As an experiment this winter, I am planning to leave some (very) hardy perennials in their big pots on my back deck to see if any survive the winter. I have planted perennials in containers before but never had much success with leaving them in their pots for the winter. I have tried rose bushes and ornamental grasses but apparently, they are not hardy enough. The general rule of thumb is they should be at least two zones hardier than your area to survive in pots instead of in the garden.
So, this season I am trying shrub roses, (much hardier than bushes) false spirea, forsythia, and lilac bushes, as well as a plum and a maple tree, all of which grow prolifically in my gardens. With the exception of the plum tree that might be a bust, the others are reliably hardy for this area (zone 2). The two mature plums trees in my gardens send up shoots all over the yard so I won’t feel so bad if the one in the pot does not survive. These subjects of my experiment have all been grown from cuttings in my ICU...
Anything else currently in pots that I wish to save must be brought in for the winter. This year that will include a beautiful non-hardy ornamental grass that was extremely expensive, too much so to replace each year…
Ok, I will admit it, I am a snob, a plant snob that is! Some plants I find just too common and boring. For example, “Look at that beautiful hosta!” said no one ever. Or spirea either for that matter, unless you are talking one of the bridal wreath variety, then you may just hear or think that, but only if it is pruned correctly.
An Aversion to Hostas if You’re a Plant Snob
I appear to have developed an aversion to hostas, probably because people have overused them in their gardens. The only time I enjoy them is in the very early spring when their green spikes are one of the first signs of new growth to emerge from the soil as it thaws out here in the Ottawa area. In the summer they get eaten by slugs and earwigs, and in the fall they turn mushy and slimy…
For shady areas, I like perennial geraniums. They are one of the first perennials to green up in the spring, require no maintenance whatsoever, and maintain their neat, non-sprawling (most varieties) mounded shape. They do spread throughout the garden, but are very shallow-rooted, so easy to remove from places you do not want them to spread to. These geraniums are great for planting under trees, even evergreen trees where nothing else will thrive.
In fact, I planted lots of these versatile plants as ground cover under the evergreens we limbed up at the hospice I volunteer at. They look beautiful!
Another good choice for an edging plant in shady areas is lamium. Its variegated leaves, reblooming pale flowers, and tidy habit make it one of my favourites..
For part shade to part sun locations in the garden, I am loving heucheras these days. Some varieties tolerate more sun than others, so be sure to read the tags.
Heucheras come in a variety of colors from palest green to bright chartreuse to orangy-brown to reddish-brown to deep wine red. Leaf shapes vary too from smooth and rounded, to almost maple-leaf-like, to curly, lettuce-leaf-like.
They look good all summer, need no fall cleanup or protection, and survive our cold winters with no problem. A simple tug to remove any crispy leaves in the spring and they are good to go.
By the way, heuchera is pronounced with a hard c. I will never forget that after I was chastised for mispronouncing it by a 93-year-old client.
Sedum or Stonecrop
My first choice for full sun edging or container plants are those in the sedum or stonecrop families. As succulents, sedums and stonecrops are all drought-tolerant, thriving in hot, dry areas, especially next to stone walkways where not much else will grow.
They too come in a variety of colors and shapes, in fact, look especially nice (I think) when varieties are mixed together randomly.
So, next season think outside of your comfort zone, and become a plant snob by replacing those boring hostas with a little more pizazz!