Tag Archives: boltonia

The End and the Beginning

The faded blooms on Monarda (Bee Balm),  Clethra (Summersweet) and Eupatorium (Joe Pye Weed) are still damn interesting, especially  when back lit by the sun:



Physostegia ‘Vivid’ (Obedient plant) and its initial blooms slowly climbing up each stem:



Boltonia ‘Snowbank’ (False Aster) exploded in bloom this past week. At least that is what I think this is. I never planted it myself so I have no idea how it got here. Which now makes me think it is something entirely different.  And now I look unprofessional. And my credibility is shot. And I just started three consecutive sentences with the word “and”. Pathetic:

white daisy2


white daisy


white daisy3

Some new blooms

Helenium autumnale (Sneezeweed): sneezeweed

I’ve struggled with Sneezeweed for a long time now but may have finally found the right location. The ugly “legs” are disguised by other plants in front of them and they have each other for support (three are planted closely to each other).

Because of that, I skipped on cutting them back in June to control their height this year. The true test will be in the next week or so as all of the blooms emerge: 

Chelone lyonii: 


Boltonia ‘Pink Beauty’ is another perennial I typically cut back in June to hopefully prevent it from toppling over when blooming in late summer but completely forgot to do so this year. So far so good. Maybe that proactive pruning wasn’t necessary after all: 

Not necessarily newly blooming, but some new visitors I couldn’t be more psyched to see on Asclepias curassavica (Silky Gold Milkweed): monarch2

Sedum ‘Autumn Fire’ rounding into form: 


Miscanthus purpurascens (Flame Grass): 


Pennisetum ‘Hameln’: 

And my very young Andropogon gerardii ‘Red October’ has thrown up some blooms in its first year (bless her heart): 

This grass will rule over all of the other grasses within the next two years. I am so stoked in anticipation.

What’s blooming now

It is kind of a slow time right now in the garden but here are some of the blooms that have emerged of late: 
Miscanthus purpurascens (Flame Grass)

Miscanthus purpurascens (Flame Grass)

Sedum ‘Autumn Fire’

Pennisetum ‘Hameln’

Boltonia ‘Pink Beauty’

Boltonia ‘Pink Beauty’

Pink Physostegia (Obedient plant) 

Dwarf Pink Phlox

“Prune in June” – Boltonia

Here in zone 6B New Jersey, Boltonia typically blooms in late August/September and any blooms that time of year cannot be understated. They have a fantastic flower color and can be statuesque if situated in the right spot where they can be supported by other plants.

Unfortunately, I have struggled to get these perennials to NOT topple over once in full bloom:   

Last year, I finally took things into my own hands and cut them back by 1/2 in early June. By the time they started blooming in September, they were about a foot shorter than normal at 2 1/2 feet:   

The results were a marked improvement from prior years but I still think I can do better and keep them even more upright.
So this year, I waited two weeks longer before cutting the three Boltonia back by 1/2:
Now we wait and see if this will make a difference at all.
Have a great weekend.

“Prune in June” – Boltonia – UPDATE

When last we spoke of my beloved (sarcasm should be applied here) Boltonia, I had cut them back by half in the middle of June. 
As you know or … as you will now know … each and every year these perennials topple over for me once they are in full bloom in late August. And each and every year I forget to cut them back in early summer prior to their blooming in order to manage their size.
But this year was different … and the early results are encouraging (although not all districts are reporting their results yet). 
Here they were in mid-June untouched:      

And then cut back by half:

As of this past weekend, here is how they look upon beginning to bloom:

And as of this evening with even more blooms:

I would say they are at about three feet tall right now and were closer to four to five feet tall at this time in previous years. So far so good in terms of staying upright and they have even survived some major winds and rain the past week or so.

Of course, Boltonias bloom like mad and they are only about half way there in terms of reaching their full blooming potential … but I wanted to bask in the positivity for a while.

Hopefully the good news will roll into September.


“Prune in June” series – Boltonia

I’ll never forget the day back in 2001, when the following book arrived in the mail:

And this is no exaggeration … it completely changed my entire outlook on gardening. Within minutes of opening and reading this book, I discovered that working with plants was a true art form.

