Blue Mistflower

Old names for this relative of Joe Pye Weed are Blue Eupatorium, Mistflower, and Hardy Ageratum. The new Latin is Conoclinium coelestinum.

It is a hardy perennial wildflower that blooms all over Middle Tennessee, but one must look to mail order to bring it to southern New Hampshire. It is a notorious leaper and goes everywhere in good soil, but when it comes into bloom in late summer, I do not care where it spreads.

In Spring it stays underground late and one must remember that when temptation comes telling us to plant something new in that empty spot.

When I first saw it in bloom in Nashville I thought it the most beautiful late wildflower I had ever seen.

I have not changed my mind.

I lost 30% of my dooryard garden this year to woodchucks. My phlox and asters were bitten to the quick. My marigolds and Blackeyed Susans were chewed to stubs.

The only consolation is that there are plants that the woodchucks will not touch, and the Mistflower is one of them.

August 1st-The Dry Border

Poor fertility, mostly sand, sharp drainage. Ground suited for Sweet Fern and lowbush blueberries. Scrub land, where farming was so hard in early New England that Yankee soldiers, after the civil war, moved their families and farms to the fertile, flat, and predictable Midwest.

Here is a garden planted in that stingy soil-

There are many North American plants in this garden, but there are also plants from the dry corners of the world.

  • Because of time constraints this morning I cannot list the plants in this flower border, but I will do so later in the week, as I am sure there are frustrated gardeners here in Southern New Hampshire trying to garden in sand and interested in how to do it and what plants to look for.

Early Goldenrod

Early Goldenrod, Solidago juncea, is blooming now. The plant in my dry border is a volunteer, and it is thriving. It is a clump former, and not a root runner, and its leaves are basal and hug the ground.

Its companions here are Silver King Artemesia and Globe thistles.

Still to come in this border are the Silver Rods, or white goldenrod, and the Rough-leaved goldenrods. Both of these were also volunteers. I have added the Rigid and the Showy Goldenrod, but their time is not yet. They have fat yellow spikes and resemble Liatris.

Coneflower Medley

In the garden close to the house in Bow the coneflowers are blooming. In the lower garden they have been gnawed on down to leaves by deer. The house garden has motion light protection at night, and this may be why these coneflowers get to bloom there

When the colored coneflowers appeared in the 1990s they were weak and unreliable, but have since had more vigor and tenacity bred into them.

The Gooseneck Loosestrife is blooming as well. When it is blooming and not thirsty, it is showy, but when the rains fail and the well must be spared, it is miserable. It also spreads fast far and wide.

I drove out to view high water and wildflowers last week. I parked at the Goffstown Historical Society, and spotted these strange cement beings between the buildings. I cannot tell if they are frogs or nestlings begging for worms. They do appeal to my love of strangeness-

Elegant Spires

Veronicastrum virginicum “Fascination” is blooming now in the half shade garden in Bow. This plant came from the plant sale area at The Fells, the John Jay estate on Lake Sunapee. It is three years old, and it is planted on the richest soil in the Bow garden.

Above is the Blue Vervain , Verbena hastata. It comes from pond sides and riverbanks, and we planted it at the base of a roof drain pipe so it would feel at home. Both the vervain and the Veronicastrum are native wildflowers.

More of a spike than a spire is the flower of the part shade loving Chiapas Sage, shown here in the Bow garden. It came from Annie’s Annuals in California , and has been blooming since I took it out of the box. Its neighbor, the Gold Sword yucca, is surprisingly shade tolerant.

The Hardy Agastaches

I bought Agastache “Blue Boa ” this spring at Goffstown Hardware, and it is proving to be one of my smarter choices. I am excited about this plant because it is a purple that will contrast beautifully with my myriad goldenrods and the Showy Evening Primrose in mid to late summer. As fine as the late Aromatic asters “Raydon’s Favorite” and “October Skies” are, they bloom blue very late.

“Blue Fortune” is my other hardy Agastache. I divided up last year’s plants, divisions from my sister’s plants, and am pleased with it because it does not need much watering and blooms till frost. It is a less showy plant than “Blue Boa”, but sometimes dusty blue is just right.

A nice non hardy sunset colored agastache is “Poquillo”. Since it is a dwarf I worried it might be too bitty, but it is nice planted with salvia “Roman Red” and the lantanas “Confetti” and “Miss Huff”.

More new bloomers for mid-July include “Big Blue” salvia, reportedly a better form than “Indigo Spires”, a great salvia for the south, but too late to get going for Southern New Hampshire.

My two cannas, “Intrigue” and “Pacific Beauty” are also starting to bloom. I never thought cannas would do well here, but I was wrong. If people dig up prima donnas like dahlias and keep them inside , they might consider cannas, which need much the same winter care. Dahlias may be more tasteful to some, and their flowers less gaudy, but their nondescript leaves contribute nothing to the garden. Can one say the same for the purple leaved cannas?

