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Report From An Opinionated Gardener – December 22

I got a letter from my friend and fellow writer Charlie Pendergast today, and learned of his appreciation for weeping junipers (Juniperus scopulorum ‘Tolleson’s Blue Weeping’). He remarked about the way people can either love or dislike a plant, saying that he found Oleander totally uninteresting because there is too much of it and it’s usually dirty and untended.

In the Midwest and Northeast, our version of his Oleander is the Stella D’Oro daylily, a perennial that has been overplanted because someone once claimed it “blooms all summer.” Since it’s rarely deadheaded after the first flowering, the plantings are ugly much of the season. Usually, I find Stella D’Oro’s to be boring and rather sad.

For a long time I wasn’t interested in weeping plants. I thought their form so distinctive that they were almost contrived. It was the new foliage on a weeping larch (Larix decidua ‘Pendula’) in the garden center that changed my mind. The combination of the cascading line of stems with the pale sea green blush of new needles helped me to consider the shape with new appreciation.

I still think that weeping plants should be placed carefully in the landscape. They need to be combined with others that have the weight to balance and compliment their drooping character. I believe that weeping specimens should usually be planted sparingly: too many pendulous plants in one area make me want to weep.

It’s heartening that we have the capability to change our preferences, in plants or anything else. It speaks to the ability humans have, thankfully, to evolve and grow. Still, I doubt that I’ll ever love Stella D’Oro daylilies again.

So they bloom in June, and for the rest of the summer, in traffic islands and gas stations all across the United States, they look like this. Yuck.

An artist's "weeping" plant. Pinus styrofoamifolia 'Pendula', perhaps.

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