Sunday, July 27, 2008

Late Summer Color in the Garden

Gardeners head for the nurseries and greenhouses in the spring and are often seduced by whatever perennials are blooming in the pots at that time. The result is a colorful spring and early-summer garden, but by late summer and fall the gardeners are wondering .... where have all the flowers gone? This entry will cover some reliable plants for late season color.

Of course you can always buy some mums for a shot of fall color and sometimes they do “come back,” but the only reliable perennial mum I have encountered is ‘Clara Curtiss,’ (above.) It has a light pink daisy-shaped flower with a yellow eye and grows around 18 inches high. This plant is a vigorous spreader and will benefit from a shearing around July 4, resulting in nice full blooms in the end of summer.

Although I think of echinacea (cone flower) as a fall plant, mine bloomed in July this year. Helenium (sneezeweed) is a late blooming perennial with small flowers in oranges and reds that look similar to cone flowers. The unfortunate common name “sneezeweed” comes from the fact that this flower was dried and used as snuff by natives and early settlers.

Eupatorium (“Joe Pye Weed”) is a native plant that grows tall with large heads of rosy pink flowers, a butterfly favorite. The newer eupatoriums have been bred to be shorter, but the cultivars I have tried are still quite tall.

Sedum is a genus of about 400 species of leaf succulents and “Autumn Joy” is the one cultivar that seems synonymous with fall gardens in Vermont. Butterflies and bees love these plants and they look nice paired with another fall blooming perennial, ‘Purple Dome’ aster.

Chelone (“turtlehead”) has dense spikes of rose-pink flowers in the early fall. The deep green foliage looks nice all season and it does well in moist soil.

Cimicifugia produces long white flowers on tall (3 or more feet) stems which grow up from a finely cut fern like foliage. I steer clear of the species and go with ramosa atropurupurea or one of the dark-leaved hybrids because they do not spread. This plant, which is also called “snake root and bug bane,” provides a nice vertical accent in the garden and does well in light shade.

My monkshood is blooming now, but the cultivar ‘Arendsii’ is a real late bloomer, in fact I have lost it to frost some years. This particular monkshood is around three to four feet of height, the shortest & stoutest of all monkshoods.

Next spring when shopping for perennials, consider some of these plants for your late summer garden. Actually perennials in pots are fine to plant anytime during the summer as long as they are well watered.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Wedding Flowers

Every time I commit to providing flowers for a wedding I come to regret it. In this case it was the daughter of a friend and they were “totally open” to whatever I came up with. “Just use what ever is blooming in your gardens,” I was told.

I like combining foliage and flowers for unusual, but attractive bouquets, so I thought it would be fun. I said I would do the bride’s bouquet and her maid of honor’s piece as well. I never do the corsages or boutonnieres as I’m not very good with the wiring of flowers, ribbons, etc.

A few weeks before the wedding I get a call saying the bride wants burgundy flowers in the bouquets. OK - this is not good. I do have burgundy flowers in the fall, but not in early summer. Then she visits with table cloth samples and the ten bouquets are going on a table cloth the color of ... dark tan. Kind of a difficult color to work with, even though it sounds easy.

She liked some baskets I had on hand, so we decided to go with them - putting in liners and using Oasis. Then I get the call - she wants the bouquets to look “elegant.” Again I am flummoxed. The baskets are already countrifying the look and I imagine she’s thinking calla lily type elegance ($35 a small bunch wholesale). She also has a new favorite color - gold-orange.

At this point I am sweating bullets. I ended up spending $86 at the florists buying spray roses in her favorite color, some alstromeria for blending and various filler flowers.

So, I have been showing photographs of the end results. This last photograph is the bouquet for the bride and her sister. I ended up kind of doing my thing. There’s even some castor bean in one of the bouquets. As I write this they are all sitting down for the meal and hopefully admiring the flowers.