• Plants & Gardening

    The 10 Best Perennials for Sun

    Orange Daylily, The 10 Best Perennials for Sun, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2020/07/01/best-perennials-for-sun/ #perennials #daylily #flowers #plants #orange #sun #easy #best

    While creating my last A Vine of Ideas digest, I wanted to share a decent list of the best perennials to grow in sun. But the lists I found were lacking. They were too long, not broad enough in terms of zonal hardiness, included fussy or hard-to-find plants, or listed actual shrubs. So I’ve compiled my own list of what I believe are the best low-maintenance, long-blooming winners. They’re all pretty and tough and widely available. Plus, they all attract butterflies, bees, and birds!

    1. Daylily
    Daylily, The 10 Best Perennials for Sun, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2020/07/01/best-perennials-for-sun/ #perennials #daylily #hemerocallis #happyreturns #tuber #flowers #plants #yellow #sun #easy #best
    Hemerocallis ‘Happy Returns’

    Daylilies (Hemerocallis) have got to be the easiest perennial to grow. They’re hardy to zone 3 and require little, if any, care. As they store energy in little tubers, they leaf out in early spring and bloom for several weeks in summer. Each blossom lasts for about a day, hence the name. I have the classic orange daylilies (hemerocallis fulva) that are larger, to about two feet high. With their arching spear-like leaves, they make quite a bold statement and fill in blank spaces rapidly. I also grow a dwarf ‘Happy Returns’ daylily, which is yellow and so darn cute. They don’t spread as rapidly, just simply hangout in their little space.

    2. Salvia
    Salvia 'May Night,' The 10 Best Perennials for Sun, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2020/07/01/best-perennials-for-sun/ #perennials #salvia #MayNight #flowers #plants #purple #sun #easy #best
    Salvia ‘May Night’

    Salvias are known to be tender in northern gardens but I’ve denied my zone and grown ‘Black and Bloom,’ ‘Hot Lips,’ and other fun cultivars without returning success. I’ve also planted hardier cultivars and ‘May Night’ (salvia x sylvestris ‘May Night’) is my favorite. It’s got deep purple flowers that make a bold statement, especially paired with an orange rose or magenta peony. And they bloom for most of the summer with some deadheading. Plus, foliage leafs out early! ‘May Night’ also has excellent hardiness to zone 4. I think it’s a must-have for the garden. Plus, bees adore it!

    3. Crocosmia
    Crocosmia 'Emily McKenzie,' The 10 Best Perennials for Sun, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2020/07/01/best-perennials-for-sun/ #perennials #crocosmia #flowers #plants #orange #sun #easy #best #emilymckenzie
    Crocosmia ‘Emily McKenzie’

    The tall sword-like leaves of crocosmia (crocosmia) elegantly add contrasting structure to the garden. That they bloom in this succession of strongly colored, exotic-looking flowers is even better. I grow a couple different kinds and rarely think twice about them. If you like red, choose the taller ‘Lucifer.’ My favorite is ‘Emily McKenzie,’ which is shorter and brightly orange. Overall, as long as a crocosmia is in full sun and doesn’t dry out too much, they will produce late-summer blooms for many weeks. Delicate looking but super tough. Hardy down to zone 5.

    4. Stonecrop
    Sedum, The 10 Best Perennials for Sun, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2020/07/01/best-perennials-for-sun/ #perennials #sedum #stonecrop #brilliant #droughttolerant #flowers #plants #pink #sun #easy #best
    Sedum spectabile ‘Brilliant’

    You might know stonecrop (sedum spectabile) by its broccoli-like appearance. It emerges in rosettes before growing into 1-1 1/2 foot wide stalks topped with flat flower heads. Stonecrop is hardy down to zone 4 and loves to bake in the sun in poor soil. In late summer, red flowers emerge that then fade to marroon and darken to brown. In winter, their sturdy forms offer great structure and seeds for birds. ‘Autumn Joy’ is a reliable cultivar, but I also love the variegated ‘Autumn Charm.’ I also grow ‘Xenox’ and ‘Purple Emperor’. ‘Brilliant’ is a brighter version of ‘Autumn Joy.’ All are highly drought tolerant. A great perennial for sun.

