Clockwise: Golden Sweet Flag (Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’), Variegated Liriope (Summer), Carex ‘Evergold’ Sedge, Liriope (Winter)
As winter settles in here in my Zone 7, Long Island garden I look out upon the landscape and access how certain plants have performed over the years as far as hardiness and maintenance are concerned. In winter when structure is extremely important the Sweet Flag tends to stand out. Golden Sweet Flag (Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’) may not be a plant I regularly use in my designs but it does have its merit in the landscape and looks perfect when in the correct spot! Sweet Flag is hardy in USDA zones 5-11, prefers to be grown in partial to full sun and requires a constantly moist soil. It clumps to approximately ten inches tall and slowly spreads by underground rhizomes.
In a pond setting or very shady and moist area such as under a tree, Sweet Flag shines. It’s variegated golden yellow and green upright blades add interest to the landscape all year round. Attributes are that it is evergreen and the only maintenance required is an occasional thinning. It is also very hardy, disease resistant and “deer resistant”
Alternatives to Sweet Flag are Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’,Variegated Japanese Sedge (Carex morrowii ‘Aurea-variegata’) and Liriope. Evergold and Variegated Japanese Sedge each grow to about the same height of 10 inches to a foot and stay in more of a clumping form and Liriope (Liriope muscari ‘Variegata) grows to approximately 6-12 inches in height, also stays in rounded clumps and bears small purple blooms in fall followed by black berries. Liriope prefers dry shade but will adapt to just about anywhere. All three are considered “deer resistant” and I frequently use each in my designs.
Next time you are looking for an evergreen, shade tolerant, moisture loving perennial consider Sweet Flag. This seemingly underused plant could serve nicely in your landscape when given the correct location!
As Always…Happy Gardening and all the Best for the New Year!
Author: Lee@Landscape Design By Lee, 2014, All Rights Reserved
Liriope muscari ‘Variegata’
Spring is approaching and soon it will be time to get back into the garden. One of the most versatile perennials I have known over the years is variegated liriope (Liriope muscari ‘Variegata). Also known as Lilyturf, this cultivar has a grass-like appearance and grows in neatly rounded clumps which do not spread aggressively like Liriope spicata.
Liriope ‘Variegata’ is cold hardy in USDA zones 5-10, grows in full sun to shade and will tolerate a range of conditions from moist soil to drought conditions. It grows to a height of 12-16 inches and is mainly evergreen displaying cream and green variegated foliage. Showy flower spikes of deep lilac blooms resembling grape hyacinth emerge in late summer and last into fall followed by dark berries which persist into winter. Liriope is adaptable under pine and walnut trees and is excellent when used as a ground cover or border. It is also widely used for erosion control, considered to be rabbit and deer resistant and is drought tolerant once established.
This versatile plant fits well into just about any type of garden from informal to formal and is very hardy and reliable in performance year after year. Liriope is completely evergreen in warmer climates and is semi-evergreen here on Long Island. It can be cut back part way in fall or left until spring to be pruned. If browning occurs over winter simply cut back in early spring to allow for new growth to appear. Variegated liriope is easy to grow, fairly disease resistant and will provide interest to your garden all year round. It will prove to be a dependable and versatile addition to any landscape.
CORAL BARK MAPLE WINTER (Coral Bark Maple in Center)
When designing a garden for all seasons it is important to include cultivars that have both good structure and eye-catching bark or foliage. Coral Bark Maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sango Kaku’) is one of my all time favorites on all accounts. Coral Bark Maple is a vase-shaped deciduous shrub or small tree that is native to Japan, China and Korea. Hardy to zones 5-8, this beautiful specimen grows to a mature height and width of approximately 15-20 feet and displays delicate palmate lobed leaves that are approximately 2-5″ in length and almost fern-like in appearance. The Coral Bark Maple is considered to be one of the most prized of the upright palmate maples during the winter months for its stunning coral-red bark that appears after the leaves fall.
CORAL BARK MAPLE SPRING
The name of this cultivar, ‘Sangu Kaku’ means coral tower (sango meaning sea coral and kaku meaning tower) as if to suggest this lovely pink-barked specimen resembles coral rising upward from a reef. The foliage display starts in spring when leaves emerge as a beautiful yellow-green with red edging and small reddish-purple flowers are an added surprise when the tree is viewed up close.
CORAL BARK MAPLE SUMMER
As the season progresses a succession of colorful foliage continues to occur. In the summer months once yellow-green foliage with red tips turns to light green and the insignificant flowers are followed by samaras that ripen in late summer. In autumn the show continues as the foliage turns to an amazing bright golden-yellow and then to a fiery orange before the leaves drop. The coral-red bark is visible as the temperatures and leaves fall and the show continues throughout winter and can be striking against a backdrop of snow.
CORAL BARK MAPLE FALL (OCTOBER AND NOVEMBER)
Acer palmatum ‘Sango Kaku’ prefer to be grown in full to partial shade and should be sheltered from harsh drying winds. They prefer a moist, organically rich, well-drained soil but are adaptable to a variety of soil types. Coral Bark Maple requires little to no maintenance but should be monitored for insects or disease on a routine basis as one would with any prized landscape tree. Best pink coloration appears on young branches. In order to stimulate new growth of stems with better pink coloration the tree can be occasionally pruned. Since Japanese maples are generally grown for their attractive foliage and shape, ‘Sango Kaku’ is best served as a focal point in a location where the beautiful pink bark in winter and colorful foliage can be appreciated. It will fit into just about any type of landscape whether a foundation planting, formal or informal garden, grouped in a perennial/shrub border or as a single specimen and will bring years of enjoyment to you outdoor space.
As Always…Happy Gardening!
Author: Lee@Landscape Design By Lee, 2013, All Rights Reserved