During December and January, we in northern Ohio were relatively unscathed by winter. Now, however, we are inundated. I can barely see my patio furniture and the legs of the bench on my front porch are totally obscured. After I shoveled the walk from the driveway to the front door, I had a wall of snow on either side that was sixteen inches high.
Meanwhile, I am dreaming of spring. The marketing folks make loud noises and flash us pretty pictures of new introductions but this obsession with new means that many good perennials tend to get overlooked. Today, I want to reacquaint you with two.
Symphytum grandiflorum (Comfrey) is not glamorous. Its ovate, rough and hairy foliage is strictly green and its clusters of creamy white tubular flowers bloom in May on twelve inch stems. What makes this perennial a prize is its ability to create a dense groundcover even in dry shade although it will happily spread in full sun. It will go bananas in moist soil so do be careful where you plant it but I’ve grown it under huge privets for years without irrigation and weeds dare not rear their heads. Another attribute is that deer either take one bite and spit it out or totally ignore it.
Acanthus (Bear’s Breeches) is another neglected perennial. You do need space for this one because the foliage will occupy a diameter of at least two feet. We can grow either A.mollis or A.spinosus but I prefer A.spinosus for its better blooming ability in northern Ohio. The leaves are more deeply cut and actually resemble those of thistle (preserve us from Canadian thistle). The thick, three foot spikes of lavender and white florets bloom from June well into July and are still architectural even when they lose their color. I think it blooms best in full sun but will also bloom in partial shade in average to somewhat dry soil once established. It is not happy in wet soil. Neither deer nor rabbit seem to like its spiny foliage and flowers. I wonder why!
If you are not using either of these perennials, you should ask yourself, “Why not?”