August 5, 2009

Gardening on the Edge with Perennial Heliotrope

Hot sun, drought conditions, deer, rabbits - bring on the harsh conditions and this perennial heliotrope will stand up to all of them. In fact, it will bloom non-stop from early summer until a few frosts take it down in late fall.

I discovered this plant three years ago when visiting a local nursery in Chapel Hill. I had never heard of perennial heliotrope until that time. It is nothing like the sweetly fragrant, annual heliotrope. You may not want to stick your nose into these blooms because they will be covered with honeybees and butterflies. You won't like the fragrance anyway, so don't bother to put your face to the ground to try to smell this heliotrope!

Heliotropium amplexicaule 'Azure Skies' is the official name of this perennial. I have written about it so often that my regular readers are probably thinking "oh, not THAT plant again." Of course, when you're on to a good thing, it is difficult to stop talking about it.

This perennial heliotrope is a fantastic ground cover. The foliage and bloom shape is similar to verbena 'Homestead Purple' though the blooms never stop and it is very hardy.

This plant is now part of the Southern Living™ Plant Collection. When Southern Living's Grumpy Gardener, Steve Bender, and photographer, Ralph Anderson, were here in July, they got to see my overuse of this perennial!

The heliotrope edges one bank of the stream in the cottage garden. It is now started, and should completely edge the hellacious guest parking bed next summer. It is also here-and-there in spot plantings around the garden. Why not? It is just so reliable for me.

There's only one little downside to this plant. The taproot grows really, really, really long! If you decide to move it later, you may still grow little kids back at the location of the original mommy plant. I've not found that to be much of a problem, though I don't recommend planting it near roses like I did the first time. It may crowd the roots a bit.

If you live in zones 7-11, find it. It is now carried at Lowe's® Home Improvement garden centers and perhaps other retailers in your area, too. Give it a try for your hottest and sunniest locations. You don't have to prune back the blooms at all. I give the edges a trim (when I can get the bees off of it) only to keep it from taking over the bridge!

Let me make this perfectly clear - Heliotropium amplexicaule is totally deer and rabbit resistant!

Photos and words by Freda Cameron; Location: home garden; July 2009; This is NOT a paid advertisement and no products or discounts were received for recommending this plant or sources.
Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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