Sunday, August 10, 2014

Amazingly Underwhelming

I've decided to start a revolution. Nothing too big, mind you, just a small take over of the plant labeling industry. I'm tired of plants labeled "partial shade" and "moist, well drained soil". I need absolute, bare bones honesty. They won't always be fun to read and could send smaller nurseries into financial collapse, but at least I'll always know what I'm getting myself into.


All orchids will be labeled "Don't buy this plant. It will die." while my trumpet vine should have been marked with a bold WD - "This plant strives for world domination while refusing to bloom." As for my 'River Mist' sea oats a simple "This plant hates you. Walk away" would have sufficed. Instead, I fell for its variegated charms and promised it the moist, well drained soil it so coyly asked for.


The 'River Mist' sea oats are growing between the spigelia and the fence full of thornless blackberries next to the crepe myrtle. They are due north of the iris. Finding Waldo would be easier than finding them in this picture.

Despite being redesigned last year, this shady corner suffers a severe case of  BGB - Big Green Blobness. When the spigellia are in bloom, its spectacular. But the rest of the summer it's about as interesting as watching paint dry. The 'River Mist' sea oats were supposed to add height, light, and interest to a spot next to the crepe myrtle. Aren't they fabulous?


This damn plant is the same size it was three years ago. It stubbornly, steadfastly, absolutely refuses to grow. As a matter of fact, it may even be smaller than it was when I bought it. It has been watered, fertilized with worm poo, bat crap, and composted leaves. It has been ignored and then pampered in a futile attempt to unlock its secrets to growth.


It just will NOT grow. Had I known this when I bought it, I would have left it behind.


I had to stand in the garden and look down to take this picture. It was supposed to be three feet tall. Instead, it tops out at about 12 inches.


Pathetic!

Unless you're able to impart the secret to growing these to the three foot height promised on the label, they're headed for my fall plant swap. But what should I replace them with? This spot is too shady for variegated phlox or joe pye weed and too dry for many other shade loving perennials. 

As for the trumpet vine, it finally decided to bloom.


Orange trumpet vine

** I'm having camera issues, so all pix were taken with my cell phone.

96 comments:

  1. Plants are living things, so they often won't behave as mentioned on the labels, that is one of the excitements of gardening.
    I missed your Summer Snapshot of the garden, I have to say that it looks wonderful, so much colour.
    Happy gardening!

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    1. I'm convinced they have a mind of their own. They can be such stubborn creatures, says this very stubborn gardener!

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  2. Tammy girl I suffered from lusting after River Mist as well ... I ordered and dreamed of how perfect it was going to look ... well when it arrived it looked great .. I planted it whispering sweet everything to it if it would at least look this good for a while.
    Next year ... totally NOTHING ... BIG sigh ... you invest emotions into a plant and they "back-slap" you the next year, leaving for plant heaven laughing all the way.
    The "green blob" syndrome ... I too have that and the only cure I think might help are the heuchera/heucherella/tiarella family .... so I will work on that .. not much else I can think of (brain is burnt out nearing the end of garden season now!) ... good luck girl keep those funny signs going ! they make me have a good snort giggle!
    Joy : )

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    1. River Mist has worn out its welcome, for sure! I have a huge Word document I keep on my desktop computer loaded with all my plans for the garden and I added 'plant heuchera by the pulmonaria' the other night. That area needs more color. I love a funny sign, too. :o)

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  3. "You can't handle the truth!" There is no hope of ever getting anything to grow unless you bring in heavy equipment, dig down eight feet, and replace your entire garden with perfectly draining moist soil. And have Dan Hinkley as your personal gardener. And Martha Stewart oversees the whole process. Perhaps you'd be happier taking up knitting or macramé.

    Seriously though, some plants only grow beautifully in greenhouses but turn into duds the moment we plant them. How about a big hosta there? Sum and Substance gets huge and has golden leaves. If you want to echo the white dots on your pulmonaria foliage, maybe a white variegated large hosta. How about a Fatsia japonica, maybe even 'Spider's Web' that was in so many of the Portland Gardens, hardy to zone 7b. A small potted Acer palmatum 'Ukigumo' would bring light to that area.

