Rick Darke, garden author and former curator at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, said renewed interest in North American native species in recent years has resulted in perhaps a dozen Amsonia species now available from specialist nurseries in the United States. In the trade journal Plantsman, Darke said the plant, commonly known as bluestar, is grown for its blue flowers and its vibrant yellow and gold foliage color in the fall.
Bluestars are found in wooded areas and on riverbanks from New Jersey to Tennessee to Texas, and they are popular garden plants as well. Blooming in May and June, each flower has five pale blue flower petals and blooms in clusters on 2- to 3-foot stems. The upright stems with narrow leaves are attractive all summer and turn a beautiful butterscotch-yellow in the fall.
A bit of advice gleaned from a garden magazine years ago has allowed me to keep my sanity when fall rolls around. Any time after Oct. 1, just whack away those perennials! Lawn mower, weed whacker, miniature chain saw or hedge trimmers can be used to cut almost everything in the perennial garden to within a few inches of the ground.
Be sure to rake sheared foliage from your beds to reduce future fungal and insect problems. Skip over woody-based plants, like lavenders. They don't like to be pruned in the fall. Also, leave the plants like coneflowers and ornamental grasses for winter interest or to feed the birds.
Florida garden tour
Clyde Watson, one of my favorite gardeners in South Charleston, sent a note about a garden tour he took while on vacation in Sanibel, Fla. The Watsons stayed at Sanibel Moorings, a condo/vacation spot. But that's where typical ends.
"What is so special about it is the landscaping. It is so unusual that they have a full-time horticulturalist on duty. They offer a tour once a week to share with you info about all the plants. Most of the unusual ones are labeled.
"I counted 138 different varieties. One of the unique plants was a century plant. It was in bloom. The bloom was at least 20 feet high it looked almost like a tree. As you know, they only bloom once and then die. While we were there, we had a pretty high wind and it broke the bloom.
"Just for an example, I will list some of the palm trees that I saw: Christmas palm, coconut, paurotis, pygmy date, spindle, sabal, ponytail, Canary Island, areca, thatch, blue latan, triangle, travelers, sago, buccaneer, queen, bamboo, Florida silver, lady, pindo, and Alexander. I am sure I missed some.
"An unusual plant was a coontie (a fernlike perennial). Its origin is in the prehistoric era. The Frangipani and Royal Poinciana were in bloom and, of course, there were periwinkles all over the place. There must have been at least 30 different varieties of hibiscus including Chinese lantern hibiscus."
Sounds like a glorious place, Clyde. I'll ride along on your next trip!
Reach Sara Busse at sara.bu...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.