Increasingly, entire sectors of the plant world have become invisible to me. They cluster in colorful masses on garden center tables, but I walk by without a glance. When I first started gardening, I thought I was limited only by hardiness zones, and believed every “part sun” claim on every plant label. I eagerly purchased books titled “Best 100” this and “Top 50” that. It took about eight years for me to learn that, for my garden, it was really more like “Maybe 10” and “Best out of 15.”
Here are few highly regarded perennials that may be working wonders for others, but fall under the dead-to-me category as far as my garden is concerned. You all have lists like this—just of different plants. But what bothers me about the ones on my list is that they are among the most touted plants in the nursery universe—so my failure with them seems freakish as well as discouraging.
This has been recommended again and again for my largely part-shade/shade garden. There are many hybrids in all kinds of cool colors—lime green, dappled plum, peach, and ruby, among others. Not one of them has ever shown up the next spring, and many disappeared in the same season I planted them. What is it with me and this plant?
Truth be told, I don’t have the drainage and full sun conditions for even the old stand-by purpurea to do all that well, but any other color either strangely reverts to a muddy pink the next season, or simply fails completely. They lean this way and that and their foliage is never appealing. Bleh. I won’t get into the new fluffy-headed ones that want to be zinnias; it’s a matter of taste (not mine).
Mildew-proof phlox or mildew-proof monarda
There is no such thing. Other than that, I have no issue with these plants. I do pretty well with phlox, except for the mildew.
Most geraniums in shade
This is always promised, but never delivered. I love these plants, but—except for the macrorrhyzum, which is reliable for me—they seem to want much sunnier conditions than promised. In part-shade and with any competition whatsoever, they falter and wimp out.
Thank god there are tried-and-true plants that live up to their reputation: hellebores, hakonechloa, hosta, hemerocallis, and hydrangea—where would my garden be without them? I don’t read labels anymore. I just look at what is still alive and thriving in my garden and gardens like mine.