Shrubs and trees which flower on old wood, just before the leaves unfurl, have a special charm. Think Witchhazel, Native Dogwood, Redbud. One that we especially love and isn’t so well known is Stachyurus chinensis ‘Celina’. This shrub bears pendant racemes of creamy white/yellow flowers in early spring (April for us). We have ‘Celina’ planted in a sheltered spot from winter winds, which can desiccate the flower buds. This area is shaded by a Japanese Maple and gets 4-6 hours of sun. Our 7 year old plant is about 4′ tall with arching branches from the base, reaching to about 6′ in width. We expect it will grow to 8′ x 10′ eventually. Fall color varies year to year, but we’ve seen it take on yellow and orange tones. hardy in zones 6-9.
As a garden designer and nurserywoman, I am always scouting for uncommon plants that have a long season of interest and are not fussy about care. And when I say “long season of interest”, I mean plants which have a bloom period of 6 weeks or more, or have outstanding foliage for much of the growing season. If these plants are deer resistant and attract pollinators and butterflies, they score even higher.
I offer these exceptional underutilized plants for your consideration.
Acanthus hungaricus Bear’s Breeches. Hardier for me than the better known Acanthus mollis, this selection has thrived near our stone wall in hot full sun and well drained soil (that’s your tip!) for 20 years. In early summer, stunning 3’ spires of two toned white and lavender flowers erupt and carry a show into August. Its big and bold dark green foliage is thought to be the inspiration for the design on Corinthian columns. Plants spread where happy, and I have found the foliage is a perfect foil for dying bulb foliage. Zones 6-9.
Calamintha nepeta ssp nepeta Calamint. This remarkable long blooming sun loving shrubby mint is one of my all-time favorite perennials, yet it is still not widely grown. Plants form tidy mounds (read: do not run!) of rounded mint scented foliage in the spring, and begin to send forth many stems bearing tiny white flowers from mid July through September here in New England. C. nepeta ssp nepeta has faithfully performed for us for over 20 years, regardless of whether summer weather is hot, dry, cool or moist. We have never had this selection self-sow in our garden. If you are fluent in Greek, you might note that its generic name translates to beautiful mint. Zones 5-7.
Kalimeris incisa ‘Blue Star’ As much as I am wowed by voluptuous blossoms, I like to champion the strong garden performers which have quieter charm. One plant whose charm seldom disappoints is an Asian Aster relative called Kalimeris incisa ‘Blue Star’. This little number grows 15-18″ tall and 18-24″ wide, and begins its production of 1 1/2″ lavender blue daisies in June, carrying on into autumn (I kid you not.) ‘Blue Star’ forms tidy clumps; it does not run, unlike some of its relatives. Grow in full sun in zones 5-9.
Ruta graveolens ‘Jackman’s Blue’ A desirable and durable Rue, once relegated to the herb garden, but deserving a more prominent spot in the landscape. ‘Jackman’s Blue’ has a tidy growth habit with the prettiest aromatic blue gray pinnate foliage providing a decidedly lacy effect. In late summer citron yellow flowers appear on stems just above the foliage which attract a myriad of butterflies and pollinators. Interestingly, I see ‘Jackman’s Blue’ featured regularly in British garden periodicals. With a hardiness arrange of USDA zones 4-9, there’s no reason not to use this plant more prominently here in the states. Grow Rue in a sunny spot in well drained soil. Yes, it is deer resistant.
Athyrium otophorum There are so many great ferns! Here’s one you should know about. Eared Lady Fern impressed us so much last year, we are still gushing about it. Easy to grow in average to moist soil (provide supplemental watering in dry spells to encourage fresh new frond production), this Athyrium put on nice growth in one season and stood out for it’s limey green fronds with deeper wine markings . Plants grow 15-24″ tall and wide, and are hardy in zones 5-9.
Brunnera macrophylla ‘Diane’s Gold’ Siberian Bugloss. Yellow foliage plants are so valuable in the shade garden for their consistent golden glow. In the short time I’ve grown ‘Diane’s Gold’, I have been impressed how quickly she established after planting and thrived in a dappled shade bed. Although her floral display of sprays of tiny sky blue flowers is most effective in late April and May, ‘Diane’s Gold’ was still sending out an occasional flowering stem in July and August. Foliage clumps stay under 12” tall but can easily grow 18-24” wide. Zones 4-9.