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    1. I do love how fearlessly honest you are. :o) Your idea to stick a pot there is brilliant. Considering my love of stuffing everything into a pot, that works well for me! A maple would get too big but it will be fun to cruise the tropicals/houseplant section of the garden center and find something colorful. If I love it, I can overwinter it. If not, I just shop again next summer! Or maybe I'll just stick an awesome hosta in it. Martha and Dan would probably run screaming from my garden. I could sell tickets for the show and we could take bets on who runs the fastest. My money's on Dan. He looks a bit speedy.

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  4. Oh yeah, trumpet vine. You couldn't pay me to plant it. I know hummingbirds love it but the proportion of flowers to vegetation is about 100 to 1 (in the wild vines anyway). And it gets so big and strong! Broke the seal of the rotary arm of a bushhog trying to mow some trumpet vine down sometime. The vine got wound around the arm and then snap! stopped the arm and broke the seal.

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    1. The damn thing didn't even bloom until a dry spell hit and it lost a bunch of leaves. Plus, I think it has some kind of leaf spot. It is a beast but provides much needed privacy. But I'd never let it near my house! It would end up in my bed with its head on the pillow. I can totally see it eating a bush hogger. :(

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  5. PS I think you're shady corner looks lovely. Dry shade is very tough to deal with.

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    1. Thanks. :o) It needs some tweaking and some of the plants are still small but I like it, too. It just needs some zing.

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  6. I wonder what it would be like to live in "Harry Potter" world where labels would change their message to meet the needs of the individual reading them? Meanwhile, maybe it is a plant conspiracy, they could be laughing down to their little roots as we fume and rant.

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    1. I would love those labels as long as they told the truth! But if they were enchanted and the joke was on me, I'd have to feed them to the giant spiders. I'm sure that stupid River Mist laughs every time I pass.

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  7. It's the guide height printed on the label that bugs me. I know they're an average but by the law of averages sometimes they must be right, yes? Never here. And why is it when I then dig up the triffid growing in a bed where everything else is a foot high and plant it in a more suitable spot it absolutely refuses to grow anything more than.. a foot high?

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    1. Spite is a powerful motivator and I'm convinced the plant kingdom is a tricky place. The minute you move that plant back to where it was originally, it will be eight feet tall.

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  8. I'd like to see the labels you put on the plants you haul to the swap.

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    1. I'm going to make them as honest as possible! Maybe I'll post them. :o)

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  9. Actually your garden looks lovely and refreshing to my eyes! Would Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra 'All Gold') work in that spot? But maybe it's too low, but maybe in a pot and it would add color. I share your frustration with plant labels. They all seem to require well drained soil. I don't think I've ever seen one that specifies planting in poorly drained soil!

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    1. I'd love to see a tag that says "plant this in the worst spot you've got". The only tags that recommend poorly drained soil are those for water/bog plants. "Moist, well draining soil" seems rather oxymoronic to me.

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  10. I think you and the Outlaw Gardener hit the nail on the head with the pot idea. I've read that I should wait 3 years to see if a non-performing perennial will "leap" but, frankly, on the few occasions I've had the patience to do that (I gave a tree peony 4 years and got a single flower - in year 2), I've been disappointed. These plants should at least signal a willingness to come through in a clutch by year 2, shouldn't they? As for the seller's tags, I have close to zero trust left there - playing on the apprehensions Californians are experiencing over our deepening drought, at least 2/3rds of all plants sold here seem to be labeled "drought tolerant." Maybe that's true if the measure of drought is based on the UK or somewhere that actually gets rain intermittently throughout the year but too many aren't drought tolerant by SoCal standards.

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    1. I think the pot is a winner! I like being able to change the plant every year to. I don't have to commit to a specific plant. I can just have a plant fling every summer. You're right about 'drought tolerant'. I think those measures are from either England or Seattle, not CA. You need plants that will survive Death Valley not Puget Sound.

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  11. I agree: A pot or two full of annuals (Coleus, Impatiens, other?) could be fun. Beyond that, we're thinking color in dry shade. Most of the top part of my garden is dry shade. Here are some of the summer-blooming (or summer interest) plants that grow in that section: Resurrection Lilies (Lycoris squamigera), Ditch Lilies (Hemerocallis fulva), Hostas of all kinds, Ferns with colorful foliage (although they fade during too much drought), Bugbane (Cimicifuga racemosa--very drought-tolerant), Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum biflorum), Jacks-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum--great bright red berries). Let me know if you'd like any starts or seeds from any of these. (I know there are others, but my brain is fried tonight.)

