Late Blooming Perennials

Some gardeners have to pick there moments.  A spring wildflower and bulb garden highlighted by hellebores, perhaps.  Or an early summer rose and delphinium fest.  Does a late summer garden suit you better?  Are your pots your passion?  If I were retired, had a garden the size of Sissinghurst, and an garden staff, I  might could have it all. But that is not the case.  I work every week that the garden is in session.    

I am utterly focused on the work at hand from early May until the 4th of July.  This means I have little time to enjoy and nurture a garden at home.  People in the nursery business or the landscape business all have the same issues.  They get to work early; they go home late.  They work the weekends too.  Once the early spring has passed, and the magnolias are finished blooming, my eyes and hands are everywhere but at home enjoying my garden.      

I plant lots of pots-this keeps my love of gardening alive while my attention is elsewhere.  When I come home at night and water, I feel like I am gardening.  My landscape is designed around my lack of time to pay attention.  I have lots of mature evergreens that require little but a once yearly pruning, and some thoughtful watering.  Late in August, I start to come up for air.  I am looking at my gardens. 

The late blooming perennials I greatly enjoy, as I have time to enjoy them.  My rose garden is underplanted with white Japanse anemones, and boltonia.  Boltonia is a selected native fall blooming aster that is one of my favorite plants.  They grow all summer long without one bit of encouragement from me, and bloom like there is no tomorrow in September.  They are not fussy in any way, beyond appreciating regular water.  Bugs and disease-they are impervious.  For the past 3 weeks, I have been looking at these tall growing clumps out my south side windows.  How they thrive makes me look like a good gardener.   

The white Japanese anemones thrive equally well-on the south side of my house, in between and behind the roses.  They have no problem with a full sun location.  I do water my roses regularly via drip irrigation-the anemones seem to appreciate it.  For the better part of 10 days I have been wading into the anemones and boltonia with my camera.  I have time to look, and appreciate what is going on. 

I do not have the means or space to mount and maintain a garden that is lovely every moment of the entire season.  I have to make choices.  I like a late and a later season garden.  I like tall billowy perennials.  This means I personally favor hyssop, monarda, boltonia, hardy hibiscus, Joe Pye weed, ornamental grasses. aging Russian sage, phlox paniculata, lespideza, asters, anemone Japonica, among others.  This has every bit as much to do with my availability, as their form and flowers. There are very few garden plants I do not like.  I would have them all, if I could.           

But there are those plants that get special care and attention, as their time to be corresponds with my time to give. The big late blooming perennials-they occupy a special place in my gardening heart.  As for your garden, I would make this suggestion.  Choose the season that delights you the most-and go for broke.  If you want to grow great vegetables, organize your gardening efforts accordingly, and make plans for rocking pots of basil.  If you have a summer house elsewhere, make spring your season.  If you are a working person, plan for a glorious garden when you are the least busy.

Trying to be all things at all times sounds way too much like a competition.  A great garden that engages and satisfies an individual gardener is all about enabling a certain quality of life.  Those astonishingly beautiful pictures you see of gardens in magazines-they are all about a specific moment chosen by a gardener.  Choose your moment.

A Fall Favorite

Sept 24 061There are many species of anemone, but few are quite as lovely as anemone x hybrida “Honorine Jobert.  An old garden hybrid discovered in a garden in Verdun France in 1858, it is a star of the fall perennial garden.  A good many white flowers are touchy prima donnas that when they are not sulking, perform listlessly.  But this anemone shines; it is vigorous, and easy to grow.  Though many would say they are best in part shade, I grow mine in full sun on a south wall. 

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The dark green trifoliate foliage reminiscent of a grape leaf grows about 30 inches tall for me. I have yet to see bugs or disease bother the plants. My criteria for a five-star perennial? Hardiness, ease of culture, handsome in or out of flower, disease and pest resistant, and good for cutting; this plant readily fulfills all my criteria. The flowers are born on very tall wiry dark stems that move gracefully in a breeze. 

Sept 23 042All of the varieties and hybrids of Japanese anemones (which originated in China, by the way) make a great addition to the perennial border.  The foliage is dense and low all summer, giving way to impossibly tall flower spikes.  The buds dot the stems, and give way to simple 6 to 8 petalled flowers of breathtaking beauty.

Sept 24 073The fringed halo of brilliant yellow stamens encircles the lime green stigma-ooh la la.  I have only had trouble growing anemones where the soil drains poorly.  As I believe that at least 80 per cent of winter hardiness hinges on good drainage, I plant bog plants in poorly drained areas, and work hard to improve the soil in my perennial gardens.  These anemones have been here about nine years.  I do have to thin them out in the spring, they are that vigorous.

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Anemones are pokey, waking up in the spring. I have been known to run my hoe over their crowns, messing about in the garden too early.  However,  if I have a mind to move or divide, early spring is the best time.  As the fibrous roots root deeply, they take poorly being dug in leaf.  They seem not to mind much before they get growing. The best success I have had moving anywhere and anytime I get from the old pink species, Anemone Robustissima.  This plant can readily hold its own in a meadow setting, and increase with the speed of a weed.   The grey-pink flowers are small and softly colored, and profuse. 

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Were I restricted to a palette of less than ten perennials, this one would make my list.  I am especially fond of late blooming perennials, and I am never happy about the gardening season coming to a close. I like asters and boltonia for the same reason.

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Anemones last well as cut flowers.  I like anemones, asparagus foliage, hydrangea and dahlias loosely arranged in a pitcher with whatever else I have going on in the garden. Having flowers to cut all summer long is one of the best reasons to have a perennial garden. 

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breathtaking-am I not right about that?