Late risers or dead...?

Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

My mom (who lives 10 miles away) has Jacob's ladder that are already a good 18" high. Mine are stumps of dried dead twigs. I know that her yard is sunnier and generally warmer than mine, but...I fear the worst. Anyone else grow polemonium? How's it doing? I have a strong hunch that my male greyhound took out my plants by...peeing them to death. :(

I'm also wondering about Solomon's seal. I planted some last year, and I have no clue what it looks like when it's coming up. I was surprised that I hadn't seen it break ground yet, but today I noticed dark red pips that look similar to hosta pips but seem more spread out. (There are also hostas in the area, but I don't think those pips would look quite like this.) Could these be my Solomon's seal?

Thanks for the help! And feel free to post your "are they dead?' questions in this thread, too. I think it helps to be able to bounce questions off other UMW gardeners when you don't see any signs of your precious perennials just yet. ;)

Peoria, IL(Zone 5a)

I have the Variegated Solomon's Seal, Polygonatum odoratum var. thunbergii 'Variegatum'. It is a slow grower and does have the dark red pips. I have found that the more sun it gets, the more it spreads out. The less sun, the more closely it stays grouped together. The rhizomes like to come up to the surface of the soil as well. The top pic shows it behind my Hosta Sum & Substance where it is getting more sun and the bottom pic shows where it gets shade all of the time plus a few pots of it that I overwintered on the driveway. The ones planted in less sun also gets thicker stems and the leaves get larger. The rhizomes are pretty tough and can actually be left out of the soil for an extended time and still be ok. When I had pulled out a bunch of rhizomes last fall I through them in pots and they looked like they were dead for a long time but they eventually came up.

Thumbnail by franknjim
Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

Thanks, franknjim! I'm going to guess that those red pips are my Solomon's seal...not terrible spread out, but not so close together that I'd be certain it was a hosta. The good news is that it looks like I have more of it this year than I did last year. :)

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

K -- I have one that is getting full, certainly not up 18" [mine in Wisc are not up that high either]
but i have the 'dried stick' too... it does have a little growth, but certainly NOT like last year.

If i remember tomorrow -- i'll snap a photo.

Madison, WI

I have difficulty growing Jacob's ladder. Out of 5 planted 3 years ago one survived.
Whereas one of my neighbours has them seeding freely all over her beds. We both
have them in the shade. The only difference I can see is that mine are on a slope, so
get drier conditions.

Solomon seals are funny when then just come up. They look like arrow heads all tied up.
They are not as sharp as hostas, but do look similar. I have loads of them popping up after I started sowing all the left over seeds in the fall. I much the berries and wash the pulp off, then plant. I have 3 types, native, variegated and miniture. The latter have not showed up yet but the
other two are out and look like sticks for now. If yours is not coming, I can bring some to the RU.

Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

Thanks, Enya! Pretty sure all these pointy reddish pips are the Solomon's seal now. As they get bigger, I can tell they're not hostas. They definitely did multiply, which makes me happy--I wanted more, and I got them. :)

The polemonium, however, looks dead. It grew beautifully at my old house, and it was pretty and robust here last year, too (its first year), but...I'm going to go ahead and guess that it didn't survive the winter. I see NO signs of life at all. So sad, because I love it.

Come to think of it, nothing in this bed I planted fared very well. The original designers of the garden (probably dating back to the late 80s, and all but a few hardy hostas are long gone, but the hardscape remains) were inordinately fond of landscape fabric. I ripped most of it out as I found it, but I wonder if enough of it remains that it's affecting root growth or something. I really have no clue, but I can't figure out why the plants just across the walkway are growing like crazy (no landscape fabric in that bed) and the same plants in this one are either dead or stunted. I should plant some polemonium in my other beds just to reassure myself that I don't have a brown thumb where that plant is concerned. And then I'll have to try to figure out what's wrong with this bed. Perhaps it's time to dig it up and recondition the soil. Or maybe I should get rid of the bed altogether, since my male dog seemed to think that any plant over 2' tall was something to pee on. *sigh*

This message was edited Apr 20, 2010 6:47 PM

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

K -- i went out and took photos i mine.

these two were planted in Spring of 07, this is the first year any have looked "sad".

