magnolia, althea, yarrow and money-plant….i decided to take
a walk around the old house today observing my world.
i live in a typical old, sprawling, one-story
southern farmhouse, with wide porches to the south and west.
when i moved here, the landscaping told me someone once lived here who loved flowers and shrubbery. a hundred years ago, these plants were not considered”old-fashioned” nor a nuisance. they still thrive around many old homesteads down every country road in the South.
at the n/western corner of the yard is a tall handsome magnolia, still
blooming in the late july heat. after blooming, the pods ripen with bright
lipstick-red seeds, food for the pileated woodpeckers that are still here in
the rural woodlands. i have heard magnolia roots spread out to
more than double the dripline, a good adaption for a moisture-loving
tree, but some gardeners claim they “grab” the water away from other
plants. they scatter their huge dry leaves all over; this self-mulching is
another water preserving habit. above all, this is most bothersome to those who prefer a tidy raked yard….. such a messy tree!
in wintertime, the glossy evergreen leaves are popular christmas
greenery for the mantle. this afternoon, as i stand on the porch, their strong sweet lemony scent floats in the hot breeze.
one blossom will refresh an entire room.
across my front porch there is an old althea hedge, also called “rose of sharon.”their large trunks and many branches make me think they were all planted at the same time when the house was built, to soften the sharp lines of the porch.
they are the common form, flowering in rose and paler pink, and make a lovely privacy hedge with and generous shade. they are now 10′ tall and although the porch faces the west, i enjoy their shade sitting on the swing, both for their privacy screen and lovely summer blooms.
complaints about them are almost silly:
their unattractive seed pods stay on into the winter, and they produce like
rampant weeds with seedlings everywhere.
althea is a non-native from india, and like another invasive foreigner, english privet, it has made itself comfy in the sunny south. uncontrollable, unless rigorously pulled up yearly. problem solved.
the wild white yarrow (millefolium) lives around the sandy soil along the
driveway and on the rock wall terrace. it is rugged, takes to poor soil and hot sun. the airy ferny leaves are quite attractive, although the common yarrow’s flowers are an unimpressive dull white. its aggressive rhizome-spreading habit seems to be daunting to some gardeners, but i have found that selective mowing a few times over the summer
usually takes care of it.
yarrow was not brought here for its beauty by early settlers. it is a well known medicinal herb -used crushed fresh for wounds and dried into tea for fevers and respiratory sickness.
this “old-timey” herb is welcome here.
money-plant (lunaria) is along the woodsy edge opposite the magnolia, as well as wherever it decides to live. they are biennial, the first year plants with their scalloped heart-shaped leaves are scattered among the mature bloomers with their spikes of purple pink flowers. there are always many blooming plants coming along.
their abundant re-seeding habit, migrating all over the semi-shady parts of the yard, and showing up trespassing in formal beds seem to be the nuisance factor.
on the other hand, the dried branches of their translucent seedpods are
popular with flower arrangers everywhere. the green discs ripen to
papery white rounds, certainly resembling a full moon, or coins….
but another common name is “honesty” and i fail to see that connection
to a plant called money.
i have just walked the west side of my house, and found the landscaping
very pleasant and complementary to the lines of the old place. these trees, shrubs and flowers are hardy, longlasting, attractive, and require little maintenance. their commonality as landscape plants shows that they weren’t always avoided as problem plants. maybe it is time to reconsider them.
my plan is to write about the common old-timey or native plants and shrubs as i walk around each side of the house. although i planted many flowerbeds and gardens here, and keep a butterfly/hummingbird cottage-type garden around the tiny greenhouse, it seems many plants come and go – over time – while the “pariah” plants thrive.
until next time…vty johanna-lea