A Gardening Journal

Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Chocolate Flower-Stalks of Feather-leaf Rodgersia



Feather-leaf rodgersia is a star in Spring, when its young leaves emerge. As pointed and grasping as dragon claws, they emerge from the earth a cold, hairy, veinous purple-brown. Startling! Then—in a total change of mood—the leaves mature to the shape, size, and color of those of a horsechestnut. Harmless! Then tall creamy-white sprays of small flowers provide a fluffy show into Summer. Graceful! In Fall the leaves die away promptly—but the flower stalks endure. Now holding countless capsules as deep and dark as single-source chocolate, the stalks are good in the garden but best in a vase. Dramatic and quirky both, they ensure that this perennial's interest holds year-round. Hallelujah!


The stalks were nearly four feet tall and, so, could have provided filler (as if baby's breath now had an ebony cultivar!) for even the tallest dried arrangement. (I cut them down by two-thirds to make a more compact picture.) The complex upward-and-outward branching of the pedicels that bear the starry seed capsules creates a nearly arboreal feel, as if the viewer had become a lilliputian and the stalks were the size of oaks.




Despite their delicate visuals, the capsules don't shed or crumble. Although they are without scent, they are ringers in color, shape, and rigidity for ultra-dwarf star anise.  




Here's how to grow this classy, durable perennial.

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