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Musical Plants

Published in the six Nashoba Publishing papers on Friday, 21 September 2001 (except this version benefits from a little hindsight editing).

Paying attention to the needs of plants often means transplanting them to a better location. Last year I moved my Hosta ‘Gold Standard’ because the rain pouring off the porch roof — which I thought it would like, it’s a thirsty Hosta, — was breaking its leaves. Instead, I put it in a bed with a soaker hose. I have seen one of these big hostas with leaves a lovely pale parchment color, with a slightly darker, greener edge; it needs sun to give it that color: I think both places had the right amount. But too much will burn it it in crisp brown splotches — what I have now. I’m hoping it’s the result of the drought last April (before I thought to turn on the soaker hose). If next spring is normal, and it still burns, I’ll move it again.

Last week I moved a Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplifolia). It was in a spot that started out sunny enough for it, but over the years a rose grew to shade it. In addition, it hated all the water I gave the rose. I put it in a very sunny spot, with much better drainage — but it was so limp and spindly I’m not sure it will survive. It should be a robust, shrubby plant of spiky, strong branches, three feet tall, with silvery-gray-green leaves and lavender flowers in late summer to fall (except not this year).

Three times I moved my Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea): it was in even worse shape than the Perovskia when I finally found a good spot for it: a few rubbery, eight-inch stems. This year its sturdy stalks were five feet tall, with many dozens of those funny-looking flowers whose petals drape down from the bronze center like skirts.

When I move a plant, often it leaves a bare spot. I was lucky with the sage; the rose really dominates that area now, and I could just brush the trailing stems of nearby Periwinkle over the place I took the Perovskia from. But if I have to move ‘Gold Standard’ next year, it will leave a gaping hole in a prominent place. In order to fill that spot, can I find a plant that needs those conditions, that’s languishing without them? (And then what goes in its place...?)

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© Copyright 2001 Catherine Holmes Clark