Amsonia; Beautiful Autumn

It was the most gorgeous autumn day thus far.

Seasonally appropriate frost crystals clung to the grass in the morning, but not too heavily on the iris greens. I scraped the thin sheet of ice off of my car windows and drove to my parents’ house. We made two pots of coffee over the span of three hours, and admired the cups and mugs collected from renowned potter friends. It was such a treat to have breakfast with my Cello-playing cousin and her boyfriend. Check out her beautiful group here. You will not be disappointed.

My cousin, Lillia’s, garden related news was that of a suffering jade house plant. This jade has been through some poor-health times prior, so it was not a surprise to me. It is still always saddening to know a plant is not doing so well despite the best manageable care. It had been covered in some white mold or mites in 2010 when my mother and I visited Lillia in Berlin. My mother simply said, “Oh, it needs a bath, I will give it one on the balcony.” There is a really great photo of this occurrence, but am having trouble finding it by scouring facebook. Having only paid attention to outdoor plants by this point in my life, I thought it was absolutely hilarious seeing my mother crouched on a balcony in Berlin gently soaping and rinsing the jade’s leaves. The jade plant survived, after this washing, through several of Lilia’s moves. However, her current residence seems to be missing the bright indirect sunlight that jade craves. It has become very sad looking, so she re-homed it to her pseudo grandparents to seek refuge and recuperate.

After having a lovely breakfast with great company, I went to work. Each property seems to have its own micro-climate. Some places have variations on frost even within a couple of acres. It all depends on how the heat is held in certain pockets of the land and how the air flows through the valleys. Heat can also be trapped in corners of houses or within hedgerows to protect plants within them. That still does not always guarantee that these plants will be protected.

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That yellow is spent hosta (shown above), which seemingly would have been protected by being enclosed in the boxwood. Yet, it has suffered the same inevitable fate of this hosta out in the open (shown below).

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Both of these hosta groupings were cut upon their yellowing out to about two to three inches from the ground.

These hosta were just the tip of the iceberg when it came to things being cut on this day. (No, no, I didn’t cut myself yeish!) Perennial plants going dormant often look fairly dreadful this time of year around here. So, we cut them back. Boss and I have read countless articles about which plants to save for the birds and for the nutrients to go back into the soil. But when it comes down to it, we get so impatient and downtrodden about looking at “dead” plants that we cut it all back. This year, however, we have been conscious about leaving black eyed susies and echinacea pods accessible for birds where possible.

I am hoping to do a blog post about what to cut back and to what height. (I feel like I keep saying I’m going to post things, but seriously, I will. Who reads this anyway? -edit this out later okay)

For now, let me give you a very helpful hint to cut back amsonia just before it has gone dormant or yellow. I remembered this year how very difficult it was to cut the dormant stalks of blue star amsonia the years prior. Each time I put the pruner to the wilted stalk, the fibers tore, shredded, and fought against the clean cut. Feeling bad about cutting some beautiful green stalks, my worries were assuaged after remembering previous years of hardship with this awesome perennial.  IMG_9127

Blue Star Amsonia stalks before going dormant at the end of a long summer.

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Blue Star Amsonia, showing the cut stalks from years prior. We cut them to about four or five inches from the ground.

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Behind this gorgeous purple Globe Allium, is the Blue Star Amsonia during its blooming season in the beginning of June for the Hudson Valley.

The version of Blue Star Amsonia that I keep referring to is that of the more native variety to the northeastern United States. There are a few hybrid versions of this plant, including a dwarf version. It is true that in the fall the foliage of this Amsonia turns a lovely golden yellow shade. If you are looking for this kind of visual interest, by all means, feel free to leave the whimsical mass of golden in your garden to blend with your autumnal color scheme. Yet, if you are more about the practicality and efficiency of gardening maintenance, you may heed my advice in cutting it while the foliage is still green and the stalk is still very woody.

I wish ever so much that next autumn there are more days like this one, where the sun is shining and the temperature is above fifty degrees. I love to be able to switch out my winter boots with my regular Sloggers and tie my fleece around my waist. Do a little bit of cutting back at a time, and always at the most opportune time.

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