Serendipity Rules

When I drove into the parking lot at Olbrich Botanical Garden on June 29, I was immediately shooed into a little back area where those of us who had signed up for the regional meeting of the Garden Writers Association were to be rewarded with our pick of free plants, courtesy of Bailey Nurseries in Minnesota.

I hadn’t been expecting this, but since I can never resist a free plant, I picked up a couple gallon pots — one with a new dwarf pink rose and one with a native grass that I thought was little bluestem. 

Photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries

Back home I planted them side-by-side in the flower border along my front fence. The rose was ‘Head Over Heels’ (shown above), a Bailey introduction so new that it won’t hit the retail market for a year from now and the hybridizer Ping Lim was surprised to learn I even had one. But then I was the one getting a surprise when I gave the tag a closer look and realized that I had come home with big bluestem cultivar named ‘Indian Warrior’ (shown below), a behemoth that easily soars up to 5 feet tall. Just what I didn’t have room for.

Photo courtesy of Perennial Gardens, Inc.

The plants survived the summer, and the rose produced sporadic bloom of one-inch double flowers that the heat bleached out to white. I was underwhelmed. The bluestem was just…tall.

And then, a couple weeks ago, I walked down my front sidewalk and got yet another surprise. Thanks to the cooler temperatures the rose was now blooming with gorgeous little light pink double blossoms and next to it, the leaves of the towering bluestem had turned a no less gorgeous shade of burgundy red. Pink and burgundy. The combination was stunning.

At this point I couldn’t be happier with my acquisitions, and I can’t wait to see what happens next year. The rose will probably not get much bigger than 2 by 2 feet, and the bluestem may one day prove too hefty to stay, but for now I’m delighted.

Gardening often brings happy accidents. Part of the fun is waiting to see what happens when our backs are turned. 

—Carolyn Ulrich


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