Tried and True


We’d like to draw your attention to some older varieties that have withstood the test of time, and are stalwart performers in the garden.  Certainly everyone loves to choose their favorite “new and exciting” variety from the season’s offerings, but often plants of great merit go unrecognized and unheralded.  Here we hope to show off a few of the “oldies-but-goodies”– plants that you can count on year after year.  The classics never go out of style!

Aconitum fischeri –

Azure Monkshood - Monkshoods are one of the best perennials for late-season bloom – late September and October in Michigan. As such, they probably won’t match the popularity of daylilies or peonies, but gardeners wishing to extend the season should definitely try them. The Azure Monkshood is a very garden worthy subject, emerging in spring with beautiful dark glossy green foliage that is ornamental in its own right. By late summer, the grape-like flower buds begin to show, and slowly open up to blue helmet-shaped blooms atop 2.5 -3 ft stems. Plant monkshoods in sun or partial shade and moist soil. Be aware that all parts of the plant are poisonous, and should be handled with gloves to avoid getting sap into cuts or wounds which could cause illness.

Photos from: Walters Gardens

Astilbe chinensis ‘Pumila’ –


 This is probably the most carefree member of the Astilbe clan. It is quite drought tolerant, growing by shallow underground rhizomes to form dense ground-hugging mats of foliage, topped in late summer with fuzzy lilac-rose plumes. It is one of the last of the Astilbes to bloom, generally August in Michigan, extending the Astilbe bloom season. It grows best in partial shade but will tolerate full sun if the soil is reasonably moist. This Astilbe has been a workhorse and a mainstay in gardens for many decades and remains a best-seller.

Photo from: Walters Gardens


Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’ -


This is a beautiful and beautifully behaved perennial that never fails to impress us each year. The neat clumps of willow-like foliage grow 15-20” tall, perfect for edging or at the front of the perennial garden. Plump navy blue buds open to reveal starry periwinkle blue flowers. Unlike other members of this genus, ‘Blue Ice’ has a very long bloom season – for us, a total of 6 weeks from late May into early July. The plants are deer-resistant, and as an added bonus, the foliage turns golden-yellow in fall. This selection was originally introduced by White Flower Farm. Best in full sun, it also does well in partial shade.

Photo from: Walters Gardens

Dictamnus purpureus – Gas Plant –


This legendary plant has a long history of garden use. The foliage, dark green and glossy, has glands that produce an oil with a lemon-like fragrance. Myth has it that this oil can be ignited on a hot calm summer night by placing a match beneath the foliage. Although possible, and some gardeners claim to have achieved it, you’re more likely to treasure your Gas Plant for its ornamental qualities than its pyrotechnic abilities. It is considered a collector’s item; it is always in short supply in the nursery industry due to complicated seed germination requirements. Plants are slow to establish, and dislike division and transplanting, but are as hardy and long-lived as a peony, so choose a site with care. Clumps grow 2-4 ft tall, and prefer sun or very light shade in moist to average soil. The very beautiful spikes of spidery pink flowers appear in June.

Photo from: Walters Gardens

Leucanthemum ‘Becky’ -

Sometimes the simplest things are the best! Who doesn’t love a daisy? And although new Shasta Daisies are introduced each year, we continue to recommend ‘Becky’ to our customers. It is simply unsurpassed in the world of daisies. It is vigorous, easy-to-grow, and suitable for the beginning gardener or anyone looking for low-maintenance perennials. Best of all, it produces loads of long-stemmed daisies for months, July through September, which is longer than any other Shasta Daisy variety we have tried. At 3-4’ tall, with equal width, this daisy provides plenty of flower power! Grows best in full sun, but will tolerate partial shade. Well-drained soil its only requirement, as it will weaken and rot away in soils that are too wet.

Photo from: Walters Gardens

Mertensia virginica – Virginia Bluebells -

This beloved North American wildflower is a wonderful addition to shady woodland gardens. It is native to the entire eastern half of the U.S. and Canada. The glaucous foliage often emerges purple, then changes to gray-green as the nodding flower stems reveal pink and blue buds that open to pendant bell-shaped flowers in late April and May. In the wild, they can be found growing in rich moist soils along with trilliums, jack-in-the-pulpits and other ephemeral wildflowers. In the garden, Virginia Bluebells are lovely when paired with ferns, bleeding hearts, hostas and yellow wood poppies. They will form spreading colonies, but are not overly aggressive. The foliage matures early, turning yellow by summer and disappearing until the following spring. Plants grow about 18” tall.

Photo from: Prairie Moon Nursery