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The Best Plants For Beginning Gardeners Cont.

Lenten Rose (Hellebore)
The Lenten Rose is not really a rose at all, but a wonderful plant that will bring early spring color to your shady garden annually. Lenten Roses have an interesting growing habit. They begin to put on new growth in early autumn and can begin flowering as early as February and may still be in bloom in June. Once thought to be hard to grow, the secret that they are really very easy to grow is getting out. They will grow in most any soil, but prefer moist, well drained soil. They prefer partial shade and will not grow in full sun. The plants grow to a size of 1.5 feet by 2 feet and are wonderfully prolific. They are evergreen and add interest in a shady area during winter months when the ferns and hosta have died back. They will take several years to establish themselves prior to blooming. Once they mature, you will then see, all around the base of the plant, small plants that will begin to grow from seed. Be careful not to mistake these young plants for weeds. Within several years one plant can generate a hundred plants and you will be sharing them with friends and family. They come in many different colors and the new plants growing from an established plant may be a different color altogether.

Cast Iron (Aspidistra elatior)
Aptly named 'Cast Iron Plant' for its seeming ability to last forever in the most adverse growing conditions, the humble Cast Iron Plant with its evergreen leaves is a staple of the shade garden. Although it's long been a staple of Southern gardens for many years, it seems in recent years to gone out of style and is just beginning to be rediscovered by younger gardeners. There cannot be an easier plant to grow and divide than the cast iron and it will grow in any soil and almost total shade. The Cast Iron seems to thrive on neglect and will grow happily underneath large oak trees that deplete the soil of moisture. The lance shaped leathery evergreen leaves of 12 to 20 inches in length add great structure to areas where little else will grow. They do not tolerate extended periods of cold so a sheltered area or using them as a foundation planting is optimum for a long lasting show. These are easily divided after just a couple of years and can easily become a spectacular stand, especially when cut partially back in the spring to encourage new leaves.

A lovely wildflower for sunny areas, this plant has an easy-going grace that has captured the attention of plant breeders in recent years. The arching wands of sweet little flowers weave naturally into any sunny perennial garden. many new varieties are now available, but all maintain the wonderful durability of these plants. These plants are quite drought tolerate although well drained soil is still important, but because it thrives in the scorching heat and humidity of the south it should be a staple in any southern garden. Its size can be quite large, 2 to 3 feet high and 1to 3 feet wide so be sure to check your variety and allow ample room for growth in order to be able to enjoy its delicate flowers extended on willowy stems.

Scabiosa (Pin Cushion Flower "Butterfly Blue")
Scabiosa is a compact, clump-forming perennial which typically grows only 12-15 inches tall. This is a wonderful front border plant that is easy to grow. It blooms almost all year in mild winter climates and from April to frost in colder areas. Flowers (maximum 2" diameter) feature an outer ring of frilly, flat, lavender-blue petals and a paler domed center cushion with protruding stamens (resembling pins in a pincushion). Flowers bloom singly on stiff stems above finely cut, grayish-green basal leaves. It will grow in normal well-drained soil in full sun in most areas. In the deep south, as with most plants, it likes some afternoon shade and may decrease its bloom display during the hottest part of the summer. It does not like getting its feet wet in damp soil. This plant has no serious insect or disease problems and only requires deadheading to continue blooming. Although there are several other cultivars, the 'Butterfly Blue" is probably the easiest to grow and is best suited to the south.

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