Larry Hurley writes about one of his favorite blue flowering perennials. There are a number of blue-flowered, spring-blooming perennials. A group you should consider are in the genus Amsonia, commonly known as Bluestar. Several are native to the United States, and one, Amsonia tabernaemontana, is native to Maryland. This species gets two to three feet tall, and blooms for several weeks in late April through early to mid-May, depending on weather conditions. It has pale blue flowers and nice yellow fall color. It grows in full sun to partial shade.
There are a number of lines of perennial ground covers that we carry, including Stepables, Jeepers Creepers and Treadwells. Our perennial buyer/manager, Constance groups them all together under the name “Tiny,” because they are all small-scale plants of petite stature.
Five or six years ago I decided to plant a small display garden of some of these perennial ground covers in our perennial sales area. Space was limited, so we removed a display table and I worked with the ground where that table stood. This is a place where nothing much but moss should grow. The drainage isn’t great and it gets frequent watering from sprinklers that run in our perennial sales area nightly in the summer (not to mention water from people hand-watering with hoses.) Water doesn’t stand here in puddles, but the soil is always wet.
The area under the bed was covered with gravel, some of which I removed. I added a few bags of potting soil, and wound up with a bed a couple of inches above grade, so it would drain, and the area is on a slope, so I planted moisture loving plants at the lower end, and plants that are supposed to dry out at the other.
We’ve been surprised at how well it has fared over the years. Each year we have a couple of bare spots that we fill with a couple of new plants, but overall, the planting has thrived in a low-maintenance, very informal sort of way. It looks sort of like a planting on a green roof.
On the moister end we have dwarf acorus, Lobelia chinensis, ajuga, and mazus. Moving a couple of feet up the bed we have plants that we normally recommend for drier areas: several varieties of sedum; creeping thyme; Dianthus ‘Kahori’, which flowers off and on all summer; even some delosperma. None of these are plants that I would recommend for this bed, and yet, they are doing fine here.
To me, these “Tiny” ground covers are ideal for small beds like this where you can easily weed if needed and you don’t have much foot traffic. They can fight for territory, and may the best plant win. If you have small problem areas in your garden, check out our “Tiny” ground covers.
by Larry Hurley, Behnke horticulturist