More moisture is needed


The foliage of the variegated yellow loosestrife (Lysimachia punctata ‘Alexander’, below) is now green. It doesn’t emerge green and white early in the spring and fade to green, it’s just green. The variegated foliage was once mildly attractive, but now the green is rather plain. It’s not unusual for variegated plants to revert, and I don’t recall when it happened since the loosestrife is unremarkable in form, flower, and foliage. It’s planted in the shade of an old dogwood in the front garden, and one plant has spread to cover ten or twelve square feet, which is not much, but would be more desirable if it were a more attractive plant.

Purple loosestrife is a notorious invasive in some areas, but the yellow flowered variety is only aggressive, though not particularly so when planted in shade. Loosestrifes are most vigorous when planted in full sun in damp soils, but this yellow loosestrife and the red leafed ‘Firecracker’ (Lysimachia ciliata ‘Firecracker’, below) are shaded and relatively dry, so their growth is readily controlled. In the back garden ‘Firecracker’ is more aggressive with a bit more sun and slightly better soil, and a few times each year I have to pull out runners that have spread into the midst of a clump of hosta or toad lily.

Several years ago I planted a few divisions of ‘Firecracker’ on a mound of horrid, dry soil, expecting this virtual weed would flourish, but it has barely survived. When I get around to it I’ll chop out the pitiful, stunted stems to plant something more appropriate for the poor soil. False indigo (Baptisia australis, below) and Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) flourish nearby, so the ground is not so poor that nothing will live, it’s just that it’s not damp enough for loosestrife.

A few years ago I planted one of the spreading blue flowered bellflowers (Campanula, I forget which one) in soil filled crevices between boulders that surround one of the garden’s ponds,  but I didn’t consider that the rocks would heat up and draw moisture from the soil, and the bellflowers lasted only a short while. Away from the boulders, in damper soil the bellflower (below) spreads exuberantly, though it is quite well behaved and doesn’t encroach at all on its neighbors. 

Much of the lower half of the back garden remains damp, except in the heat of summer, and here some otherwise sturdy perennials suffer and eventually fade. Leadwort ( Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) grows like a weed in the front garden, but with more moist soil it has failed, and failed again. Blanket flower (Gaillardia x grandiflora ‘Goblin’, below) is a compact growing, long blooming perennial that is suited to dry soil, but mindless planning placed it in the overflow from the pond so that the soil remains damp through the spring and whenever rainfall is plentiful. Fortunately, ‘Goblin’ is perfectly content in the dampness, and it blooms nearly nonstop from spring to late summer.   

Last year I tucked blue eyed grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium ‘Lucerne’, below) between more established perennial clumps, and it is thriving in this wetter-than-average late spring. New flowers emerge each day at the tips of the grass-like stems, and this has quickly become a favorite. I expect that it will seed itself about a bit in the damp soil. At least I hope it does.

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