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

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Entries in astilbe (2)

Monday
Jul162012

Astilbe Amethyst: Another Awesome Perennial

The Astilbe family is one of  the politest collection of flowering perennials. Not only do these plants grow almost maintenance-free, but they bloom in colors that cooperate, behave, and blend in well with practically every garden color scheme.

With bloom periods ranging from June until September, one can enjoy this plant all season long. In addition, the heights of different Astilbes vary so greatly, that an assorted collection, randomly planted in a flowerbed, might resemble scattered notes on sheet music. No wonder landscape architects use them, albeit sparingly, when they are obliged to add neat flowers to their serene, green plant compositions.

Astilbes grow in, tight, upright clumps that increase in size slowly. There are no spreading roots systems that require controlling, no messy sprawl, no staking of its flowering, feathery spikes, almost no pest, bug, or fungus problems, no additional nutrients required, no winter protection, and in colder climates, no exponential growth from one season to the next.

In fact, when the blooms have dies, the elegant, brown spiky seed heads add texture and vertical architectural detail to the garden. Furthermore, the Astilbe colors, even though they span every shade of pink, mauve, violet, red, peach, and cream - to - white, never appear garish, bold, or offensive.

However, one Astilbe does not conform to this modesty. The variety Amethyst is a scintillating pink extravaganza. It sizzles in the sun, where it ought not to be, like a display of fireworks, and glows intensely in shade and part - shade in vivid tones of lavender - pink. As a specimen plant, it is breathtaking; and when combined with other perennials in the garden, it is transformational.

At maturity, A. Amethyst reaches 40 inches in height and two feet in width. It performs best in a moist garden situated in part to full shade. However, mine is planted in damp sun, where the daylight makes the flower heads sparkle, and it is doing just fine.

I purchased  this variety last year for my test garden because I had never seen it in bloom and because the trade description suggested that it might be an ideal addition to my repertoire of elegant, tall perennials. I was not disappointed. The combination of good height, architectural presence, and intense color makes this versatile perennial a traffic stopper.

Friday
Feb132009

Easy Care Perennials

Astilbe x arendsii Cattleya is one of the tallest varieties, at 40 inches in height. It blooms in midsummer.Astilbe.  This perennial deserves its own “How To“ manual if only to cover the large variety of colors, heights and blooming periods. With strategic planning, an assortment of different varieties of Astilbe will perform all summer long. All they need is light shade or filtered sun and moist soil.

The key to success is to focus first on blooming time. Astilbes such as Deutschland [white] 24 inches tall, Peach Blossom [salmon] 20 inches tall and Reinland [pink] 24 inches tall, all bloom in early summer.

Astilbes that bloom in midsummer include Arendsi Amethyst, growing to 40 inches in height, Fanal [carmine red] to 24 inches and Jump and Jive [magenta] to 20 inches.

Late blooming Astilbes include chinensis Superba [purple] at 36 inches tall, Diament [white] at 32 inches  and Visions [pink] at 16 inches. Included in this late group is my favorite, Astilbe thunbergia, Ostrich Plume [claret red] at 36 inches tall. The floppiness of its flower spikes adds visual interest to the flower bed.

Blooming even later is chinensis Pumila [mauve pink] that grows to 12 inches.

All of the Astilbes mentioned here represent only a fraction of choices available to the diligent gardener. Unlike any of the other easy care perennials that are mentioned on this blog, Astilbes require a bit more attention. Organic matter should be added to the soil every season to ensure nutrition and moisture preservation. And, every three years, they need to be dug up and divided to maintain their vigor.

Landscape architects plant Astilbes in sinewy drifts in shade gardens. Spectacular results can also be achieved by combing them with other shade perennials as their color palettes makes them versatile companions. Astilbe flowers are soft plumes and the deep green foliage is fernlike and glossy. This perennial adds attractive texture to the shade garden even when not in bloom. Spent plumes may be lefy uncut during winter for visual appeal. This plant is suitable for zones 4 to 8.