The other day the Owner of the West Meade garden had something to show me.
“I bought these because they were so pretty, “she said, “but I know you don’t like common plants.”
“I do like common plants”, I protested, and I liked the blue petunias she’d bought for her terrace planters.
Any one who gardens in Nashville would not get far without common plants. In this city common means “viable’. If one wonders why Alchemilla and delphiniums and monkshood and lupines are not common here, they need only imagine how many dessicated bodies of the aforementioned plants ended up on the compost heap. All of them, I would bet.
I think the Owner was remembering some comments I’d made about irises and peonies and how no garden should have so many of them that they steal space from better, longer blooming plants. But I do not dislike irises. I think highly of the old purple flags and the Cemetery Whites. They are long lived and persistent. They do not fall over easily when battered by wind and rain.
Peonies are just as fine. In moderation.
But would gardeners do without the old yellow and green Sedum Aureovariegata, that passes from garden to garden? Try and find it at a garden center. And what could be more common than self-seeded Bachelor’s Buttons, larkspur, and balsams? Who would be silly enough to weed them all away?
Crape Myrtles, Oak leaf Hydrangeas, boxwoods, Annabelle hydrangeas.” May Night” salvia. Black-eyed Susans. Honesty and Purple Phlox from the Harpeth River bottoms. Bee Balm. Old double orange daylilies.
“Common ” to some. Vulgar to others.
But not to anyone with good sense.
I admit that I buy woodland salvias from Japan. I bought a rare species of Ironweed that grows on shale here in the Southeast. I love the new, and to me the Plant Delights catalog is more alluring than the Green Hills Mall.
Yet there is one plant that has eluded me,even though it is commonest of all in many old gardens in this city. How I wish some one would give me a cutting or a root or some seeds!
Here is the Trailing Heliotrope , heliotropium ampexicaule, which Elizabeth Lawrence used as “a filler in difficult places” in her North Carolina garden. I had it at my old garden down by the river. I even had it in the lawn.
I thank Wikipedia for this picture,and I wish this plant was as easy to find. I do not see it at the garden centers. I cannot find it on-line.
There are probably a hundred plants within half a mile of the Green Hills garden , but who has them I cannot say. This flower was once known around the city as “Edna’s Heliotrope”. Edna Metcalf, a newspaper garden columnist in the seventies and eighties had passed it to other gardeners in Nashville.