A few perennial gems to help brighten up the fall garden

No matter how many times I visit the garden center, I always seem to find a plant 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 any gardener worth his or her salt can always find a spot for a new introduction.

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

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, gray and dark purple foliar colors, but “Ascot” is an exception. Its generous yellow edges 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. Note: Euphorbias have a milky sap that can cause skin irritation for some sensitive gardeners.

Ceratostigma plumbaginoides: I know that is a mouthful, so let’s just call it plumbago or leadwort for short. I have a patch of this growing out of a retaining wall that emerges in late spring with glossy 2-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.

Lamb’s ears “Primrose Heron”: This is a twist on the ever-popular lamb’s ears whose leaves are soft, felt-like and perfect for petting. “Primrose Heron” sports chartreuse foliage in early spring, turning to the typical gray color in summer. It makes a great groundcover or edging for the perennial border, and works well in fall containers. The flowers are anti-climactic, so 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 and come in a range of colors from white to pink to blue or purple. Think of them as bullet-proof mums. Frikartii “Monch” is probably my favorite with the largest blue flowers of the aster family. On the other hand, “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 some time this month to check them out for yourself. See if you can’t find a gem or two to add to your garden. The more the merrier, in my book!

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at [email protected]

A week of thanks

Sunnyside Nursery’s annual Customer Appreciation Day is expanded to the entire week of Sept. 21- 27 at the garden center, 3915 Sunnyside Blvd., Marysville. There’s no cake this year, but there are raffle drawings and a scavenger hunt. More information can be found at www.sunnysidenursery.net.

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