Skip to content

GET BREAKING NEWS IN YOUR BROWSER. CLICK HERE TO TURN ON NOTIFICATIONS.

X

PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

Mid-January, and the ground’s not frozen! If this is global warming, climate changes spell trouble for plant metabolisms. But today, I’m musing about lovely plants I’ve tried over the years, for which it’s been too cold here. Maybe now

Gaura lindheimeri has slender, wiry stems topped with sprays of small, delicate flowers in white, pink or maroon (or a combination). In a breeze, stems sway and flowers flutter, resulting in both common and cultivar names that include the word “butterflies.” Varieties can stay as low as 12 inches, or reach 7 feet. Originally a desert plant, it tolerates both humidity and drought, likes either full or part sun, and will grow in any soil (though it likes a little compost). Flowers come from late spring until frost. I was so in love with this airy, romantic plant that I had to have one, even though it’s usually listed as hardy only to zone 6. I put it over the leach tank, which warms the soil. But the soil there is shallow, and I didn’t know that Gaura wants to grow deep roots.

Gaura lindheimeri has slender, wiry stems topped with sprays of small, delicate flowers in white, pink or maroon (or a combination). In a breeze, stems sway and flowers flutter, resulting in both common and cultivar names that include the word “butterflies.” Varieties can stay as low as 12 inches, or reach 7 feet. Originally a desert plant, it tolerates both humidity and drought, likes either full or part sun, and will grow in any soil (though it likes a little compost). Flowers come from late spring until frost. I was so in love with this airy, romantic plant that I had to have one, even though it’s usually listed as hardy only to zone 6. I put it over the leach tank, which warms the soil. But the soil there is shallow, and I didn’t know that Gaura wants to grow deep roots.

The spiny seed pods of the New Zealand burr (Acaena) can be a nuisance on pets, but you’re less likely to get them all over you because the plant grows only a few inches tall. You could shear them off, but they’re pretty — especially the bright red ones on the copper-leafed variety I planted, called “Kupferteppich.” What I liked just as much, though, was the texture of its foliage. Imagine tiny strawberry leaves with their sawtooth edges; then add three or four more pairs of leaflets lined up along a petiole (leaf stalk) less than 2 inches long. (The related salad burnet makes a much larger, stretched-out version.) Growing densely, Acaenas make a striking ground cover. Many are invasive, but Kupferteppich was supposed to be less so. In any case, our zone 5 winter controlled it all too well.

In 2004 I bought a 30-inch shrubby St. John’s Wort named “Albury Purple” — swept away by its combination of purple and green leaves, yellow flowers dusted with red-tipped stamens, and red berries that turn black. Each winter, about half gets brown and shriveled, and half keeps those vibrant purple leaves “evergreen.” If it could winter over more branches, it could become a gorgeous, husky bush.

Townsend’s always colder than the other towns this column appears in: You may have an even better chance than I.

Copyright © 2007 Catherine Holmes Clark

Join the Conversation

We invite you to use our commenting platform to engage in insightful conversations about issues in our community. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable to us, and to disclose any information necessary to satisfy the law, regulation, or government request. We might permanently block any user who abuses these conditions.