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Regional Picks: Plant This, Not That – Northeast

Fine Gardening - Issue 138

1. Overused: Salvia

2. Alternative: ‘Eveline’ long-leaf speedwell

Name: Salvia nemorosa and cvs.

 Name: Veronica longifolia ‘Eveline’

‘Eveline’ long-leaf speedwell

Name: Veronica longifolia ‘Eveline’

Zones: 4 to 8

Size: Up to 20 inches tall and 18 inches wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; rich, moist, well-drained soil

We’ve all done it: We’ve tried to grow salvias in spots without enough sunlight or too much moisture, and all we’re left with are leggy plants that flop over as the summer rolls on. Not so with ‘Eveline’ long-leaf speedwell. Deep violet flowers, which attract many pollinators, continue blooming all summer long atop sturdy plants that will take a bit of shade and moisture. It is easy to grow, is reliable, and has tall blossoms that are wonderful in cut-flower arrangements. As an added bonus, its foliage turns reddish purple as cool weather sets in.


2. Overused: Black-eyed Susan

Alternative: ‘Mardi Gras’ sneezeweed 

Name: Rudbeckia spp. and cvs. 

Name: Helenium Mardi Gras

‘Mardi Gras’ sneezeweed 

Name: Helenium Mardi Gras

USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 8

Size: 3 to 4 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun; rich, moist, well-drained soil

The bright and cheery faces of black-eyed Susans are a welcome sign of summer—until you begin seeing them everywhere you look. ‘Mardi Gras’ sneezeweed will break up the monotony. From midsummer to early fall, it’s topped with 2-inch-wide blossoms that create a kaleidoscope of color as they unfold. Its long stems also make it a great cut flower. Sneezeweed is deer resistant and adds intrigue to the middle or back of the border.


3. Overused: Pachysandra

Alternative: Foam flower

Name: Pachysandra terminalis*

 Name: Tiarella cordifolia and cvs.

Foam flower

Name: Tiarella cordifolia and cvs.

Zones: 3 to 8

Size: 6 to 12 inches tall and 1 foot wide

Conditions: Partial to full shade; moist, fertile soil

The landscapes of my youth were carpeted with the dark green of pachysandra, a boring, aggressive ground cover with insignificant flowers. It’s time to look in a new direction, and foam flower is the way. Native to the eastern United States, foam flower is semi­evergreen and spreads by stolons. Its flowers bloom in spring with a pinkish tint that fades to white, and they are an early-season source of nectar for pollinators. The maplelike foliage is wonderfully coarse in texture and turns deep burgundy during cold months. This is a low-maintenance plant with multiseasonal interest, and it’s a wonderful choice for the shade garden.


Scott Hokunson owns Blue Heron Landscape Design in Granby, Connecticut.

Photos, except where noted: Michelle Gervais, courtesy of Scott Hokunson, Bill Johnson, Jennifer Benner, Susan A. Roth

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