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    1. Everything I've read says that bugbane needs lots of moisture. Very interesting to read that it's drought tolerant for you. Hmmm...... It's such a beauty!

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    2. Tammy: I don't think Bugbane would do well in the sun without water, but once established it's just fine in the shade during a drought. I rarely watered it during the terrible drought of 2012, when we had no rain from June 1 to mid-August, and daily highs were in the 90s and a few 100s. Here's one link that kinda says the same thing: Bugbane Growing Conditions. I thought of another plant that does very well in dry shade: Cotoneaster. I have Cotoneaster horizontalis and I almost never water it--even during droughts.

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    3. Thanks for the recommendation, Beth.

      Like Tammy, I had thought Bugbane needed moist conditions. But based on your experience and some research I've just conducted online, it sounds like it can tolerate periods of drought as long as it's got enough shade. You've persuaded me to add it to my plant shopping list :)

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  12. Good post! We all feel your pain, all gardeners having suffered through numerous plants that either died (some of them almost immediately upon planting) or just sulked and never thrived. But I try to think about all the many plants to do thrive in my soil and conditions -- too many to ever be able to try all of them -- and try to forget about the ones that don't like the accommodations here (other than remembering not to purchase them again). As for your shady bed, I think your idea about tropical plants is a good one. Or maybe just some annuals, which are less work than overwintering tropicals. I know they're common, but impatiens can really add color to a shady bed for almost no $. Thanks for the post we can all relate to! -Beth

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    1. It's so late in the season I don 't think I'll buy a tropical for this year, but it will be fun to cruise that section next spring. But I do love impatiens and used to grow them every year before the nurseries quit selling them because of their mildew problems. But even a coleus or begonia would be pretty there. I definitely think the pot idea is a winner!

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  13. A great post. Obviously when plants die or don' t do what they are supposed to do besides all our best efforts it is sheer spite. When it comes to plant labelling, the worst one for me is: ' moist, well drained soil' . It doesn't make sense. It is a complete oxymoron, how can soil be both well drained and moist at the same time? Your new labelling wil be very welcome. This one should be : ' Needs a spot that is both wet and dry at the same time.'

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    1. Oxymoronic describes most plant labels. Unless I'm going to stand there pouring water over a patch of soil while it runs out the bottom, it will never be 'moist but well draining'. I despise that combo, too. It just doesn't exist except in a greenhouse.

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  14. I love revolution as yours Tammy!
    You're right, many lables must to be changed to another ones. For my blue clematis for example, instead of words "clematis justa" have to be written "very short and never wants to climb"
    Have a nice day!

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    1. That would be a helpful label! If we buy a clematis that doesn't want to climb, we should be warned ahead of time.

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  15. Oh, I feel your frustration, Tammy! I've learned to read between the lines on some plant labels--"spreads by rhizomes" or "vigorous grower" means I don't really want it in my garden! I learned that the hard way with Obedience Plant, which is anything but obedient. On the other hand, my 'Ruby Spice' Clethra has had a few measly blooms in its four years, and probably hasn't grown more than two inches. I'm glad others have already given you some good ideas, because my brain isn't working fully yet this early in the morning. But seeing their ideas reminds me that I like to plant coleus and caladium in the shade garden every year--no blooms, but the foliage certainly adds some color.

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    1. I have loads of Obedient plant and it's a beautiful thug. :o) It should definitely come with a warning label! Caladium was another plant I was thinking about for my new pot. Great foliage!

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  16. Hahahaha.....fantastic post! I couldn't agree more, since planting my new back garden last autumn I've spent most of the summer moving everything as so many plants are sulking, why? Stupid labeling! You are spot on, why can't these growers tell the truth??? It would save heartbreak for sure.
    Oh, your trumpet vine is gorgeous, certainly worth waiting for.xxx

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    1. Sulking is exactly what they do, as if they're irritated to have ever left the greenhouse and been thrust into a real garden. So they just sit there and pout like botanical babies.Maybe I should have planted a small bottle and rattle in the hole instead of compost.

