Three Alaska Perennial Treasures That’ll Become Your Favorites
Article and photos by Wendy Wesser
While shopping for plants one day, I noticed a wild geranium labeled as a trollius. A couple days after that, at another nursery, I saw that an orange Siberian trollius was marked at the same price as a yellow European trollius of the same size—a significant mistake and I will explain why later. I won’t name either nursery because both are reputable local places to buy plants. Identification of young plants is sometimes difficult for experienced gardeners, and I did question myself for a minute, but I could tell the difference because these three are among my favorites, and I have lots of each Alaska perennial in my yard.
There are major differences between the yellow and orange trollius: blooming time, height, and propagation. The yellow European trollius, T. europaeus, is also sold as yellow trollius or golden globeflower, and it’s the more expensive variety. “Its seed takes an unconscionable time to germinate…” wrote Lenore Hedla in The Alaskan Gardener’s Handbook. To propagate this plant you can divide it after it blooms, or even before if you’re impatient like me. It’s one of the earliest flowers to bloom and is tolerant of shady locations, extending its bloom time—just a couple reasons why this plant is on my top five list. I paid a high price for three of these Alaska perennial treasures years ago at DeArmoun Greenhouse in Anchorage, and in the years since I’ve shared many with others and now enjoy several more throughout my yard. Their happy yellow blooms look great in front of the wild pink roses on the edges of my gardens and in combination with the purple wild geraniums. They usually only bloom once, but if you trim the spent blossoms you may get lucky with fall blooms.
The Alaska perennial, orange trollius, blooms later, in July and August, and its flower stalks are taller (mine grow to 4 feet). It propagates easily by seed, tolerates partial shade, and is usually much less expensive to buy. It self-seeds and can take over an area in a few years if given the chance, but it is easy to mow down—or you can pull up volunteer plants and move them to areas where you want them to thrive. In my yard I’ve planted orange trollius and wild geraniums along the electrical easement because they go well with the fireweed and daisies.
What is the main reason these three are among my favorites? Hardiness. These plants fight for their space in the garden and are easy to remove if they are needed somewhere else. They complement other perennials and shrubs in their bloom periods and have beautiful foliage when they are not in bloom. All three of these plants put up with neglect. As I’m writing this story in mid-June, I have not watered several of these and yet they are growing happily. Yes, we’ve had a bit of rain this year, but they also grew well last year with little to no rain. As I get older I want to have a colorful garden that can fend for itself—these three flowers are helping me get closer to that goal.
*If you are at a local plant sale or a commercial greenhouse and you are unsure of what you are really buying, just ask. Gardeners are friendly folks and almost always willing to share their knowledge.
Looking for more gardening advice? Check out these great “How To:” articles—”Starting and Maintaining a Raspberry Patch,” and “Starting, Hardening Off, and Planting Seeds In Southcentral Alaska.“