Plants of the Week: October 28
Helianthus salicifolius, the willow-leaved sunflower, is a South-central United States native known for its rigid, 5-8’ tall stems covered in narrow, drooping, willow-like, leaves. Flowers are produced in branched panciles featuring the archetypical bright yellow rays and dark brown center disk.
Depending on soil and degree of sunlight, a planting can be elegant, near statuesque, with a slight exotic air. If the soil is too rich or plants sited in too much shade, stems bend, break, and bobble about – not the least bit elegant.
Helianthus salicifolius ‘First Light’ is a much-shortened cultivar reaching approximately 3’ in height. Foliage is covered (to the point of being obscured) in fall with a profuse bloom of 2.5” diameter sunflowers with golden yellow rays. A planting can be seen around the McCabe Library. Bring your sunglasses. Photo credit: J. Coceano
Aster tataricus ‘Jindai’ is a compact Tatarian aster cultivar growing 3-4′ tall (the species can reach up to 7’ tall). Discovered growing at the Jin-Dai Botanical Garden in Tokyo, Japan, the cultivar seldom needs pinching to control height or staking when grown in full sun and lean soil. Distinctive paddle-shaped, lower leaves are up to 24″ long. Leaves become significantly smaller in size higher up on the plant. Despite a relatively late bloom time, plants always look fresh. A mass planting does exceptionally well on a sunny berm in the Scott Entrance Garden. Add to the back of the border, the cut flower garden, or where more pollinators are desired. Photo credit: J. Coceano
Chelone glabra, fondly known as white turtlehead, grow best in moist to wet, rich, humusy soils in part shade. The hooded, two-lipped, snapdragon-like flowers are a key identifying feature and a fun curiosity that both the young and young-at-heart find entertaining.
The cultivar ‘Black Ace’ sports dark green foliage with a black cast. Foliage lightens as the season progresses. White flowers are held tightly in terminal racemes and begin opening in late summer. Provide ample moisture and consider adding ‘Black Ace’ amongst other small woodies and perennials that it can weave through and mingle with. Such a planting has worked to great effect in the Harry Wood Garden. Photo credit: J. Coceano