Thursday, September 28, 2006

Gold Medal Plant: Tiger Eyes Sumac

I notice that Tiger Eyes sumac, officially Rhus typhina 'Bailtiger' Tiger Eyes®, has been given a Gold Medal Plant Award for 2007 by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

I planted Tiger Eyes a couple of years ago in my front garden, amid ornamental grasses and Russian sage. It was an impulse buy at the nursery, one of those plants with such gorgeously colored leaves that it was simply irresistible.

My picture shows it in August when our Russian sage was in full bloom.

This sumac is supposed to stay relatively compact, growing about 6 feet tall and unlike other sumacs, it's said not to be invasive.

So far, that's true here in my Zone 5 garden. If my plant is anything to go by, it's a slow grower. Mind you, I planted it on a hill in full sun in one of the few sandy soil spots on our property – which is mostly clay – during a dry summer. It was all I could do to water it enough to keep it alive.

The shrub is still compact - just about 3 feet tall - after its second season, but I suspect that it might just take off and put on some height next year.

Here's the description of Tiger Eyes sumac from the PHS site:

"This unusual Sumac has purplish-pink stems displaying exotic cut-leaf foliage. Changing with each season, Tiger Eyes® starts out chartreuse in spring, turns bright yellow in summer, and blazes scarlet-orange in the fall. Tiger Eyes® is more compact than the species and is not considered invasive. It prefers well-drained soil but adapts well to poor soils and urban situations, exhibiting good pollution tolerance. Great for the foundation, as a specimen, in mass, or in containers, it grows about 6 feet high and wide in full or part-sun. Hardy in Zones 4 to 8."

For more information on the other PHS Gold Metal plants, click here.

Note: As this post is almost 4 years old, I will not publish any more comments or questions regarding about this topic here. If you have a question or comment, please use the contact form at my new blog.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Still in bloom: Sonata Cosmos

I don't grow a lot of annuals, but I do have a few long-blooming favorites that I think are perfect country garden flowers, among them 'Sonata' cosmos.

Mine have been blooming since June, and even though we've had a couple of light frosts they haven't been hit yet. I just love going out every morning to be greeted by their cheerful faces.

You can simply direct-seed them, but I like to start them in containers and plant them as seedlings in any bare spot in my beds. I do hope they self-seed next year, as they used to do in my city garden.

I generally buy the mixed seed packet because I love all the colors they come in, from light pink and white to the darker pink shown here.

For more on easy self-seeding annuals and how to direct seed them, click here.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Hydrangeas in the fall

The best thing about hydrangeas in the fall is their long-blooming flowers. I have several Pee Gee hydrangeas in bloom right now, and the cultivar that looks most impressive is 'Limelight', shown here.

I remember not liking this plant much when I planted a pair of them a couple of years ago. At the time I found the flowers too big and heavy for the size of the shrub. But as the plants have grown – they're now about five feet tall (and they got there very quickly) – their flowers look just right and in scale with the size of the plant.

When ‘Limelight’ comes out, the flower heads are lime-green, but they gradually fade to a pinkish and then tan hues, like most hydrangeas.

My ‘Endless Summer’ hydrangea, planted a couple of years ago, is still a tiny thing. First, it suffered in a spot that was too sunny and dry. Then my garden helper pulled it out by mistake and threw it into the compost pile.

I rescued it later that day and kept it very moist in a pot until it recovered. Then we planted it in a shadier spot and it's alive, although still very small, but flowering nicely, (shown here). Will it thrive? The jury is still out on that one.

Anyway, moral of the story: don't be too quick to judge a cultivar. It often takes a couple of seasons for plants to come into their own.

I have more information about hydrangeas here on my website.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Fall in the country garden

I've long been enchanted with the autumnal country garden look pioneered by garden designers Wolfgang Oehme and James van Sweden in the United States, and Piet Oudolf, in Holland.

One of the reasons we moved to the country was to have the space to grow many late-season perennials and the big swathes of ornamental grasses that look so good with them. I took the picture above one morning early this month looking down at the garden from my front door.

I notice that a lot of gardeners seem to miss out on fall. By late summer, they're ready to throw in the towel. I understand being tired of gardening by August (I know I am!), but it's still a shame to miss out on the beauty of fall.

For the most part, plants that bloom in late summer and fall are tough, drought tolerant and many of them grow tall and dramatic. Another interesting fact is that many of them are North American natives, which accounts for their toughness: they shrug off the drought, heat and humidity of our summers because that's the very climate that shaped their evolution.

For us northern gardeners the growing season is short enough so if you have the space, why not extend the flower show well into fall with some lovely late-bloomers and ornamental grasses? (I have lots of information about fall perennials and ornamental grasses on my web site here and here.)