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  17. You do love containers, follow the recommendations! I might even divide (ok, it is small, but cut it in half) the River Oats...seriously. Try it in another spot a few feet away. I have a lot of spots in my garden that plants are just alive, not growing, not thriving, my soil sucks. But, move it a few feet and who knows?

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    1. It occurred to me early this morning when I was trying to go back to sleep that maybe I'll stick the River Mist into the pot this summer and then find a replacement next spring. Perhaps out of total self-preservation the damn thing might even grow once it realizes it's on the chopping block. But I am excited to buy a new pot!! :o)

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  18. I do hate it when a plant that has been put in to serve a specific purpose (height, brightness in shade) doesn't cooperate despite its promise. Surprisingly I have found that sedum 'Frosty Morn' does well in dry shade under a maple tree for me. It is a sedum, so you'd think it wants full sun, but it has strongly variegated cream tipped leaves that revert to all green in full sun. In shade the plant really pops brightly, it stays more compact (in sun it flops) and it's a little beacon of light in a dark corner of otherwise blah green foliage. It's only two feet high, though, so if you decide to use it, maybe move it frontward in your shade garden. But I like the idea of a container with a bold tropical in there too!

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    1. I have a very similar sedum called 'Autumn Charm' that loves dry shade. It's just hard to find variegated plants for dry shade that aren't very small or very large. I need a Goldilocks plant - perfect in the middle. That's not too much to ask, is it? ;o)

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  19. Amazingly underwhelming it is....I could barely find it! I am 100% with you on this "marketing" nonsense with respect to labeling. The only thing I can figure out is that they try to cover all bases, knowing that there is no way somebody can predict anything about the plant's destination. This is why I always try to find somebody (anybody!) who knows something about the plant for my area. Even then it's hit and miss. Perhaps the plant doesn't like you, in which case, I'd say good riddance and give it away. This may not work, but have you considered Japanese Anenome? They get really tall, have attractive foliage, you have your choice of pink or white, and self-propagate. They love the shade, but some filtered light seems to be all they need. You could also try some European wild ginger as a ground cover only because the very dark green would complement the variegated plants you have. Wild ginger has a delicate, tiny white flower, but it's barely noticeable. Like your River Mist Sea Oats! Ha ha. Oh, and I like Dorothy's comment above about the grass--Japanese Forest Grass (I can never spell it--go Dorothy)....that could look fabulous there. Mine grow like kudzu.

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    1. I actually have Japanese anemones there but they're not in bloom yet so they just blend into the green. :o) I'm going to tweak my entire shade garden a bit this fall but I'm going shopping for a new pot to put in that spot this weekend. I'm excited to add another pop of color to all that green.

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  20. I know you're totally over sea oats - but is it possible it is too shady in there? I've seen it in a lot more sun here in Raleigh and it does fine. And many people complain it takes over. Having said that, I love your new plant labels. Another inspired idea!

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    1. Ya know, I hadn't thought about that but maybe that's part of the problem. My sea oats all grow in shade but maybe this diva needs a bit more light. Since I have to stuff that fussy plant somewhere after I add the pot to the spot, I've decided to just plant it in the pot and then re-evaluate it next year. If it doesn't improve, it's headed to compost pile.

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  21. 'River Mist' hated me and I hated it right back. I shovel-pruned it, so I won.

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    1. There's nothing like the hard steel of a shovel blade right up a plants ass to let it know who's boss! I don't know of anyone who is growing this plant successfully. Not a good sign...

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  22. Love those cell phone cameras! As for finicky plants. My weakness is hydrangea. I have killed so many. I think I should stop buying them. I see them in other peoples' yards. In fact I have a dead-in-the-original-pot one on the patio that I need to pitch. I like that comment: shovel-prune. Perhaps the River Mist just needs time. Or it was mislabeled. We have some strange plant growing the garden marked Lime Green Cabbage. Nope it does not even resemble cabbage. Sick cauliflower maybe. Otherwise your green shade looks great.

