Many Idaho gardeners secretly wish for a touch of lush tropics or dense forest in some section of their yard. With all the talk of climate appropriate plantings, such desires are considered traitorous by some. But even people who are not intimidated into xeriscaping, can only do so much with microclimates and irrigation to moderate Idaho’s high desert weather. Moisture loving perennials perish. Annuals often stay puny. No wonder animal skulls are used as yard decor!
Comfrey could be that splash of jungle that you’ve been looking for. The hand sized, fuzzy leaves grow thickly. They are dark green, even in our alkaline soil. The flowers are arranged as eye-catching clusters of purple bells.
I planted my first comfrey 15 years ago from seed. Comfrey has a root like a branching carrot on steroids, so it was too much for the vegetable garden. I dug deeply to remove and relocate it, but it was hard to get every bit of the gigantic root.
This mother of all the comfrey in my yard lives on as part of my landscaping in the front yard. Originally grown as a food supplement for our goats, several comfrey plants now spread their sumptuous foliage along the fence, adding their rich green and purple tones to the display of daisies and double shirley poppies beyond my living room window.
Large bunches of leaves can be torn off indiscriminately to feed to goats or chickens (they love it). In a couple of weeks, there is no sign of the trimming. In my experience, the comfrey spreads more by growing the root mass than by self-sowing, although some of that does occur. This probably makes it best suited for more exclusive areas that need filling in. Why not try some comfrey in your landscaping and bring a little of the tropics to the neighborhood?