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Dienanthe caerula

Richard Fraser

Why you should plant it

If you have a penchant for hydrangeas, you'll love this relative from China, which was new to me last year. And it's not overexposed the way so many hydrangeas are. Dienanthe grows to 50 centimetres tall (even larger in some areas) and has an intricate violet blue bloom that is absolutely fascinating. It's one of those rare summer blooming plants that is both gorgeous and hardy.

Where to plant it

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Give it a fair whack of space in a partly shady moist spot – it hates being dried out. Place it so you can see it all the time – not just as a useful filler in a perennial border. It is deciduous so mark the spot and try not to impinge on its territory in the spring.

What it offers

This is a Zone 4 perennial but it grows into shrub-like proportions. It is slow to start but then you'll be astounded when it reappears late in the spring. The luscious notched leaves are worthwhile in themselves – put them with a staunch fern such as Athyrium 'Ghost' and you've got the beginning a dramatic combination.

Source and cost

Buy Dienanthe for $24 plus shipping through mail-order nuerseries such Fraser's Thimble Farms on Salt Spring Island, B.C. ( or in person at specialty retailers like Lost Horizons in Acton, Ont. ( – Marjorie Harris

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