Well, it's here! The August/September issue of Country Sampler with our home in it! It's interesting what pictures they use and don't use! I think they were very intrigued with our fireplace. I can remember Franklin asking me to 'light the fire' so he could get a picture of when it first starts to flame up and I tried to explain to him that it will go up the back of the chimney when it first lights due to the draw of the double flue and that it would be better to wait and get a picture after it calms down a bit. Well...we had to wait for it to calm down as it was so overpowering that all you could see was the flame! It was so funny! We had such a good time with Franklin and Esther that seeing the article brought back some really good memories. I can't wait for fall this year when the weather breaks out of the 90 degree slump and we can light the fire again!
I don't know if you have walked around your yard or gardens this summer, but everything seems to be suffering in this heat; my neighbors' yards are all brown and crunchy even though we have gotten over 2.5 inches of rain in the last 10 days. Usually, with the heat and drought of summer, most of the grass in your yard will go dormant and wait for the cool days of fall to turn green again. So, you are left with a brown and crunchy yard to mow! Not too much fun! It is also bad for your inside environment, too. With brown, crunchy grass and no cooling green leaves or nice, spongy leaf mold under the trees, your air conditioner will have to work harder to cool down your home. On the other hand, we here at the 'Farm' have our AC set on 78 and it is always cool and comfy inside. With our trees and shrubs giving good shade to the exterior of the house and great, spongy leaf mold underfoot, the house stays cool and the ground retains much more moisture than the soil under grass. Another good reason to go native! I don't run around and water the plants, there is no grass to water, no need for sprinkler systems, no Japanese beetle infestations! Native plants have 'grown up' in this environment, they have been here for thousands of years and are able to deal with what Mother Nature throws at them. If there is a drought, they will sometimes just stop growing or shed some old leaves or, if they are herbaceous plants, sometimes they will just die back and conserve their energy for a better time. It's funny that summers like this tend to lead to a springtime next year with lots and lots of little seedlings that poke their heads up through the leaf mold. This can, in turn, increase your garden beds without any help from you! So! Reduce, reuse, recycle can also mean: no water, dropping leaves, leaf mulch. It's just a thought....
But enough of that, here it is!!!! What you have all been waiting for!!!! Tah! Dah! The Fantastic Amsonia tabernaemontana - try saying that 5 times fast!
Amsonia tabernaemontana is also known as the Eastern Bluestar and is actually two plants in one. When it flowers in the spring, it looks like the picture above with tall, spiky stalks topped by bright blue flowers. As the flowers fade and the foliage begins to make an appearance, the plant changes to a bright green shrub that looks good as a middle of the border plant or, if massed, as a small shrub border. In the fall, amsonia has a second season, not with flowers, but with unbelievable fall color! The leaves of Amsonia tabernaemontana, and its cousins A. hubrechtii, A. peeblesii, A. jonesii, and A. ciliata all turn a fantastic yellow color that just might leave you breathless. This is a picture of Amsonia hubrechtii in the fall. Need I say more???
Amsonia tabernaemontana, A. hubrechtii, and A. ciliata are all native to the US and all have the amsonia bright blue flowers, BUT A. hubrechtii and A. ciliata have very thin leaves with A. ciliata leaves being almost needle-like in appearance. Two of the species talked about above have good cultivars including A. tabernaemontana 'Short Stack' and 'Blue Ice'; and A. ciliata 'Spring Sky'.
All of the different species are resistant to disease and are pest-free. Plant them in full sun in an area where you can see the bright blue flowers in the spring and the gorgeous yellow foliage color in the fall. They do not need any soil amendments or special conditions; just plop, water for the first year, and forget it!
A. montana is native to the east coast of the US, with A. hubrechtii native to the Ouachita mountains of Arkansas and Oklahoma and A. ciliata native to Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas. This time we have a genus that spans the entire US with A. peeblesii native to Arizona and A. jonesii native to Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. The western species are definitely drought-resistant and should be available in specialty nurseries in the west - species only, no cultivars.
So, what's stopping you? Oh yeah, it's darn hot out there! Start making your list now for this fall's planting time and don't forget to add a little Bluestar to your garden!