Pamela Harper, gardening guru

A few weeks ago, I had the great opportunity to hear Pamela Harper speak at the Mid-South Hydrangea Society meeting in Memphis. I've been an admirer for many years and her book "Time-Tested Plants: Thirty Years in a Four Season Garden" is one of my gardening bibles. I've found that most of the plants she grows in her Virginia garden do well in north Alabama. About the only difference is her soil is sandy and ours is clay. Here are some of the great plants I've discovered from that book:

Climbing Raspberry (Rubus rosifolus "Coronarius") - This thorny vine is compensated by beautiful spring time blooms that look like an old rose.

Bleeding Heart Vine (Dicentra scadens) - Gorgeous and dainty, it is tougher than it looks. Planted in dry shade, it always goes dormant by mid-summer but reliably returns each spring.

Fatshedera lizei -  The result of a cross between English Ivy and Fatsia. Another winner for dry shade.

Michelia Figo (Banana Shrub) - Another tough customer, it has survived the dry shade death trap. Beautiful glossy foliage and exceptional fragrance.

Euphorbia corolata - Drought tolerant perennial that resembles Baby's Breath.

Japanese Roof Iris (Iris tectorum) - A tough iris that actually grows on roofs in England. Doubtful it would do that here but does well in shade.

Carex phyllocephala "Sparkler" - An evergreen sedge that reminds me of a tiny grove of palm trees.

Lespedeza thumbergii "Pink Fountain" & "White Fountain" -  Large arching shrub with tiny pea-like flowers in summer and golden foliage in fall.

Azalea "Koromo Shikibu" - Beautiful, evergreen, fragrant pale purple variety.

As you can see, Ms. Harper is good for my garden and bad for my wallet. As a result of her talk, I know have more plants on my wish list! Her topic was "Hydrangeas and Their Companions". She shared beautiful slides of her garden (she is an excellent photographer) and educated us with her knowledge and lulled us with her beautiful English accent. Here are a few plants that she mentioned that I made notes of:

Climbing Hydrangea "Moonlight"
Liripe "Lilac Beauty" and "Christmas Tree"
Toothwort (Dentaria diphylla)
Phlox "Minnie Pearl"
Hydrangea "Little Honey"
Picea "Skylands"
Sweet Flag "Ogon"
Witch Hazel "Jalena"
Anemone nemorosa
Cestrum "Orange Peel" and "Lemon Peel"

A memorable night and well worth the 2.5 hour drive!

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. Oh, I'm jealous! I'm going to have to copy your wish list!

  2. Hi Phillip, love the photo of you two. I can vouch for Hydrangea 'Little Honey', it is worthy. :-)

  3. How nice that you got to see her in person and see her pictures! I'll have to get those books you mentioned. I have her Perennials book and it's one of those I always go back to. I have Toothwort and Phlox 'Minnie Pearl' from her list and they are both beautiful performers.

  4. What a great evening. Nothing like a jolt of inspiration after a long hot summer.

  5. Phillip, How wonderful to meet her~I love the little evergreen azalea and would love to have it in my garden! gail

  6. This must have been a great experience for you. If you are interested in growing your own loofah sponges, drop by.

  7. Lucky you! I loved her book "Color Echoes," which has been very influential in the development of my garden. If I lived in Zone 7, I'd buy all her books.

  8. Pamela certainly knows her plants. Did you see her on a Gardener's Diary?
    Great photo!

  9. I have Pamela's book! I remember seeing her on a garden show and went right to Amazon and got the book! I bought it when I was up in the NY tundra, I'll be heading right up to get it out and start planning my wish list!!


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