CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's rare that you'll find rare plants touted in this column. I'm a use-native-plants kind of gal. But when a catalog landed in my mailbox from Annie's Annuals and Perennials, I was enthralled.
I had to contain my fervor, however, by reminding myself that Annie is happily ensconced in California, where anything grows. So Annie's perennials are often Sara's annuals. For example, nicotiana grows year-round in California, but it's only hardy to zone 9, so here in West Virginia it lasts only for a summer.
With that in mind, I found a vine that I will order to run along the railing of our deck for the summer: western clematis, Clematis ligusticifolia. It fits into our zone, so I'll give it a try.
This vine has 1-inch-wide white flowers in summer. It has twining stems and would do well climbing a trellis and grows to about 15 feet tall. It's lovely even after bloom when the frothy seed heads do their thing. Found growing from northwest Mexico to British Columbia, often growing along streams or wet places, it remains evergreen with adequate water.
Also, there are lots of beautiful California poppies to choose from, including 'Purple Gleam,' 'Apricot Chiffon' and maritime 'Coastal Form.' I've never grown poppies, so I'm giving them a try this season.
Annie offered a few perennials that are hardy in our area, including a beautiful Delphinium belladonna'Bellamosum' that's a rich purplish blue, Scabiosa caucasica'Fama Blue' (easy and reliable, violet-scented with 4-inch blooms), and Dianthus arenarius (with frilly white blooms). I've ordered Dianthus carthusianorum'Clusterhead Pink' for its tall stems. The brilliant pink blooms are held in 2- to 3-inch clusters well above the dense mound of grassy-green foliage. I love dianthus, and this one gives me tall stems for cutting.
From odd plants to old plants
Reader Kay Legg sent in this message about her "old" houseplants:
"I have a couple which are over 30 years old. One is an asparagus fern, purchased in 1979 on a trip to Williamsburg, Va. This now is a very common plant and I see them everywhere, but back then, it was something new and it caught my fancy. It is carried in and out of the house each year according to the weather. I also have a Christmas cactus that I started from two small segments collected in wet paper towel from a friend back in 1976. I have watched it multiply over the years into a very beautiful plant. I have heard of some houseplants being passed down for generations. I would love to hear some stories from other people who have elderly plants."
I have a beautiful jade plant that came from Maggie Dudley years ago, and a Christmas cactus that was nurtured by my mother-in-law for decades. And I cherish an African violet given to me by my dear friend Kathe Peyton -- I miss her and think of her each time I water it! And a wild-and-crazy flowering vine that I haul in and out with the seasons from Kim Wood is probably older than most of my plants.
Anyone else have any old and dear houseplants?
Reach Sara Busse at sjbu...@gmail.com.