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Long-lasting Garden Performers

An unequivocal thumbs up to Kniphofia 'Elvira'.
Some plants take a few years before they become garden stars. It's most often true with perennials, and it's definitely true for Kniphofia 'Elvira'. I was given one plant to try in my garden by Blooms of Bressingham in the spring of 2012. It was a small plant and I wasn't expecting much. But it bloomed that first summer. Its blooms doubled in 2013, and this year, that one small plant grew large enough to produce at least 10 flower spikes!

You might think that number isn't particularly large, so let me explain. 'Elvira' isn't in a sunny, really well-drained spot that it culturally prefers. And she certainly isn't planted with nothing else around. In my garden? Seriously?

Kniphofia 'Elvira' is surrounded by a plant sample of Geranium 'Azure Rush', also from Blooms of Bressingham. 'Azure Rush' is a very vigorous plant. It's related to 'Rozanne' after all, a plant that can scramble over and through anything in its path.
One bloom of Geranium 'Azure Rush' with Veronica and Echinacea.
Another thing I like about 'Elvira' is its relatively unobtrusive foliage. Unlike the larger varieties of Kniphofia, the leaves are under a foot long with the flowers hovering well above them.

While not officially designated a rebloomer, 'Elvira' provides color for two to three weeks, this year beginning in late June.

Eucomis autumnalis
In the annual department, I've planted a few Eucomis or pineapple lilies, two of which have been blooming for awhile. These unusual plants can be hardy to Zone 7, so in some places, they're perennials. I purchased three bulbs of Eucomis autumnnalis from Brent & Becky's Bulbs and combined them with Pennisetum x advena 'Cherry Sparkler' and Gomphrena 'Razzle Dazzle'.

If you're looking for longevity, Eucomis is a great choice. The flower spikes appeared and gradually elongated from the center of the circle of long, broad leaves in mid-June. I loved watching as they began to sport waxy little niblets in a shade of greenish white. 

Part of a pink and pale vignette, this pot contains Eucomis autumnalis.


Little unknown Eucomis from the supermarket.
Now, a month later, the flower stems have stretched to about 20 inches, perfect for the pot size, and even for cutting if I wanted. I will bring the pot in for the winter, keeping it in the crawl space where it hopefully won't freeze. I had success with another Eucomis--one I'd purchased on sale at a supermarket after it had finished blooming. It's a tiny little thing bearing chubby red flower buds that open white along the stems that are only about six inches high.

One thing I'm glad I did when I planted the bulbs was to use potting soil mixed with orchid bark and Growstone Soil Aerator. With all the rain we've had, my Eucomis would have rotted if I hadn't added the extra drainage. I mixed it with Fox Farm Ocean Forest Potting Soil, creating the best-textured mix I've ever used. Even with all the rain, the water soluble fertilizers and extensive root growth, the top of the soil looks good, not dry and crumbly as is often the case with other soils.