Friday, November 19, 2010

A couple of perennials worth growing as annuals, if you have to.

I should explain…I am writing about my experience gardening in Zone 8. For those of you gardening in warmer climates I’m sure these plants are the perennials they are meant to be, and you are able to enjoy them year after year. (you know who you are, and I am jealous of you).

On with my story…this was my first year growing a Melianthus major in the garden. I bought my little plant at the Spring Hardy Plant Society sale for something near $10 (I try not to track the actual prices, nothing good can come from that) and it was tiny. Here it is the day I bought it. That’s it in the upper left hand corner.Here it is the day I planted it.And on November 3rd. Quite the impressive growth don’t you think? I’m relatively certain that come spring this beauty will be dead, it’s only marginally hardy here in Zone 8. I’m also fairly certain that I’ll buy another. The deep cuts in the foliage... And the shadows they cast are gorgeous. Now that I've had it I can’t imagine a summer without it. And I've discovered a bonus! Since we’ve got cold temps in the forecast (25 degrees Tuesday night) I’ve started wrapping and protecting things, that meant cutting back the Melianthus…but I’ve discovered they work great as cut stems too! Another fav, this Echium wildpretii bought from Cistus for under $15 (by a kind friend watching out for me). It’s grown from this tiny speck…
To this!
It seriously looks like it might just reach out and wrap it’s tentacles around your ankle if you pause too long too close.
Only hardy to 20F I doubt it will see another summer, but given the opportunity I’ll be replacing it. They make a fetching pair don’t you think?
And another Echium, this one Echium fastuosum “Pride of Madeira” from Annie Annuals, only $7.95. When planted it this spring was this size.
November 3rd this is what it looks like.
Now granted there were no blooms. But with foliage like this does it really matter? So big…So beautiful…So Zone 9…I can’t imagine not growing this one again. In fact I’m experimenting with a few soft wood cuttings thanks to Joseph over at Greensparrow Gardens. Click here to read the excellent “sciencey answer” he posted when I asked him about the technique. I’ll share my success, or lack of, in a future post.
Lastly the Papyrus, definitely an annual must have.How can you not love a plant that grows to 10 ft+ in a season and is topped with such a crazy foliage explosion?
And it too works great cut in a vase, lasting for weeks.
I will be growing these again next year for sure. (….sounds like I’m already shopping for spring planting doesn’t it? Whatever it takes to get me through the winter...)


  1. Ooh... so lovely! Echium wildretii was already on my list for 2011, but now Melianthus major is TOTALLY joining it. Funny how most site ignore echium foliage and just talk about the flowers -- that wildpretii foliage is insanely marvelous!

  2. What's planted to the right of the Melianthus major in your garden bed? I really like that. Is this garden area shady or sunny? I just jotted down some of these...need to know the name of that other one too though...

  3. Don't worry about your melianthus. I live in Laurelhurst and mine comes back every spring stonger and more lovely each year. Yours is also in a much more protected area than mine.

    Love your posts. One day when I find your house on one of my N/NE jogs I'll be so excited. Until then, I'll enjoy reading your posts on a daily basis.

  4. You might be alright with the Melianthus, A staff member at Cistus, assured me they were root hardy...Feed and water well in summer to get it robust for the winter, It looks just that...we can hope.

  5. Good job, Loree - how else will we make it through the dark winter days??!!!

  6. I don't blame you for going back for more...they are all gorgeous! I REALLY love that first Echium, if that plant doesn't prove how valuable foliage is, nothing would! I am pretty sure I will obsess over finding that one next spring :-) I really waffle on Melianthus...I really love them and want one, I just don't know, 1) Where I will put it, and 2) If I can bear it dying over the are much braver than I :-)

  7. I just always look at plant death as a shopping many little room.....

  8. It's so sad your echiums won't make it through winter. Give Echium russicum a shot. Check out this great form shot:
    Looks like it can deal with cold winters :)

  9. I have a couple of your tender wooses in my garden, the E. wildpretii and the melianthus. Last winter I got to pretend I lived in zone 10B or 11, so my garden isn't the place to test for hardiness. The flowers on the echiums are amazing, but I think they're totally satisfactory foliage plants--I'm almost sorry they bloom since the wildprettii dies afterward. I've seen seeds offered for Melianthus villosus that's supposed to be a tad hardier (through, though the plant might not be so exotic looking.

  10. Greensparrow, agreed! I do love the flowers but never have felt cheated if they don't materialize.

    Darla, it is a form of Hakonechloa or Japanese Forest Grass, I'm just not sure which one, they are all good! This area is a little of both (shady and sunny) in the summer it gets early morning sun and then midday sun but only for a couple of hours.

    Molly, thank you that is good to hear, I hadn't heard any positive reports on the Melianthus before. I did try to select a fairly protected area for it. We'll see! I don't know how excited you'll be...the front garden is looking particularly sad at the moment!

    Linda, there will be plenty of hoping going on, no problem there...

    Lauren, wine helps too!

    scott, I don't know about braver...maybe more foolish? Perhaps I should have kept quiet about the Echium wildpretti until after I found mine in the spring? Looks like I've created a little competition out there.

    Digs, you do have a point.

    Megan, ah yes! I do have a couple of those as tiny seedlings, we'll see. I also have seeds collected from a nearby plant that bloomed this summer. I'll have to remember to get those started in the early spring.

    James, if my wildpretti were to bloom I would have to construct some sort of device to keep it from falling over, "luckily" I won't have to worry. Thanks for the tip on the other Melianthus, I'm going to look into that one!

  11. I would love to give the Echium wildpretii a try in my zone 8b garden. It's fantabulous! And it's great to see how much growth your plants have had in one season.

  12. Nice pictures showing the plant growth. What did you put in the soil? It must be some gooooood stuff!! Thanks for sharing. I need to add some of those to my spring shopping list too!


  13. I love the pairing of the Melianthus and the Echium. Wonderful textures. Also thank you for the tip about using Melianthus as a cutting branch for an indoor centerpiece. It's very striking!


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