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    1. My camera is kaput! It will cost more to repair than it's actually worth so I'm buying a new one. My River Mist has had three years to get its act together. Time's up! I've never heard of Lime Green Cabbage. Sounds like it would be tasty on a fish taco. :o)

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  23. When I bought my dwarf Alberta Spruce Tree, there was a sign next to it: "If I dry, I die." I never forgot that sign, and that truth in labeling warning has kept my plant alive. I notice you have a colorful blue pot nearby. Try putting it or perhaps a tall, bright red ceramic urn in that area, with or without the sea oats or other plants planted in it. Instant, low maintenance color!

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    1. We need more signs like that! I was considering putting a blue pot in that spot to mimic the other blue one but red is so much better. :o) I love red and it will look wonderful against the blackberries and spigellia.

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  24. I gave up on River Mist as well and just grow native Sea Oats which happily grows everywhere.

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    1. That seems to be a common theme. This plant is just a whiner.

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  25. LOL, love the labeling, and your oats...
    The trumpet vine blooms are gorgeous!

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    1. They are beauties when they finally bloom. The hummingbirds go nuts for them. :o)

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  26. I had an enormous trumpet vine in my old garden but did not take any "baby" when I left. I had potted one that looked good but I remembered the hours I spent pulling out suckers and common sense prevailed.

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    1. It's a beast, for sure. I pull suckers every day and on the days I don't I always wish I did. They grow at lightning speed!

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  27. HA! You are so right about orchids! You gave me a good chuckle with this one pal! Even though you say you have green blobness....It looks gorgeous! Seriously!!!! I have had some weird goes with a couple of coral bells...were doing great and now are smaller then when I bought them several years ago...doing the dance with plants pretty much always ends the same for me....I ignore them! We need to put you on the board for naming plants! It would make life easier and much more interesting!!!! Happy week to you...and thanks for the kind comments on our crappy pit...a bit nervous but we shall see! Nicole xo

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    1. The only orchids I can keep alive are silk. They never disappoint. ;o) Thanks for the garden love. I do love that shady bed, even if it's too green. I'd love to name plants. I always thought there needs to a cultivar of berry producing shrubs called Well Hung. A prostrate form could be called Well Hung Low. I think they'd be very popular. ;o)

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  28. Wow, "Real Deal" plant markers would be a godsend indeed.....do you know how much money I could save if plants were labeled this way?
    So glad that your orange trumpet vine finally flowered for you....beautiful.

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    1. It's worth the wait. :o) There must be a room full of copy writers laughing every time they write a label. Jerks.

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  29. I haven't figured out myself why certain things do crappy for me. Sometimes I've moved the offender to another area and they do fine, other times I've pulled them and given them away. Not having a shade area here I'm not sure what would be best for you though.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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    1. I'm moving the River Mist to a pot and giving it a 2nd chance. After that, it's off to the Plant Swap or the compost pile. It is weird how one spot just a few feet away can make all the difference in a plant.

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  30. Thats gardening for you! The Trumpet vine looks triumphant and your duffers will make good gifts for a plant stall. I have persevered with a few duffers in my time and once they have gone I do not think about them again.

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    1. I always think, "I can't get rid of that plant! I just love it!" But once it's gone, I never think about it. I think this will be the same situation. :o)

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  31. I sometimes wonder what plant doesn't like "well drained" soil. Bog plants maybe. I have found Northern Sea Oats to be tricky. it often doesn't return this far north. One year it perished as always, but made a zillion seedlings where I didn't want them.
    Right now, I have a small bit of it in morning sun and it is a good height. I wonder if you move it as a few commenters have suggested it might do better.
    How about trying a Sedge variety of grass? There are not tall, but they do like the dry shade in my back garden. There are even Sedges with variegation. I have good luck with some varieties of geranium in dry shade. Also what about adding a grey leafed hosta or some Heuchera? Perhaps it is too dry for these last two ideas?

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    1. Regular sea oats do very well for me but River Mist has been a pain in the butt. The big plain hosta in the picture is coming out and a really cool variegated one is going to replace it. I also think some heuchera and a red pot where the River Mist is are headed to that bed. Some of the columbine I planted there went dormant and the Bowman's Root is still really small. I just need to tweak this bed and be patient.

