Bleeding Heart

In the words of Sherlock Holmes, “…the game is afoot…” It’s the madness of spring and as you visit the garden center, why not think about making better plant choices?

Dicentra Luxuriant
© Lorraine Ballato

Color is the easy part: you know what you like. Go the next step this year and consider texture – that part of garden design which deals with plant shapes (e.g., conical vs. round), and leaf shapes (big and bold vs. fine and ferny). While Bleeding Hearts are beautiful, mix it up a little by choosing varieties like Dicentra Luxuriant Alba or Dicentra Goldheart, adding the bonus of long lasting and unusual chartreuse foliage to your part shade garden. Both of these, by the way, are deer resistant.

Rudbeckia Prairie Sun
© Lorraine Ballato

Consider bloom time. Most gardens peak with color and interest in May and June when garden centers are their busiest as color-starved gardeners rush to buy what’s flowering. In July and August when the buzz dies down (people are on vacation, at the beach, attending family reunions, etc.), many gardens have little or no interest. If that sounds like your garden, now is the time to correct that. Look for Rudbeckia Prairie Sun, a sun lover which will continually bloom until frost. You can easily grow it from seed and save some money.

Now you're ready for that nursery or garden center trip. Consider the options as you would a buffet table: choose only those which will satisfy your needs, not your wants. Ignore those plants which are calling your name. Cruise all the options to get a feel for what’s there and don’t be shy about talking with the sales help. Yes, they’ll try to sell you something, but they want happy customers who will come back. Carefully read labels to get a sense of the plants’ ideal growing conditions, matching the plants to your criteria.

Once you’ve made your selections, inspect the plants carefully. Look them over for discolored and spotted leaves, possible signs of plant disease. Do you really want to sign up for that? Inspect the undersides of foliage for evidence of insects. If you see any, put the plant back.

Here’s the hardest part: resist plants which are in full flower. Choose the ones with more closed than open buds. A plant that’s flowering will have a harder time trying to flower and getting established at the same time. In a matter of days, you won't have much color as it struggles in its new home. A little patience will prove a better investment and go a long way toward your plant making a successful transition to your garden.

That’s all there is to it. If you could just manage the weather so easily!

by Lorraine Ballato, Garden writer and author