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Zoneworthy (5)


There are several nice forms and selections of this showy Great Plains native available with names like ‘Shimmer’, ‘Silver Wings’, and ‘Comanche Campfire’.


Chrysanthemums are, in my opinion, one of the least zoneworthy groups of plants commonly sold at our garden centers.Yes, I’m one of those categorical mum haters. There, I said it. I know, you probably buy two or 20 every year at the grocery store, bed them out with your scarecrows, and crow about them with pride at neighborhood fall socials. Bah.

I want a mum that’s everything but mum. I want a hardy, hot garden heavyweight that earns its keep season after season like Chrysanthemum x rubellum ‘Will’s Wonderful’ (above). An heirloom variety of murky origins, it’s a surefire winner for those long depressed by the bushy, boxy things in plastic pots masquerading as mums.

Culturally, it’s a little different animal than most mums — you don’t have to pinch it (if you do, you may never see it bloom), and it deserves a home somewhere in the middle of the border.

The leaves have an excellent pewter cast to them, and it’s absolutely the last plant in my garden to bloom, not including aberrant reblooming irises.

If the woodland ephemerals are New Year’s Day brunch, ‘Will’s Wonderful’ is the party on New Year’s Eve.

I would be remiss if I didn’t include some proper succulents in this zoneworthy parade, though it may seem odd to include one in autumn.

Succulents are all the rage these days. They’re hip, retro throwbacks to the houseplant craze, embraced outdoors for their striking textures and rugged dependability.

One that I happily embrace is dunce’s cap (Orostachys boehmeri). Though it’s hardly native, dunce’s cap (photo, page 1) thrives in my Iowa garden with an air of effortlessness.

A monocarp (meaning it lives long enough to flower, set seed, and pass on), it gladly reseeds to ensure that a stable colony graces the garden scene on an annual basis with its Seussical flowers, seafaring foliage, and radially symmetrical rosettes.

I don’t think I would garden without it now. At home in a trough or any location with ample drainage, a sunny exposure, and adoring fans, this petite chap, though doomed to wear his dunce hat, takes the cake for botanical entertainment. I recommend planting it abundantly.

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