LATE SUMMER FLOWERS
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
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
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
of their front neighbors. If not, I'll try cutting back the yarrow
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
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
seed. One wouldn't want them to seed anyway – Heaven forbid!
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,
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
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)
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
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
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 are my
favorite flowers and, now in the early days of August, are just
flower. We have a long bed of these late blooming Mount Fugis (Phlox paniculata
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
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
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,
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
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
couple of reds, which must have been crowded out by the 'Mt Fugi'
Flower Farm and Wayside
Gardens offer these
garden phlox, as does High
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.
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.
Joan Katherine Shaw
by Joan Katherine Shaw
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