    5. Tickseed
    Coreopsis, The 10 Best Perennials for Sun, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2020/07/01/best-perennials-for-sun/ #perennials #tickseed #coreopsis #flowers #plants #yellow #sun #easy #best
    Coreopsis grandiflora

    When I think of tickseed (coreopsis grandiflora), I think of sunshine. These clumps of mostly yellow flowers (sometimes orange, red or bi-colored) bloom all summer long. They grow to about a foot high and require little care. I occasionally deadhead to prolong blooms. I grow the straight species as I like solid, darker yellows. A cultivar called ‘Main Street’ allures with its red-magenta color and the threadleaf plants add interest with narrow foliage. Some are hardy down to zone 4.

    6. Phlox
    The 10 Best Perennials for Sun, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2020/07/01/best-perennials-for-sun/ #perennials #phlox #coralredflame #flowers #plants #coral #sun #easy #best
    Phlox ‘Coral Red Flame’

    The phlox (phlox paniculata) perennial is an old fashioned mainstay and even though it’s dismissed for that, I still think it’s a great perennial to grow for constant summer color. And there are hundreds of colors to choose from! I have a cultivar called ‘Coral Red Flame’ that blares and a couple others whose names I can’t remember. ‘Ruby’ is a common cultivar with bright red flowers. These lovely perennials are not that drought tolerant, they like a bit of water in summer and even some shade. I grow mine in full sun with supplemental water and they do well, nestled in the mid-border due to the vertical form. I have had some powdery mildew problems here and there. Hardy to zone 3.

    7. Coneflower
    Coneflower, The 10 Best Perennials for Sun, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2020/07/01/best-perennials-for-sun/ #perennials #coneflower #echinaceapurpurea #echinacea #flowers #plants #pink #sun #easy #best
    Echinacea purpurea

    In my northwest climate, coneflowers (echinacea purpurea) take a while to get going in early summer, but once they take off, they bloom well into fall. These prairie flowers like well-draining soil but reward with some drought tolerance and rich friendly pink and orange colors. I grow some harder-to-find cultivars like ‘Tiki Torch’ and ‘Wild Berry,’ but the straight species is a fine choice for anyone with a garden between zones 3 and 8. The pink varieties look stunning beside the dark salvia ‘May Night.’

    8. Iris
    Japanese Iris, The 10 Best Perennials for Sun, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2020/07/01/best-perennials-for-sun/ #perennials #iris #cryofrejoice #flowers #plants #purple #sun #easy #best
    Japanese Iris ‘Cry of Rejoice’

    I fell out of love with irises for a while because they bloom during a shorter window in spring but if you’re looking for a low maintenance perennial, irises are a solid choice. They make up a broad family of Siberian, Japanese, and bearded varieties, which can be overwhelming. For regularly blooming color, I’d choose a Japanese or Siberian. In the northwest, I also grow bearded irises. Their flat wide leaves offer great evergreen structure. My favorite is Iris pallida ‘Aureo-variegata,’ which I like more for the striped yellow-green foliage than the lavender flowers. Hardy to zone 4.

    9. Black-eyed Susan
    Black-eyed Susan, The 10 Best Perennials for Sun, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2020/07/01/best-perennials-for-sun/ #perennials #blackeyedsusan #rudbeckia #goldsturm #flowers #plants #yellow #sun #easy #best
    Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’

    Black-eyed Susan (rudbeckia fulgida) is another workhorse. You can plant a pot of these, turn away, and the next thing you know they’ve spread to form a pleasantly large clump. These two-foot perennials bloom from mid-summer to late fall, usually only fading just as the first frost arrives. Butterflies love the prairie flowers whose beaming yellow cheer up any garden. I grow ‘Goldsturm,’ which is the classic flower you often see in public and home gardens. In winter, I leave the dried heads undisturbed to feed the birds. Hardy to zone 4.

