Winter keeps teasing us. A bit of sun and warmth, then a dip in temperature and another inch or two of snow.
Meanwhile, I want to bring two more, sadly neglected perennials to your attention.
The botanical name Caryopteris (Bluebeard, Blue Spirea) usually evokes the image of a small woody shrub. These shrubs are Caryopteris clandoensis but Caryopteris divaricata is herbaceous, thus dying to the ground each winter. The cultivar ‘Snow Fairy’ has very attractive green and white variegated leaves on three to four foot stems. In late summer, clusters of tiny, pale blue flowers appear and continue blooming into October but the flowers are so pale and late that they are fairly insignificant. I grow this plant, however, for its foliage that acts as an excellent background for almost any color of bloom on other perennials. I usually leave the dead stems on the ground in spring to serve as a mulch that I don’t have to buy or spread. You’ll want to plant this in full sun in average to slightly moist soil.
If you or any of your clients have ever visited England or the Northwest, you will have seen gorgeous delphiniums and coveted them. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to like our climate. Aconitum (Monkshood) are also tall and come in varying shades of blue but they are finicky about their siting. Instead, we should be using lupines which are
American natives. I would plant them for their fingered foliage alone but, being a blue junkie, I love their flowers that bloom from late May into July. Even the deadheads are attractive. If you’re not an aficionado of blue, that’s okay. You can have other hybrids that are red, orange, yellow, pink, white, purple, or bicolor. The foliage is generally a foot and a half wide while the flowering stems are usually three feet high. Grow in full sun and average to slightly moist soil. I’ve also had good luck with Lupinus perennis, another native, that is a larval host and/or nectar source for butterflies.
So, just a friendly reminder that oldies can be goodies.