Disporum flavens So easy, so stunning, so under planted…the sight of Korean Fairy Bells in the early spring garden always makes me smile. Sturdy shoots which resemble Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum) emerge in April and extend to 2’, with canary yellow pendant blossoms in small clusters at the stem tips. Disporum spread slowly by rhizomes and it may take a few years to form impressive clumps, but are long lived and deer resistant. Grow in part shade. Zones 4-9.
Peucedanum ostruthium ‘Daphnis’ Greater Masterwort. Upon first glance you might think what a refined Goutweed this is, but upon additional study you might notice that the foliage is larger and has more substance, with an attractive creamy yellow to white variegation. Plants do spread by rhizomes, but I would not call this invasive. In early summer, 15-20” stems bear white umbels resembling Queen Anne’s Lace. I always cut back the flowers as they fade, as this encourages new foliage growth. Grow in part shade. Zones 5-9.
Clematis fargesii ‘Paul Farges’ . Most gardeners are drawn to the big flowered Clematis hybrids, which tend to sulk after planting until their roots are well anchored. I appreciate a Clematis that doesn’t need coddling and ‘Paul Farges’ never asks for a fuss. 1.5-2” white blooms resemble a larger form of Autumn Clematis, but bloom time is June-August. Flowers are born on both new and old an old wood (Group 2 in the Clematis books), so if you want to control its vigor, cut plants back to 12” in the spring. If left unrestrained, ‘Paul Farges’ will easily extend 15-20’. Use him over stone walls, fences, or to cover a pergola as well as scramble up a medium size shrub or small tree. ‘Paul Farges’ is hardy in zones 5-9 and is deer resistant.
Eleutherococcus sieboldianus ‘Variegatus’ (aka Acanthopanax sieboldiana variegata) Five Leaf Aralia. As a nurserywoman, I always cringe a little when plant names change…new gardeners become confused and long time gardeners have trouble finding the plant listed under its old name. (And may I complain about genus names with more than 5 syllables?)
If you can get past the pronunciation, you will discover that this is one tough shrub for almost any situation with average to dry soil: sun, partial or deep shade. Eleuthorococus sieboldianus ‘Variegatus’ has quite showy white edged palmate leaves on arching branches which can really illuminate a shady corner. Flowers are produced in spring but they are inconspicuous. Take note that it does have thorns, which help to deter unwelcome creatures, like deer. Plants can grow 6-8’ tall and wide rather quickly.
Clethra barbinervis Japanese Clethra is waiting to be discovered. Yes, our native Clethra alnifolia, also known as Summersweet, is a great plant but this Asian species has a few extras going for it. C. barbinervis is a plant for all seasons, boasting fragrant mid summer blossoms, yellow-orange-bronze fall color, plus exfoliating bark in winter. If left unpruned, C. barbinervis will grow as a multistemmed shrub, but I prefer to see it trained as a small tree with single or 2-3 leaders, with lower limbs removed, so that the showy bark can be better appreciated.
Flowers form in July, bearing twisting 4-6” racemes of sweetly scented white flowers, which drip from the branches into mid August. It prefers a well-drained, neutral or slightly acidic soil with adequate moisture and can grow 15-20’ tall in zones 5-8. Clethra barbinervis grows well in dappled shade, although it will tolerate and bloom abundantly in full sun, if watering needs are met.
Are you growing any of these plants in your gardens?