    10. Bee Balm
    Bee Balm, The 10 Best Perennials for Sun, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2020/07/01/best-perennials-for-sun/ #perennials #beebalm #monarda #raspberrywine #flowers #plants #magenta #sun #easy #best
    Monarda ‘Raspberry Wine’

    Bee balm (monarda) almost didn’t make my list because it tends to get powdery mildew in fall but the flowers are so uniquely cool I just had to include it. They look like fancy crowns with points all around. Plus, hummingbirds and bees love them. Bee balm is a tough perennial, multiplying quickly and offering a punch of magenta or purple in a mixed border. I grow the larger ‘Raspberry Wine,’ a mildew-resistant cultivar, beside my purple smokebush. There are many dwarfs and colors available. Hardy to zone 3.

    Runners Up: Peruvian Lily and Lavender
    Peruvian Lily, The 10 Best Perennials for Sun, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2020/07/01/best-perennials-for-sun/ #perennials #alstroemeria #peruvianlily #tuber #flowers #plants #purple #sun #easy #best
    Alstroemeria

    Peruvian lily (alstroemeria) is another beloved favorite of mine. I’ve had a peach cultivar whose name I don’t know (above), if it has one, for decades and every year I can’t wait for it to bloom. Usually, these back-of-the-border plants grow to almost three feet tall and depending on what’s around them, may need staking. Still, the cut flowers last a long time and they bloom profusely all summer without attention. I also have a ruby colored variety, which contrasts nicely with my Salvia ‘May Night.’

    I didn’t include lavender in the main list because technically it’s a shrub. Still, English lavender (lavandula angustifolia) delights with silvery wands and fragrant purple flowerheads. Gardeners in colder climates can’t grow the more tender Spanish lavenders but English lavenders grow just fine down to zone 5. I’ve found lavenders look lovely lining a hot walkway and do best when trimmed after blooming, though be careful. A lavender can die if old wood is pruned. It’s fun to run your hands along lavender and enjoy the lovely scent!

  • Plants & Gardening

    The Versatile Variegated Iris

    Variegated Iris, The Versatile Variegated Iris in My Garden, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2019/05/26/variegated-iris/ #variegatediris #iris #summerblooms #mygarden #rhizome

    Variegated Iris (Iris pallida ‘Variegata’) is a versatile and wonderful iris to grow. I have two beside the birdbath in my garden. These natives of Croatia have creamy yellow and light green leaves with two-toned lavender blooms. They also offer great structure for the garden, growing in flat wide spikes. If you grow this rhizome, you won’t be disappointed.

    Variegated Iris Flower, The Versatile Variegated Iris in My Garden, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2019/05/26/variegated-iris/ #variegatediris #iris #summerblooms #mygarden #rhizome
    Easy Growing Conditions

    Variegated iris likes full sun and moist, rich soil. It can tolerate some shade but if it gets too much, the leaves will flop over. Those sword-like leaves grow to about 24″ tall, creating a bold statement. The plant is hardy from zones 4 to 9, making it able to be widely grown by many U.S. gardeners. Its flowers are fragrant with a touch of yellow in their beards. In warmer areas, the foliage is evergreen. Pair it with mounding geraniums or dark purple heuchera, or even filipendula ‘Red Umbrellas’ (as I have here). The contrast will be lovely. Variegated iris suffers rarely from pests or disease. I highly recommend that anyone try growing this lovely perennial.

