Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Tall Fall Bloom

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Returned from a brief trip to Maine late Monday afternoon and we're slowly catching up on things around here. Yesterday I got a couple more loads of daylilies down to the new property and I planted about 250 more. This morning I will finish plot number 8 and start number 9. There are 24 of these 50 foot by 10 foot plots which in the end should be filled with daylilies. In theory they were to be planted in alphabetical order but the Excel spreadsheet I made for Gail missed a few here and there so plants like the famous old daylily, Corky, with tall thin scapes and small yellow flowers can be found right after Cream Drop. So much for alpha order!

While in Maine I visited the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens which I have written about on The Vermont Gardener. This is a special place deserving of a visit if you get to Boothbay, Maine any time. The gardens are open year round with minor exceptions and I want to try to get back at first snow to take some more pictures. Certain trees, shrubs and perennials are strong garden components year round but they don't always get pictured in anything but spring and summer light.

One of the obvious things from the minute you arrive at the gardens is that the plantings have been masterfully accomplished using large numbers of like plants in blocks, swirls or swaths. For me it is easy to visualize the beauty even in late summer-early fall when color begins to taper. For example when I exited the car I noticed a sugar maple in early fall color underplanted with a 20 foot by 20 foot planting of Hemerocallis 'Patio Parade'. Gail offered this here at Vermont Flower Farm this year so we're very familiar with the tall yellow beauties which bloom from August into September. Next year the planting at Boothbay will be a show stopper all by itself. Any homeowner can create this same picture as long as they're willing to plan and purchase en mass. There is no regret to such a spectacular planting from year 2 onward.

One plant which appeared in several settings at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens was cimicifuga. Although this plant was recently renamed actea, it's going to be cimicifuga to me. Adjacent to the gazebo by the Rose and Perennial garden was a nice planting of Cimicifuga atropurpurea. Pink Spike and Brunette appear in other locations. Atropurpurea is not the darkest stemmed of the available varieties but it sure is the biggest I am familiar with. They were six feet tall in Maine and exceed 9 feet this year in our garden here (top, intro picture)

Gail and I enjoy any plant whose foliage can be left on into winter to provide some architecture to the garden as it turns white and blankets with feet of snow. We leave the various rodgersias, aruncus, and the tall astilbes to turn rust colored and stand tall. Cimicifuga is great too, especially atropurpurea because its seed heads wave strongly in the wind and yet hold together in high winds and survive until spring when it can be cut down. At the botanical garden the cimicifuga near the gazebo is planted in close proximity to some Eupatorium maculatum and a golden grass and together they work very well because of their size and movement.

The west side fence of our new property will be a ten foot wide display garden its entire width. Cimicifugas will be used in large groupings as year-round attention getters. Gail wants to mix in a number of tall plants with color so I envision various sunflower family members, phlox and helenium joining the tall astilbes and rodgersias. These are all good growers so a year from now, catch a glance of that area as you drive by. It will be special.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the temperature has climbed to a roaring 53.9 degrees. The wind and rain no doubt will remind my arthritis I shouldn't be on the ground planting. Regardless, I have to get going here. Hope your day is a good one!

Best gardening wishes,

George Africa

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