Q & A: Marker Plants

It never fails—I end the growing season with a good grip on what’s growing where, but come spring I manage to step on at least one dormant perennial. Any advice for a forgetful gardener?—BB, Idaho

Answer: Certain perennials with delicate growing points, such as herbaceous peonies and trilliums, leave no tell-tale stubble or remains when they go dormant for the winter, and so they are easily stepped on before they come into full growth.

For the short term (this winter), try placing a rock near the plants you’re worried about. If you’re concerned you’ll forget the rock is there for a reason, or that it will blend in with other rocks in your landscape, mark it with paint.

Meanwhile, think about what you might plant next year to serve the same purpose as the rocks. But if the location of your “disappearing plants” is indicated by “marker plants” that stay visible over the winter, there’s much less chance that you’ll inadvertently crush them.

You might choose marker plants that have their main season of interest in the winter, such as snowdrops, Cyclamen coum, Primula vulgaris, and Primula juliae. Whatever plants you pick for this purpose, be sure that they won’t interfere with the growth of their main-season companion as it is coming into its own.

See more good choices for marker plants

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