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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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Ironweed; a Tall Perennial for the Back Border

This pretty picture belongs to nichegardens.comWe never really talk about it but some of us gardeners have a secret. It’s about the thrill we feel when we discover a very attractive plant in bloom at a nursery. Usually, it's one we haven't seen before. I got that feeling last month on a chance visit to a local supplier.

There wasn’t much of a choice when I visited there after Labor Day. Most of the display tables were empty. Here and there one could find just a few plants; some were in bloom, but most were already dormant. In the distance, I noticed a table that was devoid of stock except for one lone eye-catching plant. It was a very tall perennial with a glowing purple-pink flower head. It turned out to be New York Iron Weed or Vernonia noveborescensis.

The sales tag promised that the plant will grow to a height of 6 feet, which I think is awesome. On–line research indicates that this is a wild flower that is not invasive. However, it will self-sow if it is not dead headed.

Ironweed blossoms in late summer and fall and attracts butterflies. Birds are attracted to the seeds of its dried dead heads. The fact that this plant grows tall and narrow is like music to the ears of those that insist on neat and disciplined gardens. This unusual perennial is hardy in zones 5 to 9 and I have planted it in my test garden facing south. I can hardly wait until next year at this time to see how well it lives up to its recorded reputation.

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Reader Comments (1)

if your readers are looking for more information on USDA plant hardiness zones, there is a detailed, interactive USDA plant hardiness zone map at

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

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