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

Glade Mallow

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I'm delighted the bee is so interested in these tiny flowers.  Are they as appealing to humans?  Not so much.  Thank goodness the plant itself has other charms that are enormous in every sense.  This is Glade Mallow, a too-rarely-seen perennial from Ohio.  Too bad that its gauzy name—Glade Mallow—doesn't begin to capture the plant's excitement.

 

First off, when you think of mallows, you think of big flowers: hollyhocks, hibiscus, and, yes, mallow.  The only way Glade Mallow flowers could stretch all the way to even a half inch across is if they had trained from birth to do full splits.  

 

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"Glade" is a bit more helpful.  This is a plant that craves rich soil and plenty of water, and will be very happy in the occasional sun of a glade—where the surrounding woods will block the sun soon, anyway—if that's part of the bargain.   But still.  Glade Mallow?   For me, the name is cursed with an earnest cottagey nostalgia, as if, in an early draft of "The Wind in the Willows," Ratty were actually a spunky, do-it-himself gardening animal who messed about with bog perennials instead of boats. 

 

"Glade Mallow" also gives no hint that these teensy flowers are the pride of a perennial that's a magnificent monster.  The sharply-toothed leaves are way bigger than my hand, even the "smaller" ones high up the tall flower stems.

 

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And the leaves that arise directly from the base of the clump are truly brutes, to sixteen inches across or more. 

 

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Because the leaves are palmate—all the veins originate from one central point that attaches to the leaf-stem—AND have toothy "fingers" almost all the way around the "palm," the stems that hold them aloft are fairly hidden.  The plant looks less like a group of stems with foliage than a hovering pow-wow of toothy green flying saucers that, at any moment, might complete their business and zoom away in all directions.

 

If only the flowering stalks weren't there to make sure you knew that, nope, this isn't a group-hover of flying saucers.  I've got two clumps of Napaea, though, so next Spring I'll "de-stalk" one of them to see how that helps the group-hover look. 

 

"Glade Mallow" sure doesn't give a hint at the flying saucer thing, either.  "Bog Plant From Beyond," perhaps?  "Green Monster From The Lagoon"?  What's your suggestion?

 

 

Here's how to grow this levitatingly-foliaged moisture-loving monster:

 

Latin Name

Napaea dioica

Common Name

Glade Mallow

Family

Malvaceae, the Hollyhock family.

What kind of plant is it?

Herbaceous perennial.

Hardiness

Zones 3 - 9

Habit

A clumping perennial.

Rate of Growth

With enough water, very fast.

Size in ten years

Six to ten feet tall, and three to five feet wide.  Ideal growing conditions are needed for the larger sizes.

Texture

Showy and tropical, and if your circumstances permit the larger dimensions, architectural. 

Grown for

the foliage.  The mid-green leaves are palmate and round, but so heavily toothed and incised that they definitely look ferny, not lotusy. 

 

the height.  Flower stalks can be six, eight, even ten feet tall. 

 

the surprisingly tiny flowers.  Perched in tight clusters at the top of the stalks, but opening only sporadically, their show is modest to the point of comedy. 

 

the overall gestalt of the plant, which is unique in hardy perennials.    

 

its appreciation of wet and even boggy circumstances, plus its contentment in part shade. 

Flowering season

Early Summer in Rhode Island:  June into July.

Culture

Grow this perennial just as you would any Ligularia, whose foliage it looks quite akin to:  Rich soil, never a lack for water, and, if you can't be that ideal, some afternoon shade so it doesn't faint in hot sun.

How to handle it

Napaea ("nuh-PAY-yuh") is both statuesque and rare, so give it pride of place in your garden.  Then your friends can give it—and you—the wonder and respect you both deserve. 

 

This plant is serious about water, so don't even think of planting it where it might have to cope with dry soil, let alone baking afternoon sun.  This means that, unless you're gardening in Scotland, you can't plant it near south or west masonry walls, where it would otherwise look fantastic. They'd just bake it to death.  On the other hand, if you could plant it in a bed backed by a wall that faces northeast, it would be assured of no afternoon sun at all, ever, and would thank you with particularly lush growth. 

 

Although it's tap-rooted (or at least tap-rootish), the plant isn't as stand-and-deliver as you'd like.  If the site's too windy, the whole clump can lean, right down to the lowest leaves that arise (you'd think) directly from the taproot.  Staking doesn't help, because the whole plant would look like you'd taken it hostage.  (And how could you stake each leaf, anyway?)  You could, though, grow the whole clump through a peony grid.  Safer all around, though, is to plant it where it has nicely fat and wind-baffling neighbors to the back and at each side. 

 

Although the foliage is very large, it still reads lacey and ferny.  Companion plants with solid huge leaves, therefore, are more interesting than those with either small leaves or ferny leaves, of whatever size, of actual ferns.  Huge hostas?  Bring 'em on.  Add in an oakleaf hydrangea.  Plus the round-leaf varieties of Ligularia.  Ah, what a thrill Napaea would be nuzzling up to huge group of Ligularia 'Brit Marie Crawford', whose large leaves are not just round, they're also a thrilling mahogany-purple.  Sigh.

Downsides

I'm not kidding about Napaea's aversion to drought.

Variants

The blushingly-named Sida hermaphrodita is another Ohio-centric native mallow that relishes the same growing conditions as Napaea.  Its white flowers are modestly larger, but the foliage isn't as excitingly broad and toothy.  But when it's really happy it can reach twenty feet.  Twenty!  I have to have it.  I have to have it.  I have to have it.

Availability

On-line.

Propagation

By seeds, or, if your clump is old enough to have grown more than a few "taps," by division in Spring or early Fall.

Native habitat

Eastern-Central-Midwest United States.  OK, Ohio.

 
 
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