Thumbnail by tcs1366
Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

Mine look like the bottom picture...except without any green leaves emerging from the brown dead stuff. :(

waukesha, WI(Zone 5a)

Maybe the soil under where the landscape fabric was is very compacted and hasn't had any amendments at all. I don't know how far down you dug when you put in your plants, but you probably need to turn over at least 12" of soil and check the PH level, and add something to loosen it up, peat or mulch or chopped leaves. Just a suggestion, as I haven't put my hands in that particular dirt like you have.

Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

Thanks, meezers. Unfortunately, I'm not going to be able to work that soil up any further than I have--I found drain tiles beneath that bed. I'm thinking of just putting in some shallow-rooted ground cover and perhaps some potted hostas. Maybe a trio of hostas in pots surrounded by some moneywort?

I could raise the bed, but I think it would look awkward in that particular location. Seems to me pots are the way to go. :)

waukesha, WI(Zone 5a)

The drain tile could definitely be a factor in slow or nonexistant growth. Plants need root room.

Des Plaines, IL(Zone 5b)

Update time! So, we are well beyond April and May when we thought some of our plants were dead - or perhaps just late coming to the party!

TCS, did your "dried stick" solomon seals come up?
Enya, did your miniature solomon seals show at all?
Kayly, did the polemonium in the "landscape fabric" bed make it? Did doggy pee-pee everything to death? (Been there, done that - I feel your pain! But those four paws are too precious to be mad at for long!)

End of season reviews always help for next year!!

P.S. I have a clethra alnifolia shrub that I thought for sure was dead. No sign of life 'till around early May! But it leafed out prettily! Didn't produce many flowers, though. It's young, so maybe next year. . .

Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

Ah, thanks for asking, Sherri.

Alas, the big doggy (my male greyhound) took out the polemonium. And the little guy (a shiba inu) ate my pieris japonica (which would have been so pretty this spring). Neither made any showing whatsoever...they're goners. I won't plant anything more in that bed, although a little hosta seedling popped up their all on its own out of nowhere.

I'm going to maybe put some landscape rocks over the bed with the drain tiles and then put some container plants there. I bet a few hostas in containers could live there quite happily. That's a project for next year. :)

Des Plaines, IL(Zone 5b)

Great idea - and, hooray for the little pop up hosta seedling!

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

all of my Jacob's Ladder did great. the ones at home bloomed, but the two new ones i bought for Wisc did not bloom... maybe next year. I just love the foliage, and the flowers are so cute.

I do not think i "lost" anything, but i have one hosta... Sultana, which came up about the size of a dime... and i dont mean the leaves, i mean the whole plant... total disappointment, especially for what i paid for it. most all the other plants i got from Hostas Direct did pretty good... some really multiplied from last years dismal display -- with the exception of this one. I gave one to a friend, i should see how his is doing... but his beds are a mess due to losing his wife 2 months ago. ** sniff sniff **

Hope everyone is surviving this ghastly heat.... i think today will be the roughest day... with heat index about 100!! uggg, and we have pot luck tonight - which is outside. Hope some of the old folks dont get sick/faint....

gotta run... busy day.

Terese

Des Plaines, IL(Zone 5b)

Oh, gosh, so sorry for your friend . . . : (

I love Jacobs Ladders but planted one once and it slowly died. Maybe I'll try again since you've had good luck.

Yes, careful with the heat. I organized a community garage sale for my church last month (community is invited to sell in spaces we provide at no charge. Incredible how many loved the idea and wondered why we did it for free!) Anyway, we had a couple of elderly vendors that I worried about all day. It was in the 90s, high humidity. One decided not to do it, thank goodness. The other, in her 70s did, but we kept making her go inside to cool off while we watched her table!

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

My polemonium caeruleum, and the alba variety, all rock out, but it's all grown from seed, which I think makes a difference. I have it in three locations on the north side of my house, and maybe the accompanying plants give an indication of what it likes. It self seeds mildly for me, so I always have some.

