I Get The Blues in The Fall Blues

This post was written by my friend Stephanie Cohen aka the Perennial Diva. Stephanie is an award winning garden writer and plant dynamo. The is the author of three books; “The Perennial Gardener's Design Primer”, "The NonStop Garden” and "Fallscaping". She lectures coast to coast, and has taught herbaceous plants and perennial design at Temple University for over 20 years. She was the founder and director of the Landscape Arboretum at Temple University, Ambler. She is a contributing editor for Fine Gardening magazine.  


I Get The Blues in The Fall Blues

This is not an essay about depression in the fall when we know winter is on its way. I love fall and am invigorated by the wonderful weather and the array of colors in the landscape. Some gardeners think fall is the time for kales, cabbages, and pumpkins. It certainly is, but there are so many other choices to give us fall color.

When I think of fall I always think of shades of gold, yellow, bronze, orange, and reds that the trees deliver. A few perennials have that same capability. For contrast I love blue and my favorite “short” blue shrub happens to be Caryopteris.

, goes by several common names, Bluebeard, Blue-mist Shrub, and Blue Spirea, and it is a small shrub that fits into a mixed or perennial border quite readily because they generally range from 2’ to a little over 3 ‘ tall. It blooms profusely in full sun, needs average garden soil that is not heavily enriched with fertilizer or it gets a case of the flopsies. This is one of my favorite low maintenance plants. It flowers late summer to early fall and puts on a show for several weeks. Do not touch when you do fall cleanup. In the spring come out and do your favorite whack and hack pruning. If you want plants a little taller don’t cut back as much. I vary from severe cut backs to leaving quite a bit of the bush every other year. It does bloom on new wood so the old part will not flower. I practice this on Vitex (Chaste Tree) and Buddleia (Butterfly Bush) to keep them vigorous. This is just my opinion on the subject. Caryopteris is hardy to zone 5 and some to zone 4.

The common color for Caryopteris is generally shades of blue. It is an aromatic deciduous shrub and flowers, leaves, and stems give off a faintly pleasant odor. It is fairly heat and drought tolerant. It has no major pests or diseases. Best of all, butterflies will enjoy them as much as you do.

Two of the tried and true cultivars that are still around are ‘Dark Knight’, with deep blue flowers, and ‘Longwood Blue’, which has lovely foliage and beautiful sky blue flowers. Selected at Longwood Gardens it has been a favorite of gardeners for a long time.

Newer cultivars are ‘Grand Bleu’ and ‘Petit Blue’ two outstanding cultivars from France. The main difference is size, as “Gran’ at 31/2’ and ‘Petit’ is 2/1/2’ both have deep blue blossoms and shiny foliage. ‘Petite’ works very well as a container plant because of its demure size. 

Now for something different. We now are switching gears to a new take on the same familiar species. It is called ‘Sunshine Blue’. ‘Worcester Gold’ is a yellow foliage form that tended to lose its intense coloration by midsummer. ‘Sunshine Blue’, an English cultivar, manages to keep its yellow foliage while producing amethyst blue flowers.  Lil' Miss Sunshine is a  new cross between Petit Blue and Sunshine Blue. This variety gives you the best of both worlds. It has the small habit of Petit Blue but with the bright yellow foliage of Sunshine Blue.

So I suggest getting the blues for a late summer fall finale. It’s fun to add to the razzle dazzle of this show stopping season

Saul Brothers on the Cutting Edge

Bobby Saul with Route 66 
While I specialize in new and improved flowering shrubs, I can appreciate a good new plant be it an annual, perennial, tree or shrub. I also appreciate the people that develop a good new plants.

Two weeks ago, I made a trip down to Atlanta to give a talk to the American Hydrangea Society. It was a talk I was suppose to give last year, but due to mechanical problems my flight was cancelled and I missed my appointment. This time around I flew into Atlanta a day early so I was certain to get there on time. That extra day gave me the opportunity to visit with Bobby and Richard Soul. 

The Saul brothers are active plant breeders and are best known for breeding new and interesting Echinacea or coneflower. During my visit I got the opportunity see some of the other new plants they've been developing. I was not disappointed in what I found. Some pretty cool stuff. 