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  32. That oat looks kind of scared. Have you tried bringing in a therapist for it? Really we can't do too much for some of these needy impossible demanding spoiled little ingrates. At least it's healthy enough to look hopeful in a pot on its way out. I have green blobs too and I've thought of various horticultural solutions including but not limited to spray paint and plastic blooms... I need a Garden Conductor (like for orchestras only different) to keep the flowers coming. In August I mostly get cucumbers.

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    1. Silk tulips may be on the horizon. ;o) The oats do look like they're hiding behind the spigellia. But they're headed for a pot this weekend! It's time to be loud and proud. :o)

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  33. Ha ha ha ! Enjoyed your post immensely! Every time I buy an Alstomeria it should come with a huge label around its neck saying 'I will wither and die slowly over a long period of time. Do not bother to buy a replacement for me, as it will do just the same!' Trouble is, I probably still wouldn't listen!
    Thank you for putting 'Hoe hoe grow' in your 'Blogger Spotlight', Tammy!

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    1. I just can't stand it when plants die slowly. Why prolong it? They just need the courage to get it over with. Alstromeria are expensive annuals here. They always seemed a bit fussy to me but now I have the scoop for real. Their secrets are out!

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  34. I love the ideas of honest plant labels, and I loved your honest reviews of your plants! All of the plants I buy would be labeled, "Woodchuck Food."! I'm actually having good luck with some Heuchera and Astilbe in a relatively dry, very shady spot. Heuchera 'Paris' is performing especially well right now. Good luck! --Kimberley

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    1. Too funny! There are some really obese woodchucks here, too. Whatever garden delights they're eating, they eating well! They look like furry hippos. I'm surprised astilbe does well in dry shade. I always thought that needed a lot of water. I may need to redo my research!

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  35. Great post. I'm always confused by "moist but well-drained". Isn't that kind of like saying "moist but dry"? I would concur with a lot of Beth's recommendations but would also suggest that you consider some dwarf shrubs. How about Deutzia gracilis or an azalea. There's also a dwarf oak leaf hydrangea out there, I forget the name. Incidentally, for me sea oats is a total thug.

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    1. Exactly! How is 'moist but dry' even possible? There actually isn't as much available space as it seems in that photo because some of the columbine went dormant and the Bowman's Root is still really small. The River Mist is headed for a cool pot and I'm rearranging/tweaking that area this fall and adding some really interesting hostas and heucheras. Overplayed, for sure, but effective and cold hardy.

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    2. Don't worry about overplayed. If it works, it works.

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  36. I think you might be on to something big here, Misleading labels drive me nuts...

    The climate here is harsh, both in summer, and winter, so I need to think, and research everything before it goes in the garden, and then there are still problems...

    And isn't Little Joe, supposed to be under 4 feet? Mine is well over 6 feet tall. I think that the nursery sold me big joe pye weed instead....lol.

    Jen

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    1. I think you got Big Joe, instead! My dark purple daylilies ended up being deep red and one pot of my yellow, red, and orange dwarf zinnia mixture came out a weird orangey red. Oh well! It keeps things interesting!

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  37. Tammy you are the best! You are so much fun. I think knitting patterns should have the same warning, if you knit this and wear it you will look even more fatter and dumpier than you could ever imagine! Or tif you wear this colour it will guarantee everyone will ask u if you are ok and do you need to see a doctor or got to ER. All a conspiracy to separate us from our money!! Lol seriously your garden always beautiful calm and serene to me.

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    1. I laughed out loud at this! It would be like buying a pair of jeans that have a tag that says, "Yes, your ass does look huge". ;o)

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  38. Ahhhhh what would we do with all that truth, never bother gardening? Not true! I'm with you: the truth shall set you free from all those lying, sulking, misbehaving plants!

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    1. It's a conspiracy, I tell ya! Someone is getting the last laugh at my optimism! :o)

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  39. Yes, more honesty in plant labeling! "I will look amazing until I fall over." Is it really sick that I'm struck by a desire to grow 'River Mist?' It would've been perfect there!

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    1. You are a true plant masochist but if you lived closer I'd hand it over. I've had plants with gravity problems, too. I just want to yell at them, "Get off your butt and stand up!" while they lounge around my garden. Total plant slackers!

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  40. I had a good laugh at 'All orchids will be labeled "Don't buy this plant. It will die." ' So very true! I guess what works in one garden just doesn't work in another, although like you I get frustrated when I've nurtured something and it still refuses to perform. Hoik them out and start again, something will love your space :-) .

