Big plants! How to fit them in?
Angelica gigas, a three- to six-foot herb, belongs to the same family with carrots and parsley, and has pompom-shaped flowers with the family's delicate, umbrella-spoke structure. In contrast to green leaves, the stems and flowers are a deep reddish-purple. It loves shade and deep, moist soil but is versatile. I grew a plain-colored variety once, but I yearn for that high contrast.
False Aster (Boltonia Asteroides) also six feet, from July to September is covered with 3/4-inch flowers that look like asters, with yellow centers and white ray petals (sometimes lilac or pink). It likes sun, but will grow fine in part sun; you just might have to restrain its stems from flopping. Soil? Moisture? Not fussy at all. I once bought a pot of this at a great sale price, then when I got it home realized I had no room and had to take it back. Haven't gotten over it.
Artemisia lactiflora grows blackish-green leaves to three feet, and then on top of that, in late summer to mid-fall, another two feet of branching, lacy plumes of creamy-white flowers. It likes full sun, and moist, well-drained soil. A plant with pizazz but the variety I crave, 'Guizhou,' (purple ghost plant) has even more: pure white flowers, with mahogany-colored stems and a purple flush on young leaves.
Tree peonies, unlike most peonies, have woody stems; they grow, in ten years, to five feet tall and wide. Although you can prune them to a single stem, it's chancy, because old stems die and new ones sprout all the time. Their natural (and healthiest) shape is a little cluster of stems rising to a broad canopy of leaves and, in early summer, flowers: some of the most glamorous you can imagine, in white, yellows, pinks, reds, and combinations.
They're easy to please: well-drained soil, half a day of sun (they'll be happy with more, but the flowers will fade faster). They're very long-lived some in China are 500 years old. But they don't like being transplanted, and they're expensive. No playing musical plants with this one. I need to find a spot where ten years from now there will be space for a five-foot cluster ... and where right now the fledgling shrub will be visible (and get sun) though it's small. A puzzle I haven't solved yet but I'm dreaming on it.
© Copyright 2002 Catherine Holmes Clark