Take a Chance on Marginally Hardy or Short-lived Plants

Although I've been in denial, this year I've come to the realization that pretty much my entire backyard can be labeled "partial sun." Because of the denial thing, I've purchased dozens of plants whose cultural requirements include sun. They also claim to be hardy to zones warmer than the one in which I live.

So how did they do? Here are just three that I grew (or have seen flower) for the first time in 2014.

Alstroemeria 'Inca Husky' has been blooming since I planted it in a  south-facing raised bed. 'Inca Husky' was bred by Konst Alstroemeria as a "micro," topping out around 10 inches in height. Considering its placement in a partly-shaded section of the garden, it pretty much stayed that height all summer. I love to bring flowers inside for a vase, and Alstroemeria are known for their long vase life, but I had to use a really short vase for this little beauty.

I would give this plant an A-grade for its bloom activity and hope to find more in the Inca series next year. The company, which originated in Nieuwveen, Holland, seems to be working on expanding its availability in the U.S. with growers on both coasts. On my next visit to Sunshine Greenhouse in Grant Park, IL, where I purchased 'Inca Husky', I'll look for more in the series, hopefully a variety that grows just a bit taller. Will 'Inca Husky' make it through the winter? I hope so. But its performance has given it a status in my garden that encourages me to try again if it doesn't.

I love poppies of all kinds, and I'd love to have more of a variety called 'Bolero'. This luscious grape-colored variety should be kept away from its orange relations, at least in my garden. When you put a delicately-hued flower with one with a jarring vibrance, neither wins out.

'Bolero' is a hardy Oriental poppy that remained under three feet tall, despite its less-than-fully-sunny location. I'd planted this variety in spring of 2013, and it grew like crazy that year, its rosette of leaves bulking up and not going dormant as Orientals usually do. This year it didn't offer up too many flowers, but I have high hopes for next year. 

In a partially-shaded garden Papaver orientale are not long-lived. If I get two years of blooms from 'Bolero', I'll be very happy.

Eucomis autumnalis
I purchased three bulbs of Eucomis autumnalis from Brent and Becky's Bulbs. and planted them in a container with Gomphrena 'Pink Zazzle' and Pennisetum 'Fireworks'. 

Of all thee Eucomis I planted in pots, this species by far surpassed them all. It started to bloom in late June, still looked great a month later, and I finally cut off the flower spikes in early August. 

Two of the other Eucomis I planted bloomed, but nowhere near as prolifically.

Eucomis is rated hardy to Zone 7, so I am leaving them all in their pots and keeping them in my garage for the winter. I'll let you know how they fare.

My garden is my laboratory. Each year I try dozens of new plants, many that aren't necessarily hardy in my planting zone. I go willingly into each experiment with my eyes open, but knowing your zone, what it means, and how to read a plant's tag are vital for a gardener's success. 

A lot has been written about Alstroemeria and its hardiness, with claims of winter survival in Zone 5. Cautious growers can get certain varieties through the winter in Zones 5 and 6, depending on several factors, including:
  • Drainage - the soil shouldn't allow any puddling or standing water at the crown or anywhere the roots are growing, whether the plant is growing or dormant.
  • Winter temps and snow cover - some winters are just plain harsh and involve a crap shoot combination of wind, temperature, plant location and snow cover. If it all goes right, plants stand less of a chance of going belly up.
  • Health of the plant - hedge your bets by growing plants as healthily as possible during the summer months. If they go into winter in good condition and with a healthy root system, they can withstand winter with a fighting chance of making it through.
All of the same holds true with some Eucomis, although I'm still going to bring mine into the garage.

No comments:

Post a Comment