Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
February, 2009
Regional Report

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A rich, awesome, autumn combination -- Aster laevis 'Bluebird' and Physocarpus 'Coppertina'.

More About Dick Lighty's Favorite 50

The customer's always right. As you've asked, here are more about Richard W. Lighty's favorites -- ending with the complete list of his Good Plants: 70 Years of Hopes, Failures, and Successes. Lighty is a notorious (in the good sense) plant lover and founding director of the Mt. Cuba Center for the Study of Piedmont Flora. He recently gave a peek into his collector's, propagator's, and conservator's world with slides at the Mid-Atlantic Hardy Plant Society's Joanne Walkovic Memorial Lecture at the Scott Arboretum, Swarthmore, PA.

Think "aster" and though we enjoy the daisylike flowers, leaves white with powdery mildew likely come to mind. Of the smooth asters, Aster laevis 'Bluebird' is "outstanding," said Lighty. It has "none of the disease problems that plague American asters -- and makes a wonderful pot plant when you pinch it."

Sunlight playing off the blues and yellows of 'Bluebird' aster and the shiny purplish/copper leaves of ninebark 'Coppertina' (Physocarpus) make a handsome late summer show in my container garden.

Let's look at woodies. And sniff the Carolina allspice (Calycanthus floridus) 'Michael Lindsay' Lighty likes. Fragrance in Calycanthus varies in intensity depending on the time of day, he noted. 'Michael Lindsay' is "fantastic and fragrant -- pretty intense for most of the day."

Of dogwoods, Cornus kousa 'Square Dance' has Lighty's eye. With large, creamy white bracts resembling square flowers, good fruiting, and outstanding copper/mango fall color, "It epitomizes one of the best, if not the best Cornus kousa," he said.

For a graceful-looking, textural backdrop and a (very tall, expansive) privacy screen of upward curving branches, Lighty likes Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Pendula' -- which he first noticed on Mt. Rainer. Be forewarned. It's not for a small space, growing 30 feet tall and 15 to 30 feet wide at maturity.

Trees and Shrubs
Paperbark maple (Acer griseum x A. nikoense 'Cinnamon Flake'); black maple (Acer saccharum subsp. nigrum); Carolina allspice (Calycanthus floridus 'Michael Lindsay'); nootka falsecypress (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Pendula'); kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa 'Square Dance'); Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica 'Yoshino''); bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea marcrophylla subsp. serrata 'Annie'); yellow wax bells (Kirengoshoma koreana & K. palmata); American hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana); white oak (Quercus alba); royal azalea (Rhododendron schlippenbachii); Korean stewartia (Stewartia koreana).

Bulbs, Corms, Rhizomes
Iris gracilipes and I. Gracilipes 'Alba'; Iris siberica 'Caesar's Brother' et al.; Asiatic lily (Lilium Asiatic hybrid 'Sally'); martagon lily (Lilium martagon 'Claude Shride') et al.; Lilium martagon hybrids; Lilium martagon hybrids x L. tsingtauense 'Sontsing' & 'Tsingense'

American maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum); upside down fern (Arachnoides standishii); cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea); royal fern (Osmunda regalis)

Dwarf goat's beard (Aruncus aethusifolius); wild ginger (Asarum minor, A. takaoi clones #1, #2, etc.); smooth blue aster (Aster laevis 'Bluebird'); false indigo (Baptisia 'Purple Smoke' et al.); barrenwort, bishop's hat, fairy wings (Epimedium 'Alabaster'; Epimedium x grandiflorum 'Purple Pixie'; Epimedium stellulatum); evening trumpetflower (Gelsemium sempervirens 'Margarita' [vine]); Glaucidium palmatum and cvs.; leucanthum; perennial sunflower (Helianthus x multiflorus 'Capenoch Star'); Lobelia x speciosa 'Sparkle DeVine' et al.; partridge berry (Mitchella repens); Pachysandra procumbens 'Forest Green' et al; Phlox stolenifera 'Sherwood Purple' et al.; primrose (Primula veris) and other tough primroses; foam flower (Tiarella cordifolia) 'Springwood' and 'Lace Carpet'; toad lily (Tricyrtis oshumiensis); Trillium grandiflorum 'Quicksilver' et al.; periwinkle (Vinca minor) 'Jekyll White' and 'Sterling Silver.'

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