Three Neat Plants

Hemerocallis 'Milk Chocolate' at Hayefield

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.

Hemerocallis 'Milk Chocolate' at Hayefield

I think this daylily also looks great against other deep purple leaves, such as those of Diabolo ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Monlo’, below).

Hemerocallis 'Milk Chocolate' at Hayefield

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.

Hemerocallis 'Milk Chocolate' at Hayefield

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.

Ammi visnaga at Hayefield

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.

Ammi visnaga with Panicum virgatum 'Rotstrahlbusch' at Hayefield

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.

Ammi majus with Digitalis ferruginea at Hayefield

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.

Ammi majus with Digitalis ferruginea at Hayefield

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:

Carex plantaginea at Hayefield

Carex plantaginea at Hayefield

The next two shots are from later the same day, after I cut back the clumps.

Carex plantaginea at Hayefield

Carex plantaginea at Hayefield

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.

Carex plantaginea flowers at Hayefield

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.

Carex plantaginea at Hayefield

Seersucker sedge is super as a low-maintenance groundcover under shrubs or in mixed borders.

Carex plantaginea under Hydrangea arborescens at Hayefield

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.

Carex plantaginea under Acer palmatum at Hayefield

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.

Carex plantaginea with Epimedium at Hayefield

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.

Carex plantaginea with Paeonia mollis at Hayefield

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.

17 responses to this post.

  1. I could be a fan of any plant that stays green through the winter! The chocolate and brown colors always look so beautiful here on your blog!

    Thanks, Robin. I didn’t realize how good that daylily would look with the background color of the site until the post went live. Now, if I could find a companion plant that exact color…
    -Nan

  2. Oh, how I love those lace. Beautiful whites. And you are right. Who could resist ‘Milk Chocolate’? Their color is remarkably beautiful.

    Great to meet you, Blossom. I’m glad you too enjoyed the blooms.
    -Nan

  3. Neat plants indeed, Nan. I’m a big daylily fan, and that milk chocolate is a beauty. Nice to have suggestions of what looks good with it too.
    I wanted to let you know I got an honorable mention for Jasmine’s photo in the Fine Gardening photo contest, which I’m really chuffed about :) Thanks for letting me know about it.
    I hope your weather was as nice as ours was today!

    How exciting about your honorable mention, Kerri! It was a great photo. I’m glad you had a beautiful day to enjoy being outdoors. It’s been drizzly and rainy here, but they say we needed the rain. I could do without the mud, though. I think I now have some ‘Milk Chocolate’ hellebores too.
    -Nan

  4. Hi Nancy~~ I enjoyed your post. Your writing skills suggest you’re a professional.

    I found a pink blooming Ammi in a seed catalog… Unfortunately, I can’t remember which one. It was a few months ago and with the requisite stack vying for my heart and wallet my memory didn’t stand a chance.

    I’ll be back for another visit. :) Grace

    Hello there, Grace. A pink Ammi sounds lovely. If you really need something like that for your garden, maybe you could substitute Pimpinella major ‘Rosea’? I sometimes find pink Queen Anne’s lace in my meadow. I’ve been meaning to write about it over at Gardening Gone Wild.
    -Nan
    P.S. Thanks for faving me at Blotanical!

  5. More delightful plants, Nan. You never disappoint.

    Thanks, Layanee!
    -Nan

  6. Posted by Lisa at Greenbow on March 28, 2009 at 8:09 am

    I would go to that conference if I could. It sounds wonderful. I just read the book _Bringing Nature Home_ by Douglas W. Tallamy. I am trying to incorporate more and more natives into my garden.

    That carex looks wonderful. I don’t have good luck with Carex. What I mean by that is that every varigated variety that I have bought always goes back to its green parent plant. Isn’t that just like kids? They go off and look and act one way and come home years later their parents all over. Mirror mirror…

    Heh. The obvious solution would be to start with the solid green ones in the first place. Or, have you ever tried Carex muskingumensis ‘Oehme’? The variegation isn’t all that showy, but I’ve never had it revert in over 10 years, even with dividing and moving it often.
    -Nan

  7. I kind of like the daylilies. I don’t want them to dominate the landscape but some here and there are good. ‘Milk Chocolate’ looks good! I definitely can see why that Ammi is mistaken for Queen Anne’s Lace! We have Queen Anne all over our field. I’m sure if I planted Ammi people would wonder “why is he planting Queen Anne’s Lace when it’s everywhere.”

    Oh, Dave, who knows what people think? I do leave some QAL in my outside-the-fence borders, where I think it looks very pretty. But then I too wonder if people think I’m simply too lazy to dig out.
    -Nan

  8. Posted by ourfriendben on March 28, 2009 at 9:37 am

    Tearing out Queen Anne’s lace?! Gasp! But both Ammis are beautiful, though the flower form of A. majus is more eyecatching to me. And ‘Milk Chocolate’ is a keeper! Drool. (Loved your comment about the milk chocolate hellebores.) Thanks for the Millersville preview; it’s certainly tempting…

    You want QAL? You know where I live! I still have my old ‘Weeds for Sale – Pick Your Own” sign out but haven’t gotten any other takers.
    -Nan

  9. I like that Ammi visnaga a lot. Too bad the poor plant has to be known as “False Queen Anne’s Lace,” that sounds so derogatory.

