Thursday, September 19, 2013

Serendipitous Garden Combinations

Simply stated, my flower beds can look a bit chaotic.  I love plants, especially native plants, but I love the animals that live on and with them equally as much.  When I come across a new plant, I buy it and figure out where I'm going to plant it later.  If a few seedlings come up, uninvited and unplanned, I'm likely just to leave them where they sprout, rationalizing that they obviously like the conditions there.  If a plant supports a good cohort of insects, I'm likely to let it remain in my garden, even if it sports tattered foliage for part of the year or if the color of its bloom clashes with the blooms around it.  I love my gardens...but I can see how other people might not be quite so enamored of them.

That disclaimer out of the way, occasionally I find unplanned combinations of plants growing in my gardens that really please me, or a single plant that is just simply special in a truly visual sense.  Since this is, ostensibly, a garden blog, I thought I would take a moment and share with you a couple of the "pretties" from my garden during the last month or so.

I find myself absolutely loving this combination of blue sage (Salvia azurea) and sand lovegrass (Eragrostis trichodes) from my front garden bed.  The blue sage in this photo is a horticultural variety that stays shorter and blooms a deeper blue than the standard species.

It was a good year for blue sage - here is the standard wild type out in the front tallgrass area, with Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) in the background.  Blue sage is beautiful in that setting, too, but something about the airy mist of sand lovegrass seedheads surrounding the vivid blue of the salvia just satisfies me.

Another nice combination I've just discovered this fall is how well bigleaf aster (Eurybia macrophylla) combines with almost anything that is blooming near it.  Here it is snuggling up with summer phlox (Phlox paniculata).

Bigleaf aster is actually native east of the Mississippi, so I'm stretching to call it truly native for us. 
However, it is performing well in dry shade and it's more native than hosta, for example, so I'm starting to embrace it with open arms.  I have a lot of dry shade.

Here it is with brown-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba).  The waning summer phlox are in the background. 

Bigleaf aster is tall - about 3' - and I was not too excited this summer as I watched it gain its full height in leggy splendor.  In fact, if I'd been more on the ball, I'd have cut it sharply back in mid June.  When it started blooming, however, the individual stems gracefully sank down into the surrounding plants, making it look like the single, bigleaf aster plant was significantly broader and shorter than it really is.  With the petioles of the flowers responding to gravity and turning the individual blooms to face upwards, the panicles ended up looking like baby's breath, winding among the stronger blooms of the other plants in the garden - a very nice effect.

I think I've written before about fameflower or rockpink (Phemeranthus calycinus, formerly known as Talinum calycinum), but I really want to show off this clump of it. The foliage looks rather like a rangy version of moss rose or sedum.  Like moss rose, it thrives in poor soil and hot sun, with little water.  I've never had to water it.

The blooms are held 6-12" above the foliage on long, slender stems.  They don't open until the heat of the day; they close as the light weakens in the evening.  The bright magenta color shows up magnificently in the hot, afternoon sun of the summer.  Truthfully, though, it's hard to get a good photo of the entire plant because of the spacial separation between flowers and foliage, but the picture above captures the feeling it leaves me with.  I highly recommend it, although finding it may be a bit of a challenge. 

This plant reseeds a bit, which I truly love.  It's not enough to be a nuisance - in fact, I wouldn't mind if the plant would reseed a bit more frequently.  The seeds must be fairly heavy, because I've never found a seedling very far from the parent plant.  I've transplanted a couple of these seedlings and passed a couple others on to gardening friends; they transplant and reestablish quite readily.  I don't feel like I'm using fameflower effectively yet, but I'm slowly moving my new plants around to see what I can figure out.   Hopefully I'll be sharing some stunning combinations including this plant in future years.

Well, only 3 plants in this post, but it's late and I find myself thinking longingly of bed, so I'll sign off for now.  Hope all your fall blooms are reviving your gardening spirit after the heat of the summer!

1 comment:

ProfessorRoush said...

+1 on it being a good year for blue sage. I've been enjoying it.