It’s been over 3 months since I posted the “Before” Container Shots. We’re now into October, and luckily the weather has been mild, with a few chilly nights. All in all, the containers depicted in the early summer post are looking as good if not better. My goal each year is to come up with combos that are easy care and will look fabulous until frost. Here are this year’s end of the season shots.Succulents rule! The Aeonium noticeably is more green than bronzy, and this space where the 36″ Zen Bowl is located is getting more and more shade…perhaps now only getting 3-4 hours of afternoon sun…it’s getting limited for succulents. I think we’ll have to reconsider what type of plants to use here next year.The Aeonium ‘Cyclops’ in the drum pot, with Sedeveria ‘Harry Butterfield’ and String of Pearls spilling over the sides, is still looking pretty awesome. I will be sad when we have to dismantle this container.The Cylinder Pot in front of the garage is pretty much doing a repeat performance of last year. The big Kalanchoe beharensis started to overwhelm his neighbors, and was trimmed back several times.The larger white pot with Cuphea ‘David Verity’, Digiplexis ‘Illumination’ and Ruellia b. ‘Purple Showers’ needed watering attention, but is still blooming away. Not missing a step, the smaller pot continues to look good with Heuchera ‘Cherry Cola’, Phormium and Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’.The Grecian Urn on the pedestal was one of the shade ensembles, with Begonia ‘Art Hodes’, Cyperus ‘Starburst‘, Oxalis, and Callisia congesta variegata, which needed to be cut back more than once. I know, I know, I put way too many ingredients in this pot.Here’s another shade planter, mixing hardy and tender plants. Maidenhair Fern, Black Mondo Grass and hardy Begonia grandis, are paired with tender Sansevieria ‘Moonshine’ and Dichondra ‘Silver Falls’. This planter was in dappled shade all day, and notice how well the Dichondra grew!
Papyrus + Papyrus + Callisia = … To begin with, I selected too small a pot in June, so what did I do? In mid summer, I lifted the plants that had filled the pot and moved them into a much bigger container. When the Ornamental Oregano had done her thing, then the Callisia was very happy to take over the pot.One of the iron urns is getting more shade than in previous years… probably just 4 hours of good sun, and then it’s in dappled light. Here is what it looks like now… the Beschorneria and Golden Ivy seem happy still.Someone bought the head pot…so I can’t show how it fared, but instead here is another shady planter. Never took the “before” picture, but I thought this green trough was successful. The white form of Begonia boliviensis seemed happier this year than in the past, and is paired with trailing Pilea glauca, Pilea microphylla variegata, Ornamental Oregano, and Blue Rabbit’s Foot Fern, which is now pretty much hidden.Last but not least, the brown terra cotta bowl wants to show off even more now that it is autumn. Assorted succulent foliage looked great all summer. Now, in October, the Euphorbia tirucalli (Sticks on Fire) is beginning to deepen in color and Senecio ‘Blazing Glory’, bursting forth with orange red blossoms, is ending the season with a bang.
What easy care combinations worked best for you this summer? Have you been using succulents in your container plantings?
Some might consider the term “generous” a euphemism for invasive…but I have my own take on certain vigorous spreaders and self sowers. I say, sometimes a plant with ground covering capabilities is a good thing…it won’t be long before you have a nice swath of color plus the plant’s vigor keeps weeds at bay. Here are 5 Asters that command attention and are easy peasy.
( A little botany note: The taxonomists have reclassified Aster into several distinct genera in recent years. For example, the genus Aster encompasses species that are specific to Eastern Asia, while the term Symphyotricum includes Asters native to N. America and parts of Europe.)
One plant that really draws comments in our September garden is Symphyotrichum x ‘Vasterival’, a hybrid of unknown origins. 3/4″ daisies in a sweet shade of pink/lavender are born in loose sprays on tall dark tinted stems. You could pinch plants back in early July to control height, or let them do their thing, and have stems that can reach 5′. ‘Vasterival’ is a perfect plant for that “garden gone wild” look. Plants spread by stoloniferous roots.
Another Symphyotrichum selection that has proven quite vigorous is ‘Mary’s White’, which was selected by British nurserywoman Beth Chatto and named for her daughter. 1″ white daisies are carried on sturdy 3-4′ stems during September into early October.
The Asian Aster ageratoides ‘Ezo Murasaki’ is the boss in a bed where we once had plants with meek dispositions. We let ‘Ezo Murasaki’ fulfill its ground covering mission, and moved its less vigorous neighbors. Yellow centered violet 1″ daisies are born in clusters on 18″ stems from late September into November.
