BLACKEYED SUSAN (Rudbeckia sp.) a native will cover as much of your yard as you want. They are bright and start their blooms in mid-summer and keep up in our temperamental Nebraska weather until frost. Even partial shade does not stop them but they should not get entirely dry. Single flowers are also called CONE FLOWERS because of their large central raised disc. The species has a number of colors, all bright, of yellows, pinks, oranges, and purple. They sometimes are known as GLORIOSA DAISIES. Birds and butterflies both love them as they are sturdy landing places and the seed is good food. My patch of several colors spreads every year from the seeds the birds miss and are 34 to 36 inches tall. 

          DAY LILIES come in all colors and take care of themselves also. Their flowers have a variety of blooms. Their blooms last only a day but more buds are ready to open. Some are circular, some star shaped doubles, spider shaped, and triangles. Hardy in zones 3-9 they bloom for several months with the clumps getting slowly larger as they spread by rhizomes as well as seed. They can do very well in light shade. You will need to divide them every 3-5 years. Your seedling hybrids will not breed true so you will soon have a variety of shapes and colors.

          LAMB’S EARS (Stachys sp.) are for the dry places. They are sometimes called WOOLY BETONY as their leaves are hairy and soft. The plants never get very tall but sometimes their not so handsome flowers do. I know several people who cut the flowers off when they appear and use the plant as a low border in front of a flower bed as their gray color backed by green makes other colors look brighter. They are easy to start from cuttings and there are several varieties of leaf size you can get. They spread by both solons and rhizomes. Their “fur” is so dense that I have seen kids going by stop to pet the big leafed ones. Mine are in the parkway as it does not get as much water as some of the yard.

          For early spring bloom and little care the PEONY is a tough plant that after a year or so is 3 feet wide and almost as tall and covered with blooms. They are usually white, pink, or red but if you hunt you can find a coral or yellow one. They must not be planted too deep to get good blooms. Those little red bumps you see on your new plant should not be covered more than 2 inches. Blooms are sometimes so big and heavy they tend to bend over when fully open. There are semi-double and double blooms. Do not chew on the stems as they cause upset stomachs in most people. Full sun to slight shade and your plant will be a 3 foot by 3 foot specimen. There is also a TREE PEONY with woody stems surviving winter. Their blooms are just as spectacular on a 6-7 foot tall plant and just as wide.

          Then for the least work of all, there are the grasses in full sun. BJ planted five ornamental grasses (Panicum virgatum ‘Cheyenne Sky’) several years ago and this summer they are 3 feet around and more high. As summer goes along the blades are becoming a bright red with seed heads to pick for dry winter bouquets. They also make a new background for a bed of short, many colored VINCA plants. These are on a dry corner near the sidewalk. Neither plant has needed attention this summer.        

          For shade the one that needs little attention is the HOSTA. They come in all sizes, wide and high, and very different patterns of big dramatic leaves. Blooms are pretty with their tall stems but it is the leaf stripes, spots and variations of colors, mainly in shades of blue, green, and gold that attract the most attention. Some leaves are long and narrow, others have wavy edges or puckered, from 4 inches dwarfs to 4 foot giants. About all they ask is shade and a little water. They are easy to divide when they come up in spring.

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