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Hardy, colorful pincushion easiest perennial to grow

Q.I’m looking for an easy-to-grow perennial that can grow either in a pot or in the garden. What would you suggest? N.G.O., West Side, Albuquerque.

A. Three plants spring quickly to mind. First, I would make sure that if you are going to grow perennials in pots that they aren’t too small. With all perennials it is best to grow them in pots 14 inches and larger. Having too small a container, the root mass wouldn’t be offered the protection required to keep the plants healthy, so start with a good sized pot. For easy-to-grow plants consider autumn sage (salvia Greggii), pincushion flower (scabosia) or lavender. All three of these work well in pots and thr

ive for years planted in the garden.

The autumn sage offers throated blooms in lots of colors, the most recognized being a brilliant magenta-red. You can find the autumn sage plants wearing flowers in bright pink; some offer bicolored blooms, clear white, and near coral-reds. An added benefit to this salvia: It is often frequented by hummingbirds.

Lavender is a pretty plant, wearing cool grey colored foliage and sporting upright spike blooms periodically throughout the growing season, especially if you cut each bloom series as it finishes. Some wear white flowers, some have the traditional lavender-purple color, and yet others have a deeper purple color. Lots of easy to grow choices there!

The pincushion plant is by far my A-No. 1 suggestion. This ridiculously easy-to-grow perennial will thrive where ever it’s planted. I have some that rise like a phoenix out of the ashes every year and I do practically nothing for them. All they need is a modicum of water and a persistent dead-heading as the blooms are spent, and they show off all season long. The pincushion starts out as a cool gray-green tooth leafed clump and then throws up the bloom stalks. Each stalk wears busy “daisy-ish” shaped flowers that nod cheerfully in the slightest breeze. Bumbles like to investigate the flowers, making your own entomology lesson right before your eyes.

The pincushion offers several color choices, too. They offer flowers of the barest pink working through the blue-lavender color spectrum. Get in the habit of snipping off the finished flowers every couple of days and the pincushion will bloom most of the year. You can harvest seed from them easily by placing the flower head in a paper bag, allowing the flowers to dry and spread more of this easy-to-grow perennial around. The pincushion is easily one of my favorite perennial plants. There you go, with my first three thoughts for easy-to-grow perennials, in the garden or in pots, for years of enjoyment.

Q. Mom’s a gardener, but I want to get her something different this year! Any suggestions for me? S.M., Albuquerque.

A. First and foremost, give her YOU! Be there to offer lifting, hoisting, digging, weeding, and just sharing her enjoyment. If you’re looking to offer plant life, roses are cool, and as long as they aren’t over-tended, easy to grow – but how about thinking outside of the box? If there is space in her landscaping, think about a lilac shrub or a lovely redbud tree.

The lilac offers those deliciously scented flowers in the early spring. Smelling them, she’ll instantly think of you! Once the lilac is finished blooming, the leaves are a nifty heart shape, keeping you close to her heart.

The redbud tree has a lot to offer to remind Mom of you. First, there’s the bark that offers visual interest during the winter months. Then, before much in the growing world wakes up, the redbud explodes into color. Small sweet pea-shaped magenta-red flowers adorn the tree. A healthy redbud in bloom is spectacular. What better way to have Mom think of you? Like the lilac, the leaves of redbuds are tender heart shape to remind her of your love! A redbud would definitely be an “out of the box” gift. Better yet, take Mom shopping and see if you can’t find that perfectly different way to show her your caring love.

Happy Mother’s Day while you’re out there Diggin’ In!