|October 22, 2006|
I recently read somewhere that Arkansas bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii) is now “out.” Shows how much I know, because I thought that it was finally “in,” having been named the 2011 Perennial Plant of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association. Hmmm…maybe that’s part of the problem: I guess it’s not cool to like plants that are (or are becoming) readily available and widely grown.
To be fair, I spent my share of time avoiding such utterly common plants when I had a small garden. But here, I have a whole lot of space to fill, so I can’t be snooty about sturdy, dependable, and affordable plants. And if they’ll grow readily from seed without becoming self-sowing menaces, so much the better. There’s no need to coddle tiny, tissue-cultured plugs when it comes to Arkansas bluestar. Sure, it takes a few years for the seedlings to bulk up into those glorious feathery mounds, but that’s better than waiting the same amount of time for a trendier selection to play “incredible shrinking perennial” and finally disappear.
Maybe I too will eventually get bored with Arkansas bluestar, but for now, I’m happy to have it around, and I enjoy watching it interact with a wide variety of companions through the seasons.
Arkansas Bluestar in Late Spring to Early Summer
Here in southeastern Pennsylvania, Arkansas bluestar comes into bloom in the first or second week of May and continues into the first or second week of June. Its light blue color looks great with white, silvery, and pastel partners.
Below, it’s with pale purple-blue ‘Purple Smoke’ baptisia at left and soft yellow ‘Carolina Moonlight’ baptisia at right.
|May 11, 2010||May 11, 2010|
Some pink partners for Arkansas bluestar here at Hayefield include hairy chervil (Chaerophyllum hirsutum ‘Roseum’)…
|May 11, 2010|
…and ‘Frau Dagmar’ rose.
|May 28, 2007|
Arkansas bluestar does a good job covering the leafless lower stems of other roses, too. Below, it’s filling in around blue-leaved Rosa glauca and creating a nice show with an unnamed white hybrid clematis.
|May 20, 2007|
Giant fleeceflower (Persicaria polymorpha) comes into bloom around the same time as Arkansas bluestar, making for another pretty floral combination.
|May 20, 2010|
A couple of foliage partners include the bright green whorls of ‘Carin’ Joe-Pye weed (Eupatoriadelphus maculatus)…
|May 15, 2006|
…the bright yellow leaves – and white flowers, too – of Chardonnay Pearls deutzia (Deutzia gracilis ‘Duncan’)…
|May 13, 2009|
…and silver-fleeced lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantina).
|May 17, 2006|
Arkansas Bluestar in Mid- to Late Summer
After the bloom period, the key summer features of Arkansas bluestar are its rich green color, its fine texture, and its dense, mounded habit.
The foliage makes a pleasing contrast for partners with broad and/or light-colored leaves. Below, it’s behind Fallopia ‘Devon Cream’.
|June 24, 2005|
And here it’s with the lacy foliage of ‘Silver Fern’ ghost bramble (Rubus thibetanus), the rounded buds of drumstick chives (Allium sphaerocephalon), and plumy ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora).
|July 1, 2005|
Where I use Arkansas bluestar as an edging plant, I like to shear the mounds back by about half once the flowers fade. The trimmed clumps regrow quickly and are much more tidily bushy. (This simple pruning step also removes the developing seedpods and prevents self-sowing where I don’t want seedlings.) Below is a shot from early July, showing clumps that were sheared about a month earlier. Behind them are a few clumps of ‘Karley Rose’ fountain grass (Pennisetum orientale).
|July 1, 2005|
Below is the same spot a few weeks later in the season, with ‘Frau Dagmar’ rose between the bluestar and the ‘Karley Rose’ fountain grass.
|July 31, 2008|
Arkansas bluestar does a super job covering the lower stems of summer bulbs, such as gladiolus, lilies, and tall alliums. Below is the bluestar with drumstick chives (Allium sphaerocephalon). Honestly, it’s not an ideal combination, because if you don’t cut back the bluestar after bloom, the drumstick chive flowers barely reach above the bluestar foliage. But if you do shear the bluestar, you need to be very careful not to cut off the allium buds that are mingling with the bluestar stems.
|July 4, 2007|
Arkansas bluestar clumps aren’t strong enough to hold up much taller or heavier plants, but they can prevent somewhat sprawling, lightweight partners from falling all the way to the ground, and this mingling can make for some pretty vignettes. Below is Arkansas bluestar with rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium).
