Astilbe x arendsii 'Bressingham Beauty' (tucked in the middle) and 'Erika' (to the right). These shade lovers are thriving in southern-exposure full sun, thanks to the steady effluence from the sump pump hose into the sump garden. 'Erika' is a single plant that's grown into a clump the size of a small shrub, and is a year-round highlight, from the time its perfect, glossy bronze fronds appear in early spring through the stately display of its dried plumes all winter. 'Bressingham Beauty' is a contrast in size (smaller), plume shape (arched), and scent (vanilla).
The sump garden is jam-packed now, a mere two years after the lawn was dug up to make it. A smaller astilbe will be coming into bloom soon, to be accompanied by black cohosh, the plant whose foliage looks like a black astilbe. (Yes, we all came to know it as Cimicifuga racemosa, but now it's been reclassified as Actaea racemosa. Taxonomists, stop that right now, please.) Ligularia dentata 'Othello', with its leaves of oversized spoons with purple undersides, is pushing its neighbors aside. Its neurasthenic cousin, Ligularia stenocephala 'The Rocket' stands brave and unwilted in this site, with a new yellow spike that matches the yellow in the blooming Lysimachia ciliata (fringed loosestrife), which is happily taking over the bed, and whose matte reddish brown foliage is complemented by the glossy brownish red foliage of hardy hibiscus 'Kopper King', which has grown four feet in two months. Darmera peltata (umbrella plant) bloomed pink in early spring (and won't it be nice if it reblooms late summer, just like it did last year). No sign, sadly, of the "reseeding biennial" Angelica gigas, which turned out to be an expensive annual.
This garden will go dramatically tropical soon, as the black elephant ear (from the farmer's market) and the green elephant ear (from a bocce-ball sized bulb, acquired for the cost of a latte from the always-always low priced store) upsize, the siren-red cannas unfurl, and the castor beans called 'Carmencita' join the party, in the garden that never needs watering.