Here's a shot (taken on July 17, 2008) facing East into the Ligularia planting where they are surrounded by the hollies, ferns and other Woodland Garden denizens ....
I'm sure this plant is no stranger to those who have woodland gardens or garden extensively in shady areas. This is one of our very favorite shade plants, Ligularia stenocephala 'The Rocket,' which has been happily growing in this spot for about 6 or 7 years now. Of course, right in front of this specimen you can see our other favorite, Ligularia dentata, 'Desdemona,' whose blooms couldn't be more different from 'The Rocket.' Whereas 'The Rocket' sends up spikes of yellow flowers that bloom from the bottom and work their way up, 'Desdemona' adopts an entirely different tactic of clusters of intense yellow flowers, that when seen from a distance almost fool you into thinking it's some sort of bizarre Black Eyed Susan. We used to see these driving around, but never quite knew what they were when we only saw them from the street. So we did a little digging around on the net and found out that they were relatives of our other Ligularia, though oh, so different in aspect.
Though I suspect that most gardeners probably choose both Ligularias for their striking foliage, (which is indeed reward enough for growing them), but I think the flowers, however fleeting, are a really great bonus that help cheer up sultry summer days in July and August in our Woodland Garden. If you grow Ligularia, you already know how crucial a consistently moist area is to achieving success with them. But if you're not familiar with it and would like to give it a try, here are a few hints to get them to excell for you.
They will tolerate a fair amount of indirect sun (ours is planted on the north side of the house and gets early morning and late afternoon light, but is otherwise in shade most of the day), but they will not tolerate drying out, and that's the surest way to kill them. So if you plant it, and see the slightest sign of wilting, don't wait, run to the garden hose and give it a good drink. Yes, it does look a bit wilted in this shot (it was a hot day), but don't worry, we had some storms move in that night and they took care of the watering for us, but when we have extended dry spells, this whole area gets significant attention when we water, because so many of its neighbors also want the same conditions. Aside from those cautions about light and water, Ligularia is really a very easy plant to grow ... just take into account that it will increase in size over time, so give it a plenty of room to stretch out. It prefers a fairly ordinary loamy, well drained soil with a good degree of organic matter in it (which, if you have a woodland garden, you probably already have). We have never fussed over ours in any way, other than to make sure they get watered when we're not having regular rains.
This shot makes me chuckle a bit about how Fernymoss framed it ... Yes, that Holly is pretty big, but it's not as tree sized as this shot might suggest, but I love this perspective on this particular section of the Woodland Garden. If you look closely, you'll also see one of our Polygonatum sneaking into the frame....
Ligularia stenocephala really begs that the flowers be seen up close and personal ... just look at those stamens! They've really got a party going on all the way up the bloom stalk! I've always thought they look like those paper blowout noise makers of birthday parties of yore ... and this year it's really on track to outdo itself, with no fewer than 10 or 12 bloom stalks from this one plant. 'The Rocket' has never disappointed us in the time it's been in our garden, and I wish we had the room for even more ... maybe when we finally start that shade garden under the maple in the back, we can plant more, but that's still a pipe dream at this point. I'd go all salesman on Shady Gardener, if I didn't already know she has it in her shady garden, but if by chance, some of you other readers haven't had the pleasure to grow Ligularia, I extend my heartiest recommendation to find a nice spot for it in your garden.
Fun stuff: For Harry Shearer fans out there ... Harry was on Countdown With Keith Olbermann, on July 23 talking about politics and his new album, Songs of the Bushmen, which is now available. Harry, as always, was entertaining, and sent up some really great barbs about the past 8 years. He was kind enough to allow KO to post three of the songs here, so if you'd like to see what he's been up to, check them out. (I particularly loved 935 Lies.)