Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Late Blooming Perennials

This is the time of year when perennial gardens are running out of steam and customers come in looking for something that is “...blooming right now.” Unfortunately a lot of the late bloomers are also very tall, so hard to sell late in pots.

Artemisia lactiflora is a nice early fall bloomer.

Unlike most artemisias, this plant is not invasive and it can grow in moist soil. I use the feathery sprays of blooms in fall bouquets.

The species of Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum) spreads quickly and can be unmanageable. I like the cultivar, ‘gateway’ which is bushier than the species. I was also excited about the possibilities of ‘Little Joe’ eupatorium, advertised as a “dwarf” version , 3 - 4’ tall, but it’s still at least 5’ tall in my gardens.

In the foreground of the above photo is one of my favorites - ‘Lorraine sunshine’ heliopsis. One of my customers says: “This plant makes me smile.” It has great variegated foliage which has not yet reverted back to green. The flowers are long lasting, making it nice for the garden and bouquets.

Last but not least, is one of my favorites - Purple Showers viola. Often, and it is the case this year, this perennial blooms the entire growing season. It’s grown from cuttings, so doesn’t spread all over the place by self-seeding. Rather it remains in manageable clumps of color. I’ve been using it as a cut flower for small bouquets. It has been called the “energizer bunny” of violas.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Perennials for Foliage

Flowers come and go on perennials, but their foliage is a permanent part of the garden landscape. I think shapes and textures of the plants are just as important as blooms, particularly as summer comes to an end and flowers are limited.

Hostas are the first plants that come to mind when considering foliage.

Above is an "oldie," Gold Standard. In front of the hosta are the spotted leaves of a pulmonaria.

This above hosta is Sun Power (planted in full sun) and behind is the maroon foliage of Britt Marie Crawford Ligularia. Hosta has its fair share of problems, namely it is filet mignon to the deer and slug population.

Jack Frost Brunnera (above) is a fairly recent introduction to the perennial world and it will become a classic. The silver foliage glows in the shade garden. It has inconsequential small blue flowers in the spring.

Its parent, Brunnera macrophylla, which I call "perennial forget-me-not" is loaded with flowers in the spring, and keeps the nice heart-shaped leaves all season, but doesn't stand out like its sport. Brunnera have no insect problems and the deer don't eat them either.

Sedums also have nice foliage (and few pest problems.) Below is Autumn Charm.

Besides yellow and silver and maroon leaved perennials, the foliage itself may be matted, mounded, spiky or arching, all creating a sense of contrast in the gardens.

With this summer's heat our "shade garden" has been a pleasant place to relax. Below is a photo of mixed foliage, mostly european ginger and variegated carex (sedge).

I love European ginger. Unlike American wild ginger, this cultivar has glossy leaves which gradually carpet the ground. It has strange flowers under the leaves that are unnoticeable.

Another plant I like for its foliage and form is amsonia tabernaemontana. It has pale blue flowers in the spring, which are barely noticeable to my eye, but in full sun it grows into a completely trouble free mounded plant that looks like a shrub. In the late summer I use the foliage to fill in bouquets.

Above the amsonia is seen behind a mat of low-growing perennial geranium.

Cimicifuga is another nice plant for its arching shape. This plant has an interesting collection of common names - "Black Cohosh," "Snake root" and "Bugbane." The foliage also comes in various darker shades, although these grow slowly for me. This one is Brunette.

Folks are straggling in now looking for fall blooming perennials, so that will be my next blog entry!