The fragrant abelia (Abelia mosanensis) is a small-stature shrub, up to six feet tall and nearly as wide, offering multiple seasons of interest. As spring approaches, fragrant abelia reveals glossy-green, small leaves, followed soon after by reddish-pink clusters of flower buds. Upon opening, the flowers are a pure white and powerfully fragrant. The sweet, floral scent can easily fill a small garden from just one plant and the numerous clusters of blossoms put on a show of their own. After blooming, Abelia mosanensis proves to be a handsome shrub, densely branched and somewhat uniform, with the occasional shoot in need of wrangling. Fall reveals a second show, with the foliage morphing to an incredible orange-red, often with a purplish hue. The fragrant abelia is easily grown in the St. Louis area, being the most cold hardy of the garden abelias. In addition, Abelia mosanensis is somewhat drought tolerant upon establishment, and can be grown in full sun or part shade. Blooming occurs on wood from the previous season’s growth, so be sure to prune immediately after flowering. Being native to Korea, this shrub does not provide foliar forage for insects, though the flowers are attractive to butterflies for the nectar.
In Bellefontaine Cemetery’s Garden of Angels is a dainty, unsuspecting perennial putting on a stunning display: the bleeding heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis, formerly Dicentra spectabilis). The bleeding heart is a perennial of a slightly ephemeral nature, often going dormant in mid-to-late summer, unless adequate and consistent moisture is provided. By early spring, the foliage begins to emerge with a pink and green coloring, forming numerous branches of lobed, blue-green foliage, with sharp tips and a consistent pink-red hue to each stem. The flowers are formed in mid-spring on long, horizontal stems, with up to ten flowers per stem. Each blossom hangs downwards and resembles a near perfect heart shape, with white inner petals hanging from the bottom (hence the common name, bleeding heart). Given shade to part shade and moist, well-drained, organically-rich soils, Lamprocapnos spectabilis will prove a long-lasting perennial, albeit one that will disappear from the garden in summer heat. Bleeding heart is best planted with companion plants that will stretch through the entire season, such as ferns, sedges, golden groundsel, or anemone. This old-fashioned garden delight was once referred to as ‘lady-in-a-bath’; when inverted, the flowers resemble a Victorian roll-top bath, with a petite figure appearing to sit up in the bath.
In Wildwood Valley, rose verbena (Glandularia canadensis) has revealed countless clusters of rose-pink blooms, a show that will last on-and-off into winter! Rose verbena is a low-growing groundcover native to Missouri, never reaching a height of more than ten inches when in bloom. The stems will spread in desirable conditions, rooting as they touch the ground to create dense mats of foliage and flowers. The rounded clusters of five-petaled flowers are wonderfully fragrant, easily noticed when walking by. Glandularia canadensis is best grown in dry to medium moisture conditions, and will not tolerate consistent moisture. Found most often in rocky glades and dry prairies, full sun will provide the most reliable bloom display. As the heat and drought of a Missouri summer set in, blooming will be infrequent, but as these temperatures subside, the spectacle returns and persists through fall. Rose verbena provides a nectar buffet for insects with long, tubular feeding devices, such as long-tongued bees and butterflies.
Don’t miss out on the Judith Waters Memorial Iris Collection as it begins to bloom. The established plantings around Hawthorn Gatehouse and near the Garden of Angels will be a sight to see in the coming weeks!
compiled by Cara L. Crocker