what am I missing?

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August 2013

I’m happy with the garden this summer, and there’s not much I would change, other than doubling its size if I could. And if I could, then I’d find a spot again for Persicaria amplexicaulis. It loves the stiff clay soil here. (I’ve been thinking about that clay soil a lot now that there’s rumors of a wet El Nino winter coming. And here I’ve been filling the garden with succulents and drainage-touchy Mediterraneans. It’s always something.) This Persicaria’s water needs are surprisingly modest to mediumish, probably similar to anizoganthos, and it handles full sun beautifully. It’s one of the most reliable perennials I’ve ever grown. Perennials generally hate zone 10 because we don’t let them sleep through the winter, which makes them grouchy and die. There’s white and pink forms too if you find the red a little strident. But a big clump like this leaves a big gap in winter. A gap that can be filled with winter-blooming aloes, for example.


July 2011

The persicaria with gaura, way back when my Yucca ‘Margaritaville’ still had impeccable form and was 1/8 of its current size. That yucca has seen a lot of changes in the garden. It’s probably the oldest plant here.

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The yucca again with Geranium ‘Dragon Heart,’ another plant that needs a moister garden. I spy catanache and the dark-leaved shrub Lophomyrtus ‘Red Dragon’ too. I need to find this great form of New Zealand Myrtle again. I should have done a photo series through the years with that yucca as the linchpin in an ever-changing garden.


I still think I should be able to grow Lobelia tupa. I got this close to a bloom a few Julys ago.


And the clump appeared to be robust. A hot August was the end of it. Maybe afternoon shade?


I haven’t grown Calandrinia spectabilis, the Rock Purslane, in a few years and just planted a small rooted cutting I must have pinched from someone’s hellstrip.


It’s almost too common now because it’s easy, tough. The only down side is that it tends to quickly make a huge, unwieldy clump.
Also goes by Calandrinia grandiflora and Cistanthe grandiflora. Tender, from Chile.


Salvia ‘Purple Rain’ is a very short-lived perennial here. The Libertia peregrinans tends to fade away too. Loved them together. June 2010


Amicia zygomeris from Mexico is an oddball I’ve been thinking of again. Maybe I’ll try the variegated form this time. Might as well go odd whole-hog. This plant laughs at heat, and I don’t remember it being touchy about requiring evenly moist soil. A giant thing, at least a 6-footer.


I wrote in June 2011:

The Amicia zygomeris planted last fall has been a mesmerizing presence that I’ve allowed to grow as large as it pleases. Permissiveness the first year in the garden, discipline the next. In a small garden, something’s gotta give, and this year it’s the crocosmia getting squeezed by the amicia. Crocosmia is tough enough to take it and will be back in force next year.”

Uh, no, not exactly. I’m just now rebuilding stock of crocosmia again. I’m definitely missing crocosmia this summer.

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11 Responses to what am I missing?

  1. I’ve been wanting to try crocosmia but then I see huge clumps of it on the coast and in Portland and I hesitate. Maybe in our climate it wouldn’t turn into an unwiedly monster?

    Like you, I’m constantly wrangling with perennials that get too big or otherwise prove unsuitable in a given spot. Gardening is synonymous with constant change…

  2. linda says:

    I ordered Persicaria A. ‘fat domino’ from ‘ digging dog’ nursery , while stuck in doors with the heat wave we have been having in the PNW . Not sure it’s going to like my sandy soil though.

  3. Kris P says:

    Although I’m looking forward to a wet El Niño, I’m also concerned about what it means for all those plants that like it dry that I’ve painstakingly collected. I’ve been adding cactus mix to a lot of my beds to aid drainage in the areas with heavier soil but I imagine I’ll lose some plants. As the saying goes, we must be careful what we wish for, especially in the land of floods and mudslides.

  4. Alan @ It's Not Work, It's Gardening! says:

    Sometimes when I look back and remember fondly perennials that I no longer grow, that “fog of time” has made me forget that there’s something about them that is the reason they’re gone. Like it dies every year. Or the animals eat it as soon as I walk away from planting it. ‘Sweet Dreams’ Coreopsis is that plant for me.

    Persicaria amplexicaulis (firetail) is top of my list for plants to add. Hope to plant some this year still. I kind of have a thing for plants that spread crazily.

  5. hoov says:

    I just pulled out a clump of Cistanthe, originally planted from a cutting. It filled a 96 gallon bin and must have weighed 200 pounds. Now I know to refresh yearly–or else.

    So many beautiful plants, so little time and space…stay cool, in this gooey heat.

  6. ks says:

    Persicaria amiplexis went bye bye here –it clashed horribly and I have admitted color clash aversions. However my pink version is going strong in spite of the flops. I was happy with my garden this summer too, until the inevitable late summer blahs set in. Madly cutting back now.

  7. Denise says:

    @Gerhard, crocosmia doesn’t get out of control for me, it’s too dry for that. I had a big clump of Solfatarre once, but it took a while to make size.
    @Linda, it’s such a strong grower it’ll probably be fine in sandy soil, but possibly steady irrigation might be the ticket in that situation.
    @Kris, it’s crazy. I just lost a large fan aloe after that summer storm. I’ve never lost succulents before!
    @Alan, that’s exactly it, the fog of time. And that’s the reason my garden is such a merry-go-round!
    @Hoov, that was my last experience with it and why I’ve avoided it for so long (see Alan’s comment!)
    @Kathy, I do hear a lot of negativity about the strong color. Nice to hear you give the thumb’s up on your garden this year.

  8. Scott Weber says:

    It’s so true about the Persicaria…they are much tougher than they look…especially those like ‘Firetail’ (‘Golden Arrow’, not so much).

  9. Pam/Digging says:

    Persicaria is one of those plants I’d love to be able to grow here in Austin.

  10. rusty duck says:

    I ‘discovered’ Persicaria just last year and as with many similar discoveries all of a sudden I want them all. They do spread, but as I’m looking to cover earth at the moment it’s welcome. Feel free to remind me I said that..
    Lovely to see Amicia again!

  11. Denise says:

    @Scott, I couldn’t find any spot Golden Arrow found agreeable. Lots of new varieties coming out with lighter/darker shades, but Firetail is still one of the best for masses of bloom.
    @Pam, there’s a whole list, isn’t there? I’ve got lots more I’m missing too.
    @Jessica, it was you that got me pining for amicia again! The persicaria will be quite the asset in your new prairie plantings.

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