The lone voice of horticultural reason

Origin of Species

Do you recognize this native plant?


Running a week behind in all aspects of my life, as usual, particularly as the final few months of the landscaping season appear on the horizon. Some great projects this summer, large and small, that I have dutifully recorded with my camera and that will serve as the gist of my winter updates, beginning November 1. I want to help you think like a landscape designer, and install your projects like a landscape engineer. Of course, this means everything you do next summer will be accomplished a week or two late.

Here are this month’s suggested readings:

The Myth of the 4-Step Fertilized Lawn
Fruits of Summer
Don’t freak out in fall when your evergreens develop orange needles that drop off.

Now about that plant in the photo …

Here it is again.

I was up in Northwest Ontario in August—work schedule, bills, personal relationships, the economy, life, be damned—when I stumbled upon a familiar plant growing in great abundance on a rocky wilderness shoreline. You probably grow one of several dozen exotic, colorful varieties, carefully crafted by plant zealots around the world who devote their lives to taking native plants and altering their size, form, foliage and bloom color.

Radiation, injection, gene splicing, cross-pollination, these tricks and more are used to create the hundreds of thousands of ersatz perennial varieties we ooh and ahh over at the nurseries. But it serves us well to remember that while mankind can do many things with plants, the one thing we can’t do is invent a genus. The original is kicking around somewhere, created by powers far greater than we can ever know.

. You grow this plant, varieties such as  ‘Amber Waves’ and ‘Amethyst Mist’, ‘Plum Pudding’ and ‘Dolce Crème Brulee’, ‘Lime Rickey’ and one of my favorites, ‘Green Spice.’ And they all come from the original, this lovely little plant I found sunning itself happily along the moss-covered banks of the Winnipeg River:

Don Engebretson
The Renegade Gardener