January 14, 2011

Gardeners are naturally persistent people

Gardeners have to be persistent. Without this quality, we’d have gardens full of weeds and tangled, wild messes of disparate plants. Let’s face it, we’ve all had successes and failures. And often the successes came after months and years of trial and error.

I’m coming clean and admitting these are plants with which I’ve had mixed or limited success. But I’m convinced I can continue growing them if I can just find the right spots. In no particular order:

Delphinium (Delphinium L). These beauties graced my garden for many years. Several gardening friends have told me they can’t seem to grow Delphiniums, so I’m grateful for the years I've been able to enjoy them. Last year, they died off. I don’t know if it was the previous hot summer, just their time to go, or some other reason. But Delphiniums are regal beauties, and I will try to re-establish them this summer.

Foxglove (Digitalis)I’ve pictured Foxglove in my garden for many years—growing stately and tall among the Pachysandra and Ferns. I’ve tried to establish it twice—three years ago, when it never really got going, and last season, when it seemed to take hold. Hopefully this elegant biennial will re-emerge and bloom this year.

Calla Lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica). I refuse to give up on this plant! Zantedeschia can overwinter in zones 7 to 10, so in zone 5 we have to either dig up the tubers, bring the plants inside, or discard them. In my shady garden, the plant didn’t bloom much. My friend, Rick, suggested planting Calla Lilies in a sunny, damp location like its natural habitat. I’m planning to plant Zantedeschia in pots on the west side of my house—the only sunny location I have. Calla Lilies are elegant focal points for floral arrangements.

Rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum). There’s nothing like fresh Rhubarb crisp on a breezy evening in early summer. Rhubarb thrived in my previous sunny/part shade garden at another location. But I haven’t found a good spot for it here. The deep shade areas are all wrong for Rhubarb, and the hot afternoon sun on the west side of the house seemed to burn it out. I have a dappled sunlit spot in mind for it this year.

Toad Lily (Tricyrtis hirta). My friend, Lee, gave me a couple of Toad Lily plants several years ago. They survived and bloomed reliably for about three years and then didn’t come back. I’m thinking maybe they were crowded out by the Lamium and Ferns. I don’t have a spot in mind for them, but I’m determined to grow Toad Lilies successfully again. They bloom in late summer and early fall, when few other plants do.

Poppy (Eschscholzia californica Cham.). Poppies are so cheery. Let’s face it: My garden is the wrong place for these sun-lovers. But maybe I can find just a wee spot with bright sunlight where they’ll thrive—in a pot or along a sunny border.

Astilbe (Astilbe japonica). This is another plant that grew almost like a weed in my previous sunny garden. Several were growing in this garden when we moved here—in a dappled sunlit area. So maybe I’ll try growing Astilbe there again. The feathery spikes add a dynamic line element to summer bouquets.

Persistence often pays off in the garden. When I’ve found success with various plants after multiple attempts, the rewards have been well worth every bit of toil and frustration. But I’ll save the successes for a future post…


  1. I too have failures growing some plants like Astilbe and Bergenia. The latest is Agapanthus but I haven't given up on this one.

  2. I'm looking forward to using my new allotment as a space to grow some sun-lovers that I just haven't the right place for in my largely shady back garden. But I must admit that, if something doesn't thrive in my garden, even after trying it in a couple of different places, I give up, figuring I am just working against nature.

    That delphinium is a beauty - one of the things I am going to grow for the allotment, where I won't mind the staking and will love being able to cut for the vase.

  3. Ooh you're stubborn about a lot of the same plants as me. I have good luck with the calla lilies though, since I'm in a zone they like. I particularly like my 'Green Goddess' ones, but I have all colors.

    I've never had luck with delphinium though, I just replace it with larkspur which is more tolerant of heat.

  4. Had I stopped at the powerful close up of the blue delphinium, that went straight to my heart, it would have been enough. But no, you had to overwhelm me, again and again, with great images of flowering friends that I thought I knew quite well. Through your lens, I saw them for the very first time. Cool!

  5. @Lily: Ah, you are persistent, too. Keep me posted on your progress with Agapanthus.
    @Janet: You're right about keeping things real. Maybe Poppies are going just too far.
    @Eliza: I'm envious of your success with Calla Lilies! I'll look forward to posts on your blog. They are one of my many favorites--perfect for floral arrangements.
    @Allan: You are too kind. Thank you! I agree, plants we love are true friends.

  6. Of the plants you wrote about, I've also struggled with foxgloves, who bloomed fine for one season and then croaked on me. The astilbe are water hogs and the last time I grew delphiniums in was in zone 4, near the Canadian border in upstate NY. I gave them lots of compost and they were spectacular. I'm now in zone 7A and don't bother trying them again since I know they'll die in our heat. A friend gave me some toad lilies that are growing all over her garden so we'll see how they do this year. I've never grown them before.

  7. TS: Thanks for the tips. I'm looking forward to photos of that large vegetable garden of yours this spring!

  8. Hooray for your gardening spirit! I do agree that in the garden there are lots of trial and failure but there are also the unexpected and lucky non-attempt which we thought won't go well. It just the timing and the spot we plant them. So we have to continue experimenting them again until we understand their need through this trial. We had begginners luck with poppy but not canterbury bells.

  9. Your blooms are gorgeous, hope to see their posts and photos in the near future.You are right about we gardeners are a persistent lot, or else there's no beautiful gardens displayed in Blotanical!