|July 13, 2008|
Mostly, though, the tidy mounds of Arkansas bluestar make a nice green filler for summer borders. Below, it’s with ‘Blue Horizon’ flossflower (Ageratum houstonianum), a no-name hydrangea, silver willow (Salix alba var. sericea), giant fleeceflower (Persicaria polymorpha), and variegated moor grass (Molinia caerulea ‘Variegata’).
|July 29, 2007|
Here’s the same area from a different angle, in a different year, with the bluestar echoing the mounded forms of a summer-pruned pink New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), the hydrangea, some pink Joe-Pye weed (Eupatoriadelphus maculatus), and some white snakeroot (Ageratina altissima) at the very back.
|August 25, 2009|
Below, it’s underplanted with ‘Angelina’ sedum, with the seedheads of giant coneflower (Rudbeckia maxima) in the background.
|August 26, 2009|
And the same bluestars a few days later, from a different angle, with a variety of flowering partners, including Joe-Pye weeds, ‘Frau Dagmar’ rose, ‘Karley Rose’ fountain grass, frost grass (Spodiopogon sibiricus), and pink phlox (Phlox paniculata).
|August 29, 2009|
Arkansas Bluestar in Fall and Winter
Toward the end of the growing season, Arkansas bluestar really takes center stage. I understand that some gardeners don’t get the great fall color change, but here, the foliage never fails to turn – usually to a bright, clear yellow, but sometimes to gold or glowing orange. It looks great with deep reds, such as the seedheads of ‘Autumn Fire’ sedum (as in the shot below, along with ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass)…
|November 8, 2007|
…and the fall foliage of ‘Bailey Compact’ cranberrybush viburnum (Viburnum trilobum) – below with monkshood (Aconitum carmichaelii).
|October 29, 2005|
The autumn color of Arkansas bluestar looks terrific with other late bloomers, too. Below, it’s with cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus).
|October 13, 2009|
Here, it’s behind ‘Violet Queen’ autumn crocus (Colchicum):
|October 24, 2010|
And here, it’s with a mass of pink muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris):
|October 22, 2006|
The bluestar’s bright color also makes it a standout in plantings where its companions have already turned brown. Below is an edging of bluestar in front of the dark, dried stalks of giant fleeceflower (Persicaria polymorpha).
|November 9, 2008|
Below, it’s skirting a clump of ‘Carin’ Joe-Pye weed (Eupatoriadelphus maculatus).
|October 22, 2006||November 26, 2006|
The bluestar’s fall foliage makes a handsome contrast to dark seedheads, too, such as those of orange coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida var. fulgida)…
|October 13, 2008|
…and purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea).
|September 29, 2010|
And, of course, there are lots of options for foliage combinations. Below is a bluestar showing off against a clump of still-green ‘Purple Smoke’ baptisia.
|October 25, 2009|
Here, it’s with fall-red bistort (Persicaria affinis)…
|November 14, 2007|
…with a no-name Japanese maple (Acer palmatum)…
|October 25, 2009|
…and with a variety of colorful companions.
|October 25, 2009|
Arkansas bluestar doesn’t look especially durable, but it maintains a presence through fall frosts.
|November 11, 2007|
…and its dried stalks are stiff enough to stand up to ice…
|December 21, 2008|
…and snow, even as late as February.
|February 4, 2009|
I’ll finish with a few quick seasonal transitions, starting with Arkansas bluestar against ghost bramble (Rubus thibetanus ‘Silver Fern’):
|August 23, 2006||November 2, 2007|
|November 14, 2007||November 22, 2008|
Bluestar has been a perfect solution for planting under post-and-rail fencing: it softens the hard lines of the rails and almost eliminates the need for weeding or trimming under the fence. Plus, it provides lots of seasonal interest.
|May 28, 2007||September 19, 2006|
|October 12, 2009||October 16, 2008|
|October 22, 2006||December 13, 2007|
And as I mentioned before, Arkansas bluestar is invaluable for filling space. Because the clumps rarely need to be divided, I’ve found them especially useful for filling in around the base of trees and shrubs, where I don’t want to have to dig frequently. This last set of images shows Arkansas bluestar around the base of Japanese emperor oak (Quercus dentata).
|September 27, 2007||November 8, 2007|
|November 14, 2007||November 26, 2006|