Some Asters self sow nicely. Symphyotrichum laeve ‘Bluebird’, commonly called Smooth Aster, is one we allow to seed about and establish informally in beds where a little autumn color will be welcomed. Quarter sized flowers have lavender blue petals with yellow centers open up in stages in loose sprays. ‘Bluebird’ grows 3-4′ tall, but bows gracefully around its neighbors.
Another promiscuous seeder is the Calico Aster Symphyotrichum ericoides. Height can vary, but most often plants are in the 18-24″ range. Don’t you think this Aster picked the best spot to establish itself, here between the Chinese Mint Shrub, Elscholtzia stantonii alba, on the left, and the golden leaved Kolwitzia on the right?
Are your summer planters in need of a fall makeover? Are you thinking you would rather invest in perennials than toss away non hardy plants at season’s end? There are many fall-flavored hardy plants which will provide you with texture, form and long lasting colorful foliage. Plants to consider include Ornamental Grasses, Ophiopogon, Hardy Succulents, Heuchera, Euphorbias, Ivies, Dwarf Evergreens, to name a few.
Here’s a few tips.
1. To achieve a fuller affect, use more plants than you would in the spring or summer. We don’t want to think about this now, but the days have been getting shorter, nights cooler, and plant growth is slowing down or ceasing.
3. Remember a pot of mums looks fresh for 3-4 weeks at most, then the show is over. Showy foliage will carry on and on.
6. When a night time temperature drop is forecasted, have light blankets, large pots or even an empty trash barrel handy to cover your container and protect the plantings from frost.
7. As November passes, he time will come to disassemble your planter. Tuck your hardy plants in a nursery bed or empty space in your vegetable garden plot to hold them over until next spring.
Talk about being survivors…ferns are one of the oldest group of plants on the planet, dating back 3 million years. Despite their adaptive capabilities, they are still one of the most overlooked perennials. Alas, gardeners are easily distracted by blossoms, small or huge, subtle or bold, and forget about the steadfast display of handsome foliage.
Consider these reasons why you should make room for more ferns . 1. They are the ultimate foliage plant. 2. Ferns are plants that don’t mind benign neglect. 3. They look gorgeous unfurling with new growth in early spring and provide a refreshing, deer resistant oasis in the shade all summer long. 4. Some ferns turn colors of bronze or gold in the fall before they are knocked down by frost while others provide a persistent green though the winter. 5. There are ferns for various soil conditions… yes, some tolerate drier soils although most appreciate some amount of moisture. Learn which ones will thrive in your soil conditions and you’ll have few problems.
Ferns 101. Some basic fern terminology. When reading descriptions you may get confused by the botanical terms, so here are the basics:
Ferns erupt as fiddleheads or croziers from rhizomes, which is the name given to the fleshy underground stem. Foliage either ascends from the rhizome (Dryopteris, Polystichum ) or creeps from this underground stem (Adiantum, Dennstaedtia).
The frond refers to the entire leaf structure including the stipe (the leaf stalk or petiole which rises from the rhizome) and the blade which includes the pinna (leaflets) that are patterned along on either sides the rachis (upper stem ). Each pinna has its own rachis. Some of the pinna are very simple (undivided) and some are divided in multiple segments or pinnules.
The most commonly cultivated ferns are in the genera Adiantum, Athyrium, Dryopteris and Polystichum. A stand of Maidenhair fern, Adiantum pedatum when provided with a moisture retentive soil is a vision to behold all summer. Its delicate green leaflets are set off by almost black stems. I am trying it in a shady container this season.
Athyrium is a huge genus with over 180 species and hybrids, including the cultivar ‘Applecourt’, pictured above. Many are familiar with the Japanese Painted Fern, Athyrium niponicum pictum. Although it can be forgiving of drier soil, an even source of moisture will provide a steady supply of new fronds all summer providing a more luxurious show. The selection ‘Regal Red’ has an especially striking red color contrast, ‘Pearly White’ adds a silver glow to the shade garden, and ‘Godzilla’, a new hybrid, is reported to reach epic proportions, growing to 3’ tall and up to 6’ across in the right conditions.
