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Diggin' It

Plants I can't live without, part 1

Here are three plants that a Midwest gardener never wants to be without.

(Page 2 of 2)



Endemic to rocky mountainous spots of Lebanon and Syria, it is especially gorgeous when planted among hostas or under shrubs that are late to leaf out. Though partial to light shade – especially in the hot afternoons – the Lebanon onion will also perform splendidly in your sunny borders as well.

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This gorgeous allium, growing to a height of 12 to 16 inches, blooms in late April to mid-May in charming, loose clusters of six to 10 small, glistening, immaculate milk-white flowers suspended on gracefully arching stems. The wiry stems and shiny chive-fine leaves slowly increase and grow into dense and compact, carex-like grassy clumps which are quite attractive in drifts throughout the woodland garden.

An ephemeral, the plant goes completely dormant within two or so weeks after the last bloom fades. Hardy in Zones 5 to 8.

Dicentra spectabilis (Bleeding heart)

Over the years, much has been written about this rather common, though extremely popular spring-blooming plant -- and it remains this gardener’s heart-throb to this very day.

A classic charmer, this old-fashioned plant growing to a height of 17 to 35 inches forms a bushy, upright mound of fleshy stems and powdery-green, somewhat ferny foliage in early spring.

It’s easy to see where bleeding heart got its name. Dangling in a row on long, graceful, arching stems, the elegant, shade loving woodlander displays seductive chains of puffy rose-pink, heart-shaped flowers with protruding white tips in mid-to-late spring. D. s. ‘Alba’ is a white flowered form of the common bleeding heart, while D. s. ‘Gold Heart’ displays stunning golden-leaved foliage. All are irreplaceable perennials for the shady border.

Easily grown in average, well-drained soil in part to full shade, old-fashioned bleeding hearts usually go dormant sometime in late spring to early summer, so it is best to tuck them in among ferns and other plants to hide the empty spots. Hardy to Zones 2 to 9.

Next time, we’ll examine a few more special plants.

Betty Earl, author of “In Search of Great Plants: The Insider’s Guide to the Best Plants in the Midwest,” writes a regular column for Chicagoland Gardening Magazine and The Kankakee Journal and numerous articles for Small Gardens Magazine, American Nurseryman, Nature’s Garden, and Midwest Living Magazine, as well as other national magazines. She is a garden scout for Better Homes and Gardens and a regional representative for The Garden Conservancy.

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