WHILE ALL AROUND THEM ARE LOSING THEIR HEADS, the tallest perennials in the garden are just coming into their own. No need for cutbacks; these big boys of the late-summer and autumn garden are pleasingly fresh looking, a striking counterpoint to some earlier stars who are plum tuckered out by now.
I used to grow Joe Pye weed, Eupatorium purpureum (above), in the back row of mixed borders with much smaller perennials. Eventually I relegated all these super-tall types to a bed of their own, where they could shine together instead of be the only bright light in beds with foreground companions who had seen better days, the sometimes-unavoidably tattered heroes of spring and early summer.
One other resident of the big bed is Rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne’ (I also see it listed various places as ‘Herbstonne,’ see comment from Yvonne after the post) or autumn sun coneflower (photo above). It gets to about 8 feet, with a wonderful linear quality and a graceful sway in every breeze.
Both of these attract butterflies, and seem to bloom forever (forever being from late July here through September), and both are technically native Americans, though the Rudbeckia isn’t from this neck of the woods.
The tallest herbaceous plant I grow, an Asian import, joins them: Miscanthus giganteus, which soars to more than 10 feet and this year, with all the rain, looks inclined to reach a baker’s dozen. That’s one clump of it at the back of a section of the border (above).
None of these is a fancy plant (or probably unfamiliar to you, either). These are workhorses, requiring only an annual cleanup to remove faded parts eventually, and I appreciate them as such. The big bed serves to block the view of my compost heap and an extra vegetable-growing patch where asparagus and peas and such are tucked away, so I recommend the tallest perennials as a seasonal screen as well.
The bed is positioned to have the afternoon sun at its back, which means it runs roughly north-south and the far side is to the west. In high summer through fall and even into winter, in the case of the big grass, the sunset view’s divine.
Speaking of divine views: Any handsome, easygoing big guys in view at your place that I might want to meet? If so, give me their numbers, please.