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

 
 

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

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Virginia Jumpseed

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The border right along the driveway (yes, that's the car at top-right) celebrates yellow, burgundy, and green.  The mammoth colony of yellow-leaved sweet flag is the centerpiece.  In the foreground is a volunteer clump of—what the heck—reddish-pink fireworks:  Virginia jumpseed at its peak of flowering in early Fall.

 

The flower spikes are so airy, so slender, that it's difficult to focus directly on them.  The gold, green, and burgundy foliage back-lit by the late-Summer sun is, admittedly, a big distraction.

 

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Here's the colony of Persicaria virginiana 'Lance Corporal' front and center.  There's a reason the common name for this perennial is "jumpseed":  It does, indeed, like to pop up far from the mother ship. 

 

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And in fact, this clump is itself a volunteer, growing a good twenty feet away from its originating colony.  With such delicate and yet exuberant flower spikes, who can quibble? 

 

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The flowers don't begin to appear until September, but the brown chevron on each leaf has provided a gentle show since mid-Spring.

 

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Virginia jumpseed is an essential part of my garden's warm-season display.  And soon, I hope, yours as well.

 

Here's how to grow this easy and high-performing perennial:

 

Latin Name

Persicaria virginiana 'Lance Corporal'

Common Name

Lance Corporal virginia jumpseed

Family

Polygonaceae, the Knotweed family.

What kind of plant is it?

Herbaceous perennial.

Hardiness

Zones 3 - 8.

Habit

Spreading, forming groundcovering colonies. 

Rate of Growth

Fast but not scary.

Size in ten years

If spread is controlled—see "How to handle it" below—a clump three or four feet across and two feet tall.  Many times that width if allowed to spread by rhizomes or seed.  Seedlings will pop up far afield, too. 

Texture

Dense and self-supporting.  Full to the ground.

Grown for

its sturdy constitution:  Jumpseed doesn't need support or pinching or dividing to look good all season, season after season.  As long as it receives normal to heavy moisture, it's self-reliant.

  

its groundcovering prowess:  Growth is thick enough, eager enough in Spring, durable enough through the hot months, and spreading enough year by year that anything smaller is soon swamped—including most weeds, both perennial and annual.

 

Its foliage: Pointed green leaves have a discreet brown chevron.  This is the variegated plant for variegation-o-phobes.  

 

its flowers: Long spikes—to 16 inches or even slightly more—are pin-pointed with rose-pink flowers so tiny and kernel-like they seem like seeds.  Colder hearts than mine will cut them off promptly to avoid seed-setting; I never can resist their full show, looking from start to finish like fireworks.     

 

its unpalatability to browers:  Unless they're desperate, deer usually ignore Persicaria, including 'Lance Corporal'.

Flowering season

Persicaria virginiana 'Lance Corporal' is a welcome late- and long-season bloomer, beginning in September and continuing into October.

Color combinations

The brown-chevroned foliage could combine with anything.  It's the rose-pink flowers that suggest planting 'Lance Corporal' only in pink-friendly gardens, which would celebrate pink, blue, rose, white, purple, and burgundy.  Or in plantings of other neutrals—greens, grays, browns, and whites—where its surprisingly configured and colored flowers can supply the excitement.  That said, my shots of a volunteer colony riffing in front of the bright yellow foliage of Acorus gramineus 'Ogon' show that even hot colors are possible.  See "Plant partners" below. 

Plant partners

'Lance Corporal' is combined both on the basis of its groundcovering and enthusiastic habit as well as its restrained foliage and contrastingly fireworky late-season flowers in a shade of pink so deep that, conceivably, it could read as red.

 

Because growth is too thick for neighboring plants of similar size to compete with, establish 'Lance Corporal' only where its neighbors are taller, and so are guaranteed enough height to be above the smothering surf of leafy Persicaria growth.  My main colony, e.g., flows harmlessly around the base of a fastigate plum yew, Cephalotaxus harringtonia 'Fastigiata'; the trunk of a gold-leaved poplar, Populus alba 'Richardii'; an oakleaf hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia 'Skye's Dwarf', which, despite the "dwarf" in the name, is four to five feet tall; and a messerve holly, Ilex x meserveae 'Gretchen'.  All are far too tall to care what's happening around their shins.  Only adolescent bushes of dwarf box, Buxus sempervirens 'Suffruticosa' at the front of this bed need errant stems of 'Lance Corporal' cut away.  