  • Books,  Plants & Gardening,  Writing

    On Being Astonished and Capturing the Sight in a Poem

    Fern Fiddlehead, On Being Astonished and Capturing the Sight in a Poem, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2019/05/03/on-being-astonished-and-capturing-the-sight-in-a-poem/ #ThomasAThomas #poems #poetry #photography #fern #plants #gardening #photos
    ThomasAThomas, On Being Astonished and Capturing the Sight in a Poem, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2019/05/03/on-being-astonished-and-capturing-the-sight-in-a-poem/ #ThomasAThomas #poet #poems #poetry #photography #fern #plants #gardening #photos

    Thomas A. Thomas is a talented poet and photographer. His poetry focuses on the natural world while reaching for spiritual meaning. Similarly, his photos capture the beauty of life’s moments in pensive portraits at close scale. The lighting is alluring and dark, the subject matter exalted. It’s as if a simple flower or drop of rain is a sacrament and Thomas is the holy man channeling its godliness for the viewer. Or should I say “experiencer” because reading and viewing Thomas’s art is truly its own unique experience. As I, he was a student at Goddard College and lives in the Pacific Northwest. We covered his love of poetry, fascination with photography, interest in the natural world, and how he got his unusual name. Check out this amazing artist.

    When did you become interested in poetry?

    I have to say as a preschooler, because my mother would recite wonderful classics like “The Jabberwocky” and “The Tyger” and even longer ones like Noyes’ “The Highwayman” as well as Kipling and Poe classics. Then in high school Miss Eileen Driscoll cracked open the wide world of literature and cultures, from Aleut songs to Zarathustra…

    Why does poetry resonate with you? Is it the precision of the word, the depth of truth or something else?

    I think it is the intensity first, how worlds and lifetimes can be brought to life with a 17-syllable haiku or a couplet. The deep truth of poetry is beyond our rational minds and can reverberate like a gong (or a depth charge) in our soul. And intense poetry provokes pleasure and love in me, even in expressing the worst of what humans do to one another.

    Red Leaf Maple, On Being Astonished and Capturing the Sight in a Poem, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2019/05/03/on-being-astonished-and-capturing-the-sight-in-a-poem/ #ThomasAThomas #poems #poetry #photography #fern #plants #gardening #photos
    Who were the first poets or writers who influenced you and why?

    After my early youth awash in the classics of rhyming poetry, historical novels, drama ancient and modern, and American Indian song poems, the first great explosion was the discovery that living humans could write about the present world… Ferlinghetti! e.e.cummings(!) Poetry was living in the world, not confined to stone and books. It could be made of jazz as well as ancient classical music, and it could rock & roll and be sexy too!  

    You’re also an outstanding photographer. Are you self-trained or did you attend some sort of schooling?

    There were photographers in my family, going way back. Mom put a Brownie in my hands at age 11, with black and white film, and I almost immediately started looking seeing in different way. That little kid on a horseback trail-ride in New Mexico started shooting shadows on adobe walls, and generally channeling Ansel Adams, who he would only discover a decade later. I guess I have to say I’m self-taught, though Georgia O’Keefe might beg to differ…

    What’s struck me about your photographs is that they are a close examination of a moment or object, similar to a poem. What’s your process in finding subjects and photographing them?

    In fact, I call my good shots “sub-second poems”. At my best times, it is a deeply meditative awareness that comes upon me, a Zen intensity. I look and see and feel, and I touch the shutter button, wait, breathe, feel a presence, click NOW. To paraphrase Mary Oliver, “pay attention, be astonished, capture the sight”.  Also like poetry, the image/poem is not usually done at first capture (though the divine muses do grace us with such miracles from time to time). There is the process of revision, polishing, making it look like it really felt in that instant. There’s the inspiration, and then there’s the craft.

    What the camera captured:

    Camellia Draft Photo, ThomasAThomas, On Being Astonished and Capturing the Sight in a Poem, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2019/05/03/on-being-astonished-and-capturing-the-sight-in-a-poem/ #ThomasAThomas #poems #poetry #photography #fern #plants #gardening #photos

    What I made:

    Camellia Final Photo, ThomasAThomas, On Being Astonished and Capturing the Sight in a Poem, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2019/05/03/on-being-astonished-and-capturing-the-sight-in-a-poem/ #ThomasAThomas #poems #poetry #photography #fern #plants #gardening #photos
    Why are you interested in photographing plants? In some ways, they do seem structural and multidimensional, almost picture-ready.

