Fools Rush In

In my last post I wrote about the impulse purchase of my new rose, ‘Strike It Rich’. What I didn’t mention is that I went back to that garden center sale twice more that weekend. Surely it would have been wiser to wait until the milder days of September to plant more perennials, but who wants to be wise when immediate gratification is a possibility?

Dwarf fountain grass Piglet
Dwarf fountain grass ‘Piglet’ with Calamint. I’m thinking I may move the Little Bluestem over to this end to stand next to ‘Piglet’.

For one thing, I wanted to replace the grasses that had failed in the west parkway bed. For the spot where the dwarf fountain grass Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Little Bunny’ had been unable to establish, I purchased P. alopecuroides ‘Piglet’.  Though I had been looking for a somewhat larger grass, the mature ‘Piglet’ is exactly the same size as ‘Little Bunny’ – I just bought bigger plants of ‘Piglet’. This is the kind of thing that happens when I am allowed to wander garden centers unaccompanied by an adult.

At the other end of this raised bed I was going to buy another Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) ‘Shenandoah’ to replace the one that was smothered. However, a sweet talking Little Bluestem ‘Carousel’ (Schizachyrium scoparium) persuaded me to take it home instead. A shorter plant at 30″, it is reported to turn pink, tan, and orange-red in fall.

The remainder of my purchases were for the shady back garden. The majority of these were for the raised island bed. Many plants have failed to thrive in this bed, including Anemone sylvestris, Yellow Foxglove (Digitalis ambigua), and Peach Leaf Bellflower (Campanula persicifolia). Plants that are well established include Bluestar ‘Blue Ice’ (Amsonia tabernaemontana), Short’s Aster (Symphyotrichum shortii), and Brown Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba).

Japanese Anemone
Japanese Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’

For this bed I made the following buys:

Japanese Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ (Anemone x hybrida). A robust plant once established and an old favorite of mine, it has white autumn flowers with golden centers. Grows 3-4′ tall.

Dwarf Goatsbeard ‘Noble Spirits’ (Aruncus aethusifolius).  I’m using this plant to form a stretch of edging along the west side of the bed. This is a compact (about 12’x12″) plant that tolerates dryer soil and shade. Ferny foliage with autumn color and white flower spikes in June and July.

Lenten Rose (Helleborus orientalis). I bought a bunch of these to create an edging along the east side of the raised bed. For reasons I can’t explain, I have been resistant to planting Hellebores. It may be because I read an off-hand comment by Christopher Lloyd referring to “Hellebore bores”. I have no idea why he said this, but I certainly didn’t want Christopher Lloyd to think I was a bore. Then I realized that Christopher Lloyd has no idea who I am, so what the hell. Plus, they were going for a really good price!

Hakonechloa, dwarf goatsbeard, japanese anemone
Back Raised Island Bed with newly planted Hakonechloa, dwarf goatsbeard, and Japanese anemone. I took this with my phone, the light is really flat. Carl the Concrete Chicken stands watch.

Japanese Forest Grass ‘All Gold’ (Hakonechloa macra).  A last edging plant for the back island bed. The center had vast quantities of this plant in pots, which made me wonder if it was in danger of being overdone. However, it’s hard to resist the arching, gold-green leaves.

Hakonechloa 'All Gold'
Japanese Forest Grass ‘All Gold’

All these new plants – and it’s still August. Needless to say, I have been busy keeping these guys from drying out. The biggest problem is with the dwarf fountain grass, which has the greatest exposure to direct sun. I got home on Wednesday to find that ‘Piglet’ had been more than halfway to becoming a pig roast. And the temperatures are supposed to hit the 90s (F) starting Sunday.

The plants in back are shaded, but will still need close watching.

Do you ever buy new plants in August, or do you have more sense than I do?

58 Comments on “Fools Rush In

  1. I have no more sense than you. I bought a “bartlett” pear tree….. what do I need that for!? Good thing they weren’t selling partridges or I might have thought I needed one of those too.
    You probably did, but make sure you loosen up the root ball on that grass. They really need a good ripping apart or they tend to stay in the potting soil they came in…. and always dry out too fast.

