By Lorraine Hunter
By Lorraine Hunter
Purple (and yellow and pink and white) coneflower, flaming maples and
ornamental grasses. What could be more appropriate topics for autumn in
the Canadian garden than these plant groups, all featured in various
consumer magazines this fall?
Fabulous fall foliage
Flowers and grasses set the autumn garden ablaze for a colourful last show before winter arrives
Purple (and yellow and pink and white) coneflower, flaming maples and ornamental grasses. What could be more appropriate topics for autumn in the Canadian garden than these plant groups, all featured in various consumer magazines this fall?
Karen York in Gardening Life, Fall 2006, profiles purple coneflower (Echinacea) as a carefree perennial now available in an amazing number of varieties beyond that garden stalwart Echinacea purpurea. Some of these, including many bred from wild coneflowers, are the unique pom-pom headed ‘Razzmatazz’ from Dutch grower Jan van Winsen, the ‘Big Sky’ series of orange and gold blooms from ItSaul Plants near Atlanta and the diminutive pink ‘Pixie Meadowbrite’ from the Chicago Botanical Garden. There are several white coneflowers such as ‘Fragrant Angel,’ ‘White Swan’ and ‘Kim’s Mophead.’ There’s also yellow ‘Paranoia’ with curved lemony petals and magenta ‘Fancy Frills’ with multiple rows of shaggy petals and a deep orange core.
The same issue of Gardening Life has a piece by Sonia Day on the magic of maples with suggestions for a variety of different maple trees with fabulous fall foliage. These include Acer platanoides ‘Crimson King,’ a burgundy-leafed Norway maple; the classic A. saccharum (sugar maple) with yellow to orange-red fall colour; the hardy A. rubrum ‘Red Sunset,’ the drought tolerant Acer x freemanii ‘Autumn Blaze’ and yellow-in-fall A. saccharum Silver Maple.
Canadian Living, September 2006, features ornamental grasses, welcomed for their graceful shapes and subtle colours. Jo Calvert describes them as perfect for eco-friendly gardens, tolerant of many soil types, thriving with lots of sun, little rain and no chemicals or fertilizers. “Native grasses, especially,” she writes, “are also an attractive food source for birds and butterflies.” Some of those she recommends, all clump forming, are:
• On the shorter side – Festuca glauca (blue fescue) which grows to 30 cm; Hordeum jubatum (foxtail barley), 45 cm; and Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ (fountain grass), 60 cm.
• Colourful – lemon-lime coloured Carex elata ‘Aurea,’ 60 cm; green maturing to copper Chasmanthium latifolium (spangle grass), 1.2 metres tall; and light green, striped with red Panicum virgatum ‘Huron Solstice,’ 1.2 metres tall.
• Truly Tall – Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem, turkey foot) with blue-green leaves and purple inflorescences shaped like birds, grows up to 2 metres tall; Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ (feather reed grass), 75 cm tall and higher with its pink inflorescences; and Panicum virgatum (switchgrass), 2.4 metres tall.
• Middle-of-the-Border – Hystrix patula (bottlebrush) with arching green stems, up to 90 cm tall; Sorghastrum nutans (Indian grass) ‘Sioux Blue’ growing up to 90 cm; and Sporobolus heterolepis (Prairie dropseed) with fragrant, pale pink flowers, to 60 cm in height.
Horticulture, September 2006, zeros in on salvias, of which there are over 900 species. Although available as annuals, biannuals and perennials, in our climate we are probably most often best to treat them as single-season plants. Four beautiful red salvias noted are Salvia splendens ‘Van Houttei’ and S. splendens ‘Paul,’ S. coccinea ‘Lady in Red’ and S. greggii. Then, there are the purple-blue varieties such as the hybrid ‘Phyllis Fancy,’ with white-tinged purple blossoms and dark navy bracts; S. leucantha, with inky blue flowers and near-black bracts and mexicana ‘Limelight,’ a cultivar with vibrant chartreuse calyces and royal blue blooms.