“The Well Tended Perennial Garden” by Tracy DiSabato-Aust is beyond a “must” for all gardeners/plant lovers (take a peak to the right in the sidebar and you can order a copy pretty cheap through Amazon). I re-read every word of this gem each and every year and have the intention of faithfully following all of the pruning/pinching/deadheading/deadleafing advice. Yet, I never fulfill that promise …

By now, I just about have this book memorized and shame on me for not taking advantage of that knowledge. As the spring progresses into summer, I get lazy and complacent and by the time mid summer rolls around, it’s too late to do anything about it. But not any more my friends.

I’m creating my own pruning series here at ONG titled “Prune in June”. That title comes from the fact that a majority of the pruning tasks recommended by Tracy should occur in June. Plus, who can resist a catchy title that rhymes? Sweet.

This is the year I stay on top of the pruning tasks and capture the results of what I’ve done in June and how it  will hopefully, positively impact the growing results of these plants in August, September and beyond.

To kick things off, I am starting with my Boltonia ‘Pink Beauty’ plants:

They have some fantastic late summer blooms:                

But without fail, fall over once they are in full bloom:

As my garden has matured over the years, these perennials do get some support from neighboring shrubs/grasses, but there is clearly room for improvement:

So let’s be friggin proactive this year.

Tracy suggests cutting back Boltonia by a 1/2 to 2/3 in early June. I’ll split the difference and document the results as the season progresses.

Here is what they look like as of today:

And how they look now, post haircut:

As mentioned before, I will closely monitor the results as we get deeper into the summer and will be sure to share those results, good or bad, with you all.

Coming soon … Joe Pye Weed.


Boltonia asteroides ‘Pink Beauty’

All of the native plant sales in my part of the country are about to kick off and you can bet your bottom dollar that I am going to hit up as many of these as humanly possible. 
Each year around this time, I get out my pen and paper and do some serious Internet research to determine which native plants will be added to my always growing collection. This year will be no different and I’ll be sure to share my purchases with you. 
Speaking of natives, I’d like to share the experience I’ve had to date with a native perennial purchased a few years ago … Boltonia asteroides (AKA False Aster) ‘Pink Beauty’:       
I knew very little about this perennial before purchasing it other than the fact that it “tolerates wetness and clay soil”. That was all I had to hear. Actually, that is my #1 criteria when plant shopping and if the plant fits that criteria, I’m giving it a whirl. 
After three years, I have to admit I’m still not totally sold on this plant and will tell you why. 
But first, some nuggets of info:
  • Size is typically 6′ x 3′ so it is an imposing perennial 
  • Survives in zones 4-9
  • Prefers full sun (where I have it) and can handle partial shade but has potential to flop without full sun
  • Blooms from August to September and that has been consistent for me the past 2-3 years
  • The blooms (about 3/4″) have pale pink florets and a yellow center as seen up close in the photo below:

Now I have to admit, I’ve spent a good amount of time trying to confirm 100% that what I have is truly ‘Pink Beauty’ as this flower color looks more lavender/purple to me. After consulting with many other websites, I’m fairly confident I have it right, but the jury is still out.
Boltonia is one of the first perennials to emerge for me in spring and as mentioned previously, has survived with wet feet over the past two winters. While I have read that it is deer resistant, I have had it nibbled quite a bit in early spring:        

But in a way that’s OK, because the “deer (rabbit) pruning” helps control the ultimate size come late summer. Two years ago, I left this plant untouched and unpruned and eventually it flopped heavily when in full bloom:       
Last year, after the critters pruned for me, the ultimate size was a foot or so less but I still had some serious floppage. This year, I plan to cut it back by 1/3 to a 1/2 in mid to late June and we’ll see if that makes a bigger difference. 
Even with the issue of flopping, I still love how this perennial looks as it is growing through spring and summer. It provides an airy quality that contrasts well with other perennials, grasses and shrubs. Here they are in early August (between the two grasses):        
Soon after this, they start to develop flower buds:  

I love this phase as the buds and few blooms add an ornamental quality without yet reaching the point of toppling over:

And even with the toppling over, from the right angles in early fall, this perennial still looks good with its neighbors:

I’ll make sure to document my more severe cutting back of my Boltonias in June and the subsequent results in late summer. Until then, I’ll rate this plant as a B-.