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Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

I've had the experience, several times, when I purchased plants that keeled but then grew them easily from seed. Mine gets half a day of sunlight, and seems happy with the same exposure as other part sun/part shade plants. Fothergillas, primroses, ferns. I also grow casa blanca and regale lilies with them, as well as thalictrum and nepeta.

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Des Plaines, IL(Zone 5b)

Donna, I think you're right about starting from seed. I was thinking of putting some perennial seed down this year. You're polemonium is beautiful! Is that meadowrue next to it? Very nice!

Did you direct sow the Jacob's Ladder? In the fall or spring? I always thought perennials that were cold hardy needed to be cold stratified or direct sown in fall, but this spreadsheet I found in DG Seed Sowing forum list perennials that have seed that can be sown in spring without the cold treatment. Polemonium isn't on it, but here's the link: http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=ptKk7FNDx_-LNbZM431UzDQ&hl=en

I love Jacob's Ladder, but haven't had luck with purchased plants. I'll try from seed!

Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

I'd like to try polemonium from seed, myself. I had my first real adventure in seed starting this year and everything I started (indoors) took off like a rocket once moved outside this spring.

Donna, I'd love to hear how you started your polemonium from seed, too. And where dud you get the seed? Anyone know a good seed source that goes beyond annuals and common perennials?

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Sherriseden, that is indeed thalictrum next to it. I actually got it at Milaegers years ago. Thalictrum aquilegfolium "Sparker" to be precise. It blooms in late April and here it is in early June. I just love it.

Karly, J.L. Hudson is a fantastic source of seeds. The seeds aren't there evry year, but they are very reasonable, and shipping is incredibly cheap. I got polemonium caeruleum and polemonium alba from them. I started the seeds indoors one January and set the plants outside in April. They didn't bloom the first year but I got the wonderful foliage, which lasts all season. And they definitely self seed, although not aggressively, so if you leave a couple in tact, that is not deadhead, you'll have it every year. The seedlings are easily transplanted.

J.L. Hudson is the source of many of my slightly different seeds. Borage in blue is easy to find - they have it in white as well. Platycodon grandiflorus in blue is easy to find, but perlemutter? Alba? I love growing the same plant in different colors and using it to unify my yard.

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Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Here are a couple more examples of J.L. Hudson seed. I kept buying salvia Rose Queen that petered out. The ones I grow from seed last for years.

Thumbnail by DonnaMack
Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

And a salvia I'd never heard of : salvia ssp. tesquicola. I have just cut it back for the fourth time - it blooms and blooms and blooms!

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Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

A great mixer.

Thumbnail by DonnaMack
Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Here it is as a seedling - FOUR months before! I had put the seedlings in last fall, this is in April. I put in 3 plants. I find that perennials from seed have incredible strength.

Thumbnail by DonnaMack
Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

Thanks for all the info, Donna! Wow, that salvia is pretty (and vigorous!), and holy cow look at those peonies!

I just checked out J.L. Hudson. Wow, what a variety. Almost overwhelming. I'll definitely give them a shot this seed starting season.

Des Plaines, IL(Zone 5b)

Me, too. In fact, I went to their website right after I read your post and ordered a catalog! We can all compare notes on our seed activities this winter!

P.S. At this point, the word "winter" sounds rather comforting to me. Mother Nature is hittin' us with her best shot this summer! Whew!

Des Plaines, IL(Zone 5b)

P.S. Donna, your plants are spectacular! I'm excited about the possibility that I may be able to grow Jacob's Ladders like yours after all! : )

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

Quoting:
P.S. At this point, the word "winter" sounds rather comforting to me. Mother Nature is hittin' us with her best shot this summer! Whew!


about a week ago, when we were low 100's due to the heat index... i was secretly wishing it would SNOW!!
I think that was at our "Social Hour" -- as we all were outside ... thank heavens for the cold drinks.

I'll be so glad when this heat finally goes away.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

I love plants like these because they are long in season and beautiful most of the year, don't require any fertilization other than compost and are disease resistant. The majority of the work is cutting them back for rebloom, or in the case of polemonium cutting them both for some rebloom and once they stop cutting them down to what look like ferns

Enjoy!

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

We crossposted. The last few weeks have been quite gross!

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