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Garden Reports and Rejoicing – May 7

When I was at the garden center a friend who is a professional gardener called. She was wondering if we carried Echium and this led to a discussion of the reasons garden centers don’t usually stock biennials.

I love the Echium vulgare (viper’s bugloss) that my friend was asking about, as well as other biennial plants such as variegated Lunaria annua (money plant) and Verbasucm. Most of these I’ve initially grown from seed but now they seed and wander on their own. I edit and pull young plants when they are too enthusiastic or go astray. These are not instant coffee plants: some years they are magical, and other times they aren’t in evidence at all.

In a garden center, however, it’s hard to talk people into the concept of a plant that “grows one year, blooms the next, and then it dies.” The customer tends to tune out well before you get to “but usually it will continue to self-seed and travel around your beds, and you can pull out what you don’t want.”

Biennials are clearly well suited for gardeners but not for someone who wants total control over where and when their flowers grow. Just as we all need to put the right plant in the right place, we also need to choose plants according to our expectations and abilities. Right plant, right place and right plant, right person.

The variegated Lunaria are all in bloom right now and the purple flowers are the perfect spring color. I pull out seedlings, also present at this time, that are all green so that I get mostly variegated foliage.

The blue spires of Echium are in flower along with oxeye daisies. Both seed and grow well in gravel and other dry, well drained places.

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