Some Lesser Known, Unusual Plants

January 9th, 2012 | featured | admin | No Comments

Do you have a pesky wet area on your property where you just can’t get anything to grow? Well, look no further. A great performing perennial that will thrive in that damp location is Turtlehead (Chelone lyonii). One particular variety, ‘Hot Lips’, is readily available and will give you strong performance all season.

 

Late in the season you will be rewarded with a show of unusual pink flowers that resemble turtles coming out of their shells. Be sure to leave the dead flowerheads on this plant after the flowers fade because they provide additional interest into the late reaches of fall.

 

Turtlehead prefers moist, organic soil, and partial to full sun exposure. It will tolerate better than a half day of shade. It grows 24 inches tall and fills in its own space once established. Cut back to the base of the plant in early to mid December and provide supplemental water during periods of drought. No other maintenance is required.

 

Another great performing, low maintenance perennial is Big Ears Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantina ‘Helen von Stein’). This plant does not flower but has excellent foliage that provides unique textural, and color contrast. Big Ears Lamb’s Ear gets its name from the fact that the leaves are very soft and fuzzy and feel like a lamb’s ear when held in your hand.

 

This plant does not require any irrigation or watering and actually prefers to be hot and dry. The whole plant is designed to conserve water. The foliage gets very dense, which shades the ground it’s planted within and this helps keep moisture in the soil. The leaves are thick, fleshy, and the hairs on the leaf help keep the plant from losing moisture.

 

Big Ears Lamb’s Ear has very large leaves and contrasts well with low ornamental grasses, and ground covers like Stonecrop (Sedum). It also looks very nice when grouped with late blooming Asters. It grows 12 inches tall. The only maintenance required is to thin the leaves out every year in late fall or early winter. This will help keep the plant from staying too wet over the winter.

 

Everyone has heard of the benefits of St. Johnswort as an herbal supplement. Well, the garden variety will not let you down either. St. Johnswort (Hypericum) is a low, dense, flowering shrub with narrow, blush-green leaves. It blooms from late June into August when the entire plant is covered with bright yellow flowers.

 

St. Johnswort is tolerant of a wide variety of soils, including very poor soil conditions. It is highly drought tolerant and requires little irrigation once established. I use this plant in medium to large massings for visual effect and textural contrast. I group it with larger, bolder-leaved plants such as Big Ears Lamb’s Ear, Fothergilla, Double Knock-out Shrub Rose, and Tardiva Hydrangea.

 

St. Johnswort will tolerant partial shade, but prefers a full sun exposure for most of the day. It grows 36 inches tall and wide. Prune after the blooms have faded with hand bypass pruners to keep the plant in a desired shape and size.

 

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