  2. Ha! I always need to be accompanied by an adult or in my case the beans, for they have no patience for my puttering at the garden shop! I think your selection for the back shade garden are fantastic! I have restrained myself this year from August purchases though I am already thinking of fall pots and where to move pots to fill some holes in my beds!

    • Oh, we haven’t brought the kids to a garden center since they turned 10. Otherwise it would be painful for all of us. My unsolicited advice is wait until September for buying any new plants. Do as I say, not as I do!

  3. No sense here either. I buy plants all year long. There’s still a camellia sasanqua in a pot waiting to be planted that I bought back I January. We’ve got a sickness!

  4. These garden centres need warnings on the doors…. Fortunately there isn’t one very near to me! I do often buy plants in the sales in August, mostly out of sympathy for some poor pot-bound thing that needs rescuing (I tell myself). Then they have to stay outside my back door until the weather is cool/damp enough to plant. If only I had some shade in my garden – your plant selection is lovely! The white Anemones are very pretty and the dwarf goatsbead is a great idea. (I didn’t know there’s a dwarf variety).

    • The dwarf goatsbeard is actually its own species – A. aethusifolius. I also feel great sympathy for the plants left to struggle in their posts through the summer.

  5. It´s hard to not to buy, when these plants are calling out to you. `”Piglet” looks interesting. I´m plannning 2 new round beds with grasses, sedum and other plants. “Honorine” I bought last year, and they are blooming now. They really light up. Lenten rose are great, I have 5-6 plants, and they look good all year round.
    Japanese Forest Grass has long been on my must have list.
    But as the weather here is sunny and warm, and we haven´t had rain for a long time, I don´t dare go to the garden center 🙂

  6. Every one needs to be a little impulsive sometimes it’s good for the soul …and yes every one of us who is doing a gardening blog has an addiction…we are incurable … we just live with it…

  7. I’m glad its not just me who buys and plants at the wrong time of the year – although I question is there is actually a wrong time of the year. I think when you get a notion in your head you should just go with it. Like your purchases, I feel I need a prostrate grey leaved conifer to go under the burgandy leaved maple tree I have but I am frightened as the only ones I have seen have been huge!!

  8. If Fountain Grass has failed for you, why buy more? Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis) has a similar look, but more robust, and is super hardy.

    • I do have some Prairie Dropseed in another bed, Pat. If ‘Piglet’ fails, I will consider Prairie Dropseed or more Little Bluestem.

  9. I like your choices. I can’t stop unless I say away from nurseries all together. On Tuesday, I’m taking 40 plant fanatics to Plant Delights in Raleigh. Can you imagine what the bus will look like on the way home?

  10. Before I lived in Italy I would have bought plants whenever I saw them and was tempted; it’s different here, I would never buy or plant anything in August, even the winter vegetables that I did plant this week have ti be watered morning and evening and really I should put some shade netting around them until they establish. But I do like all your choices, the shade bed looks great! Christina

  11. Like your Japanese Anemone. I thought they grew much larger so now will look for this variety. Every once in a while I decide I should “plan” something for my garden but it’s not usually as successful or fun as simply discovering plants in the garden center. Since reading about your rose purchase I’ve been thinking I need to stop by my favorite nursery to look for some bargains too. I enjoy your garden!

    • I do lots of planning, looking at websites and catalogs and making lists. But I still can’t stay away from the nurseries and garden centers.

  12. This post was pretty hilarious, maybe because I saw myself in it. I came back from a nursery just yesterday with a purple Eucomis (pineapple lily). Did I need it? Of course not. But I thought it would look great with a purple heuchera I have that I don’t know what to do with. Then it dawned on me that one likes full sun and the other likes shade. Oops. Now I have no idea what to do with the Eucomis, other than go out and buy a few more so that it doesn’t stick out like sore thumb wherever I wind up planting it.

  13. It seems like the plants that died are more moisture loving and the plants that thrived take dry. The new plants you purchased for shade all do well in dry, although I don’t think of fountain grass for shade. You will love those hellebores and will be kicking yourself for not buying them sooner. Gardeners in England can get obsessed with hellebores, and I think that was what Christopher Lloyd was referring to. There is nothing boring about the plant itself.

