July 8, 2011

Oudolf's Stellar Perennials (The Battery Gardens-Part 3)

In a garden packed with perennials selected by Dutch designer Piet Oudolf, it isn't easy to narrow down my photos to a few to share with you. If you're catching up on this series about The Battery Gardens in New York City, please read parts 1 and 2 to understand the context around the perennials in this photo-heavy story.

Oudolf's Stachys Spires (The Battery Gardens-Part 2)

I immediately recognized the yarrow, Achillea millifollium 'Terra Cotta' as the same stellar performer growing in my southern garden. This yarrow has proven to stand up to humidity better than any other yarrow that I've tried. The foliage is soft and fern-like that practically sways in the breeze. The bloom color ranges from peach, rust and pale yellow. This is a deer and rabbit resistant perennial to grow in areas of drought, too. Suitable for zones 3-9, the blooms last for about four weeks.

Achillea millefolium 'Terra Cotta' in front of monarda
at The Battery Gardens in New York City.
I love the yarrow with Russian Sage! I'll have to
move the yarrow in my garden to recreate this perfect pairing.
A mass planting of Astilbe (with Acanthus on the left).
Astilbe paired with Heuchera 'Frosted Violet'.
There are three varieties of Astilbe—'Visions in Pink', 'Visions in Red' and 'Purpurlanze'—listed in The Battery Plant Database. All three may be grown in rich, moist soil in zones 4-8, and part-shade to shade is best. Companions in the gardens include Acanthus, Hosta and Heuchera.

My favorite combination was a mass planting of Heuchera 'Frosted Violet' with a mass of the Astilbe. Even without the airy blooms on the Heuchera, the purple leaves are perfect with the pink blooms of Astilbe. Heuchera is also suitable for zones 4-8.

There are a few unique plants that I especially like. I've attempted eryngium (Sea Holly) in my garden, but had humidity problems with it and am now trying eryngium yuccifolium (Rattlesnake Master). Eryngium 'Big Blue' is truly a shining star in The Battery Gardens. This Sea Holly is 30 inches high by 18 inches wide, suitable for zones 5-9, full sun, well-drained soil and low water. The large blooms are so stunning!

Eryngium 'Big Blue' for low moisture areas in the garden.
Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Firetail' with interesting foliage
and long-blooming spikes in The Battery Gardens. 
In 2010, I added Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Firetail' to my garden. This perennial can spread quickly in moist soils, but mine has remained in a nice clump with moderate water. I love this plant, having seen it listed in many of Piet Oudolf's designs. The deer left it alone until late August 2010, a time when, after a long drought with little to eat, they decided to munch a few blooms and leaves. Since this plant is best for zones 4-7, my garden is a bit on the hot side, but I planted it among plants such as amsoniaeupatorium, monarda and asclepias incarnata to keep the roots shaded and moist. If you have the right conditions, give it a try!

Finally, and perhaps the most startling to my design taste—the injection of red-orange Helenium blooms into groupings with pink! While I love the look of the Helenium, I suppose I would grow it with blue, yellow and similar shades of orange to red-orange. Helenium is available in different heights and most varieties may be grown in zones 3-8. While I have no experience with this perennial, I find it quite attractive and would love to find space in my garden.

There is much more to see in The Gardens of Remembrance and The Battery Bosque sections of The Battery Gardens. If you plan a trip, be sure to check out the wealth of information on the website, including an overview of what's blooming in each month of the year.

Red-orange blooms of Helenium are separated
from Achillia 'Terra Cotta' by purple spires of Stachys 'Hummelo'.
Helenium with pink Asclepias incarnata and
white plumes of Persicaria polymorpha.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. Deer and rabbit resistance varies based upon the animal population and availability of food. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks, copyrights, or patents owned by those respective companies or persons.
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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