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    1. I tried to keep an orchid alive in my bathroom but it still died. However, I have a lovely silk one that never disappoints. ;o) Still undecided whether I want to just toss the River Mist or stick it in a pot. Decisions, decisions.....

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  41. OK, sounds like you're already sold on the pot idea to replace your River Mist in the shady spot, but... how about a variegated Aucuba japonica? It would give you some nice height on the back of the border, it's evergreen and it should take relatively dry conditions in the shade once established. Here's a photo of one I installed in December 2012 - http://www.gardenofaaron.com/2012/12/the-december-garden-japanese-aucuba.html. It's probably 2-3 times bigger now, but I think it would be relatively to keep in bounds with a quick annual prune if you felt the need arise. I've heard you can just remove the biggest oldest canes at the base and it will generate new ones. Well, just a thought.

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    1. Excellent suggestion since I love acuba but they don't love our winters and aren't reliably hardy. After last winter, I need something hardy to at least zone 6. But it would be the perfect plant, for sure! If they just had a really dwarf one, I could stuff it in a pot and then overwinter it in a cold corner of my basement or garage.

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    2. In a protected location (brick walls on two sides) it survived -2 Fahrenheit here last winter with barely any damage. I snipped off the few cold-blackened leaves and it looks healthier than ever now. Of course, YMMV... ;)

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    3. Seriously? Wow! Unfortunately, I only have one spot that could be considered sheltered and it's crammed full of plants. This spot is very exposed in the winter. I had to Google YMMV... ;o) This spot is also fairly narrow and is the new home of a tall pot stuffed with a bright red improved impatiens and some variegated ivy. But if I could have made an acuba work, I would have!

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  42. I don't know anything 3'tall that is good in dry shade but varigated Solomans seal does get a couple of feet tall and it will definitely take the conditions you describe. Don't dispare. You will find the perfect plant. You will never be able to get rid of the trumpet vine. It will never fail you either.

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    1. I have quite a bit of Solomon's Seal and really love it. I just had such high hopes for the River Mist. I think I'm going to give a 2nd chance somewhere else in the garden. This will be the 3rd time I've moved it. Hopefully, 3rd time is the charm because I really like it.

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  43. Hi Tammy, I would definitely get you to write the labels for the plants. I could spend hours howling over the blunt descriptions, far better than the vague, "requires moist but well drained soil". I could re-label my clematis as "Isn't it time you gave up?", hostas as "Slug Food" and the rambling roses as perhaps, "You will regret it, but it will take five years for you to realise so".

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    1. Let's write them together! I have a wonderfully exuberant blue mist flower that should be labeled "Self-sower with poor decision making abilities" while a few others could be labeled "Soft and floppy - fertilize with Viagra".

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  44. Hmpf! As well as label wording, can you also start a campaign to get nursery staff to be truthful too. Only yesterday I was dribbling over a stand of gorgeous orange Echinacea. I asked the lady stacking them if they would def' come back next year, she looked at the label (which said nowt!) and said 'they're perennial so yes' and quickly shuffled off. She had a look in her eye...you know the one. I ceased salivating & left empty handed (well echinacea-less....coudn't possibly leave a garden centre empty handed!)
    Meanwhilem how about a Fatsia for your dry shady spot?

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    1. That would be nice, wouldn't it? Usually when someone at the garden center asks me if I need help, I rarely accept it since they usually don't know anything. It's rare to find any that actually do. The new echinacea's are notorious for NOT coming back. They've proven to be expensive annuals in my garden so I quit buying them. I just stick with the old pink species that are bullet-proof. Fatsia aren't hardy here. Sadness....

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  45. Interesting! I have never thought that the berries can grow well on shady area.

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  46. I planted trumpet vine once when I lived in a townhouse. It grew up the fence and it did bloom nicely. Then it grew over the fence and to the left and right until it was everywhere!

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  47. Love your blog! My River Mist disappeared after the first year, but reappeared this year, a little taller. It also hasn't read it's label and doesn't realize how big it's supposed to get. I love variegated ferns and carex to add color to shady spots. I also like to plant daffodils between hostas, deciduous ferns, etc. to add spring color.

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