    Right – who decides which is “true” and who is “false”? But then, it’s still better than possibly being confused with bishop’s weed.
    -Nan

  10. Always such interesting plants, Nan. I love daylilies and have ‘Milk Chocolate’ in my chocolate and wine garden, along with Wineberry Candy, Mateus and assorted other chocolate or wine themed perennials. Amni is something I had once and not again, but I love it AND Queen Anne’s Lace. The sedge is new to me, but I always welcome new plants and you’ve made an excellent case for this plant.

    How about adding some ‘Merlot’ lettuce to the chocolate-and-wine garden, Jodi? It’s a beauty. Do give the seersucker sedge a try, if you can. I have seen a few references that give its hardiness all the way to Zone 3. Wouldn’t surprise me, especially with good snow cover.
    -Nan

  11. Hi Nan, If I weren’t already attending Spring Fling I would love to attend the Native Plants in Landscape Conference. Even though, I am not a landscaper…This is the kind of conference were one can learn even more about our favorite plants. The newest cultivars and planting and designing with natives would be a treat…but who could pass on Angie Treadwell-Palmer’s presentation on “From Concrete Scraps to Gnomes – Fun, Sustainable Finishing Touches for Your Native Plant Garden” . Now that’s the workshop I want to attend, too!

    I love seersucker sedge and have it in my garden It’s a good looking and hard working plant. It ought to be used instead of liriope! Thanks for the reminder to give it a spring haircut…it is looking rough!

    Gail

    You can be sure I’ll report back on the conference, Gail. And I’m not surprised that you too appreciate seersucker sedge, as you do so many other natives. Great idea using it as a substitute for liriope! Next year, I’m going to try cutting it back with my battery lawn mower at the highest blade setting. It wouldn’t catch the lowest bits, but the new foliage would cover it up in a few weeks anyway.
    -Nan

  12. A reliable grass for shade conditions and dry soil? I’m there. More valuable than any daylily for me.

    It looks to me like it’s native to your area, so I’d definitely suggest giving it a try. It’ll probably appreciate watering for the first year or two during dry spells, but after that, it should be fine.
    -Nan

  13. Posted by Nancy on March 30, 2009 at 10:58 am

    The more I read your blog, the more convinced I am that we have similar plant tastes. Like you, I am tepid on daylilies (perhaps due to the depredations of my deer population, perhaps because the flower forms have become so overwrought — rather like oversized dahlias and many hybrid roses. . .). However, I hunted up H. “Milk Chocolate” about six years ago, after seeing it in a book (I think the Pamela Harper one on colour echos), and since I love brown tones anyway thought I would give it a try. I planted it in combination with carex buchanii, and some other brownish and purplish toned plants (I have forgotten what) and waited with great anticipation for the blooms. In my soil, it flowered somewhat less than chocolate-y (which may be due to mislabeling at the local grower or the composition of my soil), so I rooted it out. After seeing your photos, I may give it another try. I’ve had Ammi majus a couple of times in the beds, depending on how meadow-y a mood I am in when planning plantings in a given year. I came across the carex about four years ago in my wanderings through one of my favourite nurseries, I can attest to the hardiness (I garden in Z5/6) and the usefulness of the Carex. I love the look –it’s a great (native) plant for adding texture and foliar contrast to any bed.

    It certainly does sound like we enjoy the same kinds of plants. It’s a little daunting, because I do try to include some really weird stuff, and yet I can’t often show you anything new. I’ll have to try harder next time!
    -Nan

  14. Hi Nan, you are my go to for new and interesting plants, and you never let us down. The daylily will be a big hit with a name that includes chocolate. I got the Digitalis parviflora ‘Milk Chocolate’ for the same reason. Ammi looks good, I like the difference in the flower head from the A. majus too. The carex is a hard worker, loved the winter shot. A good selling point for leaving everything standing for winter interest and wildlife habitat. Thanks for them all.
    Frances

    Glad you enjoyed the selection, Frances! Hey, don’t forget ‘Chocolate Ball’ sedum for your chocolate garden. I have some news about it to share in an upcoming post.
    -Nan

  15. I’m trying to grow out of my habit of planting wherever I have room. I like the idea of planting that daylily in front of a smokebush. Food for thought. Thank you.

    Um, Pat…you mean there’s *another* way to plant? Like planning ahead, you mean? I don’t know that the “wherever it fits” approach is so bad. I end up with some great combinations that way!
    -Nan

  16. Nan, Layanee told me about your “brown” daylily and it sounded like just the kind of daylily even I could love (not being a huge fan either). Gorgeous. And we love Ammi visnaga here too and find that it lasts longer than A. majus in the heat – plus I love that the flowers are more greenish than whitish. I think we’ll be busting it out of the cutting bed this year…

    Thanks for visiting, Kris. Yep. I know you and I have similar tastes in plants too!
    -Nan

  17. I’m collecting brown flowers (in a mild way), so thanks for the suggestions in post and comments. I also appreciate having Ammi majus and Ammi visnaga side-by-side in a photo, I wasn’t clear on the difference, and I like the seersucker sedge, too. The plant conference sounds great, I look forward to hearing about it.

    Thanks for stopping by, Pomona. I’m glad the pics were helpful!
    -Nan

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