Sunday, June 10, 2012

What is that Plant?--Part 1

When walking through gardens, isn't it always the unusual flower that pulls you in for a closer look?  The flowers I will share with you in my “What is that Plant” series are by no means rare, but the ones that often get the most attention.  

Papaver 'Pink Ruffles'
And Papaver ‘Pink Ruffles’  is just one of those plants that pulls you in for a closer look.  More coral-than-pink blossoms with deeply fringed, ruffled petals bloomed on wiry stems from late spring thru early summer. The petals have a crepe-like appearance and a satiny texture. Each flower can measure 4 to 6 inches across.  'Pink Ruffles' is a littler shorter than most papavers at 24 inches.

In the center of  the poppy's flower rests a very large, velvety-black seed capsule surrounded by prominent, dark purple stamens. I love to watch the stamens dance when the flower is in movement.

After the bloom cycle is completed however, these perennials will go dormant, so plan on planting other plants nearby to fill in the gaps.  To hide the browning foliage, I have mine situated behind a die-back-shrub.  These spring beauties will bloom faithfully for decades when their modest needs -- a sunny spot and well-drained, moderately fertile, soil -- have been satisfied. Unlike many herbaceous plants which should be cut down as they fade in the fall, the best time to remove papaver foliage and flower stalks is shortly after flowering, when poppies will begin to brown and die.

Stachys officinalis 'Hummelo'
Native to Europe and Asia, Stachys officinalis is my next eye catcher.  Although some species of Stachys are grown primarily for their gray woolly leaves (e.g., Stachys byzantina or lamb’s ears), this species is grown primarily for its vivid flowers which can provide a spectacular display, particularly when planted en mass. When Stachys officinalis are in flower, they more closely resemble some of the salvias than the fuzzy-leaved lamb’s ears.  

 Stachys officinalis is a 1.5 to 2 feet clump-forming low mound of crispy green foliage. In early summer the upright spikes of bright-purple (Stachys officinalis ‘Hummelo’) or pink (Stachys officinalis ‘Pink Cotton Candy’) appear. I purchased Stachys officinalis as small plants last year.  One year later they have shown their true colors…beautiful colors at that. 
Stachys officinalis 'Cotton Candy'
Full sun with average moisture results in best flowering.  Remove faded flowers stems to encourage more buds to form for weeks on end. 

Stachys officinalis is an interesting and unusual perennial and deserves special placement near the front of the border. Plants may be clipped back hard immediately after blooming, to tidy up the clumps for the rest of the season.
Clumps will spread over time to form a dense ground cover but are easily divided in early spring, IF you care to share...or just want more plants for yourself.

Campanula 'Birch Hybrid' in bright shade

A remarkable characteristic of Campanula ‘Birch Hybrid’ is its ability to steal the garden stage despite its modest size. From mid-spring through mid-summer, masses of lilac-blue flowers dance en mass across a tiny backdrop of fresh green foliage. While gardeners love this easy-to grow perennial, deer and rabbits do not, making this plant a reliable, long-blooming performer for critter-challenged landscapes.

 A horizontal grower at only 6 inches tall, the flowering stems can reach 24 inches across making it a wonderful plant for walls.  While growing conditions state full sun to mostly shade, I have found bright shade results in a longer bloom time.  After flowering, gently shear off the old flower stalks and up to one-third of the plant to keep it looking its best throughout the growing season. This campanula will not become a troublesome spreader, but it will become one of the “What’s That Plant” gang.

You can read last year's series at

"There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments." -- Janet Kilburn Phillips

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