Both these cannas came from Plant Delights Nursery in North Carolina.

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Here is a 7 foot tall Thalictrum rochebrianum growing in rich soil that has only morning sun. What an elegant, ethereal plant-

And here is a wonder! A seedling of this Meadow Rue that I found in my sister’s garden, and there are more-

The woodchuck trap. I included the photo only because I need to note that every plant shown in this post has not been chewed up.

Nicotiana

This is my second summer growing the large nicotianas “Mutabilis” and “Alata”. I have also added this year “Crimson Bedder”, which I found on line at Annie’s Annuals. When I bought small plants of the first two in 2020, they formed basal rosettes around a foot wide, and their flower spikes reached three to four feet. Before the freezes , I dug up one “Alata” and four “Mutabilis”. They spent the winter in the great room’s south window and did well. They did not try to bloom, and instead had offshoots that I put in new pots. Soon I had a collection of them.

In mid July the Nicotiana mutabilis plants have basal rosettes two to three feet in circumference. They are as big as big hostas.

The plant pictured above has a double rosette. I cannot imagine how spectacular this will be. I will have to stake it, but that is no problem, and never will I wake up in August to find that the groundhog has eaten it, for it is poisonous.

The above is “Crimson Bedder”, which Annie’s says can reach four feet. These will be coming inside for the winter too.

“Alata” is tall, but less robust, and I am not certain I want it another summer for it is underwhelming alongside the other two-

I have grown the showy “Only the Lonely” nicotiana, but I found it wanting. It did not bloom long enough and grew shabby. I am certain others have had better luck than I.

Next summer I will be moving the Purple and Pink Dome asters to my sister’s garden, and I will move the phlox as well. They have been decimated by the groundhog.

I have never seen a gray leaved plant chewed up by a groundhog. They go after Aster cordifolius, cosmos, Aster patens, the showy Evening primrose, Aster “Lady in Black, “Kiss me over the Garden gate”, and every phlox they can reach. They don’t eat sedums that I can see, and I have found the following plants bulletproof, at least in my garden-

Salvias, artemesias, hostas, zinnias, persicarias, , daylilies, goldenrods, agastaches, lantanas, cannas, gomphrenas.

I should add that the groundhog will ruin coneflowers by biting off the buds, and they will do the same to the low growing rudbeckias. I have a vegetable garden protected by an electric fence, but how can one protect flower borders. I may try a trap next week, but it must be disabled before dark, or I might be dealing with a skunk. I think it is easier to plant the plants the groundhogs won’t touch. But this is a rural area, and do these animals not have natural predators? My neighbor is one. He has a shotgun, but he will not shoot around granite walls. The other killers would be foxes and coyotes and bobcats. Where are they?

Longwood Silver

I waited three months for a California on line nursery to catch up on back orders so I could finally put Plectranthus argentatus “Longwood Silver” into a garden again.

Gray foliage is elegant. It is sophisticated and it shines, and to my mind “Longwood Silver” is the finest gray leaved plant I have grown. Its only flaw is tenderness, but is easy kept indoors over winter, and spring cuttings root quickly and grow fast.

It grew as large as a bushel basket in the South, and it may do so here. It does have small spikes of blue purple flowers late, but these are insignificant and I prune them away.

“Longwood Silver” came out of Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, and the new issue of Horticulture magazine has a piece on Peter Zale, who manages breeding and plant collections at Longwood. It is quite an interesting article for Dr. Zale is a specialist in the breeding of Phlox.

The only source I have found on line for this plant is Digging Dog Nursery in California.

Bright Colors on a Gray Day

We have had some unsettling weather this past week. Ninety four degree temperatures and Mississippi Delta humidity for three days followed by three days of cold rain that has battered plants and flowers into the mud. And yesterday, while sitting at my dining room table, I looked out the door into the dooryard to see a teenage woodchuck on the top step not eight inches from the glass chewing down my African Mallow.

Weeds are everywhere. The Day of the Dead marigold flowers are saturated with wet, and stems have broken and toppled. Still, I heard the Veery singing this morning.

Yesterday between the rain bands I took pictures of a flower bed not too disheveled. Its colors are still bright, and I think because the blooms are delicate and not planted in lumpy masses like bedding plants, it has an gracefulness despite its loud oranges an reds. Enough green and bright colors glow like embers, and there is no vulgarity in them-

French marigolds, salvia “Roman Red”, and the Tropical Butterfly weeds’ In the foreground is agastache “Poquillo”. The cannas are “Intrigue” and “Pacific Beauty”.

More salvias. The blue is salvia farinacea, the large coral colored sage is “Ember’s Wish”.