This guy only has room for B+ and better.

We’ll see …


Subtle changes in the garden

With two active young children, full time jobs and various trips to and fro while trying to enjoy the summer, we seem to spend most of our time getting into and out of our cars. Even though it always feels like we are in a rush to go somewhere, I make it a point to always sneak a peek at all of the plants in my driveway garden bed. 
This bed is planted with mostly ornamental grasses, native perennials and a few deciduous shrubs. Right now, it is my favorite part of my landscape (and this is of course, subject to change) as it has been the most challenging to put together, yet by far the most rewarding. This bed stays wet longer than any other since the rain is routed off of the driveway and pools here. Also, this is the area where the deer feel most comfortable setting up shop. There are no windows on this side of the house so I can’t scan for them and scare them away like a wild man.
What I enjoy most as I get into my car each morning and out of each evening, is noticing the subtle changes that are passing right before my eyes. I feel like I have superpower-like vision and can spot the most minute of changes. A rough day at work can become a distant memory just by noticing that the viburnum berries are changing from green to purple. 
Here is what I’ve observed of late in my driveway garden bed and while it may not jump out and grab you, it works fine for me:
Miscanthus ‘Variegatus’ is putting on major growth and it shines when back lit by the sun, but also stands out when the sun goes down with it’s light foliage. It is now starting to emerge from behind the taller perennials (Boltonia in the photo below):   

And behind the Viburnum ‘Emerald Lustre’:

A very young Panicum (Switch Grass) ‘Northwind’ is only about two feet tall, but a few blooms just snuck out this week:

The foliage on Itea (Virginia Sweetspire) ‘Henry’s Garnet’ has begun it’s autumn transformation as you can see on the underside of the leaves:

And even more so on the bottom of the shrub:

The “oats” on Chasmanthium Latifolium (Northern Sea Oats) are maturing to their brownish/tan shade:

The aforementioned Boltonia is just showing the first signs of bloom:

And last but not least, the Panicum ‘Rotstrahlbusch’ blooms are a sea of red and look fantastic en masse:

I am already looking forward to the next trip to my car!


The advantages of native plants

I must admit, I have a very large lawn on my property. It takes me close to two hours a week to cut it during the growing season. Not exactly environmentally friendly, eh? Before you beat me down, I must tell you I never water it, never fertilize it and have slowly been chipping away at removing it by creating new garden beds. While a lawn provides a great play space for the kids and the green swath looks pretty damn nice in the spring, I am no longer much of a fan. The effort involved to maintain it is not worth it and for a plant lover like me, it really represents more of an opportunity to further bankrupt myself and create more garden beds.

Which leads me to a discussion on native plants. A native plant can be best defined as: a plant that occurs naturally in the place where it evolved (I took that definition from wildflower.org). There are numerous advantages to using native plants in the landscape (and you will notice almost all are exactly the opposite of what it takes to maintain a lawn):

  • Drought tolerance 
  • Minimal need for fertilizer
  • No need for pesticides
  • With minimal fertilizer/pesticides – no run-off into the water supply 
  • Disease tolerant
  • Attracts wildlife, beneficial bugs and encourages biodiversity
  • Low cost to purchase natives
  • Because natives are in their natural environment, their size and cooperation with neighboring plants is much more predictable and makes design/planning much easier.                

I didn’t intend for today’s post to be about native plants but as I was reviewing my plant photos from this prior year, I noticed how many of the “successes” were native plants. Hence, where I ended up with this post. Here are some of my native plants and please, share some of the natives you’ve had success with in the comments section so I can pretend I knew about them all along:   

Sneezeweed – Helenium autumnale 

Blue cardinal flower – Lobelia siphilitica

Turtlehead – Chelone glabra 

Purple coneflower – Echinacea purpurea

Garden Phlox – Phlox paniculata ‘David’

Boltonia asteroides ‘Pink Beauty’

When the native plant sales begin here in New Jersey around the middle of May, I begin my plan of attack and this upcoming year will be no different. I’ll just need to clear more lawn to fit in more of these low maintenance gems.

Go native or go home!

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