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July 22, 2008

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Well, I live in southern Ohio and have some Shasta daisies that are literaly taking over one of my front beds. They'll come up anywhere. I happen to like daisies though, so that's not too much of a problem. My variety is very large and rangy, so I should probably have trimmed them early in the season, but whatever. Also, I have a variety of coreopsis (not the delicate moonbeam one, but one that is smaller than the species) that self seeds very regularly. The plants themselves aren't particularly long-lived, but if you let some seedlings live you'll always have them. I have also hear that blanket flower is good, but haven't had any myself. Oh, my husband tolerates the daisies (they don't spread quite as much as the coreopsis), but he would dearly love to eliminate all the coreopsis.

Daylilies! Come up every year. The only thing is that you get a bunch of flowers and then it just looks like big grass.

Impatiens are annuals but grow like crazy. They come in a bunch of colors.

We also have cranesbill geraniums which are perennials. They are kind of short and bushy and have lots of purple flowers.

I actually have a cactus growing in parts of my yard too. Someone gave my mom ONE leaf off the thing probably 15 years ago and it grew like crazy. So my dad brought me 3 leaves when we moved to this house and I plopped them on the ground and they are growing like crazy. If I could mail you one, I would.

We are not into high-maintenance flowers at my house, either.

I second the recommendation for day lilies. They are traditionally yellow, but also come in a gorgeous deep purple color. We alternated them in our yard and it is just a cacophony of color.

Since you're in the midwest, I also think you should consider Purple Coneflower (now it comes in other colors and varieties, too; we have a really pretty one called a "Sunrise" coneflower) and black-eyed susan. We have those in the front and back and they seriously will not die -- AND they bloom all summer long.

Third, if you're worried about watering them and/or don't want to waste the water, I would suggest getting some sedum. They come in a bunch of different sizes and are also known as "live forevers". The foliage can vary between green and blue-green and they do have flowers.

By the way, all of the flowers I just recommended are perennials -- which makes the gardening all the easier.

Good luck to Stephen!

Oh yes, I almost forgot, if you like succulents you can also check out "hen and chick", prickly pear cactus (native to the midwest, if you can believe it), and yucca. Just make sure you plant any succulent you get in full sun with well-drained soil. They prefer getting a little dry before they get watered.

try the hostas again- i'll bet it was a fluke that the ones you had died- they truly do flourish and should reproduce in a few years that you can break away some and move around.

i also second the daisies, echinacea, black eyed susans, lilies. they are all tall, though, so put them behind the hostas- you can throw some impatiens or other annuals inbetween in the front to make a border of sorts.

hydrangea is a lovely bush that starts small and gets huge- and flowers for a good long time.

the most important thing you have to do as a gardener is take care of your soil- it truly is worth it to invest in some good topsoil in your beds (cheaper if you get it by the yard at your nursery or even try craigslist) with some manure/fertilizer and if you can, some mulch on top to help keep moisture in (if you're like me and are spotty with the watering). it has taken us a few years but we are finally getting our outside to look decent! i love betterhomes and gardens for inspiration, btw, as well as just looking at other lawns that i like and making mental notes as to what specifically i like about them- good luck!

ps i said prayer for your brother- best of luck that he does well!!

Happy Birthday, brother-who-comments-as-Stephen!

CJ, Bluestone Perennials has a nice search engine that lets you plug in your soil and flower particulars and then spits back a list of what's in their catalog that will fit your situation. I can tell you what has never died in our subpar soil under neglectful circumstances and the occasional record-setting drought: Astilbes. Asters (the New England kinds, which are natives and hard to kill). Sedum (you don't have to get the brick-red autumn joy variety). Alchemilla. Veronica (for a ground cover).

Bluestone will send you perennials at the end of the season (we'll get ours in mid-September). This is a good thing: they can get established in the cooler, generally wetter conditions of fall and then start to grow next year. You won't see them at their best until 2010, because Bluestone ships small perennials -- if you want more bang in 2009, use the Bluestone search engine and then call around to local (not big-box) garden shops. The folks who sell perennials will have lots lined up for autumn, because that's the best time to plant them.

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