Design

Cheer Up a Shade Garden With This Well-Behaved Perennial

Fine Gardening - Issue 197
Photo: Mark Turner/gapphotos.com

So often when you plant a Lysimachia in the garden it is fun for a while, but then you realize you have unleashed the plant version of the Borg from Star Trek. You watch in dismay as your garden is taken over, and resistance is futile. Fortunately, not all members of this genus are soulless land-grabbers, and of those that are well behaved, narrow-leaved Chinese loosestrife is one of the best.

This evergreen species comes in two versions, with the variety paridiformis having fewer and wider leaves in whorls, and the showier variety stenophylla, also in whorls, having more and narrower leaves. The Latin name stenophylla means “having narrow leaves,” which is a handy mnemonic and can be used in conversation to further cement your status as a Serious Gardener.

These leaves create a dramatic, complex star shape at the ends of 18-inch-long stems and have as many as 40 yellow flowers crowded together right in the center of that leafy star, gleaming like a faceted, small sun. Expect the blooms in midsummer. All the elements of this plant are extremely well-considered, thanks to the evolutionary design team embracing art and engineering over countless millennia. As a result, this plant lends itself perfectly to exotic gardens of palms and bigleaf rhododendrons such as Rhododendron rex subsp. fictolacteum (Zones 7b–10), but it is equally adept at insinuating itself effortlessly into the natural mix of any shade garden.

Narrow-leaved Chinese loosestrife is easy to please in partial to moderate shade with a rich, moisture-retentive soil. Our soil is a bit on the sandy side, but a good compost mulch compensates. For maximum tidiness, prune back the old leaves in early spring. An established plant with its multiple stems will fill a space up to 30 inches wide, and because it doesn’t have underground runners, it is easy to keep in bounds. A good clump of this will bring you joy year after year, and we all can use some of that.

Narrow-leaved Chinese loosestrife
llustrations: Elara Tanguy

Narrow-leaved Chinese loosestrife

Name: Lysimachia paridiformis var. stenophylla

Zones: 6–9

Conditions: Partial shade; moist, well-drained soil

Native range: China


Kelly Dodson and Sue Milliken grow some of the coolest plants in the galaxy at Far Reaches Farm in Port Townsend, Washington.

Sources

• Far Reaches Farm, Port Townsend, WA; 360-385-5114; farreachesfarm.com

• Nurseries Caroliniana, North Augusta, SC; 803-279-2707; nurcar.com

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