August 7, 2011

A Visit With The Shy Ones

It's high summer, August.  Humid, noisy with cicadas and birds.  I had a little visit a few days ago, before today's heavy rain, with the quieter plants that are spending the summer in my garden.  The shy ones.

Such as the candy lilies.  I had no success with them for the first few years, and thought I had lost them all.  Well, hello!

They are popping up everywhere this year.  The seedpods that formed in the first few years quietly settled into the soil, and these tiny little lily flowers on flat green scapes have established in places I did not plant them.  The twisty wrapped petals you see above turn into the most interesting seedpods with glistening black berries in late summer.

They are shy, awkward plants, too tall, with flowers that are too small at the top.  They must be staked, which I never get around to, so they get gawky and flop.  But when I notice, as I did on this visit, I tie them upright and see their funny leopard spotted faces.

Candy lilies are X Pardancanda norrisii (X means two genera mixed: Belamcanda chinensis, which is blackberry lily, crossed with Pardanthopsis dichotoma, a kind of iris).  I also planted a wine tipped gold color candy lily called 'Sangria', but it disappeared after the first winter and never came back.

But wait.  Look.  It's 'Sangria', returned this year to my garden all on its own.  Where was this reclusive one for the past two years?

Coleus 'Chocolate Drop' quietly spreads under a Japanese maple.  I took cuttings of this coleus and wintered them in pots in my living room all last season, pinching off the leggy tops.  Pinch pinch pinch, all winter long.  I put the scraggly cuttings under the maple in the very back of the garden in spring, and then forgot about them while I tended to spring bloomers and flashy flowers in the summer garden. Well, look at the coleus now.  It has formed a wide patch of spreading foliage.

'Chocolate Drop' is a lacy, speckled coleus with small leaves, not so gaudy and bold as the big red cousins I recently plopped in among them.  It plays well with others, spreading out rather than shooting up.  I like the reserved shape and the coloration a lot; it is redder in a bit of shade, greener where there is more dappled sunlight.

Here's a shy, demure one: Anemone 'Robustissima'.  I like the silvery fat buds almost better than the rose-like blush pink bloom.  The bee disagrees with that opinion, however.

This whole plant is unassuming, just growing in a nice mound of grape-leaved green foliage at the corner of the patio as I pass it on the way to water the big summer bloomers and thirsty annuals.  Then one day there she was, whispering a delicate sliver and pink "hi there".

And the small grasses want to say hello.  Not the big tall panicums and miscanthus that have shouted and waved most of the summer, but the little ones like Feather Reed Grass 'Karl Foerster' with its sunlit reedy plumes, and a fuzzy headed pennisetum tucked under other plants along the walk (it's 'Little Bunny' I think).  The small grasses aren't showy, but they add shine to things around them.

I enjoyed visiting with the shy ones, and taking notice of them among all the other rampant activity going on in the summer garden.


  1. What sweet little fellows you have in your garden. I thought the candy lily looked like my blackberry lily. My blackberry lily has never developed any more than what I originally planted many years ago. It must not like where it is. Cheers.

  2. Today's rain was fabulous. No sign of it ending in Stonington. I hear we're in for thunderstorms a little later. I appreciate it all and I appreciate your photos, Laurrie. The shy ones ROCK! My toad lilies are in bloom and if it does stop raining for at least a bit, I'll go shoot photos. Our Connecticut gardens are far from being done... The meek shall inherit our earth.

  3. I love how you give your plants personalities! Shy or gawky or sweet!
    I have the same anemone and it is so aggressive! Do you have yours in full sun?

  4. I've never grown candy lilies but I love your description of them. I had to give all my japanese anemones away. They required way more water than I was willing to provide, but I've noticed a few are back. They seem a bit tougher than the few that left and I'm hoping for some flowers.

  5. Lisa, the candy lilies do look very much like blackberry lilies, even the black shiny seeds.

    Wendy, Wasn't the rain wonderful? A good decent soaker today, and everything looks great except the burned out patch in my lawn.

    Sissy, it is in full sun, and it is still small after two years, and no sign (yet!) of becoming rampant, but I have read that Japanese anemones can be aggressive. Mine is between the patio wall and a mowed lawn, so maybe it will stay contained.

    TS, so far my Japanese anemone doesn't seem to need any special care or water. It has stayed pretty small after two years, maybe I am not watering enough? It looks healthy and is blooming, though.

  6. We plant many Little Bunny and Karl Foerster en mass at commercial jobs, it is nice to see them in amongst the shy ones. When you see them by the hundreds, they don't have that special something they possess in a home garden. I have one Little Bunny that peeks out from under a hydrangea and I get a smile each time I pass it in my garden. It really looks like it is saying hello.

  7. Hi Laurrie, Why is it that I have no coleus again this year? It seems to be a plant I really like, but always forget to purchase in the spring. I am envious of your Chocolate Drop. It is sooo pretty! I am not familiar with the Candy lilies. I wonder if they are hardy here? With all the late summer bloomers in my garden that require sunglasses they are so bright, I could use something that is a bit more shy and sophisticated.

  8. I love these shy plants, the grasses especially provide so much to the garden without one really noticing. If they weren't there you would probably think something was missing. I bought an anemone this year particularly because I liked the foliage. The flowers are sweet but the soft foliage charmed me.

  9. Donna, I see the grasses planted by the hundreds in public installations, and I agree it's a whole different look than a few in the home garden!

    Jennifer, candy lily and blackberry lily are both hardy only to zone 5, so you may not be able to grow them in a colder spot. And they don't like wet winter conditions at all.

    Marguerite, the foliage (and espcially the buds) are what I like on this anemone too. The flowers are ok, but it's the green grape leaf foliage I really like!

  10. I love the face of your candy lilies, and the coleus is amazing. Beautiful plants that seed or spread themselves about are my favorite, for they find their own comfort zones, sometimes in great places I would never have thought of.

  11. Laurrie, I loved your title. They are the shy ones. I have blackberry lilies in my garden, not the candy ones, and one of mine is a yellow type. I also grew 'Chocolate Drop' for the first time this year. I think it is one of the prettiest things in my very sad garden.~~Dee

  12. Deborah, agreeable plants that spread and plant themselves are my favorites too!

    Dee, I like that you can find pretty and pleasing things in your garden despite the devastation of this terrible summer.

  13. I sent you another email! Design challenge 2!!


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