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I'm a woman entering "the third chapter" and fascinated by the journey.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Good Doers

I first heard the phrase "a good doer" on Erica Glasener's much-missed program, A Gardener's Diary. (HGTV's cancellation of this and of Kathy Renwald's Gardener's Journal are the primary reason why I no longer have anything but basic cable, there being nothing worth watching but PBS. Hmm...maybe even the basic can go. Suddenlink gets quite enough of my money for internet.) The term refers to plants that do well without special attention, and as I move into old age, such plants are the only ones I want to grow.

Good doers came to my mind this morning while thinning my clumps of "Fireworks" goldenrod. This cultivar of our native solidago rugosa ( shown below blooming last September with agastache "Tutti Frutti" in our driveway bed) is better-behaved than common goldenrod but seems to be just as tough and just as attractive to butterflies and songbirds. Ours is growing in the company of New England aster, "Black Knight" buddleia, and "Dart's Gold" physocarpus and is holding its own even against the shrubs.
Alas, "Tutti Frutti" is not as tough. While the plants  in the streetside bed survived and are about to bloom, this specimen broke ground in March but expired in our wet spring, probably due to runoff from a downspout (appreciated by everything else in that spot). My suspicion is that TF's parent is a Western species that requires dryness. Sigh. However, another agastache, the hybrid "Blue Fortune," is putting on quite a show in the bed on the other side of the driveway, so I won't be grieving its cousin too much. (Correction: this plant was purchased as agastache, but some more-knowledgeable wildlife gardeners have pegged it as anchusa azurea, which is, alas not native.)
Besides, the spot where TF died has been colonized by a coneflower, which will be equally gorgeous next to the goldenrod. This specimen is "White Swan," blooming next to the blue agastache--no idea what color the volunteer will be, as we grow several. 
Just about anything in the daisy family meets my definition of a good doer. Plants that take care of themselves, look cheerful, and attract butterflies make me happy. Aromatic aster is maybe a little too enthusiastic, but when it's blooming in October (nearly the last plant in our garden to finish), this shale barren native is a lovely sight.
But the happiest good doer in the June gardens on our block is rudbeckia hirta, one of our native black-eyed Susans. This short-lived daisy reproduces with abandon, creates its own color variations, and seeds itself even into bermuda grass. What's not to like?
And of course, no mention of perfect plants is complete without physocarpus, finally photographed in its fruiting phase. (English offers so many possibilities for alliteration.)
I wonder if maybe we need some "Fireworks" in front of "Summer Wine."

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