Unique Garden Plants

10 interesting garden plants that live up to their common names and look great in the lawn and garden.

| Spring 2015

Most of us enjoy looking for new or unique garden plants. It seems that we’re intrigued and fascinated by certain attributes of particular plants that are especially appealing, such as uncommon beauty, unusual fragrance or texture, peculiar traits or adaptations, and myriad other reasons.

Here’s a look at 10 exceptional plants that truly live up to their common names. Several can be difficult to find locally, which is likely the reason many are not grown as frequently as they deserve to be. These plants, however, will definitely reward you for your efforts in tracking them down and growing them. To track down these magnificent plants, check with your local nursery to see if they know of any suppliers who offer them. A Google search will also lead you to numerous online sources.

1. Gas Plant or Burning Bush (Dictamnus albus)

The burning bush plant is highly attractive and quite deserving of a special place in the garden. The entire plant — particularly the older flowers — is covered with oil glands that emit a strong, spicy fragrance. So much oil is produced, in fact, that on hot, windless summer days, the excess oil turns to vapor. When you place a lit match near the plant, the whole plant briefly becomes engulfed in flames. Amazingly, the plant is unharmed. This is because it’s the vapors surrounding the plant that go up in flames, while the plant is untouched. So it only makes sense that this plant is named both a gas plant and a burning bush.

In early summer, this 30-inch-tall perennial plant bears clusters of fragrant, slightly waxy, white flowers on sturdy spikes. Dictamnus albus var. purpureus is a popular lilac-pink-to-light-purple variety with darker purplish veins. The gas plant has attractive, slightly glossy, light green, finely toothed foliage. Rubbing the foliage gently with your fingers releases a delightful lemony scent. The plant is long lived, once established, and is quite hardy (Zone 3), requiring both well-drained soil and full sun.

Unfortunately, this fascinating and beautiful plant is not commonly grown. The reason most likely being because it is difficult to grow from seed, and it resents disturbance. Seed needs to be pre-chilled for three months, and then takes anywhere from three months to a full year to germinate. The gas plant dislikes being moved or divided, and it takes a few years to get established. On the whole, patience is a virtue with this plant, but it is an extremely worthy one to seek out.

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