Garden Designers Roundtable: Underutilized Plants, or Forget-Me-Not!

Today, as part of the Garden Designers Roundtable monthly garden design discussion, I’m focusing on underutilized plants.  I’ve chosen to highlight a few plants from my xeric meadow garden: USDA zone 5, altitude approximately 5,350’, sandy-loam soil, full sun.

Caragana microphylla, littleleaf peashrub
Peashrubs are often dismissed as being uninteresting or worthless.  Not true!  This mass planting along the east property line of my back yard serves as a backdrop to my meadow garden and creates a subtle screen to the neighbor’s property.  The very fine texture makes an interesting contrast to their bulk; these shrubs are 8-9’ tall and 4-5’ wide, but don’t feel heavy or imposing.  They are like a lace curtain – allowing for air movement and light play - rather than a brick wall!

Pale yellow, pea-like flowers cover the plants in late spring, just as the delicate, pinnate leaves emerge.

Note, too, the silver “wire work” tracing along the smooth, olive colored branches; a lovely detail to discover.

Caragana microphylla are fast growing, sun loving, xeric, and tough---no snow load damage problems here!  Plant with bold foliage companions such as Helianthus maximiliana, Verbascum bombiciferum, Yucca sp., Callirhoe involucrate, or …

Phlomis cashmeriana, Kashmir sage
This bold, architectural perennial is fairly new on the garden scene (introduced by Panayoti Kelaidis of Denver Botanic Gardens), and is the perfect addition to any xeric garden.  The soft, lavender- pink flowers appear in whorled clusters on tall spikes in very late spring, and last for several weeks. 

The large, basal rosette of foliage is especially interesting: a net-like texture covers the surface and the edges are strongly serrated.

In my dry, sunny, meadow garden, this plant will bloom out at 4-5 feet tall, but in one of my other planting beds that gets afternoon shade, it tops out at about 2 ½ feet. Companion plants for Kashmir sage might include Cytisus purgans Spanish Gold®, Delosperma nubigenum, and Agastache sp.

Dalea purpureum, purple prairie clover
This is a beauty.  Long blooming “rods” of vibrant, red-violet flowers offer a bold contrast to the delicate, lacy foliage.

Many xeric plants feature soft, gray-green or silver foliage; purple prairie clover’s is a refreshing, deep blue-green.  My plants form an upright, rounded silhouette, about 20” tall and wide.

By the way, purple prairie clover is a deep rooted legume that adds nitrogen to the soil---an ideal way to add fertility to a naturalized garden area.  Plant it with Artemisia frigida, Helictotrichon sempervirens, Tradescantia occidentalis, and Mirabilis multiflorus.

All of these plants are a bit unusual (though not impossible to purchase locally) and I rarely see them featured in the private gardens that I visit here in the Denver area.  Be the first on your block to give them a try!

garden share bristol. Powered by Blogger.