After the storm – a lespedeza

the Display Garden looking lush after EarlBy now you probably know that Hurricane Earl gave us a miss. The wolf at the door turned out to be a tiny puppy who made a scritching sound just like crickets in the middle of the night. When we came in the next day to check for “damage” and to un-batten the hatches, we found the gardens looking refreshed and perfectly lovely. Nasturtiums busting out of the vegetable garden (after Earl)We certainly needed the rain (Earl dropped an inch and a little) and were desperate for a temperature change. I think all of the gardeners on the eastern seaboard could be thanked for fending off a potentially terrible storm because we so diligently prepared for it. Turns out that bringing potted plants inside, staking the tall plants and cutting back the brittle ones is just like lugging rain gear on a hiking trip: insurance that it won’t have been necessary. (We’re accepting thank you cards and gifts.)

Lespedeza thunbergii 'Edo Shibori' (underplanted with Cuphea 'David Verity')Now that the weather has broken, I’m noticing all sorts of new (and old) blooms in the gardens and visitors are too. The most asked about plant in the Display Garden this week has been the bush clover, Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Edo Shibori’.  I’ve been surprised by the questions because my eye tends to pass right over this plant. This cultivar has tiny white blooms with a pink stripe that, to me, register as beige from a distance. I actually don’t think it’s very handsome at all. But it hums! Any plant that has its own soundtrack is certainly remarkable and worth another look – or listen. Bumblebees (more than any other kind of bee) can’t seem to get enough of the tiny pea blossoms.  The more I think I don’t like the plant, the more I find I do. (Is that a gardener thing or just me?)

Lespedeza from the other side - cascading over a short wall in the children's bedLespedeza thunbergii 'Edo Shibori'

Bush clovers bloom in late summer to fall – most are a pretty pinkish-purplish – on new wood. What that means for the gardener is that even if it doesn’t completely die back in the winter (which lespedeza tend to do in this neck of the woods), they can be cut back hard (within inches of the ground like a buddleia) to maintain a graceful hoop-skirt shape. Like any belle of the ball, they don’t want to be crushed into the backseat and don’t look as graceful crowded. Best to give it room to flounce and show off. They like well-drained soil (who doesn’t) and don’t bat an eye at drought. They don’t even need – or want to be fed. – Plants in the legume family are generally able to fend for themselves. Sweet peas excepted, of course.

Do you have a lespedeza? Do the bees love it? Do you? (And do you whack it back or let it go?)

4 thoughts on “After the storm – a lespedeza

  1. It must be so great to be surrounded by plants to the extent that you can overlook them. It’s a privilege I am entirely without in my small garden.

    Susan, It’s true that it’s almost overwhelming here. – My little brain can only take in so much at once. But what fun it is to discover something new that’s been here all along (or in the case of the lespedeza, for a year or so.) My own garden, like yours maybe, holds few surprises. It’s too small to not scrutinize all the details (but that’s a pleasure and a privilege too). -kris

  2. I don’t have one….yet. I am glad to hear you weathered the storm with little to show for it except much needed rain. The gardens were glorious just the day before the rain. My eyes hurt for all the color they absorbed. Blithewold is perfection.

    Layanee, Thank you – such kind words! But I’m sorry if your visit was painful in any way! (I know what you mean though – I wear sunglasses most of the time here…) -kris

  3. I have one that a loving friend gave to me. I whacked it back to the ground in spring because we had our house painted and the workmen trampled it. I since learned that you do cut it way back in spring anyway!Well, this thing took off and put out long branches towering up over my head and puddling back down along the ground and into everybody else’s space. I can hear the grumbling and complaining in the garden. It was looking like a dissapointment all round, because the flowers were few, and the whole thing seemed a big gangly,awkward mess… But,… just this week, there are a million purple flowers andI am thinking I should just move it to a place all its own or learn how to prune it to keep it in some control, but I’m not giving up on it because I love plants that flower in September.

    Jean, I’m so glad to hear that it’s really blooming now! After talking to you last week, I wondered why it wasn’t… And they are notoriously difficult to move once established, so if you’ve got a good spot for it to go to, move it while you still can! Gail moved ours from the nursery bed last spring and remembers it being very tough to get out. -kris

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