Garden Photo of the Day

I’ve taken a trip in a time machine…

Click to enlarge.
Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais

…back to the days of the dinosaurs. That’s what it feels like when I see the stand of monster petasites leaves along the pond at Stonecrop Gardens in Cold Spring, New York! These things are humongous. This particular variety is the biggest of the big (Petasites japonicus var. giganteus, USDA Hardiness Zones 5-9), growing up to 4 feet tall with leaves up to 3 feet in diameter. Petasites, also known as fuki or butterbur, loves deep, rich, permanently moist soil in partial to full shade, making it perfect for swampy areas. But look out – this plant can get a little overzealous and start running around rampantly! The species isn’t listed as invasive in our usual references, but I’ll bet some of you have experience with it. Do you love it or curse it?


Welcome to the Fine Gardening GARDEN PHOTO OF THE DAY blog! Every weekday we post a new photo of a great garden, a spectacular plant, a stunning plant combination, or any number of other subjects. Think of it as your morning jolt of green.

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  1. rosebud2 07/05/2011

    I grow Petasites at the edge of a water Garden after having seen it massed in the gardens of Francis Cabot, Les Quatre Vents in La Malbaie, Quebec. He is the author of " The greater Perfection" available at Amazon and a marvellous read for any gardener.
    Petasites grow rapidly and are always an attention getter. An agressive plant it can easily be kept under control by pulling up errant leaves.

  2. mariettabrown 07/05/2011

    We have this in Zone 10. We call it elephant ears. I love it.

  3. Deanneart 07/05/2011

    Wonderful! Love this display at Stonecrop. We were there a couple years ago and it's a marvelous place. Thanks for sharing

  4. ridgetop01 07/05/2011

    I love it, my husband hates it! It sits along the top edge of a heavily shaded ravine, on the side of the yard, and it constantly tries to spread into the yard, but mowing keeps it down there - a good thing, as it is very invasive here in zone 5 central NY state. It is wonderful planted with tall grasses for contrast, and the flowers are incredible - strange, bulbous organs rising from the ground in early spring, topped with what look like sucker feet (the flowers) which later turn into dandelion fluffs.

  5. sweetrebecca 07/05/2011

    Thanks for telling me (yet again) the name of this plant. One of the coolest plants I've seen in a long, long time!

  6. DebSilber 07/05/2011

    We planted petasites a few years ago and are still loving it for the tropical (Jurassic) feel it gives our Connecticut backyard and because its lush growth hides all manner of eyesores. That said, "overzealous" is a good descriptor: once established, it dominates the garden like a T Rex. We've started dividing ours and using the offspring to soften areas of the yard that needed a little lushness. I'm thinking it would make a great backbone plant in a perennial pot...

  7. MiMi_ 07/05/2011

    More and more public gardens are adding this plant as it draws so much attention. In England, I saw it at Cholmondeley Gardens and Tatton Hall.

  8. sheilaschultz 07/05/2011

    I've never seen these before... WOW! Thanks for the introduction.

  9. arboretum 07/05/2011

    michelle, another tremendously composed shot!(It would be fun , for showing the scale, to have the little bit of someone's head peaking up from behind!) My first major petasites impression was at Blithewold in R.I., where they carpet a large woodland area. so cool! I have also seen an impressive planting of them adjacent to a huge magnificent sweep of primula in the bog garden area of Lois Hartley's beautiful garden in Scituate R.I.

  10. soilgoil 07/05/2011

    I have a "dinosaur bed" in a shady area of the garden. It's dominated by a regal Gunnera, which dwarfs the Petasites...the petasites are rather like handmaidens to the queen. Frilly Lady's Mantle hide the Petasites' stems. I do have to keep the Petasites under control, as they can be aggressive in the Pacific Northwest climate. They also attract slugs and snails, and despite use of "safe" bait, the big, round leaves are usually peppered with holes.

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