • Beargrass

  • Jack in the Pulpit

  • Gay Feather

  • Dutchman's Breeches

 Have fun!!

Japanese Knotweed - a True Scourge

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It may look innocuous or even pretty but the Japanese Knotweed is invading our landscape.  Most people aren’t even aware of how noxious it can be until it’s too late.  According to Wikipedia it is listed by the World Conservation Union as one of the world's worst invasive species.  It was brought into the USA as an ornamental shrub and for erosion control.

 This shrub looks a bit like bamboo and can grow up to 15’ tall but it often appears as a much smaller plant.  It has large oval leaves 3-5.5” long and clusters of small cream-colored flowers.  It is in bloom now in mid-September and you’ll often see it growing along the side of the road and in fields and the edge of the woods. 

 If you’ve ever had it in your yard and tried to get rid of it, you will know about its “secret weapon.’  This plant spreads by underground runners.  BUT … these aren’t your typical underground runners.  The roots grow quickly and they can grow almost 10’ down with a horizontal spread up to 65’.  The plant itself can grow up to 8” per day.

 It steals water and nutrients from other plants in the area and quickly kills or weakens other plants it encounters.  Even though it was introduced to control erosion, it actually causes erosion by crowding out any low-growing plants and leaving bare ground near its base.  It can also affect wildlife by eliminating native food plants and changing native habitat.

 You can try to dig it out, but leaving even a ¼” piece of root will allow it to reappear.  The recommended treatment is to apply a glyphosate weed killer such as Roundup.  Even this can take up to 5 years of reapplications to completely eliminate the plants.  If you choose to use a different type of herbicide, be sure to verify it will be effective against this particular plant.  Some herbicides only put the roots into a dormant state and don’t actually kill them.  The best time to spray is when the plant is in bloom and its circulation system is most active.

 Do not mow it as some small pieces may actually take root elsewhere.  Any parts of the plant that you cut down need to be bagged and put in the garbage.  It can also be burned if that is allowed in your area, but be sure that every bit of the plant has been incinerated.

 For those who prefer not to use chemicals, it will be a long process to eliminate these shrubs.  Cut the plants to the ground and dig out the rhizomes. Be sure to bag all plant matter and dispose of it in your normal trash.  Leaving even a ¼” piece of root will allow it to regrow.  This plant can grow in literally any conditions and is tolerant to salt. 

If you find this in your yard, try to get rid of it before it’s a huge problem and if you see it growing wild, report it to your local Parks Department.

Allelopathy

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Allelopathy is defined in Wikipedia as “a biological phenomenon by which an organism produces one or more biochemicals that influence the germination, growth, survival, and reproduction of other organisms.”

 The condition most people familiar with allelopathy is that very few plants can survive under the branches of a black walnut tree.

 Certain plants and other organisms give off chemicals that inhibit growth of other plants, reducing competition for resources.  These chemicals can be given off by the plant’s root  system, through decomposition of leaves, seeds and flowers or even as a gas released from the plant’s pores.  Once a plant is showing symptoms, it is usually too late to save it.

To reduce the allelopathic effect, be sure that your soil has good drainage and is healthy with plenty of natural fungi and bacteria.  Adding compost and organic material will aid both of those conditions.

With some plants, even removing them won’t solve your problem.  You can find plants that are compatible or replace the soil.

The best way to avoid issues is to know which plants cause issues and which plants are most affected.  Keep them far apart or don’t plant allelopathy-producing plants.

The other side of allelopathy is “companion planting.”  There are situations where a plant with allelopathic effects can “protect” a tolerant plant from competition.  This is sometimes used in crop planting where a companion plant will eliminate weeds.

If you have a problem, do some research on those specific plants.  There is usually a solution.

Friday's Fantasy?: Egyptian Walking Onion

You’re not imagining things!  Have you ever seen a plant that can “walk?”

 This plant isn’t the prettiest one around, but it sure is interesting.

