Ivy Geranium

90626This is one of the more traditional perennials for old fashioned window boxes, not only because it cascades downward to avoid obstructing associated windows, but also because, back before window screens were commonly available, the aromatic foliage was purported to repel mosquitoes. Ivy geranium, Pelargonium peltatum, is splendid for hanging pots and retaining walls as well.

The best bloom is usually later in summer or in early autumn, but sporadic bloom can continue almost throughout the year. The flowers are very similar to those of more common zonal geranium, but perhaps more abundant. The slightly more extensive color range goes beyond hues of white, pink, red and peach, to include rich burgundy, pinkish lavender and candy striped red with white.

The rounded and lobed light green leaves are rather succulent, so are easily damaged. Some cultivars have slight foliar halos (semicircular zones of darker color around the centers of the leaves) almost like those of zonal geraniums, but not quite as prominent. The thin and nearly succulent stems are easy to root as cuttings. Although fragile, they can sprawl or cascade as much as six feet.

‘Silver Falls’ Dichondra

80124No one seems to know what ever happened to old fashioned dichondra lawns. Everyone seemed to like them, especially those of us who dislike turf grasses. Somehow, they became passe and very rare. The formerly common dichondra that such lawns were made of is now merely a resilient weed in turf lawns. But wait! We have not heard the last of this resilient and appealing perennial.

Silver Falls dichondra, Dichondra argentea ‘Silver Falls’, has the same tiny rounded leaves, dense growth and fine texture as old fashioned dichondra lawns, but instead of rich deep green, it is strikingly silvery gray. It does not tolerate traffic well enough to work as lawn, but is a distinctive small scale groundcover, and cascades exquisitely from urns of mixed perennials or hanging pots.

The trailing growth spreads indefinitely over the surface of the soil, but is not very fast about it. As ground cover, individual plants should therefore be planted only two or three feet apart. They get two to four inches deep. Hanging growth (that can not root into the soil) can cascade more than three feet downward. Silver Falls dichondra prefers regular watering and full sun or a bit of shade.

Parrot’s Beak

71213The Latin name is easy to confuse with the sacred flowers of an aquatic perennial from tropical regions of Asia, or a funny looking British sport coupe. Lotus berthelotii is a diminutive terrestrial perennial known as parrot’s beak. It gets only about a foot high, and spreads to only two or three feet wide. It cascades nicely from hanging pots, and is actually rarely planted out in the garden.

The bright reddish orange flowers bloom mostly in the warmth of spring and summer, but can bloom any time they are neither too hot nor too cool. They are about an inch long and ‘pea-shaped’, but they really look like parrot beaks. The finely textured gray foliage is comprised of small compound leaves that are divided into three or five very narrow leaflets that look like hemlock needles.

Parrot’s beak likes full sun and good drainage. It rots easily if soil is always damp. In hanging pots, it is usually sheltered from frost through winter, or can at least be moved to shelter prior to frost. Parrot’s beak can cascade nicely over the rims of urns of mixed perennials or annuals, but dies back through winter where such urns are too exposed. It is often grown as a warm season annual.