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Golden Lanterns

Sometimes I must admit that I get stuck in a plant rut. If it were not for my sons I would probably not try as many new plants. Every year there are innovative novel plants but it often takes me a few weeks to notice them. Soon curiosity prompts me to find out more about them and then perhaps plant them. This year I have been called by a bright yellow/chartreuse green foliage since spring. When I saw the name Golden Lantern with 'Pheasant berry' written under it but I was drawing a blank. I found the botanical name Leycesteria formosa and I still was not familiar with the plant.

The Proven Winners® trademark made me feel just a bit more confident about this brightly colored plant. The write up about it said that it was a graceful, easy growing plant with attractive, clean, bright yellow-green foliage with hints of red in the new growth. Commonly known a Pheasant Berry because of the fall berries, this gold-leaf version is a real show stopper. It is very easy to grow and is adaptable to many soils. It only needs moderate moisture to keep it happy and sun to part sun to bloom all summer.

Golden Lanterns Commentary continued to say that in midsummer Golden Lanterns is covered with 4" long pendulous drooping clusters of dark purplish-red bracts and white flowers. These turn to dark purple berries in autumn. It is suggested that the plant be used in perennial gardens or as a color item for the patio in a large pot. Since in the North this is a dieback shrub, which means it is like a perennial, a thick mulch is helpful in our climate during winter. In the spring it quickly grows back to bloom all summer long.

Because the plant wears a tag from Proven Winners® ColorChoice® this indicates that it is a member of a select group of new, colorful, easy growing plants selected specifically for the North American gardener. They claim to search for the best new plants and test them to make certain of the best performing, most colorful varieties. Since much of the public always likes something new this seems to work well for 'Proven Winners'.

Many people like the golden chartreuse color of Golden Lanterns leaves paired with burgundy shades of coleus, geraniums, or petunia. I think a really good shrub to plant it near is the ninebark Physocarpus opulifolius. There are several varieties but 'Diablo' Diabolo' ™ (Eastern ninebark) and

Summer wine are two extremely hardy deciduous shrubs good in this area. Diablo is an upright plant that does become nice and full. Showy, pinkish-white flowers that bloom May through June, and its decorative, peeling bark make it quite interesting. This native has unique purple foliage in summer and red fruit in autumn. It is good for mass plantings. We have pruned ours to control height but you may allow it to grow to 10 feet high by 10 feet wide if need be. Plant in full or part sun. This plant is extremely hardy as far north as Zone 2. It is one of the PHS gold Medal winners.

Another variety of Physocarpus opulifolious 'Summer Wine' is a new Ninebark that is a very neat with compact branching and deeply cut, dark crimson leaves. This plant requires little pruning and even looks great in a large pot. The pinkish white flowers appear in mid summer. Summer Wine is showy and extremely hardy and is prized as a landscape shrub and as a cut flower. My son describes this plant on our website as 'Diablo Ninebark',and says "Ninebark is an awesome shrub with purple foliage great for showy color combinations with perennials and grasses. There is a great example of this at Swarthmore College where a nice specimen is surrounded by other neat plants. It holds purple color through the summer, but not much change in fall color to speak of. It grows 5-8' tall with an irregular shrubby habit. It seems to like hot and humid summers to retain its awesome purple color, so is perfect for the Delaware Valley. It is easy to grow in our soil and is said to adapt to almost all conditions. It also seems to be rather pest free and very easy to grow. We have a purple blooming grass, asters, and sedum near it for an outrageous fall display in the display gardens.

Color is important in a garden. It pays to give some thought and planning to a color scheme for each season. Bright colors are always my favorite in my garden, but I know that many people like to set the stage so to speak for an event by planning an all white garden or a blue and white or pink and white garden. This might take some long range planning, but it is often quite effective. Annuals and timely perennials can do the job for this effect. A full sun area is often brilliant with lots of hot colors such as red, orange and gold. Add blue or purple and some white and the effect is different and even better! The nice thing is that with the addition of annuals each year you can change the look of the garden.

Many readers have been sending in questions about fungus and beetles. Trees are getting green on the bark, leaves are showing signs of black spot and other water related problems. First of all, most people run their irrigation too often and for short periods of time. Lawns do not need to be watered every day or even every other day. Think back to the 'old sprinkle on the lawn' about once a week. Lawns were green then too, most of our parents pulled the sprinkle around, let it run a couple of hours once a week or when needed. DO NOT SATURATE every other day. For one thing, this constant shallow soaking encourages tree roots to come up to the surface to get water, thus making them vulnerable to cold, hot and high winds. A long, deep soak every two or three weeks for a trees is better. Soak the area with a hose or in the case of many newly planted trees, a soaker hose or drip line. Allow this process to take several hours so that the soil is wet down to the bottom of the ball of dirt that encompasses the tree root.

Many annuals, roses and often some perennials do not need constant wet conditions. Lavender rots out, roses get black spot, and more than half of the perennials need to dry out in between watering. That is not to say they do not need water, but they do not need it every other day. You can tell when a plant needs water, it looks a little dull. They should not look ever look wilted. (And plants can wilt from too much water.) So reconsider how often you are running your lawn irrigation. Also do not assume that this half hour of sprinkles will get to the bottom of the roots of a newly planted tree. A once a week soaking for a few months will be best. But allow drying out in between. Think of how it works in nature. It rains and it dries out and plants thrive. Do as mother nature does!

As for the beetles, try a beetle trap and hand pick them off into a trash bag. I throw them to waiting chickens if I see a few now and then. The chickens seem to keep them and most other bugs in check (there are still a few free roosters if anyone wants to catch them) . Attracting birds to the garden also helps keep bugs at bay.

Now is the time to enjoy your garden. Remember a weed pulled now means many less weeds later on. It is so important not to allow them to go to seed. Plant seeds for perennials and biennials now.

Lorraine Kiefer is the owner of Triple Oaks Nursery and has been a garden writer since 1972. Click here to email her.

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