That’s not what I ordered

Where’s my white?

Four years ago, in the depths of winter, I went on a virtual evergreen-shrub-buying- spree. Yes, my garden is dominated by perennials and ornamental grasses, but it also needs the contrasting texture/shape/size that an evergreen shrub can lend to the equation. It also desperately needs dem bones.

One of the shrubs that I purchased on-line that year was Tsuga canadensis ‘Moon Frost’. I was enamored with the color of the new growth and the white tone of the needles. Here is how I anticipated it to look (photo from Kigi Nursery):

I had the perfect location for it; right at the bottom of the stairs of my front porch where it would glow at night, living up to its name ‘Moon Frost’.

In year one, while small, it had that exact look. I was super psyched to watch it develop over the next few years.

Fast forward to the last 2-3 years and this is what I now have.

Attractive, but not what I had hoped for.

You (meaning on-line purveyors of said plant) all told me:

“New growth emerges white and the older needles retain a hint of white. The white foliage is often blushed with pink in winter.”

Bright, white, new growth with older, inner foliage that retains a light tone combine to give Tsuga canadensis ‘Moon Frost’ a distinctly white appearance. In winter, foliage of the seedling, developed by Ed Wood, takes on a blush of pink.”

I followed the recommendation of spotting it in partial shade where it is protected from the afternoon sun. Yet it still lost that desired white hue. The new growth is more of a yellow/charteuse.

I have no intention of ditching it as it is healthy and thriving, but I still long for what I saw in year one.

Where are my purple-black leaves?

“Ligularia ‘Britt-Marie Crawford’ is a clump-forming herbaceous perennial that is grown in gardens … for its showy rounded clumps of large, glossy, purple-black leaves.”

Its best ornamental feature is probably the leaves which generally retain good color throughout the growing season.

Leaves may acquire some green tones as they age.

It forms a clump of large, rounded maroon-black leaves.

Come again?

This is what I have as of this minute and it is a repeat of what I had in years 1 and 2. It doesn’t quite match the stunning picture from the Bluestone Perennials website.

I’m happy to report, I have had a solid volume of flowers …

… but we all know we add this perennial to our garden for that killer foliage color.

I’ve researched it a bit and I can’t blame the color mismatch on how it has been sited. I have it in partial shade with moist soil and that appears to make it very happy, just not happy enough to give it that f’n black-purple color I ordered.

You can open up now flowers

Here is a photo of Trollius chinensis ‘Golden Queen’ in bloom from a few weeks ago in the garden of yours truly.

Pretty and orange, but it would look even better once those flowers open up and are in full bloom, right? Just like 99% of the plant catalogs have promised.

But no.

They didn’t and they haven’t for years now.

It might be nit-picky, but it still bothers me. I scoured the ‘net for photos the first year it occurred and in only one were they presented similarly to my non-opening-up-flowers. I’ve yet to find this discussion on any message board or forum but I’ll keep hunting.

I guess the possibility of a label mix-up exists as well.


This shit is unpredictable.

Have a great long weekend.


13 thoughts on “That’s not what I ordered

  1. suz

    i’m moving my ligularia to a full-shade spot (but not deep shade). after the discussion on here about the same thing last year, and some more reading, i decided even the partial shade was too much light. will let you know in the end whether i see much difference. all i know for sure is that it had the dark-colored leaves when i bought it, so sooner or later maybe i’ll hit on the right combination. i still have deep shade i can move it to next year …. in other news, my trollius ‘new moon’ is blooming now, but isn’t as nice as last year (blooms aren’t as plentiful or as big – more cloudy days this year, i think). even so, i bought two more to put in this year, ’cause i just love this early light butter color, and they are good-looking plants the rest of the season. my orange trollius is a week or two from blooming yet. made a trip to bluestone this week, so i have some other new plants to put in when the soil warms up a tad. air temp has been barely 60 all week here and rain every day. –suz in NE ohio

    1. jmarkowski Post author

      Definitely let me know how it goes with the Ligularia Suz. Would love to know how it performs in deep shade. Thank you!