This is the first year we are growing Athyrium otophorum, aka Eared Lady Fern, and I am delighted with how well it is doing. A continuous succession of lime green fronds with contrasting burgundy stipes have added a freshness to the garden, and she looks great near golden leaved plants. I would be neglectful not to mention the hybrid Athyrium ‘Ghost’ (a cross between lady fern, A. flelix-femina and painted fern A. niponicum pictum). This fern is a true garden survivor, standing 2’ tall and holding its own next to a vigorous Hosta ‘Komodo Dragon’ .
Dryopteris, or Wood Fern, generally enjoys a moist rich soil, but I have grown D. erythrosora (Autumn Fern) in average to dry conditions and it hasn’t disappointed. D. erythrosora ‘Brilliance’ provides a bronzy copper color with its new emerging foliage. D. x australis aka Dixie Wood Fern can grow to an impressive 4-5’ tall but needs consistent moisture to achieve that stature. Dryopteris tokyoensis, another fern that is very easy to keep happy, produces erect fronds 2-3’ , forming a lovely vase shape.
Many species in the genus Polystichum have leathery leaves and tend to be evergreen. P. acrostichoides, commonly called Christmas Fern sends forth 1-2’ arching forest green fronds from multiple crowns. Another unfussy fern, tolerating dryish soil although it would love to unfurl in rich moist loam is P. polyblepherum aka Japanese Tassel Fern. It boasts lustrous dark green 1-2’ arching evergreen fronds. Korean Rock Fern, P. tsus-simense is a diminutive semi-evergreen species for rocky crevices, and it tolerates drier soil that has been amended with rich humus.
Don’t have any room for ferns in your shade bed? Why not try them in shady planters? Last year’s hit was Autumn Fern with Heuchera and Black Mondo Grass. Above is a just planted shot of a cast stone urn with Maidenhair Fern, Begonia grandis and silvery Sansevieria and Dichondra, as seen above.
If you are interested to discover more, let me direct you to a few resources: The American Fern Society, as well as my bible for ferns, John Mickel’s Ferns for American Gardens . A handy pocket guide for casual identifying is the Peterson Field Guide: Ferns.
Here is our current fern listing. Have any suggestions on special ferns to try?
I’m working on a garden plan for a client’s summer cottage, and she wants the peak color period to happen during July. She needs a no fuss garden that is deer resistant. The beds are in full sun as well as in morning sun /afternoon shade. There was one one request: no day lilies (plus the deer love them!). Works for me, and since it happens to be mid July as I take on this project, a walk about the garden gives me plenty of plant subjects to consider. Interestingly, many of these plants have become garden favorites, as I have already done individual plant portraits of many in this blog ( links provided).
First there is the understated but charming Kalimeris integrifolia ‘Blue Star’. From late June through August, starry light blue daisies atop 2′ plants welcome butterflies and bees. Nearby Calamintha nepeta is beginning to be abuzz with pollinators, its delicate small white tinted blue lipped blossoms begin in July and carry on into fall. Allium ‘Millennium’ is beginning to delight with lavender purple orbs on 15″ stems. Acanthus hungaricus which took a few years to establish but is thriving in well drained sunny spots for us, adds a commanding presence. Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Golden Arrow’ which seems to have happier looking foliage when it gets some mid day shade, is aglow with lemon lime colored leaves and ruby pink spires.
Grown for striking purple foliage as much as for it’s handsome pineapple lilies is Eucomis ‘Oakhurst‘. Then there is Leucosceptrum japonicum ‘Golden Angel’ which has formed a handsome 3′ x 3′ specimen…..it’s citrus yellow foliage is brightening up a partially shaded spot. It won’t bloom until early fall, but I really appreciate this plant more for its foliage than its flowers. Also in our beds which receive both sun and shade is the amazing Aralia ‘Sun King’, with its bold yellow foliage. Later in the season it gets white “sputnik-like” flowers followed by black seed heads.
Summer blooming shrubs play an important role in the easy care garden, and the first plants I consider are Hydrangeas. Now in our zone 6A garden, surprise freezes torment us in mid spring, and we often discover that H. macrophylla hybrids’ buds get whacked by the cold. Oak leaf Hydrangea forms have been much more reliable, and we love the double flowered Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snowflake‘ as a backdrop plant in our shadier beds. Of course the magnificent Stewartia pseudocamellia var koreana was in glorious bloom for the 4th of July but there is still a succession of flower buds as we now enter the 3rd week of the month.
