Garden Q&A: Several plants meet needs for Pittsburgh newcomer
Q: I am a newcomer to Western Pennsylvania, and I need your advice. I have an area along a walkway that is about 2 feet wide and 20 feet long. I'd like to fill it with a plant that meets the following requirements: perennial, long blooming, needs only morning sun, grows to only 12 to 14 inches, is fairly inexpensive, and, if possible, I'd love something the hummingbirds can feed on.
A: Thankfully, there are many plants that will fill at least several of your requirements. Though the large majority of perennials have relatively short bloom times — usually two to four weeks — there are a few with longer bloom times. If you are really interested in having season-long color in that area, I suggest you mix two or three perennials together. That way, there will always be something in bloom.
As the area receives only morning sun, I'm only going to tell you about plants that are best grown in partial shade. These plants will perform best with about two to four hours of sunlight daily.
My first recommendation is fern-leaf bleeding hearts ( Dicentra exima). Though traditional bleeding hearts ( Lamprocapnos spectabilis) bloom only in the spring, fern-leaf bleeding hearts stay in bloom for most of the spring and summer with very little care. The foliage is — you guessed it — fernlike and a beautiful grey-green. The flower color can be shades of white, pink and red, depending on the cultivar you select, and the mature plant reaches only 10 to 15 inches tall. I cannot say enough good things about this tough little beauty.
Another suggestion is coral bells ( Heuchera species). Coral bells are largely planted for their interesting foliage, though the dainty, bell-like flowers are a lovely sight as well. The 8- to 10-inch-tall foliage can come in shades of green, orange, burgundy, yellow, chartreuse, brown and everything in between. Some cultivars have stunning variegation. Plus, red-flowered varieties are adored by hummingbirds.
I'd also suggest you plant one of my all-time favorite shade perennials: Yellow bleeding heart ( Corydalis lutea). Though this plant blooms heaviest in spring, it also produces a moderate amount of flowers through the entire season. My corydalis was blooming on Thanksgiving Day last year. Clusters of small yellow flowers rise above the foliage, and when the plant is allowed to drop seed, many baby corydalis will grace the garden the following spring.
One final choice for your area would be spotted deadnettle ( Lamium maculatum). Though it is generally considered a ground cover, deadnettle is a lovely plant. It comes in many flower colors, including yellow, red, pink and white, and many cultivars have variegated, speckled or striped foliage. In my garden, I grow a cultivar called “Pink Pewter” that flowers heavily in spring and then off and on until frost.
Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. Her website is www.jessicawalliser.com.
Send your gardening or landscaping questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: Just wait until Ben comes back
- Steelers notebook: Tomlin dismisses clock run-off near end of Chargers game
- Pa., W.Va., Ohio to coordinate efforts to attract shale-related business
- Tomlin on Bell’s late TD: ‘We were going to go for it’
- Water leak under Banksville Road doesn’t bode well for commuters
- Washington County woman dies from shotgun wound
- Steelers defense displays resiliency in victory over Chargers
- Pittsburgh considering self-insured health benefits to cut costs
- Penguins notebook: Young and old embrace uniqueness of home opener
- Marshals apprehend man suspected in Clairton machete attack
- Export man accused of shooting woman over phone use