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Joan Shaw
Old Fashion Mix Yarrow
Old Fashioned Mixed Yarrow

Aside from late blooming roses and lilies, there are at least some joy in the beds and borders here at DragonGoose Farm. I complained in my last essay about the lack of color between the last of the rose bloom and lily show and the beginning of our rather sparse show of autumn chrysanthemums and other early fall flowers, especially in the south end, or front, of the garden. I'm set to fill in that lack starting next year, but there are many quite charming late summer flowers, specifically, the old fashioned mix of yarrow, shown above (Achillea millefolium 'Colorado Mixture'), albeit out of sight without a turn around the place on the golf cart. The leaves are fernlike and soft. This yarrow group is sold by White Flower Farm and I'm fairly certain that's where I got these plants several years ago. They multiply quickly and, in fact, have to be kept in check, though they're not as aggressive as the larger yarrows.

Moreover, the plants in the 'Colorado Mixture' are dwarfed a bit so they don't take over the bed and flop every which way, including onto the lawn. And the flat flower heads are of the very softest, indeed, near-Victorian, colors – rose, ivory, pale yellow, pale pink, apricot. They grow in front of a new bed of daylilies (in fact, they were there first), of which a few blossoms can be seen showing through the yarrow at the top left of the picture. I'm hoping the daylilies will grow tall enough by next season to see over the shoulders of their front neighbors. If not, I'll try cutting back the yarrow early in the season next year to see if they can be dwarfed a bit more.

Another very nice late summer flower is paprika yarrow (Achillea millefolium californicum 'Paprika') with plants that grow to less than eighteen inches. The type sold at High Country Gardens is German bred from the californicum strain. It has big bright, Chinese red flowers. We had a few of these plants here, but they were either crowded out or, more likely, turned into some of the paler colors from natural  hybridizing with the lighter cultivars.

One of the first yarrows we planted in the garden was Achillea filipendulina
'Coronation Gold.' This is an enormous plant, topping three feet and as much wide, with deep yellow, very large, flat headed clusters of flowers. The stems are thick and strong with grayish-green foliage, but they do tend to flop. I've slowly grubbed these huge plants back to one or two in the north end of the place in favor of smaller growing yarrows, but there's no gainsaying that they're a knockout from a distance. The flowers, moreover, do not fade and continue flowering as long as they're deadheaded before turning to seed. One wouldn't want them to seed anyway –  Heaven forbid!
Aster Frikarti
We also have some nice pure white yarrow that runs from two to two and a half feet high. They've seeded themselves from what was at one time a group of plants from seeds I sowed many years ago called "Monet's Garden" (which turned quickly into "Monet's Rat's Nest"). Right now, they're on the edge of  the North Copse and half of them, at least, need to be grubbed out since, as in the nature of the taller yarrows, they are indeed thuggish, shoving everything around them out of their way.


Asters have always seemed problematic to me since the ones we have growing here mostly leg it up to three or four feet tall (much like 'Coronation Gold' yarrow). However, one aster I bought at an end-of-season sale at our local nursery a couple of years ago grew to not much more than a foot and a half. The flowers on this plant are a bright reddish magenta held on stiff, very strong stems, and are a quite dramatic sight while coming up into the main drive into the front part of the garden. This plant grows directly in front of a very tall, easily flopped-over violet aster.

The tall asters are mostly descended from plants that my daughter, Melanie, first put in the brick herb garden several years ago. The Prairie aster (Aster turbinellus) has lovely one-inch-wide flowers and grows to four feet tall. The New England Asters (Aster novae-angliae) have a mixed palette of colors, but those here are a violet-lavender. Both are very pretty but both tend to flop all over the place. We have a Smooth Aster, too, which grows from two to three feet high with large violet flowers late in the season. This plant's stems rarely flop which, to my neatnik soul, is a blessing.

Melanie, who's made a study of this species (along with an astonishing number of other things – she's heart and soul a research librarian) tells me that these tall asters evolved in the prairie and had no problem there staying upright among the tall prairie grasses. However, there are shorter asters, like the New York Aster, 'Jenny' (Aster novi-belgii 'Jenny') that grows to one foot with a beautiful show of raspberry pink flowers with ray-like petals.

There are numerous dwarf asters, also, that bloom from mid August through October or until frost. They reach no more than a foot high and are compact and literally smothered with one-inch flowers. These are wonderful for the front of the border and, though I have planted dwarfs a few times here, they've always managed to succumb to our winter temperatures. My fault. I assumed at the time that asters, being hardy plants, would not need winter protection, but the dwarfs evidently did in what was once the ice box of Northern Utah. At the time I planted them, we were still experiencing twenty to thirty below winter temperatures, with occasional dips to forty below.

