Update on the Dead Woodland Sunflower Bed

A year ago I wrote about how my woodland sunflowers (Helianthus strumosus) had pooped out on me. They had been the only plant growing in a little back garden bed along the path to the alley. What remained looked like this.

Woodland Sunflowers
June, 2013: The bed formerly occupied by Woodland Sunflowers.

I was tired of woodland sunflower, so a new plant selection was called for. In addition to being under dappled shade, this bed can get dry in summer and wet in spring, so the replacement plants required careful consideration. Also I wanted this to be a low-growing bed, requiring no staking or pruning.

So last fall I ended up planting dwarf goatsbeard (Aruncus aethusifolius), lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis), a variegated bugleweed, and a dwarf beautyberry, Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Isai’. This is how the bed looked last October.

Newly planted bed
Newly planted bed formerly filled with Woodland Sunflower

Then came winter, a particularly long and hard winter. When we finally thawed out, I found that: 1) the goatsbeard came up looking refreshed and rested; 2) the lenten rose survived mostly, though one plant perished and another looked rather weak; 3) the bugleweed died; and 4) the dwarf beautyberry had been chewed to the ground by rabbits.

Now the bed looks like this.

Still a lot of filling in to be done.
Still a lot of filling in to be done. There is a little bit of mock strawberry in there that I decided not to pull out.

Fortunately the dwarf beautyberry has grown back. We’ll see if we get any purple berries this fall, but either way I’ll be sure to give it some winter protection from the evil rabbits. The bugleweed and deceased lenten rose I replaced with more of the dwarf goatsbeard.

Dwarf Goatsbeard
Dwarf Goatsbeard

These were all new plants for me, and overall I am moderately pleased. I do like the goatsbeard. The ones planted last fall have settled in nicely. The flowers are decent if not exciting, and the ferny foliage is very appealing.

I did have a scare when I read that the dwarf beautyberry is considered an invasive plant in some parts of the country. However, it doesn’t appear on the Chicago Botanic Garden list of invasive plants for this region, so I assume it’s OK.

This is completely off topic but all this understated green and white makes me want to show off my Clematis jackmanii, which is doing very nicely this year.

Clematis jackmanii
Clematis jackmanii

Purple power! Have a fun Fourth of July!

42 Comments on “Update on the Dead Woodland Sunflower Bed”

  1. I also have a dwarf goatsbeard. It is a very nice plant, and the foliage gets a great colour in the fall. If you lenten rose likes the place, it will be quite big in a year or two.
    Love your Jackmanii, mine is also nice, but yours is stunning.

  2. You made some thoughtful (and successful) choices! I confess that sometimes I don’t put as much planning into our beds as I ought to. I believe I will see if I can find some reasonably-priced goatsbeard. I like it!

  3. That purple of your clematis is beautiful!!! And I see where I missed my name in the giveaway in the last post !!! Thanks again I can’t wait to read it!! The goatsbeard looks stunning as does your beauty berry!! I had no idea that this plant was considered invasive in some parts…mine has popped back and is so pretty in the shade. Evil rabbits yes! We seem to have a million this year! Take care and happy 4th!!

  4. I am glad I had read your post as I have a perennial sunflower I had not identified which turns out to be Helianthus strumosus. It is doing well, no doubt in part because it is full sun from dawn to dusk.
    Your jackmanii is stunning. I bought one a couple of years ago and it turned out to be Étoile violette – a nice clematis, but not the one I had bought!

  5. I didn’t even know there was a dwarf goatsbeard or a dwarf beautyberry. I’ve always wanted a goatsbeard, but haven’t found the right place for one. A shorter one would fit in perfectly. ‘Jackmanii’ looks beautiful!

    • I only learned about them recently. Don’t know yet how the beautyberry will work out. The goatsbeard seems like a useful plant. There is a native beautyberry but it is much too large for the space I am working with. The dwarf is from Korea, I think.

  6. Your clematis looks great! I’ve had absolutely no success finding a spot which shows off my own, and as a result just kind of ignore them…
    The beautybush should be fine, they bloom on new wood and should be cut back each spring anyway. Save your protection efforts for the stuff that appreciates it.
    Happy fourth!

  7. How fun planting a new garden from scratch. Your clematis looks great. Mine is in full bloom as well, but I’m missing it being on vacation 😦 I planted 3 beautyberry bushes (Callicarpa x NCCX1) that I got from the Morton Arboretum. I’m hoping they do well, maybe I should protect them this winter from hungry rabbits. I trust they’re not invasive, but my biggest fear is that after buying them, I noticed the hardiness rating is only to 6. I’m hoping they really wouldn’t sell something that won’t grow here in zone 5. They overwintered at the Morton Arb just fine, so maybe they aren’t done testing hardiness yet. Happy 4th!

    • I can’t imagine the Morton Arboretum would sell anything that wasn’t hardy. Plus Bittster noted in one of the comments above that you’re supposed to cut the beautyberry back as they bloom on new wood, so the rabbits are not a threat, at least not in winter.

  8. I too have dwarf goatsbeard. It looks nice in that bed. The beautyberry should not be invasive in your climate, right? Good you checked. Many plants here are not invasive, but other places are. That is one good thing about our winters, aggressive plants are many times kept in check.

  9. If your hellebores died and the aruncus thrived then the spot is probably pretty wet in the winter/spring. Hellebore need to be dry in the winter. Japanese anemone would do well there as would astrantia ( I think! Dbl check me.) Love that clematis! 🙂

  10. I do like the dwarf goatsbeard, what an unusual little plant. The clematis is rather stunning too! It’s always a pain to lose plants isn’t it, we had a ferocious winter a few years back and I lost so many shrubs and even small trees. If only the weather was a little more predictable!xxx

  11. I want that clematis – well, I want a copy of it, it would be unfair to take it from you. Clematis Jackmanii has been in and out of my mind for a while but seeing yours flowering like that I don’t think I’m going to forget about it again!

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