Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Patriot Hosta, Act II

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'Patriot' hosta started out in April with blue noses just poking up above the ground, but by mid-May they've unfurled to brilliant leaves of white and dark green.

 

Not cream and dark green.  Not light green shading into dark green.  No: White—then green.  The change is so sudden it's almost like a switch is thrown, a Rubicon crossed.  It may be white on this side of the line, but it's forever green on the other.

 

Patriot's the hosta when you crave colors that juxtapose in stark relief.  I think there's a place in every garden for stark relief.  Many places, if you're lucky.  But not to worry that you'll get too stark: You'll inevitably have other hostas that make a fetish of gradual changes and subtle contrasts—guacamole to greenish-blue, say—that establish your bona fides as a discerning colorist.

 

With 'Patriot', you establish your bona fides as a fearless colorist.  A tiger with your palette. 

 

And when you plant a seriously cut-leaf Japanese maple nearby, a fearless texturalist too.  This one is 'Red Pygmy', which seems unlikely to ever get taller than three feet but is already sprawling to eight.  'Red Fat Pygmy', I'd say.

 

And handily, some tall gardener in a blue shirt once had a semi-inspired morning, and planted a 'Patriot' hosta right in the way of the Pygmy's sprawl.

 

The result?  Big and broad and smooth-edged hosta leaves getting washed over by the first squiffs of what will be a tsunami of ferny burgundy foliage.  High drama in the garden, indeed.

 

The textural excitement would be the same if the Japanese maple were pure green—say, 'Waterfall'.  Perfect for texturalists who are squeamish about loud colors and stark contrasts  Bully for them; all the more loud-and-stark fun for me.

 

 

 

Here's how to grow this superior hosta:

Latin Name

Hosta 'Patriot'

Common Name

Patriot hosta

Family

Agavaceae, the agave family.

What kind of plant is it?

Shade-loving (but sun-tolerating) herbaceous perennial.

Hardiness

Zones 3 - 8

Habit

Clumping and dense-foliaged enough to work as a groundcover. 

Rate of Growth

Fast when happy.

Size in ten years

A clump to 1.5 feet high and 2 to 3 feet across.

Texture

Thick and dense, as is normal for a hosta, but also strikingly lively because of the intense variegation.

Grown for

The foliage!  Early-Spring noses are a surprising deep blue, looking neither animal nor vegetable nor mineral.  The unfurled foliage is too interesting (too bright, frankly) to grow as a massed groundcover, so grow 'Patriot' hosta as an exciting solo act in the shady or part-sun garden.  The irregular white border of the (for a hosta) mid-sized leaves is exciting, and at an entirely higher level than the variegated hostas of your (grand)mother's garden.

 

The spikes of lavender flowers in Summer are beside the point, and are best clipped off.

Flowering season

Summer.

Culture

A plant for good soil, plenty of water all season long, and not too much sun, lest the foliage scorch.  Shade (or at least afternoon shade) is usually the safer choice.  

How to handle it

As long as the soil is good and you've ensured that your hostas won't get munched by the local wildlife (see Downsides below), they are about as low-maintenance and immortal as a perennial can be.  Clip off the flower spikes if you can, but don't sweat it if not: Summer is sweaty enough already.

Downsides

The foliage is delicious to deer, rabbits, snails, and slugs.  The latter, argh, thrive in just the shady moist conditions the hosta itself does.  I hear that gardeners in such slug-heaven locales like the Northwest sometimes resort to growing hostas in pots, with repellent and barriers aplenty.  Well good:  So many other amazing plants grow like weeds there. 

Variants

Hostas mutate and hybridize with diligence and delight.  And there are over twenty species to begin with.  No wonder that many hundreds of varieties are now available.

Availability

On-line and in local retailers

Propagation

Division at almost any time that's convenient for you and the soil is diggable.  Hostas will recover from division on August 1, but also don't care if you divide them in December instead.

Native habitat

Northeast Asia






 

 

 

 

Here's how to grow this fern-leaved mounding Japanese maple:

Latin Name

Acer palmatum 'Red Pygmy'

Common Name

Red Pygmy Japanese maple

Family

Sapindaceae, the soapberry family.  (Soapberry?  Not in the top 500 of garden ornamentals, true.  The family includes the universally-identifiable maple and chestnut tribes.)

What kind of plant is it?

Mounding deciduous shrub.

Hardiness

Zones 5 - 9

Habit

Unless the trunk has been trained up, the stiffly sculptural branches growing from a very short trunk spread horizontally at first, then arc gradually to the ground, forming a wide-spreading low mound, three to five times as broad as high. 

Rate of Growth

Fast when happy.

Size in ten years

Untrained, a mound to two to three feet high and ten feet across.  If the trunk has been trained higher, the mound will be a bit narrower.

Texture

Supremely ferny when in leaf in Spring, Summer, and early Fall.  When the foliage drops after hard frost, the stiffly-spreading branches are impressive and sculptural.

Grown for

the foliage!  Very finely-cut leaves are a deep glowing burgundy, which holds its color well throughout the season.  Even the small twigs are burgundy.

 

the mounding habit, perfect for a large foreground feature in front of tall or bandy-legged perennials or shrubs.

Flowering season

Spring, but the flowers are not showy.

Culture

A plant for any decent soil and reasonable water.  Full sun is fine as long as it's not allowed to get really dry.  This is a tolerant shrub. 

How to handle it

At planting, the shrub will usually be much, much smaller than at maturity.  (It would be almost impossible to dig up a field-grown mature specimen: How would you manouevre under and around all the low stiff branches?  You can purchase larger specimens that have grown in containers their whole life—but then the challenge would be the planting:  The wide-spreading branches make it tricky to handle the plant in the planting just as much as in the digging.)  So plan for the future.  Don't plant any taller shrubs and perennials nearby that you won't mind moving out of its way over time.

 

The ferny foliage casts only light shade onto the ground, though, so this is a great shrub to underplant with groundcover.  Larger or at least simple-shaped and smooth-edged leaves are particularly enjoyable when seen under the maple's ferny foliage.  Epimediums, say?  Hostas that don't get too tall?  (Or, if they do, consider pruning away the maple canopy.)  Hardy gingers?

 

And because you'll be looking at the entire top surface of the maple's foliage canopy, consider partnering the shrub with a small vine that can grow up through the maple branches and romp around in the sun atop the canopy.  I've chosen Clematis henryi, whose dinner-plate white flowers, always displayed horizontally, "corsage" the canopy.  And whose distinctive burgundy pistils are the exact match for the maple's burgundy foliage.

 

If you have the room to let your 'Red Pygmy' grow out as far as it will, it needs almost no care beyond clipping off an occasional dead twig in Spring.  As typical for Japanese maples, the natural branching habit is attractive.

Downsides

Trouble-free in my experience.  But I've had other Japanese maples girdled by critters when the Winter snow is deep and particularly long-lasting:  Why go out into the open air to forage for food when you can tunnel, out of the wind, right up to it?  So consider wrapping the trunk with a barrier if your Winters are similar.

Variants

Japanese maples are right up there with hostas, orchids, and rhododendrons in offering different species and hundreds of cultivars.  Habits from mounding to broad to upright; mature sizes from a couple of feet to twenty five; leaf shapes from only modestly complex to extremely dissected almost to the point of looking shredded; leaf colors from chrome yellow to green to white to pink to burgundy; Fall colors of every hue of orange, yellow, and red imaginable.  It would be difficult to imagine a garden anywhere Japanese maples are hardy that didn't have at least one.

Availability

On-line and in local retailers.

Propagation

Grafting.

Native habitat

Japan.

 
 
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