The display garden at Lost Horizons Nursery.
Between earth and sky there is a huge, creative canvas for a gardener to play with.
Too often we gardeners to get wrapped up in the small stuff. It is easy to focus in on plants and miss the big picture.
A garden at its best however, is a full environment, with layered plantings that reach skyward. In this post, I thought I would focus in on thinking big, with a perennial twist.
Giant Silver Grass, Miscanthus sisensis 'Giganteus' in the display garden at Lost Horizons Nursery. Height: 250-300 cm Spread: 90-120cm Care: Full sun/part shade & average soil
When it comes to considering large scale gardening options, the natural tendency is to think of trees and shrubs.
Certainly trees, which tower over our heads, humble us with their sheer scale. It is impossible not to marvel at the grandeur of a forest's vaulted green cathedral.
Additionally both trees and shrubs offer permanent architecture, which is especially invaluable in winter.
There is however, another often overlooked, option when it comes to drawing the eye upward. Tall perennials have a valuable contribution to make to the garden alongside that of trees and shrubs.
Large scale plants are often slow to get going in spring and so fall is a great time to take a look at some of the alternatives.
Miscanthus sinensis in the display garden at Lost Horizons Nursery. Height 150-210 cm, Spread: 80-90 cm Care: Full sun/partshade & average soil
There is something Jurassic-Park-cool about large perennial plants and grasses. It is easy to imagine dinosaurs in ancient times wading through drifts of similar grasses.
Let's face it, when something is this big, it just seems to demand your respect!
For whatever reason, I find tall plants particularly fasinating. I have been taking notes all summer with the hopes of adding more of these tall skyscrapers to my garden next year.
Now, I know many of you have small gardens and may think that these big-scale perennials will never work within your limited space.
For sure, they do take up some room, but many like this Cutleaf Coneflower, Rudbeckia nitida 'Herbstsonne' have a V-shape. This often means that they don't take up much more ground room than standard perennials.
Others like this Culver's Root, Veronicastrum virginicum below shoot straight up on tall, lanky stems.
Culver's Root, Veronicastrum virginicum album in David Thomlinson's garden called Merlin's Hollow. Height: 120-180 cm Spread: 75-90 cm Care: Full sun in normal, sandy or clay soils.
And at Larkwhistle Garden.
Here is a quick look at some of the other attractive, tall perennials.
Joe Pye Weed, Eupatorium purpureum is a perennial that springs immediately to mind when you think about tall plants. There are a number of tall versions of Joe Pye Weed, as well as dwarfs. Height: Dwarf grows 70-75 cm Larger varieties grow: 210-300 cm Care: Part shade to full sun. Prefers moist soil.
White Joe Pye Weed, Eupatorium altissimum 'Prairie Jewel' Height: 90 cm Spread 40 cm
Actaea Cimicifuga simplex Atropurpurea in Lost Horizons Nursery. Height: 180 cm Spread 60 cm Care: Full sun to part shade.
Mullein at Larkewhistle Garden
There are two varieties of Mullein are grown at Larkwhistle, Verbascum olympicum (Greek Mullein) and Verbascum bombyciferum (Turkish Mullein).
Mulleins are a biennials plants, which produce leafy rosettes in the first year, and flowering stalks in the second year. Verbascum olympicum is the branching Greek relative of the North American native Verbascum thapsus, which can often be seen growing in fields of wild flowers. The second variety of mullein, Verbascum bombyciferum is thickly coated with downy wool and has clear yellow flowers. Both mulleins prefer sun and light, sandy soil.
Sneezeweed, Helenium at Larkwhistle Garden. Height: 75-80 cm
Spread: 45-60 cm Care: Full sun, average soil.
You don't tend to think of perennials with small delicate flowers as having the potential to be tall, but here is a perfect example of one.
This is Meadow Rue or Thalictrum. Height: 150-180 cm Spread: 45-60 cm
Care: Average soil. Prefers moist conditions.
Cup Flower, Silphium Perfoliatum at Lost Horizons Nursery. Height: 120-240 cm Spread: 60-90 cm Care: Full sun to part shade.
Ironweed, Vernonia Gigantea is another tall, North American native which has purple aster-like flowers. Height 180-210 cm Spread: This plant as a v-shape and is 90-100 cm tall
Care: Full sun and average or moist soil
Actaea Cimicifuga simplex at the gate leading to the display garden at Lost Horizons Nursery.
Height: 1.1 m Spread: 1m Care: Part shade to shade.
A closer look Actaea Cimicifuga simplex
Can you smell the fragrance of this beauty right through the computer screen?
The scent of these small white flowers carries on the slightest breeze...perhaps a mix of honey and vanilla, with the addition of some other mysterious spice.