September 17, 2011

Mid-September Color

I glanced outside my office window this morning and saw a remarkable sight: our outer sidewalk bed awash in color.  This mixed perennial and shrub border has been in bloom since early May, but seldom has it shown such a variety of color and texture as it does now.
The outer sidewalk bed.  Double-click to
enlarge and follow the descriptions of
what's in bloom.
Looking from the bottom of the photo to the top (double click on the photo to blow it up to full-screen size), the yellow closest to the grass is a second bloom of coreopsis ‘Sunbeam’.  Its main bloom was back in July and, by heavily cutting it back in August, we’re getting a modest repeat performance.  Just above it is a wigela  ‘My Monet’ with its white leaves flecked with pink and green.  It’s not in bloom, but it’s gorgeous.  The pinkish flowers on long stems are Japanese anemone.  They’re nice to look at, but are a garden thug.  Keeping them in check is (except for these few weeks) more trouble than they’re worth.

The great masses of blue you see are asters.  They’ve been trimmed back twice this summer to maximize flower production.  The variety is unknown; they have a yellow center.  Best of all, they’ll stay in bloom for two-plus weeks before fading.  For great texture, there’s also an amsonia hanging over the sidewalk.  It bloomed back in May but its foliage is about to turn a lingering, golden yellow.

Above the first flight of asters is Daphne Atlantica.  This shrub has doubled in size this year and, far more impressive, has been in near-constant bloom since late April.  The white flowers are wonderfully fragrant.  To its left and just visible as small spots of reddish purple are the second bloom of a veronica.

Beyond that are the fading yellow-gold floral remnants of a stand of helenium and, just above that, rudbeckia Goldstrum.  Finally, below the lamppost is the ubiquitous sedum ‘Autumn Joy’.

The character of this bed has changed in the past few years.  Once almost entirely perennials, it is now interspersed with low evergreens and slow-growing shrubs; all part of Betty’s strategy to minimize the labor required to maintain a bed that is eight feet wide and nearly fifty feet long.  She has edited large sections of the bed that were once given over to plants with short bloom times, disease issues or aggressive habits (multiple stands of iris, for example).  This year, we spent a total of perhaps ten hours moving plants.  The rest of the time, we’ve been able to just enjoy this highly visible bed.

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