Monday, December 31, 2012
The Plant Collector Raises Her Head
As much as I try to tamp it down, there is a plant collector/hoarder lurking at my heart and soul. Unlike the gardeners who are the marketers' darlings and have to have the latest and greatest, I want the unusual, the plant that could grow here but hasn't been trialed.
Take perennial begonia. I first saw this plant growing perennially in Indianapolis at the Museum of Art. The grounds are a wonderful non-botanical garden landscaping similar to Oshkosh's Paine. Neither the art nor the gardens make a huge statement in either the art or horticulture world, but taken together each are an enchantingly pleasant waste of time.
Asking questions I found begonia grandis is hardy to zone 6 possibly with cover. I obtained a clump (legally) and attempted to grow it in Chicago's NW suburbs, zone 5b/6a. It was a fail. Now looking for something to apease my inner plant collector I come across this:
It has a hardiness marked to zone 5. It was collected in 1997, so I would think the zone information might have some correlation to reality, or not. Anyone growing begonia grandis in zone 5?
Or how about the remarkable deinanthee pictured above? This is also listed down to zone 4. Even more remarkable is the beautiful flower and the tempting bloom time which may correlate with that upcoming garden walk. Wouldn't that be sensational?
This last year, I made an effort to take in as many garden walks and botanical gardens as possible. Nowhere did I see either of these plants growing. Many gardeners I converse with regularly comment that it is difficult to find particular bedding annuals reliably from year to year and find themselves trying to save particular coleus, petunias, and calibrochoa from year to year.
So what is it with marketers chasing the same few nationally-marketed perennials and annuals, those "Proven Winners." I'm sure neither of these are on P. Allen Smith's garden plant radar.
On the annuals side I have been attempting to source some sensational petunias. I envision this massively bedded out edging of petunias underplanting my hedges and alley side of the tree and shrub borders. So many times, lately I am underwhelmed with petunias. Last year I grew some which were suppose to be this:
and instead were this:
Has this happened to you?
I'd also like to copy something I saw a couple years back at Olbrich Botanical Garden.
I'd like to use a couple different nicotianas like alata and langsdorfii and maybe an ageratum and some lambs ears on the curve under my apple tree.
So I am plant hunting by internet. Looking for the things no one is growing, but are the "why-nots?"
Ten years ago I started growing nepetas and calaminthas here in central Wisconsin. No one grew them here. Now everyone does. Still relatively underused are chelone and helianthus and a great variety of shrubs.
I grow Japanese crytomeria, zauchneria, and bush clematis. Zauchneria, or California fuschia, hummingbird plant is always listed to zone 7. I'm definitely outside the box on that one (the zauchneria). These have all been growing in my garden for 3-4 years now.
So what unusual plants do you have your eye on and wonder why they aren't being grown in your area? Is your inner plant hunter on the prowl?