Route 66' is hardy
Coreopsis verticillata 'Route 66' is a new threadleaf Coreopsis with blood red petals with yellow highlighted tips. The plant was developed, trailed and tested in Lucinda, Pennsylvania by Patti Bauer and has proven itself to be a hardy perennial in zone 5. This is good news. While there have been other red cultivars of Coreopsis, these plants unfortunately turned out to be annuals.     

Candlelight in bloom in October

Also of interest was Candlelight Kniphofia which to my knowledge is the only reblooming torch lily. This hardy and heat tolerant perennial blooms from May right through to October. The flowers are creamy yellow and lighten to white as they age. The flower stems can reach 24 to 30" in height. 

A new take on Snapdragon 
I was quite impressed with 'Snapdaddy' Snapdragon (Antirrhinum). This is a new snap with bright yellow flowers and attractive blue-green leaves edged with a creamy yellow margin. This annual matures at about 18"-24" making it a great plant for the garden or mixed container. They also have a pink version on the way called 'Snap happy'.

Kaleidescope Kale 
Kaleidescope Kale is another cool annual for the garden or mixed container. This cool season annual lights up the garden with it blend of pink and purple hues and frilly leaves. I have idea how it tastes, but it certainly would make for a colorful garnish.

So my trip to Atlanta was a success! I made it to my talk on time. I met a lot of very nice Hydrangea enthusiasts. And to top it off, I got to see some very cool, new plants.

In Memory of Greg Speichert - Plantsman and Friend

I am sad to say that my dear friend Greg Speichert died Thursday night in Philadelphia while attending the Independent Plant Breeders Conference at Longwood Gardens. I just got back from the conference and heard the news from Dan Heims via Facebook.  I am in shock right now as I just spoke with him Wednesday evening. I know that many of you knew Greg and would want to know the news. He was an internationally known plant expert and had many friends around the world.

I can't tell you when I first met Greg, but I can tell you it was a was a great day when I did. We talked for hours about all types of plants, plant breeding, gardening and friends that we had in common. We laughed and talked like old friends that had known each other for years. I knew that I had met someone very special. He was so genuine and honest. He was so much more than just a plantsman - even though he was one of the most knowledgeable horticulturists I had ever met. He was full of joy. He loved plants. He loved learning about plants, so much so, that it was an for him obsession. It was his life calling and he took it very seriously. It was who he was.
Let me tell you a little bit about Greg and his passion for plants:
In his youth, Greg became interested in daffodils so he joined the daffodil society. Utilizing  plant  sales, friends, auctions, and mail order he acquired every species and  daffodil cultivar available. He grew them, documented them, photographed them, studied them and took notes on them. Once he learned everything possible about daffodils he stopped, quit the daffodil society and then joined the Iris Society and began again. This is how he lived. He just continued to learn new plant groups until he knew it all and then moved on. During his ornamental grass phase he corresponded with all of the foremost experts and breeders of ornamental grasses in Germany and translated what he had learned into English. He was a pioneer in ornamental grasses, water plants and perennials. 

He was perhaps best known as a water plant expert. He and his wife Sue owned and operated a nursery that specialized water garden plants. Together they wrote the Encyclopedia of Water Garden Plants (Timber Press) and published a water gardening magazine. It is said that he introduced over 300 new hardy and tropical marginals and over 100 new native water plants to the water gardening industry.

I have never met anyone else like Greg and I doubt I ever will.

Beyond his crazy knowledge of plants, Greg was a gentle soul. Genuine, thoughtful, helpful and interested in other people. I remember him telling me about a plant hunting trip he made to China. He wanted so badly to share this experience with me that he later planned a trip to take me there. 
When I saw him this week at Longwood Gardens, he was the same enthusiastic, happy guy I had known and loved. He told me he was getting into Iris breeding. With a smile he told me all the old iris breeders were gone and that it was the perfect time to pick up where they had left off. Unfortunately for us - he too is gone. So suddenly, so unexpectedly he is gone. While I am very sad, I also feel so blessed to have seen him one last time. To have seen his smile. He was among friends, he was learning about plants, and he was happy.