Text and photos ©Nancy J. Ondra
Despite our depressingly hot and dry weather this month, great-looking plants are coming along faster than I can write about them. One of my favorites of the moment is the sadly underused annual known as thoroughwax or hare’s ear (Bupleurum rotundifolium). Looking very much like an airy euphorbia, though it’s more closely related to dill, fennel, and other umbellifers, it grows anywhere from 12 to about 30 inches here, with a single main stem that branches heavily toward the tips and beautiful blue-green foliage. Below is a closeup of the blooms and a leaf.
Thoroughwax self-sows freely, but (here, at least) never enough to be a pest. The seedlings that come up singly in unexpected places seem to be largest and the most vigorous, but they also tend to fall over due to the top-heavy branching form. They also seem prone to losing their lower leaves, a problem you can see starting in the photo below (a habit shot of the same plant shown closer-up at the top of this post).
For that reason, it’s usually best to have them coming up through other plants that can hide their “bare ankles.”
Seedlings that sprout in groups seem to stay shorter, but they make a very nice clump-like show, and their upper branches weave together to keep the whole bunch from flopping over.
The earliest-rising self-sown seedlings start blooming here in early June, with the later risers starting about now, so I normally have some around well into August. They seem adaptable to either dry or moist soil, and I usually find a few coming up in the morning-sun-only border, but they mostly stay in the full-sun areas.
If you think you’d like to try thoroughwax for yourself (and those of you who love chartreuse really need to!), you can find the seeds online through Diane’s Flower Seeds as Bupleurum rotundifolium ‘Green Gold’. Chiltern Seed lists both B. rotundifolium and B. griffithii ‘Decor’, which confuses me, since I thought B. rotundifolium and B. griffithii were synonyms. They don’t have a photo of the former, and they list the height there as only 6 to 12 inches, while the ‘Decor’ looks very much like my plants, so you might want to try that latter one if you order from them. Plant World Seeds lists only B. griffithii, but the photo there looks very different from any others I’ve seen, adding to the muddle. Well, it’s worth trying any of them, I think.
I also think it’s tough to find a better color than blue to complement chartreuse. Here’s a blue beauty that’s new to me this year: grass pea or chickling pea (Lathrus sativus).
I sowed the seeds indoors in early March and set them outdoors in the third week of April. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the habit, so I planted the seedlings in front of a miniature rose, with the hope that they’d weave themselves up through or else sprawl in front. They got a bit bushier than I expected but are still kind of wispy plants, about 18 inches tall at this point. (Apparently they can get up to about 4 feet tall.) Some of the stems did grab onto the rose, and other stems grabbed onto those, so they’re staying somewhat upright, and they’re moderately well covered with these stunning blue blooms.
I’d hoped that they would start blooming in time to shine among the pure white blooms of the ‘Gourmet Popcorn’ rose, but they didn’t begin until the first flush of rose blooms started to turn brown (of course). Still, the plant’s really a beauty. And, unlike the garden peas, which are hating the heat and dryness, the grass pea seems to be much more tolerant of the tough conditions, even growing in full sun. It’ll be interesting to see how long into the summer it continues to flower. Seeds of grass pea are available through a few online sources, including Thompson & Morgan, Chiltern Seeds (as L. sativus var. azureus), and Select Seeds.
And to finish, another plant that’s new to me this year: ‘Jade Frost’ sea holly (Eryngium planum).
I’ve struggled to get sea hollies established in the past, but I lucked out with this one. Not only did it stay alive – it flowered!
I would have been happy with just the foliage, though. Here’s a closeup of some of the leaves. Terrific variegation.
This one’s growing in a rather dry raised bed, mostly sun but some afternoon shade from the nearby patch of taller larkspur. (The sea holly is about 2 feet tall.) Klehm’s Song Sparrow is one online source, and yes, the foliage also has some great pink in it during cool weather, as shown in the photo on their website. Below is a habit shot of my plant.
That’s it for this time. With so much going on in the garden, I expect I’ll be doing many more of these “Three Neat Plants” over the next few months!