I have a confession to make. It is not something I am proud of, but I feel like I have to admit it.
My dirty little secret is……..I don’t know squat about perennials. I am by genetics a tree geek, but perennials have never been all that exciting to me. Today, I take the 1st step in my horticultural reform.
Sure I have grown some plants like purple coneflower (from seed started indoors I might add!), monarda, salvia, as well as those damn yellow Stella d’Oro daylilies that are everywhere. However most of the perennials I have had I just stuck in the ground and maybe watered a couple of times.
So I have decided to begin doing some posts about perennials. Don’t worry, this is not going to become a perennial blog. I figured, I want to learn a bit and what better way to learn than to teach. So if I write something you think is hogwash, please correct me in the comments (Yes – I have been trying to work in the word “hogwash” into a blog post for 6 month!). I do ask that you please don’t make me cry.
Which perennials to begin with
I figure the best place for me to begin is with the best plants. So I will start with the list of winners of the Perennial Plant of the Year™ (POY™) program from the Perennial Plant Association (PPA).
According to the PPA, these plants are chosen to satisfy the following criteria:
- Suitability for a wide range of climatic conditions
- Low-maintenance requirement
- Relative pest- and disease-resistance
- Ready availability in the year of promotion
- Multiple seasons of ornamental interest
Those all sound good to me, especially that second one!
Let start with the 2013 winner:
Variegated Solomon’s Seal
Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’
Pronounced: po-lig-o-nay’tum o-do-ray’tum vair-e-ah-gay’tum
Wow I bet you can’t say that ten times real quick. It rhymes!
The best part about starting with this plant is that I actually have been growing it for several years. My neighbor Dawn gave me some of these plants when she was dividing them. I am sure her name will come up more in this series as her yard is filled hundreds of varieties of Hosta and other perennials.
For her they were doing quite well and spreading out a bit farther then she wanted. Being the cheapskate I am, I almost never pass on a plant when its price is FREE. Therefore I took and planted several clumps of these plants throughout my yard.
I planted mine in full to partial sun. This is despite the fact that according to my guide on this journey to the unknown world of perennials, The MANUAL OF HERBACEOUS ORNAMENTAL PLANTS by Steven Still,
they are best used “in naturalized areas, wild gardens, woodlots, shrub borders or the shadiest part of the perennial border.”
Oops, I guess this is why I am writing this post.
I could see where the variegated leaves would stand out in the shade. I could see using them as accent plants that are repeated throughout a shaded garden area. Especially since they grow so well and are easy to transplant to make new plantss.
The variegated Solomon’s seal is a great plant for the cheap gardener that only want to buy a few of these but divide them as they grow.
Some of mine are planted among my white bark birches (Betula populafolia ‘Whitespire Sr.’) and white variegation echoes the color of the bark pretty nicely.
Hardiness zones: 3 to 9
Size: The variegated Solomon’s seal grows 18-24” tall with arching stems. They will slowly spread to form thick colonies.
Soil: Like anything they prefer moist, well drained soil. It sounds like it should do well in wetter soils too. Mine do well in pretty dry conditions, but this seems to slow how quickly they spread (OK with me!)
Light: They prefer part to full shade. Mine have done just fine in full sun and partial sun except for the summer of 2012 when record heat and drought made them look pretty ragged by July. I should note I am in zone 5, they might torch in full sun if you are in a warmer climate.
Flowers: Small, bell-shaped white flowers with green tips underneath the arching stems. The flowers are lightly and sweetly fragrant.
Fruit: Bluish-black berries are sometimes present on the variegated Solomon’s seal in the late summer or fall. They are poisonous, although I could not find a definitive answer on just how poisonous. Some sources said you would have to eat a whole lot to have big problems. I am paranoid and used to have a home day care in my home, so I usually cut the whole plant down in the summer when it flowered. It then regrows but does not have time to set fruit.
Fall Color: A dried yellow that I find attractive (see photo below for how they look in early fall, they will turn nicer brighter yellow later in the fall).
My verdict: It’s a winner for me. The variegated Solomon’s seal looks great in three seasons and grows easily with no real care needed unless you want to eliminate the fruit. For a perennial, I like their fall color. It is probably a plant best in a shade garden, but seems pretty adaptable.
For more information on the variegated Solomon’s seal click here.
Can you tell me anything about growing Solomon’s Seal indoors in a pot?
Thanks I am glad you enjoy them.
I am a gardener at Anderson Japanese Garden in Rockford, IL. May I suggest you drive out to see it in the coming weeks. Fall color should probably be good in a week and probably great in two. Do be sure to check the website for hours as we close at 4:00 pm on the weekends.
I look forward to reading your articles each week. I am curious as to which Japanese Botanical Garden that you are associated with? I had the good fortunes to live in Tokyo for a couple of years and our home that we rented had an authentic Japanese garden with Koi pond. I returned to America with a great love and appreciation for Japanese art, architecture as well as gardens. Several years later, when living in the LA area, I attended UCLA school of Interior Design. I took an elective course in Landscape Design and the professor was Koichi Koana whose masterpiece was the Japanese Garden in the Botanical Gardens in St. Louis MS. Our classes were spent mostly rapturously viewing his slides and last fall I made the trip down there to finally view the garden in person! (I live in Libertyville IL.) It was wonderful and as amazing design as I had anticipated! Koichi Koana was certainly a genius at his vocation and I feel so honored to have had him as a teacher!
So, where are you located? Here at the Chicago Japanese garden or St. Louis or some other Japanese Garden?
Looking forward to hearing from you!