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"Here are a Few Gems to Brighten up the Fall Garden," by the Whistling Gardener

It always amazes me that no matter how many times I visit the garden center, I always seem to find something that looks interesting and is calling to me to take it home and add it to the landscape. Here are a few that caught my eye this week as I toured the nursery looking for treasures…
Ceratostigma plumbaginoides. Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.

This column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.

It always amazes me that no matter how many times I visit the garden center, I always seem to find something that looks interesting and is calling to me to take it home and add it to the landscape. 

You would think that I would run out of space eventually, but the reality is that any gardener worth his/her salt can always find a spot for a new introduction.  

Here are a few that caught my eye this week as I toured the nursery looking for treasures…

Euphorbia “Ascot Rainbow — Euphorbias are tough, drought tolerant, deer and rabbit resistant, evergreen perennials that thrive in sunny, well-drained locations and require very little maintenance to keep them happy. Admittedly, some of them can be problematic, but the vast majority found in garden centers are trouble free. 

For the most part, they come in blue, grey, and dark purple foliar colors, but “Ascot” is an exception with its generous yellow edges that give it a warm feeling, perfect for this time of year when we are looking for “fall-ish” kinds of plants to mix into our containers or the landscape.

While I grow euphorbias mostly for their foliage, they do bloom starting in the late winter and the “flowers” (they are actually bracts) will last several months. Euphorbias have a milky sap that can cause skin irritation for some sensitive gardeners - a category that I have never found myself apart of!

Ceratostigma plumbaginoides — I know that is a mouthful, so let’s just call it Plumbago or as it is also known as Blue Leadwort. I have a patch of this growing out of a retaining wall that emerges in late spring with glossy two inch leaves and in late summer and throughout the fall it is covered with gentian-blue flowers - a color coveted by many gardeners, especially ladies.  

The foliage turns a rich reddish-purple in the fall before going dormant for the winter. While it is a little hard to find, it is a great low-growing perennial for a sunny to part shady spot in your garden. If you can find it, grab it!

Primrose Heron” Lamb’s Ears — This is a twist on the ever-popular lamb’s ears whose leaves are soft, felty and perfect for petting. Primrose Heron” sports chartreuse foliage in early spring, turning to the typical grey color in summer. It makes a great ground cover or edging for the perennial border and works well in fall containers.  

The flowers are anti-climactic, and I usually remove them to encourage more foliar growth. This plant is easy to propagate and can be divided and spread around the garden or shared with friends.

Prince Calico Aster — Fall-blooming asters (sometimes known as Michaelmas daisies) are great additions to the perennial border (think of them as bullet-proof mums) and come in a range of colors from white to pink to blue or purple.  

Frikartii Monch” is probably my favorite with the largest blue flowers of the aster family. On the other hand, Calico Prince” has dark purple foliage all summer and is covered with a profusion of starry white flowers blushed with pink and purple this time of year. The stems are strong and don’t need staking - a bonus for asters.

While these four perennials are the ones I choose to expound upon this week, there were other perennials and shrubs that caught my eye. Take a minute this month and check them out for yourself to see if you can’t find a gem or two to add to your garden. The more the merrier in my book!

Sunnyside will be hosting a free event, Customer Appreciation Week, Monday September 21st to Sunday September 27th, 2020. More information can be found at www.sunnysidenursery.net.

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville, WA, and can be reached at info@sunnysidenursery.net.

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