rock garden

The True Cottage Garden Heartthrob

Dicentra eximia: The Fern-leaf Bleeding Heart

By: Lauren M. Liff for Dabah Landscape Designs

 

            In almost every cottage style garden you see, there is one breathtaking plant that rules over all others: the fern-leaf bleeding heart. A true shade garden staple, this stunning perennial offers beautiful blooms almost all summer long unlike its cousin Dicentra spectabilis. The fern-leaf bleeding heart tends to stay on the dwarf side and rarely grows more than 15 inches in height. It will bloom all summer long without going dormant and it comes in a range of foliage and bloom color, providing gardeners everywhere with many options for the shady spots in their landscape.

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            A North American native, the fern-leaf bleeding heart has been used by breeders to develop a number of different varieties that come in a wide range of colors from the cherry red flowers of the ‘Luxuriant’ to the pure white flowers of the ‘Snowdrift’. The ‘Bacchanal’ variety offers the deepest red bloom of them all and is adorned with foliage that is almost a silver-blue shade. All varieties are low lying and slow spreading and require little to no maintenance all season long. Dicentra eximia features hearth shaped flowers hanging from long arched stems slightly resembling the look of a dangling bouquet. These incredibly recognizable blooms sit atop finely cut foliage that is typically a blue-green shade.

            The fern-leaf bleeding heart can tolerate very cold winters and don’t tend to be too picky when it comes to soil type, however they do thrive in moist, fertile soil. They can be planted in the sun however they do best in a part to full shade area. Too much shade will lessen the number of flowers. When planting your bleeding heart, avoid placing it where it will be in competition with tree roots – lack of water and available nutrients will greatly shorten its lifespan. To keep it as healthy and happy as possible, it should be divided every 3 or 4 years in early spring and the soil should be amended with organic matter (compost will work the best). Once it is established, the fern-leaf bleeding heart is disease and insect resistant and will flower continuously from spring to fall year after year without needing to be deadheaded or pruned.

            Thanks to its dwarf habit, the fern-leaf bleeding heart is perfect as a front border plant in a shady garden. You can also use it in a shade-rock garden or woodland garden along the rocks. Its beautiful foliage makes it perfect as an edging plant as well. The blue-green color of the leaves contrast beautifully with the purple-red leaves of Heuchera or the gold leaves of the Hosta variety ‘Daybreak’. You can also plant it along side Hakonechloa as well as many fern varieties. The fern-leaf bleeding heart in combination with these companion plants will give your shade garden an incredible range of colors and textures to provide you with season long interest.

 
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Look at those neat flowers! Can you Sedum (see-dum)?

Sedum spp and hybrids: Stonecrop

By: Lauren M. Liff

         When it comes to versatility and reliability, sedum is pretty high up there on the list. Sedum ranges in height, habit, garden use, bloom time and color making it a great addition to just about any garden. Some varieties are spreading groundcovers while other varieties are taller and more upright while still others are small enough to be planted in containers and cared for as houseplants. Whether you’re looking for a ground cover to add to your rock garden or a late summer bloomer in your perennial garden – there is a sedum variety to fill almost any position.

         Most of the low-lying flowering varieties will bloom in the spring, as the taller varieties tend to bloom in the late summer or early fall. The low growing varieties are have a spreading/creeping growth habit and the taller varieties can get up to 2 feet tall or more. The blossoms of flowering sedums are star-shaped and bloom in clusters. The flowers range in color: shades of white, red, orange, yellow, lavender and pink – with all the varieties and sedum hybrids, each one is unique. All sedum varieties have thick leaves that grow in clusters around their stems. Some varieties have hairy foliage where as others have leaves that are waxy, some varieties have colorful leaves while others are adorned with light green foliage.

         Even though the varieties of sedum are all different, they are all succulents. As succulents they store water in their foliage, just as a cactus so they prefer to be in well-drained soil and thrive in full sun. Newly planted sedums should be well watered but once they are established they are drought tolerant. Sedums are fairly low maintenance requiring a light layer of compost in the spring each year, division to keep them in check, pruning to keep them healthy and pinching if you prefer to keep them small.

         Sedum can tolerate part sun however this may cause your plant to become leggy and flop over. If this does happen, a cage can be used to keep them upright or pinching the new growth in the spring to promote additional branching – this will also help to keep your sedum on the shorter side. They can be easily divided – in older plants the center of the “clump” will start to die out. To do this, simply divide your sedum into wedge-shaped sections and be sure to replant it in a similar location as to not shock the plant. Sedum cuttings also root rather easily; simply take the cutting and plant it into the soil – with proper watering and an ample amount of sunlight, the cutting will take root in no time! There is no need to deadhead sedums as the spent flower heads are almost as attractive as the blooming flower head – you can cut the whole plant back to the ground after the first freeze (the tops can be composted if you like).

         Sedum attracts a wide variety of pollinators and they are very much adored by butterflies making them the perfect late blooming perennial for your butterfly garden. When used in a butterfly garden or perennial garden, the taller varieties of sedum can be planted amongst coneflowers, rudbeckia and Russian sage. This combination of summer bloomers will give you an extra burst of color later in the season. When using a creeping sedum variety in your rock garden or as a low-lying border, it can be paired with other low growing and/or spreading flowers such as alyssum. With all the different varieties and sedum hybrids, it’s quite easy to find the perfect spot for it in your garden. In your flowerbed, amongst the rocks, on your windowsill or in a planter – sedum is truly one of the most interesting and versatile plants around!

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