 

Tall evergreens—in my case, the holly and the plum yew—are particularly good partners, because they continue to provide cold-weather interest when the Persicaria has retreated to the ground for the Winter.  If evergreen interest isn't a problem for you, 'Lance Corporal' is a tall weed-proof groundcover for upright deciduous shrubs with bare shins, such as lilacs and weigela, as well as for large-scale ornamental grasses such as miscanthus and panicum, whose foliage as well as flower spikes are carried safely above the impenetrable growth of Persicaria.

 

Persicaria is also the solution to low spots or water-side stretches that can be too muddy to mow, and would otherwise revert to bulkier and more weedy wet-ground scruffiness. 

 

'Lance Corporal' dresses in such neutral colors—green and brown—May into September that you can be forgiven for letting its late-season flowers harmonize or not.  As the promise of cool weather becomes more certain, who doesn't cut the gardens' color schemes some slack?  If, however, you're able to keep your colors sympatico even into early Fall, the rose-pink flowers of 'Lance Corporal' would sing right along with the flowers of pink, blue, purple, or white flowers of asters, mums, dahlias, and the very last oriental lilies. 

 

Turtlehead is in flower as long as 'Lance Corporal', and with a safe-from-smothering upright habit and height, similar love of moist ground, and pink-friendly flowers, too.  The pink of the standard forms of Chelone should be a near match, whereas the white of Chelone glabra would contrast smartly.  The startlingly dark Spring foliage of C. glabra 'Black Ace' would provide early-season interest as well.   

 

The flowers of 'Lance Corporal' are, I believe, the smallest of any hardy perennial likely to be used in a garden.  Combining tiny size with a regular-but-sparse spacing along such lengthy, unbranched, wiry stems, the flowers seem to comp themselves into any party your late Summer and early Fall garden can organize, no matter what the dress code.  Someday I'll create a garden of plants whose large and late-season flowers are centered on orange and apricot but also include a flush or patch or vein of pink.  (Surely there are dahlias and mums and cannas to consider.)  Then the flower spikes of 'Lance Corporal' can stream past those immense blooms like streamers at a bash.

Where to use it in your garden

'Lance Corporal' needs control if any of its neighbors are shorter than two feet, so this rambunctious perennial is easiest to use as filler amid medium to large shrubs, grasses, and perennials.  It is also good groundcover in wetter and wilder areas that are awkward to mow.   

Culture

As is typical for Persicaria, 'Lance Corporal' is at ease in almost any soil and situation that doesn't subject the plants to drought stress.  Soils of normal moisture retention are fine, as are wetter and even near-boggy sites.  Full sun in wetter soils, otherwise afternoon shade or dappled shade are more likely to prevent foliage scorch.  'Lance Corporal' is reportedly tolerant of dry shade, perhaps because the scorch-protection of the shade outweighs the diminished vigor that results from the dry soil.

How to handle it

Plant in Spring or Fall.   Establishment is quicker in richer soils and with plenty of water.  In such circumstances, ‘Lance Corporal’ is a cost-effective groundcover:  You can plant it widely—every two feet, say—and still achieve full coverage in two years.

How to handle it: Another option—or two!

Here are three different ways to control self-seeding.  The easiest—if you can only bring yourself to do it— is to cut the entire colony to the ground just as the flower spikes have peaked.  Virtually every stem will produce spikes of flowers at the tips, so there’s no need to be selective.  But this throws out the baby with the bathwater:  You’ll remove the plant’s visual presence from the garden a month and more before frost does that naturally.

 

It’s fussier work to cut off just the flower spikes:  You’ll need to snip them one by one.  But then the colony’s overall presence is retained right through hard frost, let alone its effectiveness as a groundcover even in the late season, when the seeds of hardy weeds and cool-weather annuals will be sprouting aplenty.

 

My vote is to control self-seeding after the fact, by yanking the resultant volunteers.  They pull easily, and then you don’t need to call a premature halt to the lengthy flowering season.  And as in the case of this clump that popped up right next to where I place the tubbed pot of Acorus, volunteers of 'Lance Corporal' can surprise you with their versatility.

Downsides

Ah, the self-seeding.  See “How to handle it: Another option—or two!”

Variants

The foliage of 'Painter's Palette' is brightly splashed with white and pink, too, with the chevrons tending more to pink than brown.  In my experience, this cultivar isn't nearly as self-reliant as 'Lance Corporal', neither self-seeding as much—a good thing, normally—nor tolerating sun or Summer-dry soil.  I'll try again to establish it for the long term in my pink borders.  'Compton's Form' seems the same as 'Lance Corporal'.

Availability

On line.

Propagation

By division and by seed.

Native habitat

Persicaria virginiana is widely native to the eastern United States and Canada. 

 
 
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