  14. What a beautiful garden you have! SO green! Can I put table and chairs and bring coffee now? 😀

  15. When I saw the title, I bet myself that this would be a fun post, and I won.

    You’ve got me wanting to keep an eye out for the piglet grass, and remembering that my last garden was a late-summer garden for a few years, because it’s so much fun to do late-season buying, and there’s more time for the garden in August – October.

    Even though August can be dry, don’t you think the longer nights help plants to maintain their cool as well as get established?

    Your blog just keeps getting better and better.

  16. I try to keep to my rule of waiting until early winter, or at most late fall after an early frost, to look for the herbaceous perennials on sale (those plants that the garden center is stuck with and are no longer the least bit showy). Sometimes I’ve purchased a plant that’s completely done and I’m trusting the label. I bought my Japanese fountain grass (the one with stripe) at the end of the season and was happy with the result. This strategy has helped me stick to a budget. Trading plants, mostly by dividing and propagating, has helped too.

  17. Being a professional gardener you have to plant at all times of year. I’ve even planted Canadian hemlock trees through the snow before the ground froze one year. The secret is keeping them well watered. If you do you can plant just about anything at anytime.

  18. Ah, the perils of summer purchases. I have not bought new plants in August, but I am busy moving things and redesigning beds this month — just as foolhardy in hot summer weather as buying new plants. But who can resist? You’ve got some great new additions. The dwarf goatsbeard takes several years to establish — mine did nothing for 4 years but now are wonderful.

  19. You are dangerous in the nursery. 😀 It is so dry here that it will be a miracle to see even the drought tolerant plants next year. Soon I will be looking for Agave. 😀

  20. Summer is a bad time of year for doing anything gardenwise. I used to plant things all year round, now I seem to plant in winter, mainly because it’s more pleasant for me and also so the plants can become more established when Sydney’s heat and humidity hit.

  21. I’m the same, can’t let me go off to the garden center, nightmare! Why is the fountain grass called piglet?? Some grasses can be tricky enough, don’t now why because out in the wild nobody cares (maybe that’s why!). Take Anemanthele lessoniana – doesn’t like me one bit 😦 . Good choices!

  22. So far I have not bought any plants in August but the month isn’t over yet :). If I’m lucky I’ll get the plants I bought in July planted in August. After just a week of being away I came home to a jungle yesterday and am currently wondering if I have room for any more plants. Yikes!

  23. Nurseries and garden centers are my downfall, no matter what time of year. I simply must leave with something (sometimes several somethings). I was just given a start of A. ‘Honorine Jobert’ and I’m looking forward to seeing her in the garden next year. And like Peter, I still have a few things from early this year to find the right place for…

  24. Lol, you do make me smile. I love all grasses, but I always end up overrun with them.

    Some lovely buys there, they do look good.xxxx

    • Not all grasses spread aggressively. Switchgrass, I find, will make an increasingly large clump, but it doesn’t run or self-sow.

  25. Yes, yes, yes! Yay for impulse purchases ;-). Yours all sound wonderful! No, I’ve no more sense than you.

    I’ve never had the space for the big grasses, and I’ll have to look for the piglet one, it looks so sweet.

    My most recent impulse? 3 limelight hydrangeas and 2 twist-n-shout hydrangeas, big ones, and no small hit on the wallet, I’ll tell ya. They’ll form a hedge between the alley and my new garden shed.

    I think August and on into fall is a great time to buy for the garden! Sales, and upcoming cooler weather, plus the benefit of having them be ‘second year’ plants come next gardening season. Shop on!

  26. Haha! I love your comment about Christopher Lloyd and the hellebore bore! I can tell you there are many a hellebore planted in his garden at Great Dixter – hope he’s not turning in his grave! Really love the Japanese Anemone, I had one of those but it never came back after the first year 😦 devastated.

  27. I had difficulty establishing Little Bunny, so I moved onto Piglet. Now I have a combination of the two. I look forward to learning how Piglet does in your garden. Both are good grasses to have.

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