  10. Now see what you have done, I have developed an absolute yearning for a toad lily.

    In my garden, I need persistent reliable plants. I get distracted.

  11. What gorgeous photos! We don't have a garden at the moment (in Paris) so any discussion of plants is like torture... In our plot in England, I have managed astilbes, but like you found that foxgloves can be hard to establish. What is it about plants we can't grow? They always seem ten times more appealing than lovely stuff which thrives..

  12. @Malay: So true about timing and luck (and lots of rewarding hard work)!
    @P3: Thank you! And Blotanical is a great place to find kindred spirits.
    @Lifeshighway: Toad Lilies are great fun. I'm pretty sure I just had the wrong spot for that plant. Darn it.
    @Lanscapelover: Thanks! And sorry for the torture. It's actually tough for me too, with an additional 4 inches of snow today. Frustrating.

  13. LOL! I agree with you: we are naturally persistent people, in the garden and moreover in our life!
    In my former garden I've had some of these plants as well, with successes and failures...
    Really loved this post and its pictures!

  14. Those are beautiful flowers! Great that you are not giving up on them. I am sure that with your perseverance you will succeed at last. Hope you the best

  15. Loved your post, we have all the plants which you mention today. The Delphiniums are not such a long lived perennial, the one which you show is a beautiful colour. The Cala Lily I have found only thrives if planted in a container then in late autumn just place the container wrapped in poly bubble in the unheated greenhouse.

  16. aloha

    what a beautiful collection how could you not what to grow more of these beauties if they find ideal growing locations in your garden.

    thanks for sharing that and showing us your garden today

  17. I think we're not only persistent, but optimistic. This is why every year I buy at least one more astilbe, even though I can never seem to get more than one to bloom at a time. I've never had luck with delphiniums either, but that didn't stop me from ordering some already for this year. I'm either persistent or stubborn:)

    Thanks for stopping by to visit me; I enjoyed your post!

  18. @Dona: Thank you! I'm so glad I discovered your blog!
    @Fer: Thanks for the encouragement, and for the invitation to participate in the World Garden Blog Carnival!
    @Alistair: I really appreciate the advice--especially about the Calla Lilies!
    @Noel: Thanks! I just checked out your blogs. Very nice collection of stories and photos!
    @Rose: I can tell we're kindred spirits. Happy Gardening!

  19. Delphiniums don't grow here, too hot, so maybe one hot summer can do them in. If you try toad-lily again, I think the best is 'Sinonome'--there are a lot of bad cultivars out there.

  20. Carolyn: Thanks for the tip on the Toad Lilies. I really enjoyed them while they lasted, so I'm looking forward to trying them again! Beth

  21. We are a persistent group, aren't we! You have a list of favorites not much different from mine. We planted rhubarb last summer. Perhaps we can share recipes once ours gets started. Good luck. cheers. ann

  22. Ann: Yes, I'd love to have your Rhubarb recipes. I have a great one for Rhubarb crisp--using either white or brown sugar.

  23. I love your attitude! I guess I have the same persistence about some of the same plants ~ foxgloves especially! I "think" I may have figured out the trick ~ this spring will tell. The wind here is so drying, that it finally dawned on me to plant them in a protected (and partially shaded) area ~ if that doesn't work, I may have to give in tho. I struggle with delphiniums here too although I had gorgeous stands of them when I started gardening (in Wyoming). I don't think they care for the heat??? It was so much cooler there. I love Calla's but haven't had much luck growing them in containers. The only ones I have now are in my pond. They reliably overwinter there (sunk to the bottom) so I'm going to let that be good enough for me (for now).
    I hope you have luck getting some of your favorites growing again this year.

  24. Hi, I enjoyed your post. It took me a few years to be able to find a spot where delphiniums and foxgloves will grow. I hope they continue to do well there.

    Some of the ones you listed I haven't tried. One plant that I've had problems living more than one or two seasons are crocosmias.

  25. @Kathleen: We'll have to share our results with Foxgloves this spring. Wyoming must have been a challenging state for gardening. It's beautiful, but so different from any other U.S. state!
    @Sue: Thanks. I haven't tried Crocosmias. They remind me of Glads--another one of my favorites because they make great cut flowers for arrangements.

  26. Beautiful photos, Beth. Delphiniums: the garden beauties I miss the most. So many great years and then suddenly, they were gone! Vow to try them again this year!

  27. Ann: I can't give up on Delphiniums. Thanks for the encouraging words!

  28. I'm kind of surprised by your list...
    I can't grow delphiniums in zone 8, but there are some wild delphiniums that do grow here... Like Eliza, I mostly stick with larkspur which self-sows...

    What kinds of poppies have you tried? Have you tried breadseed poppies? they should naturalize easily among your veggie plantings....

    Several of my toad lilies have stolons, hard to imagine them being crowded out... Plant them in the wet areas.... with the astilbe...

    shady character used to have a great website outlining the plants he grew in his shade garden in Wisconsin. Maybe you can compare notes?

  29. Stone: Thanks for tip on the Breadseed Poppies (I'll try to find them) and the Toad Lilies. I think the latter will do just fine in a different spot, which is great because they are unique!

  30. I'm with you on the delphinium. I think it's the heat, myself. Foxglove, too, so hard to get going, but worth the effort!

  31. Linda: I'm enjoying your blog immensely! Those Daffodils will be poking up in their glory very soon. I hope to be able to report success with the Foxgloves this year! Beth


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