The gardener's eye

The Gardener's Eye

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Mixed Border in Early October

Aster 'Liitle Carlow' and the ornamental grass Calamagrostis brachytricha have a simultaneous peak. The yellow foliage of Ligustrum sinense 'Variegata' and the claret foliage of Hibiscus acetosella "Maple Sugar' have contrasted well the entire season. Dahlia 'Ellen Houston', a purple gomphrena, Salvia 'Indigo Spires' and Cuphea 'Bat Face' complete the picture. This is the denouement of the mixed border. The moment when the annuals, shrubs and perennials and ornamental grasses climax before the first frost.

This past week the most admired plant has been Calamagrostis brachytricha, a Piet Ouldolf staple. It is hardy to Zone 4 and has pink-toned feathery flower heads beginning the last week of September that last throughout the winter. It has a tendency to politely self-seed here in New Hampshire but it easy to weed out the seedlings. A gardening friend, who has just acquired the plant, is planning to use the flowers for arrangements in the house which will provide the added bonus of not having to worry about unwanted progeny.

My personal favorite in the mixed border is Cuphea 'Bat Face'. It is an excellent front-of-the-border and container plant. It flowers continuously throughout the season without requiring deadheading. When examined closely, the purple and carmine flowers do in fact look like a bat's face. To top it all off, these hues mix well with a variety of colors in the border or container.


  1. I like it with the aster. I envy your being able to grow Calamagrostis brachytricha. I used to grow it in my Rosemont garden, but here it doesn't seem like the wet and just gradually disappears. Karl Foerster does very well. I'm surprised.

  2. James,
    I am surprised you didn't have success with Calamagrostis brachytricha.
    This week, it is my favorite grass. It really looked lovely in the today in the early morning light. The nice thing about Karl Foerster is that it flowers much earlier and for a longer time. BTW, your garden looked magnificent in your last post.

  3. Just beautiful. I find that the older I get the more I am leaning toward fall blooming plants. They stay neat all through the season, then explode in color now. All the summer bloomers are just flopping all over the place and needing lots of work!

  4. The border is truly picture-perfect! That grass is particularly spectacular...and the hibiscus foliage actually tempts me to buy a hibiscus next year!

  5. Beautiful borders and a beautiful tribute to Wayne Winterood. So glad to have found your blog.

  6. Tim,
    It is very satisfying to have things looking fresh this time of year. The cut back shrubs and trees also make a big contribution

    The hibiscus is a like a big red shrub with wonderful texture. That is a favorite of mine. Give it a try.

    Glad you found the blog and are enjoying it. I have been keen on yours for a while now. If you are not familiar with Wayne and Joe's writing you should check it out. I'm sure you will like it as much as I have.



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