Here’s a plant that you should consider for long season interest. Sturdy 2′ stems are clothed with delicate fine needled foliage, reminiscent of Amsonia hubrictii, gradually forming stands 2-3′ across. Vernonia lettermanii remains attractive all summer, and in early September, clusters of purple aster blossoms top the stems, inviting myriads of monarch butterflies. Picture this little gem planted with Sedum ‘Maestro’, Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ and Calamintha nepetoides and you will no doubt pleased by this end of the summer vignette.
Just about all of us can grow Vernonia lettermannii . Native to the Ozarks and found in rocky flood plains, this compact species of Ironweed is very tolerant of hot dry locations, yet can withstand brief periods of flooding. This means it is quite adaptable to soil types. It can be grown in gardens ranging from zones 4-9, adding one more plant to cold climate palettes.
Undemanding and lovely, Narrow Leaf Bluestar begins to charm in late spring, bearing clusters of light blue star shaped flowers at the tips of it sturdy 3′ stems. The foliage which cloaks the stems of this species is delicately narrow, adding a soft texture to the mixed border all summer long. However, it is in October that we think it becomes most dramatic. Amsonia hubrictii shimmers in the garden as its foliage takes on glowing tones of amber gold.
Grow Amsonia in a sunny or partially shaded location, although fall color is most spectacular when sited in full sun. It is quite adaptable to soil types, tolerating both moist and dry conditions, and is deer resistant. Plants form herbaceous shrubs 3′ tall and 3′ wide, and are hardy in zones 5-9.
We seldom use the phrase “to die for” (such a price!) but this is an apt descriptive phrase for the gorgeous Paeonia ‘Bartzella’. It is one of the Intersectional or Itoh hybrids, named for the hybridizer Toichi Itoh who was the first to create crosses of tree peonies with herbaceous ones. The resulting plants are herbaceous, but with foliage and flower forms characteristic of tree peonies. They command a pretty price because supplies are limited.
‘Bartzella’ boasts large (to 9″) semi double to double warm yellow blossoms with just a hint of red at the base of some of the petals in late spring. The blossoms emit a spicy scent and are borne on sturdy stems that do their best to support such humungous bounty. The foliage remarkably remains fresh and clean all summer. Eventual height and spread should be about 3′. Plants appreciate a well drained neutral soil in full sun or partial shade (some shade is preferable in warmer climates). Care should be taken when planting the roots that the eyes should face upwards and not more than an inch below the soil surface (including mulch). Plants may take a year to bloom, but we were ecstatic when we were blessed with at least a half dozen blossoms the first year after planting. Hardiness range is zones 4-7.
Peonies are available barefoot in mid autumn, and grown in containers at better nurseries for year round sale.
We’re being BC here (botanically correct). Formerly known as Aster laevis ‘Bluebird’ and commonly referred to as Smooth Aster, this native fall bloomer should be in everyone’s garden. It has remarkable attributes. The show begins early-mid September here in New England, when ‘Bluebird’provides a wealth of 1″ blue flowers on branched, quite sturdy 3-4′ stems. ‘Bluebird’ is not cursed with “ugly legs syndrome” that afflicts New England and New York Asters selections (mildewed and brown foliage). Flowering continues happily into October.
Symphyotrichum laeve ‘Bluebird’ is hardy in zones 4-9, and is not at all fussy about soil, taking even quite dry conditions. Plant in a spot where he will receive at least a half day of sunshine, which is necessary for a colorful display. An attractive combination would match ‘Bluebird’ with tall white Boltonia , Sedum ‘Maestro’ and Ornamental Grasses. Besides being attractive to bees, ‘Bluebird‘is a draw for migrating Monarchs on their journey south for the winter. Be aware that if you don’t deadhead after flowering you may be the beneficiary of numerous seedlings around your garden.
Little has been written about this lovely late summer/fall blooming Asian Aster. It came into our possession last November, via US Mail, swaddled in newspaper and still covered with blossoms. The return address cited Margie Mott as the sender, an old friend and plant huntress who scours every nursery and garden center on the eastern seaboard. She had lost the plant’s name tag but thought she had acquired it from Asiatica Nursery, which, you may have heard, sadly closed their doors this season.
Well, we made some divisions and took lots of cuttings, which quickly formed husky plants, and by late July this handsome Aster was already blooming away. It is exhibiting a very long season of bloom and we hope it will continue to be colorful into November. The ¾” composite flowers have violet petals surrounding golden disks and are displayed on branched 2′ stems. We’e noticed this Aster develops runners, much like Asteromoea and Kalimeris, and expect it will form a thick stand in upcoming years. Use ‘Ezo’ as a handsome skirt in front of fruit laden Viburnum or as a companion plant to fall blooming Sedums and ornamental grasses. Like most asters, it will perform best in lots of sunshine and we expect it to be hardy in zone 4.
UPDATE 2015: This Aster has not been reclassified as Kalimeris
Not all Persicaria deserve persecution. Persicaria amplexicalis ‘Golden Arrow’ is not only one of the “good” members of the Polygonum (Knotweed) family, it is an extremely handsome and versatile perennial. The first thing you should note is the golden green lance shaped foliage, which is attractive all season. Big plus. In mid summer ‘Golden Arrow’ begins to display an array of ruby colored spiky tassels, which account for its common names: Firetail and Red Bistort. The flower show continues into September, and both flowers and foliage combine beautifully with the many late summer yellow composites, as well as pink or blue/violet asters, and of course all the Salvia.
Leaf color is brightest yellow when grown in full sun, but ‘Golden Arrow’ will require a little extra moisture if the area is on the dry side. Otherwise, grow it in a well drained soil in half day sun, where the golden yellow will tint slightly more green. Foliage height reaches 18-24″, with flowers adding another 6″ or so to the plant’s stature. The spread of each plant depends on age and culture, but expect Persicaria ‘Golden Arrow’ to eventually take up 2 sq. ft. It grows well in a wide range of hardiness zones from relatively mild zone 9 through a quite chilly zone 5.