One of the perks of writing a garden column is the interesting stuff that lands on my desk. (I am often jealous, however, of the food writer's boxes of spices and the cookbooks and the food that arrives for her review.) Timber Press of Portland, Ore., sent a book by Tracy DiSabato-Aust that is guaranteed to help my readers "create their dream garden."
After reading the book over the course of several days, I agree that DiSabato-Aust's "50 High-Impact, Low-Care Garden Plants" is a good resource. The author explains that she wrote the book because while she loves to garden, there is never enough time. And the lists of low-maintenance plants in the garden magazines often lack excitement for the sake of easy care.
DiSabato-Aust will speak to the West Virginia Nursery and Lansdscape Association on Friday.
The criteria for DiSabato-Aust's list of 50 include the high-impact traits of multiseason interest, colorful foliage, long-lasting bloom, outstanding texture and architectural form. Her low-maintenance checklist includes long-lived, heat- and humidity-tolerant, cold-hardy, deer-resistant, resistant to insects and disease, requires minimal or no deadheading, prospers without heavy fertilizing, doesn't require staking, infrequent or no division required for four or more years, infrequent or no pruning required to maintain decent habit, appearance, or best flowering, noninvasive and drought-tolerant. Each of the author's 50 plants meet many or most of these criteria.
The book has stunning photography, its organization is good, and there's a brief informational box on each plant along with a longer, more detailed description. Here are a few of my favorite entries from DeSabato-Aust's list.
Tumbleweed onion (Allium schubertii): Eye-catching, amusing and massive (10 to 12 inches), this bulb has violet-rose, spidery flowers blooming in June, followed by attractive seedheads. Usually recommended for zone 7 gardens, the author uses them as short-lived bulbs in her zone 5 garden. Our zone 6 falls somewhere in-between.
Arkansas amsonia (Amsonia hubrichtii): This perennial forms very pale light blue, star-shaped flowers blooming May through June, with mid-green, threadlike leaves that are a clear yellow in autumn. It forms fluffy, billowy 2- to 3-foot mounds. En masse planting with autumn-flowering plants such as "Black Jack" sedum is effective.
"Jack Frost" Siberian bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla): A perennial favored for its silver-frosted heart-shaped leaves with green veins, after flowering with baby-blue flowers in April and May, the leaves continue to enlarge during the summer, eventually reaching 6 to 8 inches.
"Sum and Substance" hosta (Hosta "Sum and Substance"): The large chartreuse to gold leaves is award-winning, called the "golden grandmamma of them all" by DeSabato-Aust for its dinner plate-size leaves. One plant can form an immense clump to 2 1/2 feet or more high by 5 feet wide.
Endless Summer hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla Endless Summer): Charming, with giant mophead blooms in pink, blue or sometimes a blending of the two, it flowers for seven months or more and has massive 8- to 10-inch flower heads. This hydrangea has the ability to bloom on new as well as old wood, so if there is winter dieback or frost-kill in the early spring, plants will still bloom on new wood that is produced.
"Henry's Garnet" Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica "Henry's Garnet"): Cold- and heat-hardy, pest-free 3- to 5-foot-tall deciduous shrub with fragrant white early-summer flowers, followed by rich red-purple autumn color, that grows in sun or shade, wet or dry soils - the author calls this a "no-brainer pick for just about any garden."
Dragon's-eye pine (Pinus densiflora "Oculus-draconis"): The needles have alternating bands of green and yellow, it thrives in sunny locations and has reddish-brown flaky bark. This conifer grows up to 10 feet tall and wide.
Reach Sara Busse at sara.bu...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.