Swing Season: Falling for September’s Slow, Sultry Color Shift . . .

September 14th, 2012 § 1 comment § permalink

Bits of Early Color: Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Shasta’ and Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens Glow Like Stained Glass in the Last Rays of Low Sunlight

The last days of summer: golden light, cricket chorus, scampering squirrels and vibrant colors. It seems Mother Nature —ready to rest from a long growing season— has decided to stretch out in a meadow of tall grass and soak in the warmth of September’s sun. This is the swing season. Nights are getting nippier and a star-filled blanket of inky darkness spills out across the sky earlier and earlier with each passing day. In her final transition from summer to fall, the garden is slowly shifting hues and textures. Once opaque green, even the forest canopy is showing signs of early color; tints of autumnal scarlet, saffron and bittersweet kiss leaf edges and margins.

Although I look forward to all of the seasons, It’s true that I enjoy autumn more than any other. Viburnum, Windflower, Fairy Candles, Flame Grass, Yellow Wax Bells, Asters, Toad Lilies, Monkshood and Glowing Moss; at this time of year, my favorite plants are just beginning to get gussied up for for their grand, garden soiree. And I’m ready to pour myself a glass of Sweet September Sangria and join Mother Nature for a moment in the late summer sun. Here, a few of my current, swing-season favorites in the garden . . .

A Floriferous Late Summer Favorite, Bush Clover (Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Edo Shibori’), is Popular with September Pollinators as Well. I Often Include This Blowzy Beauty in My Garden Designs, and Grow Several Cultivars Here at Home; Including the Glorious, Fuchsia-Colored ‘Gibraltar’.

Windflowers are Some of the Most Beautiful Late-Blooming Perennials. ‘September Charm’, ‘Party Dress’, ‘Robustissima’ and Silver-Tipped ‘Serenade’ are Among the Loveliest. Pictured Above: Anemone x hybrida ‘Serenade’

Ornamental Grasses are Truly the Queens of the Late Season Garden. Here, Mauve-Tinted Tips of Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’) Echo the Colors of a September Dawn

I Like to Position Ornamental Grasses Where Their Late-Season Tassels Catch the Low, Golden Light. Pictured Here is Flame Grass (Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens)

Light Filters Through Maiden Grass Tassels in the Late Afternoon, Greeting Me Home

Late Summer Colors Grow Richer in the Shade as Well. On Cool, Still Evenings, Luminous White Fairy Candles (Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’) Fill the Secret Garden with Beautiful Fragrance; Reminiscent of Ripe Concord Grapes

Though the Golden Flowers are Stunning from Late August through September, Beautiful Kirengeshoma palmata (Yellow Wax Bells) Grace the Dappled-Shade Garden with Emerald Green Foliage Throughout the Year

With Their Exotic Looks and Late-Season Resilience, Toad Lilies Have Earned a Special Place Among My Favorite Flowers. Tricyrtis hirta is Particularly Hardy (tolerating extreme cold temperatures to -30 Degrees Fahrenheit – USDA zones 4-9). Though a Bit Less Sturdy, Tricyrtis formosana ‘Dark Beauty’ Has Always Stopped Me in My Tracks

With Late Winter to Early Spring Blossoms, Leathery Green Leaves, Ornamental Berries and Vibrant Fall Foliage, Viburnum x burkwoodii ‘Mohawk’ is a Four Season, Garden Beauty. But to Me, the Autumn is When She Always Shines Her Brightest

Garden Design & Installation: Michaela Medina Harlow

Photography and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

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September’s Soft, Autumnal Serenade … The Beauty of Japanese Windflowers

September 19th, 2011 § 4 comments § permalink

Anemone x hybrida ‘Serenade’ in My Garden

Ah, September; low, golden light, amber colored fields and fragrant orchards laden with fruit. I love this time of year, especially in the garden. Some of my favorite colors come to life in late summer and early autumn; bold red, burnt orange and bittersweet, saffron and gold, plum, wine and cerise. Playing vibrant fall foliage against late blooming flowers is a great way to get maximum impact from the end-of-season garden show. Asters, Monkshood (Aconitum), Fairy Candles (Actaea simplex), Toad Lilies (Tricyrtis formosana) and single flowered Chrysathemums are some of my preferred autumn blooming knock-outs. But when it comes to fall flowers, I must admit a weakness for the delicate beauty and rich color of Anemone.

Just now, the Japanese Windflowers are beginning to unfurl their pretty, pink petals in my garden. Anemone are gorgeous perennial plants, and although I admire all species and cultivars, Anemone x hybrida ‘Serenade’ is probably my favorite among the Asian hybrids. In early September, beautiful silver-tipped buds —striking in moody, low light— begin to open; revealing silken petals in the most gorgeous shade of deep pink. Windflowers are lovely in combination with many plants, and I delight in experimenting with all sorts of color and texture harmonies and contrasts. Actaea simplex ‘Brunette’, Athyrium niponicum var. pictum, Eupatorium rugosum ‘Chocolate’ and Hosta ‘August Moon’ are lovely partners for Anemone x hybrida in partial shade. In sunnier locations, the deep pink flowering cultivars are striking when played against the golden autumn color of Amsonia hubrichtii or A. illustris, or backed up woody plants like Lindera benzoin or Clethra alnifolia (both of which produce beautiful yellow autumn leaves). A screen of blue-green conifers provides gorgeous contrast to A. x hybrida ‘Serenade’, ‘September Charm’ or ‘Robustissima’. All Anemone are lovely cut flowers in the vase, but I find that they are so beautiful in the late season border, that I rarely cut them.

