25 September 2008

Fall Flowers - Caryopteris Sunshine Blue

The Autumn Equinox began September 22, at 10:44 in the morning. In poetry, this time of year is called the crowning time for our gardens. Only the daffodil season is better according to the poets.

Fall Equinox is noted for having exactly 12-hours of daylight and 12-of night at the equator. Therefore, in many myths, it is a time of balance.

It is a time for rituals of protection and reflection. The Greek goddess Persephone even returned to live with her husband Hades.

Everywhere you look in the fall flower garden, there are brightly colored blooms.

Summer annuals are tall and crowned with flowers. Zinnias, castor beans, 4-O-Clocks, coleus, petunia, alyssum, cosmos and marigolds are at their peak bloom time.

Perennials such as Canna lilies, phlox, and Sedum Autumn Joy are covered with butterfly nectar flowers. Dahlias have huge buds about to burst open, asters and salvias are sprinkling bright spots of lavender, pink, red and purple in all the flowerbeds.

Goldenrod, Joe Pye Weed, Eupatorium, Passion vine, and others will keep blooming until Halloween.

In the herb garden, the basils and sages are blooming. Even though the oregano and thyme’s flowers have passed, they have spread to carpet all the ground around them.

The milkweed pods are bursting and remind us to continue collecting seeds for next spring’s garden.

Collect the mature seeds of blackberry lily, zinnia, Mexican sunflower, and seed heads of your other annual favorites. Once they are completely dry, store them in marked envelopes. Put the envelopes into a storage container in a dark, cool place. If you have any of those little moisture-removing, silica jel packets that come in medicine bottles and many other products, put one in the container.

Other seeds to collect in a month or so: Purple hyacinth bean vine, Snow-on-the Mountain, annual salvia, marigold – whatever you have that you like. The germination rate might be lower than fresh seeds from the store but you can’t beat the price!

The fall flowering shrubs are showing off now, adding to the colorful celebration that should last until the first hard frost. Gardens have lots of purple, white and pink from Crapemyrtle, Beautyberry bush, Butterfly bushes, Chaste tree, Rose of Sharon, and the Blue Mist shrubs.


For striking fall beauty, Caryopteris Sunshine Blue is a standout.

The lime green leaves and blue, scented flowers combine to attract even the casual garden visitor. The flowers attract honeybees, butterflies and skippers. Because of its scented leaves and flowers, deer are not attracted to this shrub.

Its botanical name is Caryopteris incana 'Jason' PPAF. Its common names include Bluebeard, Autumn Blue Spirea and California Lilac.

Caryopteris is a member of the Lamiaceae plant family along with other scented garden favorites such as Catmint, Lavender, Thyme, Sage, Monarda, Oregano, etc.

All the 6 species in the genus Caryopteris are medium-sized woody shrubs with aromatic foliage and usually blue flowers. They were originally from the Himalayas and East Asia.

The Caryopteris Genus includes Bluebeard, Blue Mist Spiraea, Bluebeard Dark Knight, and First Choice. They all have blue flowers, but the leaves range from silver to dark green. In stores and catalogs, they are all called Blue Mist Shrub.

An earlier yellow-green leaf Caryopteris, Worcester Blue, is also beautiful, but is said to be less vigorous over time.

The leaves of Sunshine Blue emerge gold-green in the spring and persist on the 2-to-3-foot tall shrubby plant all summer.

Planting it in full sun near deep green shrubs such as boxwood provides a complementary contrast for the brightness of Sunshine Blue. (I put mine in south facing, part shade and they did not flower and thrive until they were moved into bright light with plenty of water.)

They must be watered during drought periods and cannot have their roots standing in water over the winter. Well-drained soil will protect the roots.

Prune in the early spring, to shape and remove broken or dead branches. Flowers grow on new growth so stems can be cut back to less than 2-feet to stimulate a fresh growth spurt and heavier flowering.

Fertilize in early spring with shrub fertilizer according to package directions.

Hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8. Northeast Oklahoma is zone 7.

Caryopteris Sunshine Blue was bred by an English plantsman, Peter Champion. Caryopteris is named from the Greek karyon (a nut) and pteron (a wing) referring to its winged fruits.

Mail order sources include Bluestone Perennials (http://www.bluestoneperennials.com/ and 800-852-5243) and Sooner Plant Farm (http://www.soonerplantfarm.com/ and 918.453.0771).



4 comments:

nancybond said...

Perfectly beautifully blue. :) It's another one of those true blues, like chicory.

Molly Day said...

That tall native chicory comes up in my flower beds every spring. This year I let it grow to 6-feet tall but I shouldn't have - it took the sun from the other plants.

Caryopteris Sunshine Blue is a great addition to all the asters and other blue flowers of fall.

reddnas1 said...

Martha, it is lovely. Thanks for letting us know about it and crowning of the gardening year.~~Dee

Molly Day said...

Our zone 7 summers are so hot and humid - no comment about the bird-sized-mosquitoes - our fall garden is the one I focus on when shopping for plants.

This is a great time of year to be outside - with bug repellent of course.