Ok, so snowdrops are my favorite plant, but sometimes I get distracted… like every few minutes, but right now my favorite plant is the cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis). We were away for a week and when I made my first return tour of the garden and saw this, I just maybe let out a little ‘wow’.
Cardinal flower is a native of Eastern North America, and this same plant can be found in the woods, in ditches, along ponds… anywhere the ground stays damp, and I’ve seen it there, and honestly it’s often looked better than my planting, but this one’s here in the garden, and anytime I can sneak over to take a look I do. It’s harder than you think considering the resident hummingbird usually gives me a dive-bomb when I linger too long.
The cardinal flower is nice but my favorite plant is actually this coleus. As far as coleus go it’s probably kind of dull, but when I look at how these cuttings have filled in and see how the colors go so well with the rest of the bed, I’m thrilled.
Who am I kidding, my favorite plant is actually this tiny Stachys albotomentosa ‘Hidalgo’. It grew from seeds and when these little peachy red flowers finally opened it easily moved into the favorite position. Do I need to mention it’s a relative of the gentle lambs ears and also known as the seven up plant? With a little imagination the foliage has a soft drink scent when rubbed, which is a nice touch, but honestly I’d rather it were more hardy and stood a chance of surviving winter here…
But then I went to the nursery and was a little surprised to discover I’ve become my grandmother and geraniums (Pelargoniums) have become my favorite plant. Seven tired and sad looking specimens came home with me and I can’t wait to see what a repotting and some liquid fertilizer can do for them. I’ve been under the delusion that geraniums are my favorite plant before, and it usually involves collecting them, overwintering too many, and then wondering what to do with them. We’ll see.
Oh and did you notice the grey little succulent in there with the geraniums? It’s a pot full of Chinese dunce caps (Orostachys Iwarenge) a cool little plant which is supposed to be fully hardy to zone 5. You wouldn’t guess from the way it looks now but in early summer the rosettes will grow upwards to become little peaks, or dunce caps. I think the name is very appropriate for most of what I do here, and when it blooms next year I’m sure it will be a favorite 🙂
I should have known when I read the title that you would never have just ONE favourite plant! 😉 I am glad you rescued those geraniums. I could never work in a garden centre – seeing those poor geraniums and other plants going to pot would melt my heart and I would spend all my wages as soon as I got them rescuing plants! The lobelia is really lovely, the coleus too.
Haha, I would probably do the same thing! I’d bring them back to health at the nursery though and save all my paychecks for buying the plants as they came in!
These geraniums should be fun though, I think they’ll recover quickly and I already have reserved a spot for them under the grow lights. Big geranium blooms should be perfect in February just as winter brings it’s last big hurrah!
I think I need to look into getting some grow lights too…. 😉
Hi – signed up for your blog a month or so ago and I am enjoying it tremendously. Great sense of humour and wonderfull photos of your beautiful plants. I am in Glasgow, Scotland so our weather is not always great either (very wet) so lovely to see what you do in your garden across the pond!
Thanks for the comments!
Yes I think your weather is much different compared to our hot summers and cold winters. Are you familiar with Ian Young’s bulb log? He’s all the way over in Aberdeen but I love following his gardens as they change throughout the year.
Your writing is always a treat, Frank, you should write a book some day. Your Lobelia is a stunner, fantastic colour, I saw them in Wisley but I think they require fresh soil that doesn’t dry out and your garden does look very lush and tropical this year. I wonder how it coped in drier years? I’ve been meaning to ask you if you have problems too with box moth and the fungal infection box can get? Hope you’ve had a good holiday x
You always say the nicest things Annette, but from you the book comment is especially meaningful!
Yes I think the lobelia really prefers a well lit, well watered spot which is hard to come by in this garden. I’m quite surprised it has made it this far but the rain has made such a difference this year.
No box problems as of yet, just occasional box leaf miners and I can deal with that. I should really find alternatives, but they’re so easy to get started compared to other similar shrubs.
