July 7, 2011


Last year I gave up on growing wandflowers in my garden (Gone, Gaura, Gone).  They never survived the winter, and I kept buying more each year.  I finally put Gaura lindheimeri 'Siskiyou Pink' in a couple pots, enjoyed them on the patio, and then brought them into my unheated porch for the winter, with very little hope that they would do any better there.
Gaura last summer in a pot, next to petunias

But they did.  They thrived.  I mean, really, they looked like this as of March 12:
After a winter on the enclosed porch

By April they had shot up, filled out, and tripled in size.  By May they had outgrown the pots.  In June I took them out before I couldn't handle them any more, and put them in the ground outside.

I put them in the hottest, driest, lightest soil I have: along the garage wall, bordering the front walk.  They are leaning forward, reaching out to tickle the legs of anyone walking by.

The experiment with the pots over winter worked well, but they really got too big for containers this season.  So now my next trial will be to see if they winter over in the ground in this location --- it's south facing, in front of the brick wall of the garage, so it's much warmer and drier than other spots in my garden.

A surprise was how the deep pink flowers on the whirling stems of the gaura echo the intense pink blooms of a groundcover stonecrop, Sedum spurium 'Red Carpet' that edges the walk.  I didn't plan that.

The conditions along the front walk are probably better for gaura to thrive, but the location isn't the best in terms of design.  Gauras are willowy, bendy prairie plants, better suited for a meadow.  They are too loose looking for the structured brick wall and narrow walk, and the long wands are arching out, flopping across the walk a little alarmingly. They really don't belong there, and they look kind of messy.

But I love the color, the motion of the bobbing wands, and the pretty, delicate flowers close up.  So I'll leave them, and see if these wandflowers come back next spring in this location.

It's constant trial and error, balancing what plants want for their living conditions and what I want for design.  It's all a big experiment, isn't it?


  1. It is all a big experiment. I love guara and find that it reseeds easily in my garden. But, it's difficult as you say to find a space where it can sprawl. I've moved it from the border position to deeper in the bed to give it more room to drape but I'm still not sure I like its location. I'll leave it until it cools off though...too hot to move anything right now.

    I like yours with the sedum - it's pretty.

  2. Your Gaura certainly goes very well with that gorgeous Sedum, but I can see your point about it possibly being in the wrong spot from a design point of view. I rather like the wispy stems bobbing over the Sedum and flopping a little over the path though.

  3. Laurrie,

    I planted some 'Siskiyou Pink' a few years ago and it never looked the way I thought it should. When I see it in other gardens,I love th effect but in my own garden it looks more like a strange weed than anything else. Last November when we had to dig up about 100 perennials to make room for a new septic tanks I threw my Guara away. But this summer there is a straggler growing in the garden again. I laughed when I saw the little wand start to shoot up. Maybe my garden is just meant to be home to some Guara after all!

  4. I have never had Gaura over winter here either. Yet others in my zone have had luck. I have noticed that some flowers that I leave in a pot overwinter develops better root systems and they survive in the ground there after. I hope you have luck. I like those flowy wands tickling ankles when one arrives. It is inviting to me. Makes me feel very welcome.

  5. Yes, it is a big experiment, and I can't count the number of failures I've had. You've reminded me that I've seen no sign of my one gaura in the butterfly garden this year, sigh. I think if yours are happy where they are, I'd leave them--being tickled as you walk is not a bad thing:)

  6. That's something I constantly wonder about. There's so many aspects to consider when planting and hard to find a plant you like, in the right spot that makes sense with it's surroundings. Designing a garden really is hard work isn't it?

  7. I gave up on gaura too. Tried it in multiple places and it just did not survive. I enjoy it in other gardens but it's too much of a baby for mine.

    Great idea, Laurrie, of overwintering gaura in pots. Glad it worked for you.

  8. Laurrie, Perhaps try the variety 'Whirling Butterflies'? It is a little more formal looking and overwinters more reliably, if you ask me.
    I do like yours. The colors are perfect together!

  9. Cat, gaura does sprawl, as you say, and although it is lovely it is really not a very tidy plant.

    Bernie, thanks. I'm still not sure about the look of it along the walk, but in some ways I do like it.

    Debbie, your gaura is a survivor! It wants to live. Mine just didn't until I potted them up : )

    Lisa, I'm glad to know you would feel welcomed by having your ankles ticked on the way to my front door!

    Rose, so many have told me they can't get gaura to come back each spring. Sorry yours is a no show.

    Marguerite, you are so right, it's hard work to get the plant's needs and our own needs in balance. Not easy at all!

    Joene, you've had the same experience I did. Gaura apparently was not meant to grow in our gardens, and it may not want to in the new spot I've given mine either.

    Sissy, I did have 'Whirling Butterflies' and loved it. It was much bigger and fuller and as you said it was more formal. But it was one of the gauras that never came back for me after winter!

  10. You know I have always thought of Gaura as "Gaura" but wandflowers is a much better name. It has a hard time overwintering in my garden too, even down here in NC, but I haven't used it in the right places yet. I love that Sedum.

  11. I like they way the flop around. It adds a bit of chaos. I have some perennials that are permanent residents of Potville. It's the only way I can grow some agastaches, penstemons, gaillardia. I like knowing that I already have a few pots filled with flowers that I love. I don't have to worry about whether the local nurseries have decided to carry them or not.

  12. Sweetbay, It's interesting that you have trouble getting these plants through the winter too. I thought it was a zone issue.

    TS, I do that with some tender sages --- I only grow them in pots because I had trouble finding them each spring, and wanted to make sure I'd have them.

  13. Absolutely agree it's all one big experiment. This post intrigued me as I live in Siskiyou County in California. Now I need to find out if the name is due to its native location or not! Would stand to reason...
    Angie of

  14. Angie, I assume the plant was discovered or at least is native to Siskiyou county, but who knows!

  15. Replies
    1. Dan, too early to tell yet. As of March 8 here in New England only the daffodils and some greening sedums are showing life. In another month I'll know!

  16. i planted gaura last spring .did very well .now its late april. know sign of life? what shalli do!

  17. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.


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