Wednesday, July 20, 2011

(Carex platyphylla)Sometimes plants have to find their own spots. Even though the parents of these silver sedge seedlings were planted very nearby, the offspring seem to find this spot preferable.

(Carex platyphylla) This silver sedge specimen sat in a sort of stasis for years before emerging this year as a thriving and vigorous plant.

(Melanthium virginicum) After a year of sulking my bunchflower finally did its thing.

One reason I would probably be a lousy landscaper is I don't find "installed" gardens very interesting. Now if a customer wanted me to install a garden and then massage, tweek, adjust, and edit it for several years I would thrive on that challenge. Many of my favorite plants did not reveal their suitabililty for my garden until after I put up with less than satisfactory performance for a while. On the other hand some plants generated great enthusiasm the first year or two only to eventually reveal themselves to be unsuitable.

I have written about this idea before, but what prompted this most recent revisit to the topic is two plants that are doing very well this year and that performed poorly previously.

The first example is Carex platyphylla, known commonly as silver sedge, broadleaf sedge, or broadleaf silver sedge. I "installed" about fifteen of these about seven or eight years ago. Some died, and the rest just limped along. Occasionally a little seedling would appear. Last year something must have clicked with them, because suddenly this year seedlings are growing together and individual plants are bright and vigorous. What is different? I have no idea, but I feel validated for having the patience to let these plants hang around in the garden until now.

The other example is more common. In fact, I suspected it might happen. Some plants just sulk the first year, and that is exactly what my Melanthium virginicum did. Commonly known as bunch flower, I became interested in this plant when I happened upon a big native stand of it while bicyling. It is a rare plant in Ohio where it is listed as "threatened". I later saw it listed in the Seneca Hill nursery catalog (responsibly seed grown I am sure) and couldn't resist the purchase. The first year they looked like they were going to die, and one did. The following year the survivor is glorious. That one year sulk is not uncommon, but a commercial landscaper would never have the opportunity to work with a plant like that. The customer would complain.