It's the Plants, Darling

Enormities

The key thing about having giant hostas, however, is not just buying them, but having the patience to leave them alone.  I’m always moving things around and have discovered that if you are constantly ripping up your hostas, they stay insignificant.  Witness the sad specimen below. 

Fussed_with

Four years old and stunted

What do I do when want a similarly bold effect in the sunshine? 

Telekia

Well, I could stick some cannas in the ground, but in my North Pole neighborhood, truly tropical plants seem to look better in pots.  Last year, I picked up the weird plant to the right at Clear Brook Farm in Shaftsbury, VT.

A perusal of my Graham Rice Encyclopedia of Perennials suggests that it’s something called Telekia. It develops really dumb-looking flat daisy-ish flowers. But the leaves are so interesting–big, soft, and chartreuse–that I don’t really care about the flowers.  I went back to Clear Brook last week hoping to buy another handful of these.  No luck.

Of course, overweight is not the only way to explode a scale.  Tall is good, too.  In addition to a huge collection of Oriental lilies now scraping 7 feet, I have another Clear Brook Farm mystery purchase: Thalictrum flavum, a meadow rue with really beautiful blue leaves like a giant columbine and small limey flowers.

Thallictrum

Currently sprawling, but some day, some day…

Unfortunately, I either planted it in too much shade or its stems are just too weak to support its NBA-qualifying height.  Think I’ll try moving it out of the shade of the porch and then see where we are.

Posted by on June 22, 2007 at 5:49 am, in the category It's the Plants, Darling.
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12 responses to “Enormities”

  1. Jodi DeLong says:

    Oh yeah! I love the big bold plants too. Currently in the back garden we have Darmera peltata holding court in the wet part of the bed; Hosta ‘Sagae’ doing its best to get as big as H.s. ‘Elegans’ (although Hosta ‘Striptease’ is also goin’ for the showstopper prize. There’s a dandy ornamental rhubarb sending its hot pink flower head sky-high (it’s about 7 1/2 feet this morning) near a Queen of the Prairie Filipendula rubra that wants to be about that tall…
    Your Telekia couldn’t be Inula by any chance, could it? It looks remarkably like my elecampane (Inula helenium) which is another monstrous plant. It has rather mundane daisy-like yellow flowers, and it requires a LOT of room…but I grow it because it was a plant favoured by the Acadien settlers in their potager gardens here in Nova Scotia in the 17th and 18th centuries.
    As you can probably guess…we dont’ live on a postage sized city lot but on seven acres in a rural setting….

  2. MaryContrary says:

    Oooh, you need some senna marylandica. Planted in full blazing sun in ordinary garden soil, this baby goes up six or seven feet in a summer with at least a 4-5 foot spread. Big tropical pinnate leaves and cool yellow clusters of flowers that the pollinators love. No staking, no fuss, no bother … except for the pruning saw you’ll need to cut the stalks down in the winter. And no polite eupatorium maculatum ‘gateway’ for me. I’ve got a straight species e. purpureum that will send 30 stalks 8 – 10 feet. Heh, heh, heh. I feel a little like an excited mad scientist just thinking about them.

  3. MaryContrary says:

    Oooh, you need some senna marilandica. Planted in full blazing sun in ordinary garden soil, this baby goes up six or seven feet in a summer with at least a 4-5 foot spread. Big tropical pinnate leaves and cool yellow clusters of flowers that the pollinators love. No staking, no fuss, no bother … except for the pruning saw you’ll need to cut the stalks down in the winter. And no polite eupatorium maculatum ‘gateway’ for me. I’ve got a straight species e. purpureum that will send 30 stalks 8 – 10 feet. Heh, heh, heh. I feel a little like an excited mad scientist just thinking about them.

  4. Jenny says:

    Hey, I think I had that meadow rue in my front yard! It grew tall and started flopping over, and I didn’t like the looks of it, and since I don’t know anything about plants I figured it was probably a weed I’d neglected (because it looked nice until it started flowering) and cut it down. Hmm.

  5. Hostas you say. There are giant Hostas all over this mountaintop in all kinds of leaf shapes and colors. It has been my feeling from afar that they were considered passe’. I look at them and think they are so big and so happy how could I not make use of them. They remind me too of Eucharis amazonica aka E. grandiflora. Plus they will be free. At least that is what I have been told. When the shovel hits the clump the truth will really come out.

  6. Jodi DeLong, the telekia could very well be inula–I thought my plant resembled the photos of telekia slightly more, but they do look very similar.

    The Encyclopedia of Perennials describes the difference this way: “Distinguished from the similar Inula by the presence of scales between the disk florets.” Say what?

    And I have seen no mention of the most striking characteristic of my plant, which is the fact that the leaves are a vibrant chartreuse color.

  7. Carol says:

    The National Hosta Society’s convention is wrapping up in Indianapolis this week. It was interesting to go to the “open to the public” sales to see all the very large (and very tiny) hostas for sale and everything in between. I will attest that hostas like to sulk a bit if moved around too much. I have a large-leaved hosta, probably Sum and Substance, which is sitting there doing practically nothing just because I moved it from the ground to a pot, then made it over winter in the pot until I planted it in the ground again this spring. I expected more from it, having made it the center of attention!

  8. June says:

    Hostas? Ha! They ain’t got nothing on petasites. Had it for years and the big stuff made me smile every day.

  9. Ellis Hollow says:

    Elizabeth, if you’re checking in. Isn’t there an ‘enormous perennial’ garden somewhere in Buffalo? Tell us more. Maybe it will get some of us fence-sitters to the garden walk in July if we knew we could see some of these freaks of nature.

    Michele: Yeah. That rue flops. I had some near a pergoloa and could tie it up and it would stand while it was flowering. But I usually neglected it and it went down, even though it got a lot of sun.

    My Aruncus only gets chest high. (But hey, I’m 6-6.) I like a plant that I have to look up to.

    One of my current favorites is a Eupatorium purpureum ‘Joe White’ (Joe Pye Weed) that I got from Plant Delights. It went about 8 feet last year. But I transplanted and divided it to a slightly drier spot this year, and I don’t think it’s going to go that tall.

    Which leads me to a point: I think a lot of these enormous perennials need a few years in place to reach their potential. I’ve got some huge hostas that I got two moves ago. I’d venture that it’s at least three or four years before they really fill in. Same with some other big plants I grow.

    What about big annuals and tropicals for cooler climates? If I start castor beans with my tomatoes, I can get them up close to 10 feet. Brugmansias are nice but a pain to overwinter inside. Cannas are big, but not enormous.

    Any other suggestions?

  10. Molly says:

    My Thalictrum flavum flops also. Thalictrum ‘Elin’ is another nice giant. Doesn’t even though it is ~10 feet tall. The best thing I can say about my petasites is that it distracted the slugs from my hostas, while it lasted.

  11. eliz says:

    Hey Craig there are 260plus gardens. Many have gigantic plants–including hostas. In fact, many of us rely on them. Personally, I have a hosta/fern jungle, notably only for its excess, certainly not its design.

    Funny, I could have written this post. In fact, I was planning to write about how I stake all my gigantic plants and don’t care how unfashionable it is. Now I will.

  12. I AM SO JEALOUS. Hostas ain’t so easy to grow in the Great State of Texas… (Cut to my face frowning.)

    I will always want what I can’t have: a shade garden teeming with hostas.

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