One very special plant that few people seem to be growing is the Japanese Clethra, C. barbinervis. This species forms a large shrub, or can be pruned to 1 or several leaders to form a small tree. Panicles of white fragrant flowers are born during July and August. Fall color varies with shades of yellow and orange. A nice surprise is the exfoliating bark which is best appreciated when plants are grown with a tree like form.
Of course there are the annuals and tender perennials that really begin to show off now that warm days are here to stay. I couldn’t be without Salvia guaranitica in its various forms: ‘Black and Blue’, purple flowering ‘Amistad’ , ‘Argentine Skies’ and a species form that we acquired years ago as ‘Kobalt’. In fact both ‘Kobalt’ and ‘Argentine Skies’ have been wintering over for us in well drained soil here in our zone 6 garden.
What are your top 5 deer resistant plants for the July garden?
Here it is the end of June, and the most of our containers are planted. These are low maintenance ensembles: the goal is to have them still looking fine at September’s end, with minimal care during the summer. As you might expect, foliage plants, especially succulents, play a big role because of their reliable good looks.
The green drum pot boasts a specimen Aeonium hybrid with x Sedeveria ‘Harry Butterfield’ and Senecio rowleyensis (String of Pearls).
Again, the tall cylinder pot in front of the garage has a repeat performance with a few of last year’s plants…Kalanchoe behartii, Aeonium ‘Cyclops’ , Echeveria ‘Swirl’, x Graptosedum ‘California Sunset‘, Senecio ‘Mini Blue’, a Rhipsalis and silver leaved Dichondra.
For a sunny spot….some tender perennials with flower power. Digiplexis ‘Illumination Flame’ is not hardy for us in the ground, but it is a long summer bloomer in pots. Ruellia ‘Purple Showers’ adds some dark contrast with foliage plants Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’, Heuchera ‘Caramel’, and Hedera ‘Amber Waves’ adding long season interest. The smaller pot to the right has Heuchera ‘Cherry Cola’, Phormium ‘Sundowner‘, and Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’, with a matching Hedera.
This 20″ wide Grecian urn is in quite a bit of shade, so I’ve used the variegated dwarf Papyrus Cyperus ‘Starburst’, with dark purple leaved Oxalis, Begonia ‘Art Hodes’, Sansevieria ‘Moonshine‘ and trailing over the sides, Callisia congesta variegata
New pot, new spot. Green, silver and black color scheme. Dappled shade all day. Used Maidenhair Fern Adiantum pedatum, with Sansevieria ‘Moonshine’, Black Mondo Grass Ophiopogon planiscapes Nigrescens, Begonia grandis, which will get big and add height as the summer goes on, and I’m trying out Dichondra in the shade. We shall see…
The 14″ green planter has both a green and a variegated dwarf papyrus, with Ornamental Oregano Origanum rotundifolium ‘Kent Beauty’ and Callisia congesta variegata. The dusky plum leaved plant on the right is Tradescantia ‘Pale Puma’ .
The False Agave Beschoneria ‘Flamingo Glow’ is accented with ivies and oxalis…Hedera ‘Amber Waves’ and congestifolia, plus Oxalis ‘Iron Cross’ in the iron urns which get only 3 hours of afternoon sun.
A simple planting of hardy Sempervivum ‘Pacific Blue Ice’ with teensy creeping Sedum sexangulare are just the right plants for the small planting cavity of this face pot.
I can just tell this brown terra cotta bowl is going to be outrageous when fall arrives…the succulents used include Sticks on Fire Euphorbia tirucalli rosea, Senecio ‘Blazing Glory’, Crassula ‘Hummel’s Sunset’ Sedum ‘Firestorm’, and String of Pearls, Senecio rowleyensis.
Check back for more images in the end of September report.