The Silvery-Tipped Buds of Anemone x hybrida ‘Serenade’ Unfold Deep Cerise Petals, Slowly Fading to the Softest Shade of Pink

Japanese Anemone and hybrids (sometimes listed as A. japonica, A. elegans or A. hupehensis var. japonica x A. vitifolia) are very low-maintenance, disease-free plants once established. All prefer moist, deep, well-drained soil and shielding from hot, mid-day sun. Most Japanese Anemone hybrids are hardy in USDA zones 5/6-10, with some sturdy varieties toughing it out as far north as zone 4. I typically grow the hardier Anemone cultivars in my garden (including A. x hybrida ‘Robustissima’ and ‘Serenade’), but I always provide winter protection for the more delicate plants in my garden; applying a thick layer of composted leaf mold or shredded bark mulch. Japanese Anemone are attractive garden plants year round; forming neat mounds of lovely, cut foliage (some cultivars produce blue-green leaves). Taller cultivars (such as 4′ A. x hybrida ‘Whirlwind’) sometimes require staking in windy sites. However, properly sited —at the back of the border or in a protected spot— I find they are self-supporting in all but the wildest of weather.

Photos and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photographs, articles and content on this site, (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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Glorious, Late Summer Garden Design: Combinations Featuring Light-Catching Texture and Bold, Contrasting Color…

September 8th, 2010 § Comments Off on Glorious, Late Summer Garden Design: Combinations Featuring Light-Catching Texture and Bold, Contrasting Color… § permalink

Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’ and ‘Matrona’, stunning in combination here at Ferncliff with bluish hues, such as the Juniperus chinensis, sargentii glauca (shown above) and later, with the tawny tufts of Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ (also pictured above, prior to inflorescence)

It’s early September, and the garden has only just begun to glow with a warm, bronzy radiance. Late summer’s golden, honey-tones and rich, violet hues sing in combination with dusty blue conifers and turquoise-tinted foliage. Some of my late-season favorites, particularly the delightful toad lily, ‘Dark-beauty’ Tricyrtis formosana, (read about my obsessive-love here), and velvety-violet monkshood (Aconitum charmichaelii ‘Arendsii‘), are never more beautiful than when combined with orange and yellow wisps and needles. And the richly colored hues of early autumn sedum —especially exquisite plum and magenta saturated cultivars like ‘Matrona’ and ‘Purple Emperor’— are stunning when settled into a garden filled with shocking blue fescue or a back-drop of icy-colored conifers. Oh, such delicious, painterly possibilities! The summer-to-autumn transition is a colorists delight…

Tricyrtis formosana ‘Dark Beauty’ photographed here at Ferncliff, with Ucinia egmontiana ‘Orange Hook Sedge’

Monkshood (Aconitum napellus or charmichaelii ‘Arendsii’)  is stunning backed by gold. Consider planting it in front of spicebush (Lindera benzoin). Monkshood is available widely through nurseries and online from retailers including Stork Road Farm (image above) – Gorgeous in combination with shrubs and perennials that turn red, orange, rust, yellow and goldin autumn, including: Spicebush (Lindera benzoin), Amsonia hubrichitii (Bluestar – see below), and Switchgrass ‘Heavy Metal’

Amsonia hubrichitii – Thread-leaf Arkansas Bluestar – turns brilliant gold in late -summer and holds its delightful color throughout autumn

Looking for some inspirational ideas? There will be plenty to look forward to here in the coming weeks. In meantime, try looking back at some of last year’s posts, beginning with this one on ornamental grasses (click here). I am passionate about late-season garden design, and my own beds and borders were specifically planned to peak in this season. Creating an end-of-summer to late-fall garden crescendo isn’t difficult, but it does require some research. Knowing what to expect from woody plants and perennials —and how to play changing hues to their best advantage— is something a gardener learns with thoughtful observation, experience and exposure to well-designed late-summer and autumn gardens.

At Ferncliff, Amsonia hubrichitii is planted in combination with Geranium ‘Brookside’ (above). The cobalt-violet blossoms and flame colored foliage are a stunning combination in the entry garden throughout fall.

Pay close attention to how the light filters through your garden. Position luminous plants, such thread-leaf Arkansas bluestar (Amsonia hubrichiti) flame grass (Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens) and blue switchgrass (Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’) to play with the sun’s rays, and the shadows of nearby trees and dark buildings. Make note of how your perennial foliage changes color in late summer and fall. Plan planting combinations with autumn-blooming perennials —especially in contrasting colors— to make the most of the late season transition. Will the green or blue foliage of a large plant shift gold? Position it behind a violet or blue-colored fall flower, such as an elegant monkshood or wild-looking aster. Does the cool weather bring out the arctic-blue of a favorite conifer? Next year, remember to plant orange-colored dahlias nearby or, for a softer-look, think about adding rosy-hued windflowers, such as Japanese anemone (Anemone x hybrida ‘Serenade’ – also beautiful with gold leaved hostas) to your borders….

Anemone x hybrida ‘Serenade’ (Japanese windflower / anemone)

Panicum virgatum, ‘Heavy Metal’ switch Grass – available in the UK (and above catalogue image via) the RHS online shop. This ornamental grass is widely available in nurseries and garden centers throughout the US.

The same plant as pictured above, Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’ swichgrass, here at Ferncliff in November

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Article and photos (vendor link exceptions as noted) are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

The Gardener’s Eden is not an affiliate of the RHS, nor of Stork Road Farm. Product image links to these fine garden suppliers are provided for reader online shopping convenience only.

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