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Unusual Perennials For The Garden
by Jennifer Moore
by Jennifer Moore


Jennifer Moore is the owner and operator of Moore Landscaping based in Elora, Ontario. Jennifer is a talented writer and landscape designer providing unique landscaping services.

Her website can be reached here...

September 3, 2000

People are wanting plants that are a little more unusual in their gardens. Hybridizers are changing commonly see plants; developing variegated foliage, producing unique blossom colours and changing flower shapes and sizes. Even though these old varieties are becoming new and are in demand again, some unchanged old varieties, not commonly seen are making their way back into gardens. Most perennials are adaptable to sun or shade, various soil and water conditions. Some perennials change their leaves to gold or russet in autumn, while others stay evergreen, thus making the garden enjoyable and adding interest in the fall and winter months. As nurseries and plant growers are trying to keep up with the demands of gardeners, wanting something "different" for their flowerbeds, I have listed a few to tempt you to investigate the different varieties available.

Moonflower - As the name suggests, this plant only flowers in the late evening. Its finely cut leaves resemble the dandelion's, yet are finer still. The blossoms are silky, four- to five-petalled and soft yellow which emerge from the center of the plant, reaching only 5 to 6 inches tall. It grows in full sun to part shade in various soil environments, with the only "predator" being the grower, removing it by mistake thinking it is a dandelion.

Bear's Breeches - This dramatic looking plant is better suited in a large garden, as its roots can become invasive. A single specimen can spread 3 feet across and 4 feet tall, yet can still be used in a small garden if properly pruned. This unique plant flowers in late summer; flower blossoms are creamy white with mauve caps and are frugally placed up the stem above glossy green foliage. It is best suited in a sunny, well-drained site. Be sure to provide a heavy mulch for its first winter.

Italian Arum - This spring flowering gem has been known since the 1600's and yet I'm surprized it isn't seen often. This plant's arrow-shaped leaves are spotted cream and grey, with the flower appearing in early spring. The leaves die down for the summer, then reappear in the autumn with bright red berries. It is best suited in a moisture-retaining location in either sun or part-shade, and grows approximately 1 foot tall.

Clematis heracleifolia - Commonly called the "Tube Clematis", it is a summer flowering, sweet-smelling border perennial. Not a climber like its cousins, it instead grows flower "tubes" in ringed clusters up the 2 to 4 foot tall stems. Available in a bright blue with purple undertones, this plant is a show stopper when mass planted. After the initial flowering, fluffy seed heads take their place in the glory, looking like soft cottonballs. Needing soil enriched with compost or manure and a sunny location, this plant is one to please.

Crocosmia - Resembling Gladioli leaves, the dark green leaves first appear through the soil from small corms. Then bright orange-red trumpets-shaped flowers appear mid- to late summer on 3 foot tall stems. The fragile-looking flower stems arch over gracefully with their blossoms opening at the base first. Best planted in large clumps, the corms need a sheltered spot in sun or part-shade, with well-drained sandy soil to ensure they pull through the winter. It is the water-logged soil that causes them to perish, not necessarily the cold and frosts. Well worth any effort to brighten a dreary corner.

Joe-PyeWeed - This 5 to 6 foot tall perennial grows wild in North American ditches and yet it does well in the perennial border. This plant stands out with its tall, upright purple stems and purplish foliage. Enhancing this plant even further, the stems are adorned with fluffy pink-mauve flower heads that appear in early autumn. The gardener must remember to plant it well at the back of the border because of its size, or shorter plants in front will be hidden. It requires rich soil and needs to be given compost or well-rotted manure mulch in the spring.

Euphorbia "Fireglow" - A member of the Spurge family, this plant makes a statement all on its own. The asparagus-like shoots appear in a burgundy colour, turning to dark green as they grow taller. In early summer, bright brick red "flowers" appear, actually not flowers at all, but bracts of the plant. This 3 foot tall plant grows best in a sun or part- shade location and is best suited as an accent plant. Its roots can become invasive, yet are easily controlled as they spread slowly with underground shoots. This is only the beginning for unusual and not commonly seen plants available for the gardener. More unique and unusual plants will be discussed in the next article.

-Jennifer won the "Best Producer" award in 1998 for her cable TV gardening program, previously aired on two stations in Ontario. A new gardening television series, called "The Ontario Gardener" is being aired on Rogers Television, across Ontario and parts of British Columbia.

Currently Jennifer writes a weekly gardening column, for The Wellington Advertiser and various newsletters throughout Canada and United States. She is a regular contributor to other publications and various gardening websites around the world. A new magazine featuring her writing, also called "The Ontario Gardener", shows gardens in and around her area.

Jennifer gives talks and demonstrations to people, showing how they too can enjoy gardening and answer any questions they may have. Various gardens around the area have evolved or improved with the help of Jennifer's expertise and designs.

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