    I tried big city living in the 70s, including New York City. Frenetic excitement is entertaining for a while, but then I want to live, and be, in the natural world again. There is enough awfulness in the world, and I pay attention to that too. But I want to look at what makes the horrors worth fighting through, what makes the suffering bearable. I want to bring that news back to my fellow sufferers, to remind myself and others why I love it all so much.  

    Do you have any favorite lines you’ve written about plants or nature that you’d like to share?

    How about a mysterious little poem about both loving nature and experiencing the slipperiness of attention:

    I have nothing to say

    This poem is yours, but you must
    look carefully for it:
    this poem is there among the rocks
    where the gray rain falls
    on lichen, moss, and marmot shit.
    It is growing there in the marmot shit:
    rather, it is the marmot
    running down the hill from you.
     
    Walk quietly. It hears you
    stumbling clumsily after it.
    This poem has little respect for you
    because this tundra has no need
    you can answer. It was happy
    lying in the sun, with the hawks
    circling above it. And there you are,
    still tracking the marmot which
    this poem has already left.
    You care for your wife who’s been afflicted by early onset Alzheimer’s. Can you talk about how you cope with that while having art in your life?

    I absolutely could not cope without art in my life. Gregory Orr has a book specifically about it: Poetry as Survival. And of course “art” includes my own sub-second photo-poems. And I definitely have written what people generally describe as “heartrending” poems about our long goodbye.

    Blue Forget Me Nots, On Being Astonished and Capturing the Sight in a Poem, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2019/05/03/on-being-astonished-and-capturing-the-sight-in-a-poem/ #ThomasAThomas #poems #poetry #photography #fern #plants #gardening #photos
    You have an interesting name. Is it a given name or chosen name?

    My name is part bio and part history. Mom was Patricia A. Thomas MD (one of only three women in her class at Northwestern) before she married the Chicago Ballet dancer, William E. Sturges, who happened to be volunteering at the hospital where she was doing her residency. He came to her special attention by tackling a would-be suicide as he was running to jump through a several stories high window.

    The marriage only lasted long enough for me to be 23 months old, and at the time, Mom wasn’t showing she was pregnant with my brother yet. Her dad, Milton G. Thomas, a NASA engineer, had three daughters, so it looked like the end of our branch of the Thomas name. And in the 1960s, my mom, whose name ended in “Thomas,” with her two sons “Tom and Peter Sturges,” just didn’t sound right to her. She liked the idea of “Thomas A. Thomas.” My grandfather, Milton’s dad, Thomas Moses Thomas, liked the idea of my name change as well. It’s a Welsh thing.

    So when I was 11, I appeared in court to request the legal name change.

    Rhododendron Bud, On Being Astonished and Capturing the Sight in a Poem, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2019/05/03/on-being-astonished-and-capturing-the-sight-in-a-poem/ #ThomasAThomas #poems #poetry #photography #fern #plants #gardening #photos
    Where can we find your work, either poetry-wise or photography-wise or both?

    The 2005 book of poems I published includes my photos on the cover and inside chapter pages. Getting Here is available direct from the publisher (Trafford.com) as paperback or e-book. It is also available either way on Amazon & Kindle, and I have found it in iBooks, Google has it; as does B&N etc.

    Look for my photos in Instagram (tthomas7828) on Facebook, and at ViewBug. One of these days I will have a book of my photos paired with other people’s words, and another with my own. I have sold prints individually, and donated them to charity auctions with some success.


    Thomas A. Thomas is a lyrical poet who has studied with Gregory Orr and Donald Hall at the University of Michigan, where he won both a Hopwood Minor and a Hopwood Major Award in Poetry. He has also studied with Matthew Shenoda at Goddard College. His work has appeared in “Anesthesia Review”, “The Periodical Lunch”, Writer’s Digest, and “Oberon.” Getting Here, a collection of early work, was published in 2005 and is most easily available through Trafford Publishing.