Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Something Old, Something New

This Spring, our first with our completely new landscape, is teaching me that plants I thought were "goners" were really just hibernating over the winter

Among the plants that I thought had kicked the bucket were my St. Bernard's lilies, an ornamental grasslike clumping plant with delicate little white flowers that gracefully sway with in the breeze. The plants died back severely over the winter, and I was resigned to having to replace them when, lo and behold, they sprang back to life almost overnight! They are now lush, full and flowering again. I love how carefree they are and how great they look planted in a mass.

I recently read on Rick Brown's Florida Friendly Plant website (www. floridafriendlyplants.com) that I should actually cut the St. Bernard's lilies back to the ground every other year. Duh! I guess I need to do a little bit more homework before prematurely writing obits for any more of my plants.

Speaking of homework, I pledged to myself that I would NOT make any more impulse plant purchases once we finished our landscape makeover. After all, it was my impulsive nature that caused all my gardening problems to begin with! Now that I understand and truly appreciate the "right plant, right place" mantra, I swore I would never again buy a strange plant I didn't know anything about just because it was pretty.

Oops. I ignored my own advice.

But, in this case, I think I may have stumbled on a winner.

I intended to buy only a few more bulbine to fill in my bulbine bed during a recent trip to my local independent nursery. Really, I did.

But this lovely fernlike plant with lacelike red blossoms caught my eye. And when the nursery owner told me the plant was extremely hardy and drought-tolerant, I was hopelessly infatuated. I had to buy one.

The nursery owner told me the name and it sounded to me like "Arkillia." Upon returning home and hopping on the Internet, (what did we do before Google?) I finally matched the name with the plant. It's achillea, the Latin name for yarrow plants, and my particular hybrid is called Achillea 'Paprika.'

Apparently common yarrow can be invasive in parts of the country, but the hybrids get high marks for their low-maintenance and vivid, long-lasting blooms.

I planted my Achillea in a container and placed it on my deck in full sun, where it is very happy. I recently dead-headed the spent blooms and more are forming. Looks like it will continue to put on a show. Do any of you have experience with this plant? The nursery told me they would be getting a hybrid with yellow flowers shortly, maybe the one I found online called "Coronation Gold?"

I'd like to find more of the 'Paprika' and plant it in a mixed bed with coneflowers or orange cosmos. I'm a sucker for a pretty face -- though I promise next time I'll do my research before I buy!

What plants have you bought on impulse (come on, admit it, I know you have!) that turned out to be faithful friends? And what impulse buys turned out to be just plain old mistakes?


  1. Before committing to having a native (or mostly native) yard, I bought whatever I could find on the "dead" rack. So many of these plants just need a little TLC and they spring back to life. I recently purchased white allyssums for 25 cents per pot and they look gorgeous after a bit of watering. I have now made the effort to find a native gardener who sells to others things she has propagated. Jackpot! I, like you, must rein myself in from buying what strikes my fancy.
    It looks like you made an excellent selection!

  2. Daisy, I too take pity on the deep discount rack! I hate to see neglected plants and I love the challenge of trying to bring them back to health.

    Propagating plants seems to be the way to go over the long run, especially with natives which, sadly, are still hard to find -- especially in Hillsborough County. I have a list of natives I hope to pick up at the USF Plant Sale, including a couple more rouge plants.

  3. This is what Meems says on yarrow. http://www.hoeandshovel.com/2011/02/wintry-garden-blooms.html I found it can rot in the garden in late summer here in years when we have a lot of rain. Sometimes you can get a second year flowering but if it were Florida Friendly you would see it used and recommended more by your peers. Glad you are liking the St Bernards Lily. Sydney says it is her favorite grass like plant and I have heard that from other gardeners too. http://www.floridafriendlyplants.com/Blog/post/2009/06/21/The-Dirt-on-St-Bernards-Lily.aspx

  4. I've had St.Bernard's Lily for years and i love it.Recently,I discovered a bunny chomping away on it.Guess he was pruning it for me...
    I love that yarrow.

  5. I'll keep an eye on the yarrow, Rick, and see how it performs. Right now I only have the one in a container, so I'll use that one as a guinea pig, er, plant.

    Sydney is the one who told me about St. Bernard's Lily! Two of mine are actually about 4 years old and survived being moved to a different location in my yard last year. The others are plants I purchased about a year ago. It's a great plant!

  6. You can divide the clumps with a Little muscle and a sharp knife.

  7. Nanette,
    Good questions to any gardener as we are probably all guilty of impulse buying and not doing our research at some point. Gardening has many lessons to learn.

    Buying one Achillea to put in a pot is a fun (and pretty) risk. I was given a different variety of white blooming yarrow that does really well as a cold-hardy ground cover. For the first time EVER it has some buds on it because I think I FINALLY found a sunny enough spot for it. I am elated. I have divided and multiplied that original plant so many times it is placed in many spots around my garden.

    I've not yet planted the St. Bernard's Lily although I really like it when I see it.

    I bet your garden is really looking great this spring!

  8. Very nice! I am looking for this type of info and sometimes I get lucky like today...:-). Thanks for your post.

  9. Thanks, sydney landscapers! Glad you found the blog post helpful. My bulbine and St. Bernard lilies are still going strong, two years after planting. The achillea didn't like our wet hot Florida summers and kicked the bucket quickly. Lesson learned about that plant!