      1. suz

        britt-marie is now looking great – she apparently appreciated the move into full/open shade. leaf bottoms are a gorgeous purple; tops are a deeper green than last year, with purple veining and purple sawtooth edge all around the leaf. she’s happy; i’m happy – i really like the coloring she has now. i think our perennial growing season is a few weeks behind yours, or it’s just been slowed because of all the rain. the hostas and other shade plants seem to have benefited most from the mild winter/long spring. they are all getting much bigger than other years. and one of my bear’s breeches is setting bloom stalks – those are the first in several years. maybe the cimifuga will actually bloom this year ….

        1. jmarkowski Post author

          Any chance you can send a pic Suz? Would love to compare to mine. Thanks!

          1. suz

            i’m sorry – i don’t do pix. i don’t have a computer (i’m just a point-and-click person at my library), and don’t have a smartphone or even a camera bought in this century. i would say mine looks similar to yours, but a deeper, more saturated green leaf and a more pronounced/sharper and very purple veining and sawtooth edge. the purple edging appears to be 1/16th-inch wide or just a hair less. i can see that mine has darkened a lot over where i had it planted last year, so i think it really needs very full or deep shade to be dark. meanwhile, i’m headed to bluestone again this week and will look hard at what they have in the greenhouse and grill them about it. sorry to keep rambling about this, but i did notice something interesting about another of my ligularias yesterday – desdemona. she has been unfurling a new leaf for a few days, and the leaf is very dark green/purple on top (regular green on bottom). the rest of the leaves that have been open on the plant are a regular green/deep green. i never really looked this intently before, but maybe all of desde’s leaves come out dark and just lighten up with real daylight. lol, as it happens, i have a way bigger problem getting heucheras to be/stay the color that i bought/want or that the grower describes. –suz in ohio

          2. jmarkowski Post author

            No problem Suz, thanks so much for all the info! Hoping mine darkens up as well.

  2. Pam Yokoyama

    I find the magazines lie, the pretty pictures they sell you on isn’t what you get in regards to shrubs. It’s like paint colors and chips, the color on that paper isn’t the same as putting it on the wall. If I were you, I would go out to the nurseries, this way you see the plant you like, you can feel it and then take it home. Then ask about soil and light two very important answers that you need because if you don’t have the right light or soil that same plant could look different in my garden.

    I do love Brecks bulbs as they are true to their pictures and this is the only place I order from is I see something no one else has as I like to plant different things in my clients gardens. The problem with the magazine is no one else has that plant so you take a chance and sometimes you win and sometimes you don’t.

    1. jmarkowski Post author

      Pam – all great points and I guess that is the risk we take when purchasing plants online. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Chuck Rasmussen

    Over the years I’ve spent a fortune on plants from catalogues. Our harsh cold winters here in Colorado have me so sucker-ready by January to buy anything that looks green. So I do. And 90% of the time I’m disappointed. So, resolved anew: throw away all catalogs that come from December to April. Never will I buy another think thru them. I’ve lost my financial butt every single time.

    1. jmarkowski Post author

      I have actually done that Chuck. I ignore the catalogs during the winter as I always make rash decisions and regret them. I’ll continue to order online but when I don’t feel desperate for anything green during the cold months.

  4. Kimberly Thomas

    I love the direction you’re heading here. Let’s have a little Nursery Shaming thread. Admittedly all I’ve got is the always laughable label of “deer-resistant” and the horribly incomplete warning of “easily grown” for the impossible to eradicate Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’

    1. Linda O'Connell

      Yikes, Kimberly, We grew Houttuynia cordata’ Chameleon’ in our last garden in WI. It is impossible to eradicate….so we moved to the
      PNW. Now we just deal with snowberry and mahonia which are aggressive but so much easier to control.

    2. jmarkowski Post author

      I love the idea Kim! I think we all can relate, especially the deer resistant nonsense.

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