I’ve never planted this plant before. Isn’t that great!

I enjoy working with plants that are totally familiar.  I can recognize them at any stage of their growth, I know how fast they grow, what they combine well with, what conditions they require – everything.

But do I want only to use those plants?  Of course not.  Using plants that were not familiar is how the plants that are familiar got that way.

Whenever I design a garden I try to use about 10% of plants I’m not familiar with.  (With my clients’ knowledge, of course.  They usually accept my disclosure when I’m going through the plant list with them.)

I’m not coming from total ignorance.  I do a lot of research, formerly using my rather vast library, now more on the internet.  But I do know, in an abstract kind of way, what the new (to me) plants will do.  I have to say though, that all the research in the world is not the same as seeing and living with a plant, live and in person and hands on.

So here at Timshala, I’ve been putting in several unfamiliar plants – with full approval from my client (that would be me).

I had never planted Bald Cypress before. Taxodium

Or Golden Rain Tree. Kohlreuteria

Or Aronia brilliantissima. Aronia brilliantissima fall color

Or Viburnum pragense. Viburnum pragense

These are all plants that are being recommended to me as being suitable for the soil and climate here.  And not surprisingly, they are doing beautifully.

And next time I use them, they will no longer be on the list of “Never used that before”.   They will  have become familiar and  I will have to find other plants for the next “Unfamiliars’  list.  Yeah!!!

This is my favorite plant. Or this. Or maybe this.

There’s a song in Finian’s Rainbow (lyrics by E.Y. Harburg, music by Burton Lane) that goes:

“Oh, my heart is beating wildly

And it’s all because you’re here

When I’m not near the girl I love

I love the girl I’m near”

Change ‘girl’ to ‘plant’ and Oh, my heart is beating wildly too.

I ordered seeds for spring planting, many annuals to bring me some quick color where eventually there will be colorful perennial borders, flowering shrubs, colorful groundcovers.  I have also placed a spring order for many additional trees and shrubs – plants which would not have done well during our cold, windy, dry winter if planted last fall, and also some which might have done fine but were just not available.

And each plant I chose became, in turn, my favorite.  Sometimes because I had used it before and know exactly how it will look when it begins to grow up.  And sometimes because I have NOT used it before, and everything I read about it makes me wonder why not, why such an amazingly desirable plant was not – yet – in my plant palette.

So here are some of my, at this moment, very, very favorites, some old, some new, which I hope will soon be making their appearance at Timshala: Corn Poppies, Red Cosmos, Nasturtiums, Bald Cypress, Tatarian Maple “Hot Wings’,  Hydrangea paniculata, Double File Viburnum, Bronze Fennel, Rosa glauca (formerly rubrifolium), Red Pussywillow.

An Immigrant’s Garden


My mother was born in Russia.  My father was born in Poland.  They were brought to Canada by their parents, met and married and had me there.  I moved to the U.S. over 40 years ago.   We are immigrants all.World Map

Does all this moving about have an influence on my views about native plants vs. immigrant plants (called ‘aliens’ in horticultural circles)?  Perhaps it does.

In any case I have been thinking a lot lately about the subject as I go on with the choice of plants for the gardens at Timshala.  I hear more and more about the importance of planting natives — usually defined as plants which were already here when Europeans arrived.

And yet.  Some of the most surprising plants, the ones we see everywhere, are actually not natives.  The Daylilies coloring the sides of the road in late summer, Apple trees (yes, despite Johnny Appleseed), weeping Willows, Peonies, Irises, Hostas, Peaches, Dandelions (!), Lilacs, Irises, Japanese maples (no surprise there),  Soybeans, Wheat.   Immigrants all.

What they all do have in common – besides having been born elsewhere – is that they have traveled to find their preferred habitat.

So habitat is what determines all my plant choices.   The right temperatures, both winter and summer, soil quality, wind – these are all part of the planning. Wherever they might have come from, all the plants I am using will (should) be happy where I place them.  Some wet areas will have plants that like wet soil – Bald Cypress, Camassia, for example.  Actually those are both natives, but more important to me, they will grow well where I put them.   

So a lot of the plants I use will be natives.  A lot of them won’t.  But they should all thrive because they’re in the right place.

And so my garden at Timshala will have a lot of immigrants.  Including me.