This is our fourth summer at Low House, so I’ve had a while to observe how things fare here. We are Zone 5, clay soil, with a mixture of sun, shade, wet, and dry beds. Our biggest problem is the deer, which eat anything tasty that isn’t behind an electric fence. We have one sunny dry bed, protected in a southwest corner, that they don’t often wander into.
Plants that have been a complete failure because of deer include everything from the lily family: day lilies, tulips, fritillaria; heuchera; sedum Autumn Joy; most daisies; most buttercups; and hollyhocks except in the protected bed.
Plants that have been a failure because they just didn’t like it here include many varieties of foxglove; delphiniums; and lupins.
A lot of plants are happy here though. Here’s a discussion of what they are and which varieties I like best.
Daffodils: are deer proof, early blooming, fairly long blooming for bulbs, cheap, and highly varied. I have them all around the house and they flourish everywhere.
Muscari: also deer proof etc. I have several varieties and am pleased with them all, though the pink cultivar doesn’t have much pink color. I might as well have planted white.
Iris: are happy and easygoing in all of the dry beds. I have cheap garden center ones as well as expensive fancies from Schreiners. I have miniature, bearded, and Siberian. The Siberian iris is the most problematic, only because they didn’t bloom last year.
Alliums: all kinds are happy and spread like wildfire. We have chives, garlic chives, little firecracker decorative ones, and two giant alliums that are going to bloom for the first time this year.
Crocus: no problems with these. Short bloom time though.
Chionodoxa: no problems with these either, though they aren’t multiplying.
Lavender: I bought the Munstead varietal because it is supposed to weather winters well, and it does. It’s attractive and semi-fragrant. This year I didn’t prune it at all, hoping maybe the plants will get bigger. It has been seeding itself around the bed, too, which is great.
Mint: all mints are just fine here. Spearmint, peppermint, thyme, oregano, and hummingbird mint are all doing great.
Sage: we have green sage for cooking and an ornamental purple sage, all are very happy.
Pulmonaria: happy in the shady wet bed. Divided them last summer. One died from the drought, others are fine.
Asters: creeping asters and purple dome aster both happy in the shady wet bed.
Black snakeroot: is alive and getting larger but has yet to bloom for me. It is at the back of the shady wet bed.
Butterfly bush: doing great in the shady wet bed.
Shasty daisy, Becky: doing pretty well in the shady wet bed, reluctant to take hold in a sunny dry bed. Did better in my sunny but moist bed at the other house.
Chrysanthemums: all kinds very happy here. Football and cushion types both flourish in all beds.
Astilbe: very happy in the shady wet bed. Plants are nearly large enough to divide.
Columbine: happy in moist sunny places. I have several varieties and am happy with them all. Winky Pink and Blue are exceptionally pretty.
Geraniums: are living in the dry sunny bed just fine; they were new last year so I’m interested to see how they grow.
Ornamental thistle: very happy in the sunny dry bed
Sedum: various kinds, happy in all the sunny beds, moist and dry
Coneflowers: happy in any of the sunny beds. I have a lot of plain purples ones and White Swans, and these are the ones that have heavily seeded themselves. I have a lot of the expensive exotic colors that have come out in the last few years, and while the plants are doing fine, they are mostly not seeding which is unfortunate. When those plants die, that will be the end of them here. One of the green varieties is practically white, not any different looking than White Swan except that the centers are green instead of black.
Monarda: several varieties all happy in the sunny beds, and a few shoots overwintered in a shady bed and have spread. I’m interested to see if they bloom or not.
Coreopsis: happy in sunny beds
Gaillardia: happy in sunny beds
Foxglove: the only variety that likes it here is the Digitalis mertonensis I brought from the other house. They bloomed every summer for five summers and I was even able to divide some of them, but maybe because they’re old or maybe because of last summer’s drought, only two are still alive. I am sold on this variety, though, and just ordered five more plants to replace them. Nothing is more stunning than foxglove in bloom.
Agastache: happy in sunny beds
Nigella: loves the sheltered bed, re-seeds itself all over. What a weird and wonderful flower.
Snapdragons: technically an annual here in zone 5, but in the sheltered bed they have survived two winters and grown roots so deep I can’t pull them up.
Pinks: also technically an annual here, but the little cheapies from the grocery store come back year after year in the sunny back border. I love them.
Zinnias: no problem growing these in the sheltered bed.
Hollyhock: got eaten down badly everywhere but the sheltered bed, where they have taken hold and are re-seeding themselves. I have a big Old Farmyard plant from the other house that is in its sixth summer with me; others have all grown from its seed or from various packets of seed I bought. I hope I get a jungle of hollyhocks back there, they’re wonderful.
Peonies: arrrghhhhhh. The tall, not bush, peonies from Diana’s mother are in their fourth summer with me now, and while they won’t die, they won’t spread or bloom either. They just don’t like it here. A peony root I planted in the sheltered bed last summer is sending up shoots but will probably not be mature enough to bloom this year.