Tag Archives: Amsonia

The End of Another Year

Red tree- Acer palmatum 'Butterfly', Yellow shrub-Aucuba 'Joy Creek Select'

Red tree- Acer palmatum ‘Butterfly’, Yellow shrub-Aucuba ‘Joy Creek Select’

As October draws to a close, we are winding down and changing gears at the nursery. Our retail area closes at the end of the month so all the displays that Monica so artfully constructed throughout the year are being broken down and put away.  The tables, which were bursting with foliage, flowers, and flats of plants,  start to open up as things are sold and plants are cut back for winter.   With the regular rains, we are no longer watering everyday, so our tasks turn to tidying up and organizing.  Our minds feel clearer and we breathe a little easier with everything back in its place.

Acer aconitifolium

Acer aconitifolium

This summer was a particularly hot one, so you can almost feel the joy of the plants with each new rainstorm.

Ilex aquifolium 'Silver Crinkle' (I think)

Ilex aquifolium ‘Silver Crinkle’ (I think)

I love walking through the garden in the early morning with rain and dew drops still clinging to all the leaves. I notice different plants now, the more subtle ones that may not have the big, beautiful, boasting flowers of summer, but shine in the cool autumn light or stop the show with bright autumn colors.  I hope you can find a moment to enjoy the journey towards winter too!

Yellow tipped conifer- Gold variegated Chameacyparus, red shrub center - Itea 'Henry's Garnet', Golden foliage right -Amsonia hubrectii

Yellow tipped conifer- Gold variegated Chameacyparus, red shrub center – Itea ‘Henry’s Garnet’, Golden foliage right -Amsonia hubrectii

If there is a particular plant you just have to have over the winter do not fear! You can still order plants from our inventory to be shipped right to your door or you can make an appointment to pick up at the nursery. If there is a particular plant you are interested in that is not currently in stock, we start taking pre-orders in January for spring, just give us a call! Thanks for a great season, see you in March!



Foundation Foliage With Attitude!

Some spiney inspiration from our friend Loree Bohl’s garden. We carry several of these plants here at the nursery if you want to plant your own “Danger Garden!”

Fine Foliage

IMG_7616 NOT your typical plant combination – which is why I love it! Plant ID’s in next photo

I had the opportunity to visit the Portland garden of Loree Bohla few days ago. Loree is known in the garden writing community for her popular blog Danger Garden where she indulges her love of spiky plants, saying “Nice plants are boring – my love is for plants that can hurt you. Agave, yucca, anything with a spike or spur!”

With my traveling first aid kit fully stocked I bravely ventured forth! While one could write an entire  book on Loree’s garden, covering her considerable collections (you can see her plant list here) , her fabulous contemporary containers of all shapes, sizes and colors and her impressive shade structure I was especially excited to discover this little vignette right by her front door. This area is often referred to as ‘foundation planting’ since…

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Some gardeners are afraid of large herbaceous perennials because they leave gaping holes when they go dormant in the winter.  In the maritime climate of the Pacific Northwest where we are blessed with relatively mild weather and can easily achieve an all-but evergreen garden, this is perhaps a relevant complaint.

That said, there is still the sheer thrill of growing herbaceous perennials for the sense of seasonal change they give us.  Among the very easiest of underused and very hardy herbaceous perennials are the Bluestars, genus Amsonia.    At Joy Creek Nursery, we have been growing these delightful, billowing plants for almost twenty years.   The tongue-tying species Amsonia tabernaemontana var. salicifolia was our introduction to the genus.  (By the way, A. tabernaemontana is commonly calledWillow bluestar and it is odd that the varietal name also means “willow-like foliage.”  Perhaps this is simply to amplify our understanding of its appearance.)  From there we graduated to A. illustris and later to A. cilliata and A. hubrechtii.  Along the way we tried to grow the dry-land species Amsonia peblesii from seed but did not have much luck.  We have only grown the North American species although there are species from Asia, Europe and theMiddle East as well.

Amsonia huprectii

These are not plants like lilies that announce their arrival with large blaring trumpets.  They are much subtler than that.  Their stems emerge in early spring from well-developed clumps much as those of milkweeds do.  (In fact, the common name for one species is blue milkweed.)     Instead of trumpets, the willowy, upright stems bear constellations of small soft blue stars in panicles at their tips.  The blooms arrive in late spring or early summer depending on the species.  During the course of the summer, the fertilized flowers form numerous long, narrow, papery seed pods that are also of interest.

The foliage and height of these various species is what makes them distinct from one another.   A. tabernaemontana has fairly broad leaves that are up to three inches long.  In our garden, it stands four feet tall or better.  A. Illustris is also in the four foot range with similar lance-shaped leaves.  A. ciliata (called the Blue milkweed) has much narrower leaves and it ascends to three feet or more.  (There is a selection from this species called ‘Halfway toArkansas’ that is much shorter than the species and has slightly broader foliage.)  Of all of the forms we grow, A. hubrechtii, from the central to the northeast part of the States, has the most feathery foliage.  This plant only gets to about three feet.

All of these species have lovely fall color.  The more sun they get, the more pronounced their transformations.  Generally, their leaves turn yellow, but in A. tabernaemontana, A. illustris, and even somewhat in A. ciliata, there is also bronze and a little purple in the mix.  A. hubrechtii seems to turn uniformly golden in our garden.

Amsonia ‘Halfway to Arkansas Fall Color

Amsonia do not ask much more than average summer water.  Over time our specimens have become somewhat drought tolerant.  Further, we have never had to down-size our plants although it did take several years for them to develop into generous clumps.  We use them in the background and as specimen plants.  Their stems move gracefully in the wind.  Their flowers are attractive to pollinators and birds and they offer us a sense of the changing season from spring green through delicate bloom and brilliant autumn coloration to winter dormancy.