As more and more of us understand the importance of beneficial insects, we want to host plants in our gardens which welcome and provide food for all of them, plus bees, butterflies and birds. Here is a short list of lesser known plants which add varied ornamental interest as well as lure many more of the good invertebrates into your garden
One of the earliest Butterfly Weeds to bloom, Asclepias speciosa, or Showy Milkweed ,has umbels of white to mauve pink flowers in late spring and early summer, with attractive gray linear foliage. Its flowers are a nectar source for all butterflies and its foliage is food for monarchs. Asclepias speciosa can grow up to 3’ tall and 1-2’ wide. Native to dry uplands of western N. America, it is drought tolerant. Hardy in zones 3-8.
Wild Quinine or American Feverfew is a Missouri native with 8-10” tobacco like basal foliage, and 2-3′ stems bearing clusters of white fuzzy yarrow-like flowers in midsummer. Beneficial wasps and butterflies are often seen hovering over its blossoms. Parthenium integrifolium was grown in years past for its medicinal qualities, and it makes a nice addition to the dry wild border. Hardy in zones 5-9.
Mountain Mint spreads, so think of it as a ground cover for butterflies and bees. Beginning in mid summer and continuing into September, Pycnanthemum muticum displays showy silvery bracts surrounding a central disk rimmed with tiny pale pink/white flowers. Drought tolerant once established, plants will grow 2-3’ tall and are the first pitstop for my honeybees when they leave the hive. Hardy in zones 5-9.
“Cup Plant”, so called because water is held in the reservoir created where the stems pierce through the opposite leaves, provides a watering hole for birds, bees, and butterflies. This Sunflower like plant is useful at the back of a border, where it bears yellow daisies on 4-8’ stems during July and August . I particularly like Silphium perfoliatum’s green seed heads as cut material for fall arrangements. Hardy in zones 4-8.
Stokes’ Aster is a showy native with 23” double lavender blue daises on 18-24” plants. Plants begin to color in late June and early July and carries into August. Beautiful as it is as a cut flower, you may want to leave the blossoms undisturbed to enjoy the dance of the butterflies above them. Grow Stokesia laevis in average to dry soils. Note: It resents winter wetness. Hardy in zones 4-10.
Aster ptarmicoides (formerly Solidago ptarmicoides, and NOW to be botanically correct: Oligoneuron album)
Formerly White Upland Aster or White Goldenrod depending who you asked, but with its new genus classification, Oligoneuron, who knows what to nickname it? Anyway, we first saw this plant at Wave Hill 20 years ago (labeled as Aster ptarmicoides), where it looked crisp and clean on a hot August day. Years later we were finally able to hunt down a seed source for it and now have it in our garden. Tidy plants have 4-5″ dark green linear leaves, and bear sprays of small papery white asters on 15” stems in mid-late summer through early fall. Yes to bees and butterflies, plus goldfinches love the seeds! Hardy in zones 3-8.
Symphyotrichum (Aster) laeve
We have grown the strain ‘Bluebird’ of Smooth Aster for years, with its 1-2” orange yellow centered, clear blue daisies born in September and October. Symphyotrichum laeve is a plant that is very happy in our mixed borders, self seeding here and there, but is easy to relocate should it pop up somewhere where it is not wanted. Plants grow 2.5-3’ tall and are about 18” wide. Happy in average to dry soil in zones 4-9.
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For the first few years that we grew Pineapple Lilies, we understood that the hardiness range was zones 7-10 for most forms. And that was okay. We would grow it in containers or dig the corms up after a killing frost.
Then we heard that some forms of Pineapple Lily were proving to be quite hardy, especially a purple leaved variety, Eucomis ‘Oakhurst‘. Not wanting to perpetuate “fake news”, we needed to be sure this was in fact true. Four years ago we planted several plants in our zone 6A garden in average, well drained soil where they get 6 hours of sun. ‘Oakhurst’ has not only returned dutifully each year, it has produced offsets as well as viable seed, which have germinated easily giving us many dark leaved progeny. Some folks are even reporting that is equally hardy in zone 5 in a protected spot.
Eucomis comosa ‘Oakhurst’s strap like leaves are an especially dark wine in cooler temperatures, and green up a bit during summer heat. In late July and early August. ‘Oakhurst’ produces spires of pinky white starry blossoms on 20-24″ stems. Seed heads remain attractive, and you can leave them for the seed to mature if you like, or remove them to send more energy to the bulbs below ground.