It’s nice to be nice as my Irish friend Detta used to say but in this case it’s not only nice but true. I really enjoy reading your blog and as I’m due to compile a list of favourite blogs for the next Garden Media Guild e-letter I shall add yours too as it really deserves more readers. Keep up the good work, Frank, and as for the book…keep it in mind 😉
I envy your place for the Cardinal Flower. I have tried it in several places in my garden that I thought might be wet enough with no success. What I need is to find more plants like the succulent you bought that is good to zone 5. I hope to find it available here. It is always fun to rescue plants. Maybe you have found a new favorite here.
Trust me I’ve killed the cardinal flowers a few times. Plants have hung on for a year or so, seedlings the same, but this last batch is going on a third year so maybe there’s hope.
Succulents are fun to collect. I hope to add these to a carpet of dianthus and sedums which is starting to become a nice low maintenance planting.
I’ve not had any luck with Cardinal flower either, but yours is just gorgeous.
It’s so picky about having enough water, but the color is worth it!
Really, picking a favorite plant is like naming a favorite child. You don’t need to do it. You love each and every one when they’re behaving. At least with plants you can toss the misbehavers on the compost pile. Just try threatening a child with that! Anyway, I am in the can’t grow cardinal flower club, although the great blue lobelia does fine here.
There must be a spot by you which it would like! If mine ever take off I’ll send you a few to play around with. The hummingbirds really love it.
So you don’t have a favorite child? I like to keep mine on their toes and guessing who is mine ;).
Now there’s a coincidence, my latest purchase is an orostachys, what a gorgeous thing it is. And I love that little stachys, a new one on me. The lobelia is unbeatable for bright in your face red.
Ha, now that’s something. I hope your new orostachys does well for you.
You’ve got me searching Greek now. Apparently plain stachys refers to the ‘ear of grain’ form of the flower stalk, while oro refers to mountain plus the ‘ear of grain’ stalks. Interesting, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you already knew that!
Great choice of ‘favourite’ plant Frank; my favourites also tend to change through the growing season, at the moment I love anything that is able to survive. The red lobelia is a winner, wouldn’t like it here at all.
Oh my gosh no. Cardinal flower would shrivel up and die within days I bet.
Last year all I cared for were the survivors. This year I’ve convinced myself that will never happen again and my garden will be forever well watered and lush. Surely that plan will work out 😉
I love that little peachy Stachys. I grew Orostachys in my old garden in a sunny rocky spot by my driveway. Totally cool plant that came back nicely. You are only turning into your grandmother when you start to grow Martha Washington geraniums. We always said you needed to be at least 90 to succeed with that plant!
I think I’m safe. I have absolutely no desire to grow Martha Washington geraniums!
Good to know the orostachys will be hardy enough. I’ve read that it is, but until I hear that it’s survived a real winter I would still have my doubts. Thanks for clearing that up!
I actually found it in the tender succulents greenhouse. That didn’t do much to help ease my concerns.
That definitely is fire-engine red for sure. I am envious of your resident hummingbird. I have never been able to attract them no matter what I’ve planted in any of my gardens (then again, I never had Lobelia cardinalis, hmmm). In 30+ years of gardening I have only seen a hummer once, and I’ll be darned if I can recall what flower it was feeding on! (older age strikes again)
This is just my personal theory but I think they sometimes ‘miss’ LI on their migration North. If I were a hummer going up the coast and hit NYC, I think I’d veer to the West rather than heading into Manhattan or out to sea! But maybe they return to their birthplace and know enough to find islands and other hidden locations. They do make it up from S America after all, no small feat for a tiny spit of a bird, and they do end up on out of the way spots like Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard!
Oh and btw, I never saw them in our garden either.
You have to love Lobeila cardinalis. That color! And you have a very substantial patch of them. Certainly it is a wonderful plant but for me it is tricky to grow.
Yes, it really wants what it wants. For the first time ever I’m seeing a few seedlings, I suspect it’s my lack of mulching and the nonstop rains, so it probably won’t last…