Bettman has been an interesting place to garden these past three years. I head to the garden as often as I can, admittedly far more often at the first signs of spring and less often as autumn settles in. I have to hand water, which is less than ideal. Since it’s located in a nature preserve I have my fair share of deer to deter. I inherited some plants, brought in some from my gardens at Ault Park and of course, spent all my lunch money on new plants. Where I could, I’ve amended the soil with ample helpings of pinefines.

Here are the 5 plants that have caught my attention not only because they are fabulous to look at, but have thrived under less than ideal circumstances.

Ligularias As a co-worker pointed out this morning, I have a thing for this plant. True. The garden had a stand growing in clay, in a rather sunny area of the garden. Yet they carried on, without a lot of attention for many years. Over the past three years I have relocated many, first amending the soil to loosen the mucky, stinky, sopping soil (did I mention the garden was a bit wet?) and spot-watered whenever I came to visit or work. The Ligularias look fabulous, have gorgeous leaves and interesting flowers and seed-heads.

Pulmonarias The courtyard garden had an abundance of pulmonarias when I adopted it three years ago. Over the years I have transplanted a few, dispersing them throughout the garden without fail. They settle into their new spot in the courtyard and carry on as if nothing has happened. Their purple and pink blooms in early spring are a very welcome sight after our gray winters and their variegated leaves do a remarkable job of brightening shady spots in the garden. And, they are deer resistant.

Aralia Sun King I plan to add more, many more. I don’t see this plant in many gardens, which I like. It starts a golden color that pops against the expected green hues of a shade garden. As autumn approached, the leaves turned a deeper green. In late summer tiny white flowers bloom and give way to clusters of berries for the birds’ enjoyment. It’s deer resistant, never looks stressed, raggedy or wilted and has a substantial enough form to add much needed visual weight to the garden.

Oakleaf Hydrangea How do you get visitors to look way to the back corner of the garden? You plant an Oakleaf. It has been nibbled a few times by the deer- they seem to relish the younger shoots. But the plant has withstood the grazing and is turning into a lovely specimen. It looks fine against the brick wall and anchors the back area of the courtyard nicely. As it matures, its leaves will increase in size and add a splash of copper, rust and red to the autumn garden.

Japanese Beech Fern I planted one three years ago and it was beyond stellar. It is thick, lush, upright, clean, never looks burned or stressed in the summer and came back in full force the third year. So, this year I added six more!

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