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Friday 18 June 2010 - Filed under Plants

There are many big dramatic plants I love and work hard for, because it’s worth it to ruin your back to dig a bog for a huge gunnera, or to feed and water the bananas and papyrus for a lush tropical summer garden. However, they can’t all be high maintenance, or I wouldn’t stand a chance getting on top of the garden chores. Today, an ode to the some high drama plants that ask for very little love in return.

Plume poppy (Macleaya cordata)
I don’t really mind our record rain this spring. When it comes to leaves, I have a bigger is better attitude when it comes to my garden, and the rain seems to be helping in that department. Plume poppy leaves are usually big, but I measured the largest here at 18″ across, that’s a record in my garden.

musa basjoo
Sadly I had to take my record breaking plume poppy out, since it was overshadowing my biggest banana, which I also hope to grow to new heights this year. There’s not enough sun to share in my garden, so that plume poppy had to go. Not to worry, there are plenty more. I have mentioned before, they reseed enthusiastically. I’d almost call them weedy, but it hardly seems like weeding when you don’t even have to bend over to gently pluck the tall stems out from wherever they’re unwelcome. I wish I could say the same for the obnoxious blackberries behind the banana. I’ll have to plan a day around excavating those.

Plume poppy (Macleaya cordata)
Removing such a big plume poppy was a good opportunity to get a good look at the leaves. The top is a glaucous green, while the undersides are a soft, nearly furry silver. When the wind blows, you get flashes of the silver dancing in the garden. I don’t think movement gets enough attention as a design element in the garden, but plants that sway in the breeze make me swoon.

rubus lineatus
Years of battling blackberries hasn’t yet deterred me from growing their relative and enthusiastic garden runner, Rubus lineatus, for the gorgeous pleated leaves. The texture is what gets me with this plant, but this is the first year where they’ve crept into big-leaf category. I didn’t notice the leaf spots until I got a good look at the picture indoors. I hope that’s not some terrible disease that’s going to cost me the plant.

rubus lineatus
A better shot of the Rubus lineatus with it’s new neighbor, Actaea – not sure I remember the variety perhaps ‘Hillside black beauty.’ Have I mentioned I love leaves?

Aruncus dioicus
Some of my plants just aren’t photogenic but simply stunning in person. I have to give Aruncus dioicus credit, not only for being gorgeous, but for being the lowest maintenance plant I own. It’s located back in my not-quite-under control area of the garden, where weeds are always trying to encroach, and my hose doesn’t reach for frequent watering. That’s a plant thriving in dry shade in poor weed infested soil. Very handy for a tough spot, if you have one. You can’t really tell from the picture how HUGE it is, but keep in mind, for scale, the fence behind it is 6 feet tall, which makes it about 8 feet tall and wide. When it’s in full bloom like this, it almost reminds me of a pampas grass, without any of the downside.

Aruncus dioicus
My big Aruncus seems to appreciate the neglect. I have another plant in a better cared for section of the garden, that is nowhere near as vigorous. There are a bunch of smaller named varieties, but mine both came tagged the same.

Aruncus dioicus
The flowers on the smaller plant have a finer quality, although they’re still in the process of opening up, they’ll get a little fuzzier as time goes on. I have a terrible time keeping Asilbes happy, but Aruncus look like an Astilbe on steroids, and they’re not such drama queens about getting tons of water.

Aruncus aethusifolius
On the other end of the spectrum, the dwarf Aruncus aethusifolius tops out at about 10″ tall, but spreads nicely. These buggers have especially good looking leaves, and look fantastic from the time they leaf out, Mid March for me, to the end of fall when they get some good reddish tones. The interesting skeletons of the flowers stick around until I cut them off in spring.

Aruncus aethusifolius
An occasional bonus, A. aethusifolius showing some fancy red stems.

Aruncus aethusifolius
The flowers are similar to the big plants, white gooseneck sprays. I bought five plants in four inch pots several years back. I have them planted in part sun in a spot I never remember to water where they have slowly, pleasantly spread into tidy clumps that look pretty fantastic politely peeking over the edge of the walk.

2010-06-18  »  megan

Talkback x 8

  1. Laura
    18 June 2010 @ 10:17 am

    Wow thats a big and beautiful Aruncus dioicus! Gotta love plants that can take a little neglect!

  2. Loree / danger garden
    18 June 2010 @ 11:37 am

    Wow…that Plume poppy leaf is beyond amazing! I already have 1 little volunteer springing up next to the ones you gave me. Which btw are hanging on but not thriving. I think they were a little upset about how long it took me to get them in the ground. Next year they will be amazing, I’m sure of it.

    Your Rubus lineatus is also pretty damn hot! Mine has even worse spots…I’m sure it has something to do with the cold and the rain. Sad.

    Okay and lastly that Aruncus dioicus! Wow….I have no memory of seeing it in person. Is this the first year it’s been that big? Or am I just blind? It’s a beauty! You have definitely planted to take advantage of weather like we’ve been having. Right gardener right place (or something like that), I applaud your Portland-ness.

  3. linda
    18 June 2010 @ 12:59 pm

    I think I need a Plume Poppy! andI ‘ll have to give the Rubus another go- It sadly didn’t survive the last winter. Great planting…

  4. Andrew at Garden Smackdown
    18 June 2010 @ 1:56 pm

    Um, I think you need to contact some growers about propagating that Aruncus, because I’ve never heard of an 8-footer!

    I’m so with you on plume poppy. People get all het up over the way it seeds around, but hello? The root system is nothin’. I hadn’t thought of throwing it in with tropicals, though… I think I’m going to have to give it a shot…

  5. Patricia C, Portland, OR
    20 June 2010 @ 6:54 am

    Groovy, the lot of it!

  6. Grace
    21 June 2010 @ 11:23 pm

    Hi Megan~~ What a fabulous post! I keep my wishlist on my phone and as soon as I’m done with this reply I’m adding the Rubus and Aruncus. Gimme, gimme!! Not that I need any more plants or have any room. Logic be damned. Stunning plants.

    I have Plume Poppy but mine have never sported leaves even half this size. What are you feeding yours?? Whatever it is, I need to get me some. :)

  7. ricki - sprig to twig
    23 June 2010 @ 3:56 pm

    I moved my plume poppies around, until they finally chose the perfect spot on their own, right outside my studio window. I’m looking at them now, and marveling at the intricate leaf shapes…and hugeness. Now I gotta get me some of those other beauties you mention.

  8. tina
    26 June 2010 @ 4:40 am

    What a great actaea. I love mine but at the moments its past prime blooms are drooping. I might need to go cut them.