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Interesting long-term ornamentals - number five

In case you missed my last column, I was talking about my top five plants. Blueberries, oakleaf hydrangea, European beech, and vining or climbing hydrangea are the first four. There just wasn't enough space to talk about number five.

David Robson
David Robson
Number five, it's the tough one. My first thought was to mention Krossa Regal hosta, one of those great large blue leaf, slug-resistant upright vase-shaped hostas with pale purple flowers in the summer. Sure, I have about four clumps throughout my yard and just sigh over them every time they come up. And that's just one of the cultivars out of literally thousands.

Then there was Tardiva Hydrangea, a late summer/fall blooming plant. The pure white flowers look like elongated snowballs in September. How many plants can you name that bloom in the fall? Better yet, how many shrubs can you name? However, I've already named two hydrangeas and you might think I have stock in some hydrangea factory somewhere.

And, of course, there is a pinkish flowered form, but anyone who knows me knows my feeling on pink.

Which led me to the witchhazels because one blooms in November, and another blooms in February and March when nothing else is blooming. Of course, they also have a great golden orange fall color and interesting seed-pods. The vernal witchhazel runs the gamut of yellow to orange to the red blossoms of Diane in the spring, while the common witchhazel has more of a yellow tint in late fall. Something early, something late. And who could argue with their close cousin, the Persian Parrotia that has reddish foliage as it leafs out in the spring and orange colors in the fall.

Of course, fall is also the time for sweet autumn clematis to bloom its dainty white perfumed flowers. The fact that it can be pruned severely and just keeps growing and growing makes it almost foolproof. Going back to spring, can anyone beat a peony? Particularly some of the newer forms with single flowers per stalk? That way, when those spring thunderstorms let loose, the flowers stay upright instead of acting like a sponge and laying prone on the ground. Peonies look like Coral Charm, even though some would argue it's more pink than coral. I say coral. Then there are all the daylilies, or my personal favorite in the group the night-blooming daylily with its pale yellow flowers that scent the air from dusk to dawn.


A good performing Wintergreen Boxwood is nice. It's green year around. Well, since I'm almost out of space, I guess I have to go out on a limb, and not name another tree or shrub, but a groundcover plant called European or Evergreen Ginger, Asarum europaeum. Sure, it may seem slower than molasses in spreading, but it has wonderful heart-shaped leaves that stay green all year, with the possible exception of turning a burgundy during the winter. Slugs don't seem to bother it so it's a perfect shade companion with hostas, ferns and astilbes. You can use it as a clump plant or as an edger. It does prefer a loose, organic soil, but what plant doesn't. It can tolerate some sun, but prefers the shade. Boy, who would have thought naming five plants would be so tough?

David Robson is an Extension Educator, Horticulture, at the Springfield Extension Center, University of Illinois Extension. You can write to Robson in care of Illinois Country Living, P.O. Box 37 87, Springfield, IL 62708. Telephone: (217) 782-6515. E-Mail:


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