From the June/July 2015 Issue:

Perennials: Get the Lowdown

    By: Mary Vinnedge |

New Jersey landscape designers have a soft spot for these short perennials

Low-growing perennials soften the edges of hardscaping while brightening gardens year after year. We described more than a dozen of these in the June/July print version of Design NJ. Following are additional recommendations by Rich Cording of CLC Landscape Design Inc. in Ringwood; Alan Tufts, a licensed landscape architect with Siciliano Landscape Co. in Red Bank; and Kelly Austin of Calgo Gardens in Howell.

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enlarge | LEFT: Courtesy of Siciliano Landscape Co. ‘May Night’ salvia. RIGHT: Courtesy of Siciliano Landscape Co. ‘Bath’s Pink’ dianthus loves sun.
Tufts likes the tough, drought-tolerant ‘May Night’ salvia, 18 by 18 inches, for full sun. The purple flower spikes look great in combination with catmint’s lavender flowers. Give this salvia full sun and cut it back in fall, Tufts says, or wait until early spring if you want the winter interest. Another of his sun choices is ‘Bath’s Pink’ dianthus, a great softener for stone and all walkways. It blooms in May and June and is 12 to 18 tall and 12 inches wide. Give it full sun and shear it in the summer for a profusion of new blooms.

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enlarge | Courtesy of Rarefind Nursery Sporobolus heterolepsis ornamental grass.
Sporbolus heterolepis, or prairie drop-seed, is a deer-resistant ornamental grass that maxes out at 6 to 12 inches tall (flowers are 18 to 24 inches) and spreads to 18 to 24 inches. It thrives in sunny, dry sites, and Austin likes its orange/red fall color. Cut back the blooms in early spring, she says.

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enlarge | Photo by Rich Cording/CLC Landscape Design Stachys byzantina ‘Helen von Stein,’ a variety of lamb’s-ear, softens stone steps.
Lamb’s-ear Stachys byzantina, is another plant prized for its foliage. Deer spurn its velvety leaves, which are fun for kids of all ages. Cording recommends the variety ‘Helen von Stein.’ Many gardeners remove the flowers of this 12-by-12-inch plant; give it full or mostly sun.

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enlarge | LEFT: Courtesy of Rarefind Nursery Penstemon x Mexicali ‘Red Rocks’. RIGHT: Photo by Rich Cording/CLC Landscape Design ‘Stella d’Oro’ hemerocallis, a reblooming daylily.
Two boldly blooming choices for full sun (or a smidgen of shade): Penstemon x Mexicali‘Red Rocks’ has bright-rose flowers that star in landscapes all summer. Remove spent blooms to encourage more blossoms, Austin says, and then cut back the deer-resistant plants in late fall/early winter. It’s 12 to 15 inches wide and high. ‘Stella D’Oro’ hemerocallis, a tough-as-nails reblooming daylily, has golden-yellow flowers and is fragrant when planted en masse, Cording says. It’s 18 by 18 inches and likes full sun to part shade. He recommends cutting it to the ground in late fall.

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enlarge | Courtesy of Rarefind Nursery Stokes aster ‘Peachie’s Pick’.
For a touch of blue, Austin recommends Stokesia laevis ‘Peachie’s Pick,’ which has fragrant cornflower-hued blooms in midsummer. Cut this Stokes aster back in late fall/early winter, Austin says. It grows in part shade to full sun and reaches 8 to 12 inches tall, 12 to 20 inches wide. Deer-resistant.

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enlarge | Photo by Lisa Strovinsky Calamintha nepetoides ‘White Cloud’ (calamint).
If you like the scent of mint, you’ll like the fragrant foliage of Calamintha nepeta ‘White Cloud.’ Also called calamint, this deer-resistant sun-lover has dainty white flowers that resemble baby’s breath from June to September. A Cording pick, it’s 18 by 18 inches.

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enlarge | Photo by Lisa Strovinsky Carex morrowii ‘Ice Dance’.
Another white-and green combo: the grasslike Carex morrowii ‘Ice Dance,’ a variety of Japanese sedge. Its lustrous green-and-white foliage will form a dense groundcover in full to part shade. This deer-resistant plant reaches 12 inches tall and 24 wide. Cut it to ground level in late winter, Cording says.

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enlarge | Photo by Rich Cording/CLC Landscape Design Creeping jenny Ital. Lysimachia aurea) has a trailing habit.
You’ll get even brighter foliage color with Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea,’ or golden creeping Jenny. It provides great color in shade and can be used in planters, Cording says. Only 2 inches tall, it sprawls to 24 inches wide.

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enlarge | Courtesy of Rarefind Nursery Pachysandra procumbens.
Also for shady spots, Austin recommends Pachysandra procumbens Allegheny spurge, a native groundcover that’s becoming more popular (and is quite different from the Japanese species). This pachysandra has mottled semievergreen foliage and fragrant white flowers in spring. It spreads slowly and doesn’t require cutting back. It’s 6 to 8 inches tall, 12 to 24 inches wide. Deer-resistant.

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enlarge | Courtesy of Siciliano Landscape Co. ‘Francee’ hosta.
Hosta is an old standby for shade, though certain varieties can take some sun. Tufts explains that white-streaked hostas such as ‘Francee’ tend to be more deer-resistant and sun-tolerant (morning sun or full shade) than bluer-leaved varieties. This variety has attractive lavender flowers (deadhead them) that attract beneficial insects, Tufts says.

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enlarge | Photo by Lisa Strovinsky Dicentra spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’, aka bleeding heart.
For light shade, an oldie but goodie: Dicentra spectabilis, or bleeding heart. Cording likes the bright yellow foliage of ‘Gold Heart,’ which has delicate-looking pink-and-white flowers. 24 by 24 inches. Deer-resistant.

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enlarge | Courtesy of Rarefind Nursery Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Purple Prince’.
Another shade-lover: Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Purple Prince’ has clump-forming, heart-shaped, deer-resistant leaves that emerge in rosy purple and are topped with spikes of dark-purple flowers. Austin suggests trimming its foliage before spring flowering. It’s 12 inches by 18 to 24 inches and works well in containers, Austin says.

Mary Vinnedge, Design NJ’s first editor, has many low-growing perennials in her Texas garden. You can reach her through her websites, and