I don't operate a retail garden center, but I sometimes get catalogs for the retail green industry due to my ties with the Garden Writer's Association.
The reason for this is because if I write a column about a newly cultivated plant, and if you read it, you just might want to buy that plant for your garden. Looking at pretty pictures and reading exciting reviews of potential garden "must-haves" is fun on a cool, late-summer morning, but doesn't really give a true perspective of how a plant grows and thrives in the backyard garden.
Wholesale growers know this, and once again, because of those aforementioned ties, I am often the recipient of new plants that growers hope I will test in my own garden. My preference is to grow no less than three of the same variety of a plant, placed in different locations, to get a true indication of its growth habit.
I learned this lesson the hard way.
A common adage among perennial growers is: "first year, sleep; second year, creep; third year, leap!" Anyone who plants a new perennial can attest that it is the third year that the plant really shows its true personality.
An example of this would be fall-blooming anemone, and in my case, a variety called "Marguerite." At the time I put this plant in my garden, I only acquired one specimen, but it looked interesting enough to give it a try. It didn't take long for me to become enamored with this plant, but I wasn't prepared for what happened its third year.
Not only did the plant expand and flower - lovely mauve and pink blossoms that came up from tall, thin stems that were a tribute to the plant's common name, "windflower" - but I began to notice more anemone plants were emerging, some several feet from the parent plant. Nor did they show any concern as to where they were growing, in the center of a huge clump of daylilies or pushing up alongside the trunk of a temple juniper.
When I tried to pull up these stray plants, I realized it was not going to be an easy task. Underground runners from the parent were not only long, but they were thick and deep. I had to do quite a bit of digging, and once it was severed from the angry parent, I soon learned that she would seek revenge by increasing her determination to propagate this way.
My problem is that I like this plant. Unlike the horrible orange trumpet vine, which also retaliates by sending out hundreds of new, young plants when attempts are made to cull it from its location, I wanted this plant in my garden, even with its bad manners.
Like a houseguest who not only won't leave, but gradually moves her family in too, Marguerite was sneaky. We tried moving her and several of her youngsters to other locations where her antics weren't quite as disruptive. But her ties to the original garden were strong and our determination was weak. Each spring, just as I begin to feel comfortable, I can expect a small clump of anemone leaves to peek out from the underside of a crown of Lady's Mantle, or to sneak around the backside of a large boulder.
My friends all have differing opinions about this plant. Some refuse to take even a small cutting when I offer, while others embrace the plant's behavior and welcome, with open arms, my need to share.
I could say I've made friends with the plant, but the truth is, it was never an enemy. While we are still fighting the remnants of the original trumpet vine, I haven't felt any need to battle the anemone, preferring instead to accept it for what it is and enjoy the lovely flowers it gives me each August.
However, this experience taught me not only to research plants before I put them in the garden, but as previously mentioned, by placing multiples of plants in different locations, I learn how a plant behaves.
Anemone "Marguerite," I found out, doesn't have an aggressive habit if it is grown in partial shade. Yet it still flowers each August, just like it is programmed. None of the books or plant descriptions told me this. I had to find it out for myself.
Now I am telling you.
Evanoff is a Master Gardener with The Ohio State University Extension of Trumbull County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.