Many of us have low spots where water does not drain well, or we have a rain garden, or where it would be fun to have a “wet garden”.

          For some plants like Astilbe, who only do well in full sun if their feet are wet, they will survive in drier soil under some shade.  One of the prettiest collections I have seen was under a high deck where they could be kept damp very easily.  They are native to stream banks in Asia and North America .  Books say they need to be divided about every 3 years but mine have not grown that fast. Compost in the soil encourages them.  When you divide them, toss out the woody original and plant the new ones immediately so the roots do not dry out.  There are many colors from pink, red, lavender, yellow and white.  Leaf edges will start to turn brown and curl under when they need more water.  I think Nebraska is hard on them, especially hot winds, so I try to put them in the shade.  So far mine have done best under the outside edges of a Redbud.

          The Chameleon Plant (Houttuynia cordata) will grow many places. When you first see the tri-colored leaves (green, red, or purple) on a low plant, you want it. But be careful. I found it growing in my pots in a Lily pond! It has a tiny white bloom but spreads and spreads by roots.  It has been recommended for shade. Now it shelters in my Spurea Iris that grows 3 to 4 feet tall and very thick together.  It breaks off easily if you try to pull so its still there.  It is very pretty but I would recommend that you plant it in pots to keep under control. 

          The big white Calla Lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica) will grow in the edge of a bog if you have one but it is not hardy here in Lincoln and Central Nebraska (only 8-11) so to keep it happy you can put it in a low area. Make sure the ground stays wet. I have mine in a big (20 inch) pot, cut it off after a frost, and bring it into the garage.  Outside I try never to omit a day of watering.

          Pickerel Weed (Pontedaria cordata) will do fine in water up to 5 inches deep.  Mine lives in a pot up on a brick in one of my “portable Lily ponds” with a Water Lily in the bottom.  A stock watering pond from a farm store works quite well so does a barrel lined with a plastic liner or a liner made from rubber pond liner material. The Lilies are put in the big pond (which is 2 feet deep) for winter and the Pickerel Weed and its pot goes into the garage in a container of water where it will survive with “wet feet”. It has a 4 inch long blue flower head.

          Lobelia is a hardy perennial that grows about 3 feet tall with a bright red spike of small red flowers.  It does not have to be in water but does need a very damp soil so plant in a low spot near a drain or your hose. Watch carefully during the hot, hot days of July! The bloom stalk will be 2 1/2 to 3 feet tall.

          Bee Balm (Monarda sp.) will bloom for a long time if their soil is kept moist.  The flowers do well in bouquets and there are many colors.  They do not like the soil wet in winter.  The Native Americans taught the pioneers to make tea from this plant after they ran out of their supply so it is sometimes known as “ Oswego ” tea.  There are those who like the aromatic foliage. They are a native prairie plant so will survive during a hot dry summer. During a good year they will spread slowly by roots.  A lot of hybrid work has been done and many colors are available. 

          Queen of the Prairie (Filipendula rubra) bloom stalk is found in waterside areas and damp meadows and has always reminded me of cotton candy (pink in color). The blooms (candy) reach about 3 feet tall with a slight shade from the west. There are a number of varieties but Rubra actually does well in a bog. Mine lives in a sunken horse tank that was a Water Lily pond for years. When it sprang a leak I filled it with compost and “queens”. It is easy to keep wet as it doesn’t drain as fast as ordinary spaces.       Goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus) does well in a shady wet spot.  Backed against a 6 foot tall Redwood fence, there is a tall one about 4 feet tall with beards 20 inches long in mid-spring of pendant tiny white flowers. I like these white flowers in with bouquets along with round red flowers. The plants are either male or female.  I have decided mine are males as it never seems to seed.

Copyright 2010





          If I were to ask you to show me a picture of your landscape, where would you stand to take the picture? Most would stand in the middle of the street and take a picture of the front of the house? But how many really experience there landscape from the middle of the street. The winter months are a good time to think about how you really experience your landscape and plan for next year. Instead of the front of the house look out your picture window and take a picture and see what it looks like in the fall, in the winter, in the spring, and in the summer. The goal is to have an all season’s landscape. Also take a picture from your deck and/or patio. These are the areas you quite often experience your landscape from.

          Are there some things you want to change? A picture shows what we quite often miss. It will not hide the items we are so used to seeing we don’t see them anymore. Gladys and I will write about this topic this winter and suggest what to look for. But first take some pictures from locations where you spend a lot time. Go over them in detail and look for those old pots, worn out or overgrown shrubs, and empty spaces. Then think about what you can do next spring and summer.

Copyright 2010