Enthusiastic, not invasive

The past few weeks have been hot, real hot! In only a few weeks lawn grasses turned from lush green to straw colored, and the deep greens of the garden faded a few shades. Some plants pay no attention, and even thrive in the heat.

Plume poppy (Macleaya cordata, above) grows exuberantly to fill whatever space it’s allowed to spread into, but it’s controlled fairly easily once it has grown past its boundaries. This is not gentle or well mannered, but an enthusiastic perennial with arching stems of large, coarse, blue-green foliage and short lived clusters of dainty white blooms in early summer.

In the garden it is hemmed in by tall gold cryptomerias and a large spreading Limelight hydrangea, and unlike barely controllable running bamboos it doesn’t cross these barriers. For the front of the garden plume poppy is too coarse, but it is marvelous in the back, or when used to fill spaces.

I planted the native Mountain mint (Pycnanthemum virginium, above) without knowing much about it, and for a few years I was pleased with its slowly spreading habit and summer blooms that attract scores of bees, butterflies, and moths. This spring it has spread a bit faster, and a bit further than I want, so I’ve had to pluck some stems before it becomes troublesome. Until recent severe storms the stems stood erect, but now they are splayed in every direction. They will perk up some, but the bees don’t seem to mind.

As the clump of mountain mint has spread so has its fragrance, so that the back portion of the garden is pleasingly minty on a still, warm day. As my wife has become more active in roaming about the garden (looking for trouble) she is concerned that the mint will overwhelm its neighbors, but I’m comfortable it will easily be kept in bounds. Mountain mint is likely not to be a good choice for the mixed perennial border, where it could be a little too aggressive, but as a filler, and in poor soils this is a wonderful choice.  

The tall, native Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium, or Eupatorium purpureum) grows in the damp meadow just behind the garden, successfully competing with brambles and cattails. In the garden I’ve planted the shorter and more compact ‘Little Joe’ (above) that is tall enough to make a presence at the rear of the garden, but stout enough to withstand summer storms without leaning. Joe Pye’s foliage is dark green, thick, and leathery, and the dusky lavender blooms persist for months.    

Gladiolus ‘Boone’ (Gladiolus x gandavensis ‘Boone’, above) is dependably tough, and in damp and dry soils in my garden it seeds itself about, though it’s never troublesome. If it’s not popping up beside a taller neighbor ‘Boone’ will probably need some support, though I usually leave it to fend for itself. The peach colored blooms are splendid, and ‘Boone’ is enthusiastic without ever making a nuisance of itself.

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