End-of-season stars


IMG_2522As much as I love spring ephemerals, July’s lilium, and other flash-in-the-pan, prettyboy plants, at this time  I take a good, hard look around and pay homage to those stalwarts that are still going strong in early fall. It’s also when I make decisions about which perennials no longer deserve the many, many chances I’ve given them. Both lists are somewhat short, because I also have a lot of cultivars that aren’t all that exciting, but do their jobs. I would never pull them out, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to celebrate them either. Here are some that richly deserve their garden space.

 Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’
This gets quite spectacular by summer’s end and is a great cut flower which dries easily in the vase. (Normally, I would include my old-fashioned macrophyllas here as well, but their buds didn’t make it through the winter. I’ll have to go back to banking them with bags of leaves.)

David Austen shrub rose Darcey Bussell
This flowers freely from May through frost, is completely disease-free, and thrives with no care whatsoever. I keep it in an obscure location that happens to have full sun, and only get to it once in a while when I need flowers. Of course, it’s gigantic, far beyond the “compact form” promised, but that’s OK.

Hakonechloa ‘Aurole’
At least I think it’s the ‘Aureole.” I have this in several spots, but it looks best next to the pond, where it provides texture and color contrast with a big rodgersia and a dicentra. The big gold mound looks just as good in May as it does in November.

 Some annuals: tall ageratum, lobuleria, white tuberous begonias
I never understood why anyone bought ageratum until a seed-starting friend started giving me this tall, graceful variety. Lobuleria have a honey scent, become very full, and are impervious through a hard freeze. I get confused about begonias, but these white ones provide bright flowers in my front shade garden and don’t seem to mind drought. I also grow their dramatic dragon wing brethren in pots; these have huge double blooms.

By November, I’ll be loving anything that’s still showing some kind of color, but by then it’s almost time for bulb forcing.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com


  1. I wish I understood why my one David Austin rose (‘Carding Mill’) gets worse black spot than any of my hybrid teas. I won’t buy another Austin, simply because of my experience with this one. It just looks pathetic. Yet I can’t bring myself to rip it out because in June it’s gorgeous. Guess I’ll go assess some other part of the garden…..

    • Don’t give up on them! You might have just gotten a bad one. And they’re so pretty I think it’s worth it to at least try one more time 🙂

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