Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pretty in Pink

More than a month after its first blooms, the Japanese anemone 'Robustissima' (Anemone tomentosa) is still going strong on this last summer day in my Hamptons garden.  With significant buds remaining, I should enjoy blooms for at least a few more weeks. Its soft pink flowers perfectly suit the quieter tone of the autumn garden.

While many of my flowering plants have ignored their customary bloom period this year, this Japanese anemone has performed exactly as planned, providing late season color near the house.

And long before its wiry flower stems began to rise up in August, this late-flowering perennial created a nice ground cover with crisp green foliage that resembles grape leaves.  Before it blooms, clusters of ball-shaped buds top the 38" to 48" stems,  delivering a beautifully exotic prelude.

Two-year-old grouping knitted together nicely

Japanese anemones like moist, somewhat rich soil in full to partial sun.  They can spread aggressively by underground roots once established so give them room or divide them regularly.  The tall stalks may need staking which I usually do with dead branches for a more natural-looking support.

Although blooming relatively at the same time, there are many Japanese anemone cultivars from which to choose.  From single petal blossoms, like 'Robustissima',  to semidouble flowers.  The color options range from white to deep pink.   And while I generally like more uncommon cultivar choices not easily found locally,  I chose large-potted 'Robustissima' at a local nursery one day needing a little instant gratification.

Speaking of shopping for anemones, let me provide you with the correct pronunciation to help prevent some of the confusion and embarrassment that I endured.  The latin pronunciation is  \ə-ˈne-mə-nē\  not  \ˈan-ə-mōn\ as I mistakenly requested all over the Hamptons.  Of course, if you go shopping locally for them now, they should be standing tall in bloom so you could also just point when asked what you're looking for.

Exotic buds provide a beautiful prelude

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Who You Callin' a Weed?

Late summer lunch
Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum) created a spectacular show in my late summer garden this year.  This native perennial rises from the ground in late Spring and grows to six feet or taller by midsummer.  Starting in late July,  sizable pink blooms open on tall stalks creating a colorful wall of color behind the pool.  Although I originally planted Joe-Pye Weed for its blooms,  the privacy it provides around the pool (in and out of bloom) has become its most important attribute.

The plant's common name comes from the American Indian, Joe Pye, who used Eupatorium purpureum as an herbal remedy for typhus.

Ironically,  I learned about this native American perennial from European landscape designers Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury in their fantastic design book,  Designing with Plants.  Luckily,  I found my initial plants at a local Hamptons nursery.

I have three cultivars planted around the garden.  'Gateway' is my favorite with rich, rose-pink blossoms.   One season I added to these a lighter, but equally tall, cultivar mistakenly labeled 'Gateway'.   It now mingles well among its darker cousins by the pool.  I also have a shorter variety called 'Little Joe' planted near the car park.

Occasionally, I will find a stray Joe-Pye plant that has self-seeded in another garden bed.  If the color works, I'll leave it but prune it by nearly half in early June to reduce its height.  It will mature shorter and bloom about a week later.  I also use this pruning technique on the original groupings.  By pinching back the outer stalks, you get lower blooms in front of the taller stalks.

Joe-Pye Weed is easy to grow.  It likes moisture, especially when newly planted.  It will bloom in partial shade, but full sun ensures the tallest plants, fullest blooms and most erect stalks.  Those behind the pool are still standing tall after Hurricane Irene, providing tasty seeds for the finches.

While this perennial dies down to the ground each winter, I don't cut the stalks down until the Spring cleanup.   I read that since their stalks are hollow, cutting them too soon will allow too much water from winter rains and snow to accumulate in the stems, causing rot.

I'm thankful the Europeans saw past this plant's "weedy" American heritage.  I'm not sure what other native or imported perennial could have provided me with such a colorful show and screen.

Joe-Pye Weed makes a wonderful backdrop for tall grasses

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Irene Aftermath

Given the ominous forecasts, I expected my Hamptons garden to be seriously damaged.  Took a garden tour Saturday before dark, reminiscing about the stellar season; saddened that I may not get to enjoy the late summer/fall show.

But we were very lucky.  Hurricane Irene pushed high, but not severely damaging, winds into my neighborhood.  Surprisingly, we never lost power.  A drive around town reveled others that were not so lucky.  Many large trees were pushed down, falling onto houses and power lines.

The storm's effects on my home and garden were small in comparison.  Green leaves, small branches and twigs were strewn everywhere.  The wind split a major branch on a small redbud tree.  These are easily remedied.

Five full wheelbarrows of debris were carted out.  The outdoor furniture was put back into place.  I'm trying the advice from an online source suggesting that small stainless bolts be driven through the split redbud branch (like pins in a broken arm) to close the gap and help it mend.

I have also put some of the fallen oak branches to good use as natural-looking stakes for the tall anemones and daylilies still blooming.  "If you're given lemons, make lemonade."

Dead branches make great stakes
Wind-ravaged anemones back upright