Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
August, 2004
Regional Report

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Splashy flowers on my helenium mark this generously wet, summer season.

Euphoria in the Ditch

Despite being relegated to the ditch, my so-called ditch plants are gloriously happy this year. With all the rain we've had, their craving for water is well satisfied, and they have grown beyond expectation as a result.

The heleniums are taller than I am -- and about 2 feet taller than normal. The perennial hibiscus flowers are bigger and more flamboyant than ever. And the Joe Pye weed has reappeared, much to my surprise. That moisture-loving plant disappeared several years ago during the extended droughts, and I thought it was gone for good. But lo and behold, it's back and blooming lustily, though surrounded by a robust bee balm.

The bee balm (Monarda) has spread generously into a broad patch and is elbowing its neighbor, the rudbeckia, for space. Although often listed as drought tolerant, I find that the black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia 'Goldstrum') and its relative the gloriosa daisy (Rudbeckia hirta) actually grow better and reseed heavily with generous moisture, rich soil, and full sun. So do the Siberian iris (Iris sibirica) and daylilies.

Shrubs that seem happy there include the red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia), deciduous winterberry hollies (Ilex verticillata), and my pride and joy -- the swamp azalea (Rhododendron viscosum). The shrubby redtwig dogwood (Cornus sanguinea) and gray dogwood (C. sericea, also known as C. stolonifera) are so happy there that they threaten to spread a little too far, too fast, and need to be controlled by an occasional shovel pruning. The winter-blooming witchhazels (Hamamelis vernalis) are thriving. Last but not least, the fragrant summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) absolutely revels in the dampness of the ditch.

So if you have a damp, muddy area or a low spot where water tends to collect in your yard, don't despair. Look into some of the many plants that like wet feet or will tolerate moist soil, and enjoy!

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