A Gardening Journal

Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Narrowleaf Ironweed

I grow few Fall-flowering perennials—asters and mums, say—because their foliage is so boring all Spring and Summer. But I'm jazzed all season long about two of my vernonias. This is the thread-leaved one, which comes into flower in late September after looking as fine since May as the best thread-leaved amsonia.

Vernonia lettermannii flowers 092516 320

Yes, the flowers are distinctive as well as enduring, but they're icing on a cake that's been delicious for months.

Read more: Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Narrowleaf Ironweed

Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Mulberry Mystery Solved

This season, I've been tracking a volunteer gold-leaved mulberry whose foliage is exceptionally lacy. I figured out that, although it's a good fifteen feet from the one I planted, it had to be a sprout directly from the parent. Fifteen feet away! Those surely are far-reaching roots. Is this how the species behaves, or was this far-flung root sprout a fluke?

An excursion to Boston's world-famous Arnold Arboretum was in order; its collection of trees and shrubs is unrivaled east of the Rockies.

Broussonetia kazinoki near sprout 100416 320

In the mulberry grove, I found this cut-leaved beauty. In everything but foliage color, it was a dead ringer for my gold-leaved volunteer. Was its parent tree nearby?

Read more: Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Mulberry Mystery Solved

The Best Season Ever: Paddle Plant

A kalanchoe or two—or three or four or five—should find its way into your collection. One, velvet leaf, will slowly grow to twenty feet, but most of the others stay compact enough to grow on a warm windowsill all Winter, and a sunny spot in the garden all Summer. Paddle plant is the second in my collection.

Kalanchoe luciae overall closer 100216 320

Pairs of blue leaves the size and thickness of pancakes ascend thick stems; if the plant never did anything else, its talent as living sculpture would still be unsurpassable. But there's more.

Read more: The Best Season Ever: Paddle Plant

Paraguay Nightshade & Friends

No garden should be without ornamental potatoes. No, not the ones with fancy tubers: They're ornamental on your plate, not in the garden. Rather, ones with showy foliage, flowers, or fruits—or scary-wonderful thorns.

Here's another of the floriferous species: Paraguay nightshade. Purple-indigo flowers tip almost every stem in active growth, and if you grow the shrub year to year, you can train it into a standard or even a small tree.

Lycianthes rantonnetii Royal Robe blossom 091316 320 

Mine is in a pot, and this year it wound up amid most intriguing neighbors.

Read more: Paraguay Nightshade & Friends

The Best Season Ever: Cardinal Climber

Each year I add another vine or two from the morning glory genus to the gardens' Spring-to-frost display. There are so many choices that look nothing like this genus's heart-leaved namesake. What they do have in common is boundless vigor and floriferousness, plus a complete lack of acrophobia.

Ipomoea x multifida tip of the tower 090616 320 

This is cardinal climber (Ipomoea x multifida), a hybrid of two red-flowered species, cypress vine (Ipomoea quamoclit) and red morning glory (Ipomoea coccinea). It has raced to the top of a tuteur that I had made "only" fourteen feet tall. Silly me!

Read more: The Best Season Ever: Cardinal Climber

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