A Note From Rick | September - Abbondanza!

September 24, 2022

By Rick Bogusch, Kathleen Kennedy

Bridge Gardens

Late summer and early fall are indeed bountiful, overflowing with vegetables, flowers, fruits and grasses in bloom. It’s a great time to visit Bridge Gardens to see it all for yourself.

Of particular note are the many beautiful native and near-native plants growing throughout the garden. With the dry weather, most have managed to continue looking good, as they’re well suited to our climate, despite this summer drought.

On a recent walk-about, I noticed the following natives and near-natives that might be of interest to you. They can all be found growing naturally throughout eastern North America, they are all perennial, they all provide food for birds, pollinators and other wildlife and all but the tickseed are deer-resistant.

Flowering spurge - Euphorbia corollata

This northeast native has clouds of small, snowy white flowers from July into September, that will remind you of baby’s breath. Growing 2-3 feet, sometimes taller, in full sun or partial shade, it has attractive, dark green foliage that turns shades of gold and orange in fall. Flowering spurge grows well in average and dry soils and is a good plant for shrub and grass borders, as well as naturalizing in meadows and open woodlands.


White flowering spurge with wild ageratum

Common sneezeweed - Helenium autumnale

As days grow shorter in late summer, this perennial bursts into bloom with large clusters of yellow, daisy-like flowers. Native to the northeast and growing 3-4 feet tall, sneezeweed is commonly found in sunny, moist meadows, on the edges of swamps and along shorelines. We’ve had 2 clumps in Bridge Gardens’ mixed border for over 10 years and they are growing very well with average moisture. Dwarf, orange and two-toned varieties are available.


Common sneezeweed

Goldie’s shield fern - Dryopteris goldiana

We have a number of wonderful ferns throughout the garden, but I enjoy seeing Goldie’s Shield fern at this time of year. The largest fern of eastern North America, Goldie’s shield fern is impressively large, growing 3-4 feet tall and 4-6 feet wide, with large, dark green, triangular fronds and arching stems. It’s also one of the easiest ferns to grow, tolerating morning or filtered sunlight and average soils. As with most ferns, best growth is achieved in bright shade in moist, humus-rich soils.


Goldie's shield fern

Tall tickseed - Coreopsis tripteris

Native to the central and southeastern United States, tall tickseed is a good choice for poor, dry, sandy soils. It is also tolerant of heat and humidity. Growing 5-8 feet tall, it blooms from July to September with yellow, daisy-like flowers. ‘Gold Standard’ is an improved variety with strong stems and an extended blooming period. Tall tickseed self-sows readily and if allowed, will form large colonies.


Coreopsis 'Gold Standard'

Indian Grass - Sorghastrum nutans

This native grass is easy to grow in just about any soil, but is at its best in dry, infertile soils in full sun. Drought-tolerant, it is a warm season grass naturally found in prairies, glades and open woods. Along with switch grass, little bluestem and big bluestem, it is often included in seed mixes blended for meadow establishment.

Clump-forming, upright-growing and 3-5 feet tall, it has blue-green foliage that often turns orange-yellow in fall. Flowering stems are taller, reaching 5-6 feet and are topped with feathery, light brown plumes that darken with age and persist into winter.

Indian grass will self-sow aggressively. Varieties with bluish foliage are available.

Little blue stem grass - Schizachyrium scoparium

Easy to grow and a good choice for dry, infertile soils in full sun, little bluestem tolerates drought, heat and humidity and is a major component of the fertile tall grass prairies of the Midwest. It is also common found in waste areas and along roadsides.

Growing 2 - 4 feet tall, its thin, flat, gray-green leaves form upright clumps, turn bronze and orange in fall and dry to a warm, parchment brown in winter. Purplish flowers rise above the foliage in August and mature into silvery white seed heads. It’s a great choice for meadows and grass borders.


Indian grass pairs well with Little bluestem grass

Big blue stem - Andropogon gerardii

Even in dry, infertile soils, big blue stem will grow 4 feet tall, up to 6 feet in average or moist, rich, well-drained soils. Wide, strap-shaped leaves change colors attractively during the season, emerging blue-gray in spring, maturing to green with red tinges and turning reddish bronze in fall. Purplish bronze, 3-parted flowers appear in late summer on stalks that tower over the leaves. Big blue stem is great for screens, for shrub and grass borders and for naturalizing in meadows.

Switch grass - Panicum virgatum

Naturally found in prairies and open woods, along streambanks and railroad tracks throughout North America, switch grass is clump-forming, usually grows about 3 feet tall and has an upright form. It grows best with ample moisture in full sun, but tolerates drought, partial shade and a wide range of soils.

Medium green leaves arch gracefully from stiff stems, turn yellow in fall and age to warm parchment. Pinkish plumes of flowers appear in mid-summer on very tall (up to 6 feet) stalks and mature into beige clouds of seeds. Switch grass is an attractive, well-behaved addition to perennial borders and great for naturalizing in meadows and along woodland edges. Varieties with blue foliage, exceptional fall color and different sizes are available.


Switch grass

Rough goldenrod - Solidago rugosa

There are many garden- and landscape-worthy goldenrods, including some non-invasive clump-formers.

Rough goldenrod spreads by underground roots, but it spreads slowly and can be safely planted with other perennials. Though it prefers full sun and moist to wet, well-drained soils, it also grows well in partial shade and in in dry, sandy sites. Growing 3-5 feet tall, its stems arch gracefully and form green mounds of foliage. Showy yellow flowers appear at the ends of stems in late summer and early fall, bursting into bloom and bending stems to the ground. Rough goldenrod is great for planting with grasses and other native perennials, as well as in shrub borders and meadows.

Many think goldenrods cause hayfever, because they bloom en masse just when all the sneezing starts. Actually, this seasonal malady is caused by wind-born pollen from other plants like ragweed.

Butterfly weed - Asclepias tuberosa

This showy milkweed is just going out of bloom in mid-September, but it’s flowers can still be seen from a distance. Relatively short compared to other members of the genus, butterfly weed grow 1-2 feet tall and forms a clump of lax stems covered with lance-shaped leaves, which, like those of common milkweed, serve as food for monarch caterpillar larvae. Bright orange flowers start blooming in late June and continue for months. Attractive seed pods follow and can be dried for arrangements or enjoyed in the field. Seeds have the silky tails characteristic of milkweeds and spread plants throughout garden and landscape. Butterfly weed grows in average and infertile soils, but requires excellent drainage, especially in winter, to persist.

Most milkweed bloom in early and mid-summer, but their characteristic seed pods and silky-tassled seeds are easily recognized. Other milkweeds of note are swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), which grows well in rather dry soils, too, and whorled milkweed (A. verticillata), with white flowers and delicate, needle-like leaves. Common milkweed (A. syriaca) is the best milkweed to plant for monarch butterflies, but careful where you plant it. Spreading not only by seed, but also aggressively by rhizomes, it can quickly form large colonies and crowd out other vegetation.


Butterfly weed

Showy goldenrod - Solidago speciosa

If you’re looking for late summer color in the perennial border, meadow, native plant garden or naturalized area, showy goldenrod may be the plant for you. It does spread by rhizomes, but is not aggressive and easily controlled. Tiny, bright yellow flowers top stiff, reddish stems about 3 feet tall, with narrow leaves. Showy goldenrod is at its best in full sun and in well-drained, sandy loams, but tolerates poor, dry soils and clays soils, too.


Showy goldenrod

Early autumn is one of my favorite times in the garden. There’s much to see as perennials, shrubs and trees greet the changing light and cooler temperatures of the season with a colorful farewell to summer.

I hope to see you soon,

~~~ Rick

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