However, with the new USDA map showing our part of Utah directly inside zone 5 now, and having seen no temperatures these past few years less than fiften below zero, I may try growing these dwarfs again. I think I'd also give them winter protection – just in case the USDA map was too optimistic. Wayside Gardens carry these dwarf asters as does White Flower Farm, among other mail order nurseries (see below).

The pale lavender aster shown above right is an A. frikarti, though I'm not sure of its variety. There are several kinds. I know it's not a 'Wonder of Staffa' since the flowers of this plant are not as double as ours. For those who are gardening here in the most northern of northern Utah, Willard Bay Gardens, near Brigham City, Utah, carry scores of asters, many of them of quite manageable size.

Phlox Mt. FujiPhlox

Phlox are my favorite flowers and, now in the early days of August, are just beginning to flower. We have a long bed of these late blooming Mount Fugis (Phlox paniculata 'Mt. Fugi', also called 'Fugiyama') shown at left. These are in the cutting garden, hidden behind a hedge of hollyhocks and Old Garden roses and so, again, I can only enjoy them by taking a walk or (nowadays) a ride in the golf cart to see what's blooming. These phlox have colonized a small patch of a bed across the drive from The Granary (Melanie's house), too.

I've decided to dig out a few of these plants in the long cutting garden border for the horse-shoe shaped bed across the oval drive from the house. This is an excellent spot because they can be seen from our bedroom window on the second floor front as well as from the front porch and parking area for visitors.

This bed across the oval is divided from the South Copse by a tall yew hedge (Taxus x media 'Hicksii'), fronted by a row of Rosa glauca, which is itself fronted
by daffodils in the spring and then, later in the seaon, packed to overflowing with with the billowing flowers of feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) and pink Centranthus (Red Valerian or Jupiter's Beard). By August, though, both the Centranthus and feverfew have been cut back leaving nothing but green new growth until the feverfew and Centranthus start flowering again. White phlox would fill in the gap admirably.

We have on the farm quite a few patches of Phlox subulata, or creeping phlox, but the P. paniculata group comprises most of  the tall border phlox of many gardens. The colors range from pink to purplish magenta; some varieites are spotted. In fact, the border now taken up with our white 'Mt. Fugi' had at one time plants of both pink and magenta with white eyes and a couple of reds, which must have been crowded out by the 'Mt Fugi' plants. White Flower Farm and Wayside Gardens offer these garden phlox, as does High Country Gardens.

Wayside Gardens offers varieties of Phlox maculata, a group of hybrids deriving from wild Sweet William or Meadow Phlox. These have huge flower heads, and include 'Flower Power', 'David's Lavender', 'Orange Perfection', and Starfire', all beauties. The P. maculata group blooms earlier in the season, though, according to Wayside, if they're cut back immediately after blooming, they'll flower again in autumn. The individual flowerets the comprise their flower heads are flatter, less tubular, than the P. didyma.

Wayside recommends their P. maculata for bouquets. Our own P. paniculata, though, do very poorly as cut flowers, dropping their tiny blossoms all over the table soon after being put in the vase.


Pink Monarda
The scarlet and pink Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) growing in our perennial garden and iris walk are still blooming, though they're fast approaching cut-back time. These plants stay in nicely behaved clumps and don't need staking, having strong erect, squarish stems that stand up even under the brisk winds of a thunderstorm, not to mention the beating given them by the irrigation sprinklers.

We noticed that the newly planted scarlet Monarda in the newly planted perennial garden had a touch of powdery mildew. The problem, I think, is due to the very dry soil which doesn't hold onto the irrigation water. After a couple of seasons of mulching, they should fare all right as far as mildew is concerned, since the soil should be slowly increasing in moisture retention. The clumps in the iris walk have no trace of mildew.

Monarda's cheerful mop-like heads show up beautifully from yards away and afford color during the off-season when midsummer flowers are over and autumn flowers have yet to start flowering.

Best wishes,

Joan Katherine Shaw
August 2006

Photos by Joan Katherine Shaw

Some on-line sources for perennials:

Van Bourgondian
Select Seeds (antique flowers)
Wayside Gardens
White Flower Farm
High Country Gardens (xeriscape plants and others)
Klehm's Song Sparrow
Park's Seeds
Springghill Nursery
Jackson and Perkins

More on perennials:

Shrubs and perennials
Glorious Peonies for the North
Pink Autumn in the Rockies

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