Saturday, October 16, 2010

Gentiana scabra 'Zuki Rindo'

Nobody even wants to GUESS at the mystery plant?  Well, it's an incredibly beautiful fall bloomer that everyone needs to go out and buy.  Gentiana scabra 'Zuki Rindo'.  There are many great gentians out there, also check out G. septemfida var. lagodechiana, G. 'True Blue', G. clausa, or G. 'Blue Cross'.  All make great garden plants for partial sun and orgainic rich soil with consistent moisture. 

Monday, October 11, 2010


RtoL: Panicum 'Shenandoah', Miscanthus 'Malepartus', Calamagrostis 'Brachytricha' and Calamagrostis 'Avalanche'

The incredible rise in popularity of ornamental grasses has been no surprise.  They offer forms and textures that are hard to accomplish when just using other herbaceous or woody plants.  Grasses provide interest during the fall and winter season as the rest of the garden is winding down. 

Most of the grasses we grow in our gardens are warm-season grasses.  They prefer warm temperatures, and often come up fairly late.  I've found the best time to plant them is early June.  Planting earlier is ok, but there isn't much advantage since they don't grow much when the temps are cooler.  Planting late in the fall can be even more problematic, the cooler temperatures in fall slows the grasses down and signals dormancy.  They don't have enough time to establish a root system before winter, and often frost-heave out of the ground or die altogether.  This is especially true for grasses such as Miscanthus sinensis, which often times when planted too late in the season can be pulled out with no effort in the spring after they've died. 

Some grasses are cool-season grasses and can be planted in early spring or fall.  The various Calamagrostis varieties fall under this group, and represent the most popular of the cool-season grasses.  Festuca, Chasmanthium, Koelaria, Molina, and some Carex (I know, they're sedges not grasses) species also fall under this group.

I don't have a favorite, but I do like some better than others.  Calamagrostis 'Brachytricha', Panicum 'Northwind', Chasmanthium latifolium, Hakonechloa macra (all varieties), Sporobolus heterolepis, Schizachyrium scoparium,  Koeleria glauca 'Blue Sprite', Miscanthus sinensis, and Andropogon gerardii.

Calamagrostis 'Brachytricha'

Panicum 'Northwind'

Miscanthus 'Silberfeder'

Chasmanthium 'River Mist'

Friday, October 1, 2010


Here's this month's mystery plant.  Any guesses?

Who am I?

What a beauty!(berry)

Beautyberry is an often overlooked plant at the garden center all season.  It's just a green bush most of the season.  You might notice some minuscule pink flowers in late July to August if you pay attention when you're standing or working next to it, but they certainly don't stand out.  As soon as mid-September hits, those flowers have turned to berries that quickly mature to a beautiful amethyst color.  There's nothing quite like it for fall fruit effect. 

There are a number of Callicarpa species (over 40) but only 4 are readily available.  The best species for us in the north is C. dichotoma, which is also becoming the most readily available.  The cultivars 'Issai' and 'Early Amethyst' are readily available to gardeners and have both performed well in zone 5.  In my gardens they reach 4' or less with a nice arching habit, and die back to the ground each winter.  There is also a white-fruiting form, 'Albofructa', and a selection which leafs out gold and changes green with the obvious name 'Spring Gold'; neither of which I have seen. 

C. japonica will also possibly grow in the north similarly to C. dichotoma.  There is a fantastic variegated selection that I will growing next season.  Similar size, habit, and hardiness to C. dichotoma.  C. japonica also dies back to the ground.

C. americana is the only US species I can find information on.  This one is less hardy, to zone 6, and I have not tried it.  I'm all for native plants though, and will give it a try some day.

C. bodnieri is represented in the trade by the variety 'Profusion'.  Though some attribute this variety to C. giraldii.  Either way it is also listed as zone 6 and I would like to give it a try some time.  This variety has larger leaves than the others, and great fruit set.  (another obvious name)

Give a beautyberry a spot in your garden, it's a great choice if you want to move beyone viburnums and crabapples for fall fruit effect.
C. dichotoma 'Issai' with Penstemon 'Dark Towers'