Friday's Flower - Egyptian Walking Onion2.jpg

 The Egyptian Walking Onion – native to Asia - got its name from the way it spreads across your garden.  Where most onions grow  bulbs underground and flowers on spikes above, this one skips the flowers and instead grows mini bulbs on tall spikes up to 2’ tall.

Friday's Flower - Egyptian Walking Onion.jpg

 The mini bulbs grow in size and weight until the rigid spikes topple over.  Where the bulbs touch ground, they take root and start the process again.

 They are hardy to zone 3 and have few “health” issues.  They need full sun to truly thrive.

 They are perennials with foliage that dies back to the ground.  To keep your garden neat, tie them up or trim them after the tops have died.

 The bulbs and greens are edible.  Use the greens as you would chives or other green onions.  The bulbs are small and very piquant.

 This will be a great conversation piece for your garden.

Friday’s Flower: Jack in the Pulpit

Friday's Flower - Jack in the Pulpit.jpg

The woodlands produce many interesting and unusual plants.  Due to the lack of sun, the flowers are often small or drab in color.

 The Jack in the Pulpit has some unusual-looking flowers that you might walk by without noticing.

 The flower consists of an upright trumpet-shaped flower topped with a “hood.”  Inside the flower is a spadix or floral spike that stands tall.  Altogether, it resembles a religious figure about to give a sermon while standing at it’s pulpit.

Friday's Flower - Jack in the Pulpit - berries.jpg

 The flower is usually green and sometimes has maroon stripes inside.   After blooming, it produces a clump of scarlet berries.  Keep in mind that the berries are poisonous.

 The leaves could be mistaken for poison ivy – if it grew in an upright fashion.

 This is definitely a plant to consider for your shade or woodland garden.

 

Friday's Flower: Ghost Lamium

Friday’s Flower - Ghost Lamium.jpg

If you’re looking for a striking and hardy groundcover, then you should take a look at Lamium.  This evergreen perennial has lovely variegated heart-shaped leaves.

 Deer and most other herbivores will ignore this plant, making it even more desirable. 

 As with other Lamiums, the Ghost Lamium  prefers somewhat shady, dry conditions.  It produces blossoms beginning in the spring and continuing throughout the summer months.

 Its draping habit also makes it great for containers.

 It grows to be about a foot tall and spreads to be 1-2’ across.

 Keep an eye on this plant as it can travel to places where you may not want it.  If it gets into your lawn, it will return after you mow it down. 

 

Friday's Flower: Baptista

Friday's Flower - Baptisia.jpg

False Indigo is a great go-to plant.  Not only is it extremely hardy but it makes a striking backdrop for your garden.

The flowers grow on spikes similar to the Lupine plant, reaching up to 4’ in height from the mounded plant.  The seed pods give added interest through the fall and winter, hovering over the darkened foliage.

While we usually think of indigo with blue flowers, Baptista varieties also produce flowers of purple, yellow and white.  Both Native Americans and colonists used the flowers were used to dye fabric.

They are resistant to diseases, pests and deer too!

Friday's Flower - Baptisia Pink Lemonade.jpg

Friday's Flower: Rose Campion

Friday’s Flower – Rose Campion.jpg

Rose Campion is something special.  Between its fuzzy silvery foliage and striking magenta blossoms, it’s a true standout in the garden, adding color and texture whether or not it’s in bloom.

 This is a fairly easy plant to grow as it likes dry, poor alkaline soil.  It is also hardy up to zone 4.

 They bloom best in their second year and after that, the flowers become sparser but they make up for it by reseeding themselves every year so you always have a new crop on its way.  At the end of the blooming season, remove any mulch so the seeds will hit the ground as they drop.

 With regular deadheading, you’ll have a long crop of flowers – from May to July – but don’t forget to let those late season blossoms go to seed for next year.

 In olden days, the leaves were used as wicks for oil lamps in their native regions around the Mediterranean Sea. 

 The plants can grow up to 3’ tall and up to 1.5’ across.    They are deer-resistant and generally insect- and disease-resistant also.

 If you’d like some variation in color, varieties are available with solid white flowers or white with pink centers.

 Bring this little plant into your life for some bright color and beauty.