Perennials Do It Too!

Woodland Sunflower

Woodland Sunflower (Helianthus divaricatus) – I love seeing the green vein skeleton as chlorophyll slowly withdraws from the leaves.

This is the time of year everyone on the eastern part of North America – and anywhere else there’s woods and forests with deciduous trees – goes gaga over fall foliage.  Folks take road trips to the country or the hills wherever they may be to take it all in, and Instagram, blogs and Facebook pages are chock a block with images of gorgeous reds, oranges and yellows.

With all the hullabaloo about the trees and some shrubs (I start drooling when I see some Viburnums in late October)  the changing colours of perennial leaves often go unnoticed.  Maybe this is because, low to the ground, they don’t stand out amongst fallen maple or oak leaves.  Maybe folks are so busy looking out and up at the trees they don’t take the time to look down.  Maybe it’s because a lot of people ‘clean up’ their flower beds – cutting back foliage before it has a chance to display the subtle and oh so temporary slendour that can be just as gasp-worthy as a Staghorn Sumac.  Here are a few examples from my garden.

Solidago

Who could have anticipated Goldenrod (Solidago sp.) leaves would turn such a lovely red… certainly not all of them do; more often than not they just turn brown and wither away but this year quite a few are truly beautiful.  Perhaps it’s a specific variety that is spreading around.

Solomon Seal

Solomon Seal (Polygonatum biflorum) will get even yellower before the leaves finally just fall off, leaving a forest of stalks over winter.

Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida), below left, and Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), below right,  have different shaped flowers and leaves – but both turn a beautiful orange/red, pallida sooner than purpurea.

Sedum spectabile

After the flower heads turn brown and the fleshy leaves dry and fall off, it’s the stalks of Sedum spectabile that turn a glowing rosy pink.

There’s more of course.  Hosta.  Some Geranium.  Siberian Iris.

What are your favourite perennials for fall foliage colour?
Temporary

Tale of Two Echinaceas

I have to confess I don’t have just one favourite plant – I have dozens.  And the list changes every year depending on things as mundane as the weather (too dry to produce many flowers, or, so dry the whole plant just dies) or as esoteric as did I grow it from seed (or it was given by a friend or relative).

Bug on purple echinacea (2)

Echinacea purpurea

In mid July there are quite a few favourites – one of them is Echinacea purpurea – Purple Coneflower. It has lively purple or white (the alba variety) large daisy-like flowers, self seeds readily and transplants easily.  Best of all, bees and other bugs love its pollen and nectar.  If it’s happy in its location it can get quite tall so needs to be either near the back of a border or in the midst of other tallish things.

bugs on white echinacea
Echinacea purpurea alba

 

 

 

 

 

My newest heartthrob though is Echinacea pallida – Pale Purple Coneflower.    I started these indoors from seed two winters ago; last year I planted them out – kinda spindly looking things with short narrow leaves.

IMG_2433_edited-1

Echinacea pallida the first yeat – longish narrow leaves very different from E. purpurea

No sign of a flower at all.  They survived the drought though, with minimal watering, so that made me happy.

Echinacea pallida July 2 2017

Echinacea pallida July 2 2017

This year they exploded – almost literally – sending up first much larger leaves and then enormous stalks topped with a beautiful and delicate flower.  Much like the Purple Coneflower, except it differs by having narrower petals that droop down instead of pointing out like a daisy.

 

Also, the flower stalk itself is many inches long, making it perfect for cutting.

Ti top it off, as the Missouri Botanical Garden plant page says, this native plant can: “tolerate Deer, Drought, Clay Soil, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil.”

In other words, this perennial is perfect for my garden and also for many other gardens in the County!

Let me know if you’re interested in growing these yourself – I’ll try to harvest and save you some seeds.

Echinacea pallida July 8 2017

Echinacea pallida July 8, 2017