Closing edicts

This provided a long-lasting accent in a dull area.

Lessons learned from the 2017 gardening season (so far):

Never again:

Morning glory (convolvulus): The central mission of this (gorgeous) blue cultivar seemed to be to envelope every plant within its reach, while making sure to release as few flowers as possible in the process. The blooms, when they arrived, were too few and far between to overcome my disgust with the plant, which by then had enveloped most of a rose bush. I should have known when it was advertised as a “lovely ground cover for difficult areas.” I suppose many of you will think I should have known, period.

Black-eyed Susan vine (thunbergia): The orange cultivar I had was a star performer in trials, but, again, total domination without flowers was the motto. It got plenty of sun, too. I think I counted 2 flowers as of yesterday. And it’s a real pain to unwind from its host plants. (I like to encourage climbers to grow amid roses and other shrubby plants, but not without floral interest.)

These branches will go, but most of the trunk will remain, if possible.

Old, faltering maple: Sadly, this year is the end for a tree that has delighted visitors to the garden for decades. And we let it go too long. Now, its partial removal (leaving a lot of it standing) will mean cutting out part of a fence and using a lot of equipment.

More, please!

Tulipa ‘Akebono’: Here’s the perfect alternative to too-heavy double tulips. It’s semidouble, stands up well, and has gorgeous red striations and green sepals. Really a fascinating tulip, and I thought I’d seen them all.

Lobularia: This has been going strong since early May; it now nearly covers the fountain its supposed to encircle (a good thing) and has a lovely honey scent. Many who see this think it’s allysum; it’s so much better.

Plumbago: I bought this on impulse and tucked it in a shady corner. It should have sulked but performed with regularity. Worth buying every year.

Athyrium ‘Ghost”: Best fern ever. Forget the Painted (one of its parents), which just kind of lies there. This is upright, sculptural, and a pretty silver.

And there’s more, but a lot of it is too embarrassing to confess.

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Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. Tulip Akebono: agreed! I bought it for the colors, not realizing it was double, something I don’t usually like in a tulip. But it has great form and as Elizabeth says, wonderful colors. And in this, its second year, almost 100% rebloomed. If it comes back significantly a third time next spring, definitely a winner.

  2. How deer resistant is Tulipa ‘Akebono’?
    My plumbago doesn’t sound like it’s doing as well as yours, and its also in a shady area; maybe next year, after 3 years, it will “leap”?

  3. I’m baffled by the comment about people thinking lobularia is alyssum, as if it isn’t. Um… lobularia is the proper name for alyssum!

    • There are other alyssums, though, that aren’t lobularia, so it pays to emphasize (or at least mention) the Latin name.

  4. I am sure you are both right, but I see it sold separately as lobularia and alyssum, and the “alyssum” I see is smaller. Maybe it’s a more vigorous cultivar.

    • The plants marketed as Lobularia are newer, vegetatively propagated varieties. The seed strains continue to go by their common name, Sweet Alyssum.
      I do like the vegetative varieties better–they are more robust and heat tolerant, without sacrificing fragrance or cold tolerance.
      However, I would rather see them promoted (with the genus) as an improved Sweet Alyssum, instead of digging up the scientific name and pretending they are something different. It only causes confusion.

  5. Morning glory = field bindweed.

    On my screen, I see only an enigmatic photo of a towering brick exterior traced by shadows, an epitaph for your maple. Poetic, like watching Orfeo on Charon’s boat drifting into oblivion – except, at second glance, that shadow looks an awful lot more like a power pole than ancient maple branches. This damned modern world, anyway! Sorry about you having to do amputation on your maple, but my guess is that it will be back.

  6. It might be a nice to plant a flowering vine or a climbing rose to grow around the old Maple trunk, providing a scented focal point or folly – depending how it grows!

  7. I think Elizabeth has a plumbago while Linus has a plumbago. 🙂 Common names can cause confusion.

    Plumbago auriculata, commonly called cape leadwort or cape plumbago, is a perennial plant native to South Africa. In the US it is hardy in zones 8-11. Like many tender perennials, it can be grown as an annual farther north.

    Hardy Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) is a perennial from western China and is hardy here in zones 5-9. “plumbaginoides” means, looking like a Plumbago.

    • Yes, I would have used the botanical name if I meant ceratostigma, which I actually tried to grow once, but it did not do well for me. Nice plant, though.

      • Sorry Ceratostigma plum. didn’t thrive for you. It’s about my favorite groundcover, thick enough in my garden really to suppress weeds. It gets smal but intense sapphire-blue flowers in late summer, and after a few cool autumn nights, its leave turn a nice mahogany red. Worth trying again!


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