I’m not a huge fan of daylilies (Hemerocallis) in general, but really, who could resist any plant with the name ‘Milk Chocolate’? And what an intriguing color it is: a rusty orange to coppery pink-orange, depending on the light, with a bit of darker maroon and a yellow throat, creating all kinds of exciting possibilities for combinations. I currently have it against ‘Grace’ smokebush (Cotinus), shown above and below.
I think this daylily also looks great against other deep purple leaves, such as those of Diabolo ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Monlo’, below).
Other partners that make excellent color echoes with the July blooms include golden elderberry (Sambucus nigra ‘Aurea’), golden oregano (Origanum vulgare ‘Aureum’), or ‘Aztec Gold’ veronica to pick up the centers and ‘Toffee Twist’ sedge (Carex) or ‘Sweet Caroline Bronze’ sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas) to repeat the pinkish brown tones in the petals.
Culture is as for any daylily: full sun to partial shade and average, well-drained soil. ‘Milk Chocolate’ is currently available from Fairweather Gardens.
The next neat plant is Ammi visnaga. Until today, I didn’t know it even had a common name, but when I Googled it to find a source, I found that according to its USDA PLANTS Profile, it’s known as toothpick weed. I then tried to find out why, with no luck, but I did learn that it has many other common names, including picktooth, khella, and false Queen Anne’s lace. Some references call it bishop’s weed, which is horrible; their flowers do look similar, but this annual is nothing like the perennial menace Aegopodium podagraria.
You can easily understand the name “false Queen Anne’s lace,” though I think the plants of Ammi visnaga are much prettier, because they are much leafier and a very rich, bright green.
I’ve also grown Ammi majus, which is pretty and airy and brighter white, but much wispier. Above is Ammi visnaga, at about 3 feet tall; below is Ammi majus, at about 4 feet tall. Both usually bloom for me from mid- or late July into mid- to late August.
Both were very easy to start from seed sprinkled directly in the garden in mid-spring (I think it was early April the first year). I sowed them only once and have had a few of the Ammi visnaga every summer since. (I suspect I weeded out the Ammi majus seedlings because they look so much like Queen Anne’s lace; those of A. visnaga have threadlike instead of carrotlike foliage.) Both grow fine in full sun to light shade and average, well-drained soil.
In the garden, they add a nice meadowy look mingling with grasses; they’re supposed to make great cut flowers too (though I usually can’t bear to cut them). You can get seed of A. visnaga from Thompson & Morgan and A. majus from Fedco Seeds. Both are available from Swallowtail Garden Seeds.
And finally, a eastern U.S. native: Carex plantaginea. It often goes by the boring common name of plantain-leaved sedge, but I rather like the more descriptive moniker “seersucker sedge,” which more accurately reflects the puckering of the leaf tissue.
These two shots are from March 8:
The next two shots are from later the same day, after I cut back the clumps.
Seersucker sedge stays green through the winter but tends to get a little tattered. I’ve tried just leaving it alone, but the brownish bits detract from the fresh foliage, so now I always cut back the clumps hard in early to mid-March.
The flowers themselves aren’t very eye-catching, but the spiky effect of the overall plant in bloom is interesting. And during this period, the bright green new leaves emerge, at first adding to the spikiness but then gradually arching outward.
Seersucker sedge is super as a low-maintenance groundcover under shrubs or in mixed borders.
Honestly, this perennial will never win any plant-of-the-year awards, because it’s not especially dramatic or colorful. I love it, though, because it’s so dependable and adaptable. It’s easy to get established at just about any size, and it can take either moist or dry soil, though it seems to prefer average to moist conditions. I’ve had it everywhere from heavy shade all the way to full sun with just some mid-day shade, and it always looks great.
During the summer, it’s a fresh-looking green, and the green fall and winter appearance is welcome too, even if it does get a little tattered. And, deer don’t seem to like it much, which is a big plus. The hardiness range seems to be Zone 4 to 8.
If you want to expand a planting, it’s easy to divide the clumps with a knife every 3 years or so. Or, you can just leave them alone and they’ll be fine. I occasionally find seedlings, too, but not as often as I’d like; I still have lots of places I’d like to put them.
Seersucker sedge looks good as a specimen plant or in small groups and even better in large masses. Individual clumps are generally 6 to 12 inches tall and 12 to 16 inches across. You can acquire seersucker sedge through Sunlight Gardens and Prairie Nursery.