October 13, 2018
What is this? It comes back every year but only blooms at this time.
You have the Mexican bush sage, Salvia leucantha. It is one of the tallest and showiest of the salvias, with bloom spikes seemingly covered in purple velvet. It dies to the ground after a killing frost and then reappears in the spring to bloom in the fall. It is reliably winter hardy in the southern 2/3 of the state, but sometimes dies out up in the northern tier if we have a particularly cold winter.
Featured Story - Late Season Color
Unfortunately brown is the most common color in many landscapes across our beautiful state, unless someone has been watering. Rainfall has been spotty across the state, and thankfully some yards are finally getting a bit of a break, but it will take more than a few showers to get plants back up and growing. If you do see blooming plants in landscapes, you know they are tough performers to take this summer and stand up to it. If your garden could use a shot in the arm, there is help available at many nurseries and garden centers. Late summer into early fall provides a challenge for many gardeners, but there are some really good perennial plants that bloom every year in late summer or fall. Goldenrod is a late summer/ fall bloomer that has been blooming for a few weeks already, and there are numerous new varieties with bright yellow flowers, that are not invasive. Turks cap (Malvaviscus arborea) is a member of the hibiscus family that annually has beautiful orange flowers which attract butterflies and hummingbirds from late summer through fall. Other perennials that are still blooming are butterfly weed (Aesclepias) with orange blooms, black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) with yellow flowers, garden phlox in shades of pink and white, purple coneflower (echinacea), blanket flower (Gaillardia), wand flower (Gaura), and Joe Pye weed (Eupatoria). Don’t overlook salvias. Many salvia plants struggled this summer, but should bounce back and shine in the late season garden. From small ‘Black and Blue’ to the large Mexican bush sage, there are some great choices with flowers ranging in color from pink to red, white, blue, and purple. They can be a magnet for butterflies and hummingbirds. And Russian sage (Perovskia), a member of the mint family, is another tough as nails plant with open airy silver gray foliage and purple flowers. Other perennials that are just beginning or will be in bloom soon, include asters, chrysanthemums, Japanese anemones and turtlehead (Chelone). Toad lily (Trycertis) will soon follow along with Autumn Joy sedums. Ornamental grasses also come in all sizes and shapes and are drought tolerant to boot. The foliage is nice all season but it is in the latter part of the year that they begin to bloom and the plumage they put on gives you all fall and winter interest. The pink blooms of purple muhly grass make it a new favorite, but there are many grasses to try. Height can vary from 12 inches to 12 feet, so know the available space before planting the grasses. The only maintenance they need, is being cut back every year in late winter to early spring. Annual varieties like the purple fountaingrass, or the variegated‘Fireworks’, purple millet and fiber optic grass can give you the grassy texture and form, but have to be replanted every season.
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