Forward-thinking gardeners should enjoy what’s growing now

Erin Schanen


Gardeners are naturally inclined to think of the future. When you plant something, you need to consider what size it will become, what it will look like when it flowers and what happens when it’s finished flowering.

And especially right now, a gardener’s thoughts turn to a laundry list of what plants need to be moved or divided, what sorts of bulbs should be planted where and what should be done differently next year. We are programmed to be always thinking of the next season.

And perhaps that’s why so many plants that are really coming into their own now are forgotten about. We’re so busy worrying about what we need to do for next year that we can overlook some of the best parts of this year’s garden.
    Bottle gentian (Gentiana andrewsii) is a native plant that I’ve missed out on until recently. I first added it to the garden this year, and in the past couple weeks it’s become one of the highlights of the entire summer. Blooming with blue to purple upright flowers that look like buds ready to burst open, closed gentian not only provides a gorgeous color to play off the autumnal shades beginning to sneak into the garden but also a great deal of enjoyment. The flowers are closed so tightly that bumble bees are typically the only pollinators strong enough to pry them open to access their pollen.

It took only a few minutes of close watching to see a bee struggle to open the petals and then disappear entirely into the flower for a few seconds, then emerge, back end first, and move onto the next flower. It doesn’t get much better than that for garden entertainment.

Ornamental grasses are just now reaching their peak, pushing out blooms of all textures and colors. Grasses always add excellent texture in a garden, but they reach a different level in late summer.

Anemones, which are native to China rather than Japan despite being known as Japanese anemones, sometimes get a bad rap because they can spread rather rambunctiously in the right conditions, but I wouldn’t want to be without them. They do well in shade and, although they prefer moist soil, they can tolerate dry soil once established. Also known as windflowers, they produce masses of flowers held on wiry stems that bounce around happily in the breeze. My favorite variety is ‘Honorine Jobert,’ which was named the 2016 Plant of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association. It has lovely white flowers held on 3 to 4-foot stems.

I’ve written about toad lilies (Tricyrtis) here before, but their delicate orchid-like flowers shouldn’t be overlooked for pure fall charm. And the same goes for monkshood (Aconitum), the last perennial in my garden to bloom each year. It is similar to delphiniums in that it produces spires of blue to purple flowers, but so late in the season that nearly everything around it is a glorious mix of gold and orange, making for a fabulous contrast.

It’s natural to have a garden to-do list. Just make sure to put “Enjoy what’s growing now” at the top.



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