May I Introduce: Water Plantain

It is extra-ordinarily difficult to capture in a photo the charm of Water Plantain (Alisma trivale). The small, white, three-petalled flowers are widely spaced on a tall but insubstantial inflorescence, which, in a photo, is mostly just not there. In life, however, the transparent scrim of little stalks and buds and flowers, held high above the water, has delicate appeal. The leaves are relatively small on long petioles, glossy and pointed, and arranged in a rosette at the base of the stalk.

Water Plantain delights in mucky soil and shallow standing water. Unlike some other desirable wetland natives, Water Plantain actually likes stagnant water, so it is a good choice for hard-to-plant, out-of-the-way corners of constructed ponds. It also tolerates a bit of drying out by late summer, so it also thrives in natural wetlands and pond edges.

Water Plantain requires full sun, or nearly full sun, to promote flowering.

Feature photo, above :
CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

May I Introduce: Ditch Stonecrop

Ditch Stonecrop in flower, photographed in Shaw Woods.

This is an oddity for sure. A lanky plant, 30 to 60 cm tall, with undistinguished leaves and small cream or pale green flowers, it is an unlikely candidate for inclusion in our gardens. Ditch Stonecrop’s only ornamental asset is its colourful seedpods. In late summer, the capsules turn pink — grown in sufficient sun, they turn a bright pink.

Ditch Stonecrop (Penthorum sedoides) grows in damp ditches, often in some shade. However, at least half day sun is better to bring a bright colour to the seed capsules. It tolerates shallow standing water so it could be grown in the shallow shelf area of preformed ponds. It thrives in mucky soil. Ditch Stonecrop spreads by rhizomes.

I appreciate late colour in our garden, and interesting shapes to contrast with the ubiquitous daisy shape are especially valuable. A few customers saw the colourful pods last summer and were intrigued. Is this a plant for everyone? Hardly, but if you have a damp ditch, or a natural pond edge, and would like some late season pink, then Ditch Stonecrop might be the right plant for you.