Shelley Pederson: Getting through those long Minnesota winters

Published 8:30 am Saturday, January 11, 2020

The Perennial Buzz by Shelley Pederson

Shelley Pederson


“There are two seasonal diversions that can ease the bite of any winter. One is the January thaw. The other is the seed catalogues.” — Hal Borland

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The solstice has passed and the days become longer. The chill of winter brings many of us inside using this time to rest, restore and read. I savor garden catalogs — pictures of perfectly grown perennials that tempt my pocket book. The colorful artwork of heirloom seed packets keep the winter gloom from overpowering me.

I have had success with many perennials and thought I’d share some of my favorites that you may not be familiar with. Starting with the “A’s”, I’ve picked two perennials that are exceptionally hardy. In addition to being deer and rabbit resistant, they’re also xeriscaping varieties that need less supplemental water.

For the shade, I chose Windsong Anemone September Charm. It is classified as Zone 5, but I have had mine for years. It grows in dappled shade or morning sun. I don’t believe it would tolerate full shade or being in poorly drained soil. I planted mine in a bed with partial shade in the morning, dappled shade at noon and shade from an ash tree to the west. Last year we took out the ash tree, and I thought, “Oh No!” but this charmer did surprisingly well with much later afternoon shade from my pines.

This anemone has deeply lobed foliage that has a grey and green pattern to it. It also is lighter in color on the underside and gives a pretty texture to the garden even when not  flowering. Then in September, it blooms. A stunning drift of 100’s of blooms with sparkling, light pink, almost fluorescent dainty flowers. The bees are crazy for them. It blooms until frost. The foliage gets about 8 to 10 inches high, and the flowers spike up above the plant to a height near 20 inches. There is one drawback to the plant, for some. It spreads by rhizome. I find it easy to pull up and away from the base of other perennials and have never had an issue with it taking over. My anemone are planted with Joe Pie and Asiatic Lilies.

Allium, the second perennial I’m sharing, is for the full hot sun. It’s classified as fully hardy to Zone 2. Allium are onions and come in blues, pinks and white. While some blooms are tiny, giant allium will grow to a height of 4 feet with blooms up to 6 inches in diameter. If you are a Star Wars fan, the drying seed heads look like the Death Star. They come in a bulb (like tulips) in the fall. However, I’ve seen them at nurseries in recent years. Allium blooms early in the summer. I have several varieties planted to extend the season. My favorite, Hairy, is quite a conversation starter. This summer the bees were all over them.

My allium are planted among perennial geraniums, cone flowers, sages and phlox. The seed heads are pretty in dried arrangements, and the seeds are enjoyed by birds. They do spread by seed, but once again are easy to pull up. The plant dies back to the ground after the seeds drop, and the new plants look like fine grass. I pretty much leave them be. If they get too close to the edging, I pull them up. They are years in my garden and have stayed pretty well-behaved where I want them.

Deer apparently like the butterfly weed in my native bed, as I found out the hard way. I scattered allium seeds around them, which I hope will repel the deer.

Breathe in, and enjoy the season. Breathe out, it’s a moment closer to spring.

Shelley Pederson is a perennially busy master gardener, lover of nature and student of life.