Arabis caucasica ‘Snowcap’

This is another perennial that I’d been trying to grow for years. The problem is that my yard was never quit sunny enough, but some storm-related damage and subsequent pruning opened the tiniest peninsula of garden in total sunlight.

In 2018 I removed all of the weeds, amended the soil for drainage and nutrients, and then I was ready.

I purchased this plant in a quart-sized pot at a local hardware store for a whopping $2.80. I also bought about 40 other perennials with it. According to my records, it went into the ground on May 23, 2018, and it just kind of sat there. I thought it was going to die like every other time, but it had other things in mind for me.

In spring of 2019 it was the size of a large dinner plate and covered in white flowers. I was so excited. This year, in 2020, it’s about 3′ across. I kind of hope it stops because I have other plants I’d like to grow too, so I might have to start enforcing boundaries.

As you can see, it’s covered in white blooms in mid-May here in East Central Illinois. The foliage has a tinge of sage green, and it’s pretty drought tolerant once established. I do need to give it a drink every once in a while, but the most important thing is not to leave it with wet feet. Drainage is super-important!

It’s planted in a bed with a bunch of Sedum and creeping thyme (you can see ‘Foxley’ in the lower right of this photo), as well as some creeping phlox, dianthus, and a whole bunch of bulbs.

Euonymus fortunei ‘Canadale Gold’

I first saw this vining Euonymus at the Morton Arboretum about twenty-five years ago. It was amazing to see how well it lit up a dark space under some yews, and I resolved to buy some for my own yard.

The Quest

The problem was that I couldn’t find it anywhere. I was constantly looking online, checking garden centers, asking friends and relatives to do the same, but the searches weren’t turning anything up. Until… One day in 2000 I found one remaining pot at a K-Mart while buying a bunch of other stuff. It was quickly added to the bottom of the cart, paid for, loaded into my car, and driven to my parents’ house. I immediately started unloading the car so I could show off my reward, but it wasn’t there! Despite looking everywhere, we couldn’t find it and concluded I had left it in the cart. I drove back, but it wasn’t in the cart and nobody had brought one in. Someone got a very nice, free plant in the parking lot that day.

I was dejected, but kept looking. Finally, in 2002, I found some at a local Lowe’s in a two-gallon pot for the low, low price of $16.38. I bought one for myself and one for my Mom, made sure I put them in the car, and immediately planted it in a darkened corner of the yard once I got back to own my house.

In the Garden

I’ve been really happy with it. It sometimes has reversions that have to be pruned, but other than that it has remained pretty restrained and doesn’t spread outside of its 3×3′ allocated space. I’ve never seen it flower or fruit, so I feel pretty comfortable keeping it in my yard despite the species status as a noxic weed. I wish ban lists were a little more forgiving with some cultivars.

Anyhow… What you see is pretty much what you get. I only grow it for the brilliant yellow-gold and green foliage which pops so well in shady nooks. It also acts as a great foil for other plants; mine is planted next to blue and dark green hosta, and behind Tiarella ‘Spring Symphony’.

Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Bevan’s Variety’

I’ve long enjoyed and admired hardy geranium. I especially like the bigroot geranium (‘macro’ = big, ‘rrhizum’ = root, like a rhizome) for its velvety texture and strangely-scented leaves. I don’t really know how to describe it other than ‘strange’ — it’s kind of citrusy, maybe apple-y, but not quite, and with a zing. For those of you familiar with the plant family Rutaceae, it reminds me of that ‘rutaceaous’ smell.

Although I would grow it just for the leaves and texture, we get the added bonus of dark magenta flowers in spring. They last for a few weeks and really make a dark corner pop. They don’t always bloom at the same time for us, so be careful siting around other pink plants. It clashes terribly with a bleeding heart, for example.

In our yard it colonizes nicely in some shady nooks out back, but it usually doesn’t crowd out other plants unless they’re very short. I don’t know when I first planted it, but it’s another plant that I can’t imagine being without.

Iberis sempervirens ‘Snowflake’

I’d been trying to grow evergreen candytuft in my shady yard for years, but without success.

When I finally carved out a sunny niche in the front in 2017 I knew I had to try again. I amended the soil to make sure it drained properly, put it in a spot with six hours or so of sun, and waited, and waited…

… until spring. The flowers were glorious and white and pure, accented perfectly against the dark evergreen leaves.

I need more sun so I can plant more candytuft.