MID­WEST

Country Gardens - - Grassroots -

The first frost date has re­ceded in re­cent au­tumns in the Mid­west, grad­u­ally giv­ing gar­den­ers a few more weeks to sa­vor the or­na­men­tal rem­nants of a suc­cess­ful grow­ing sea­son and en­joy fall flow­ers and ex­tended fo­liar dis­plays. I have a co­hort of fa­vorites, in­clud­ing a few that de­serve wide recog­ni­tion.

1 After­burner black gum (Nyssa syl­vat­ica ‘David Odom’) For many years, I’ve cham­pi­oned black gums as re­silient and beau­ti­ful trees for mod­ern land­scapes. ‘David Odom’ is a re­cent in­tro­duc­tion gain­ing renown for its beau­ti­fully sym­met­ri­cal habit and ra­di­ant au­tumn color. The leaves shine un­blem­ished through sum­mer only to glow with in­creas­ing sat­u­ra­tion as the days shorten.

2 East­ern bee balm (Monarda brad­buri­ana) What’s not to love about a pol­li­na­tor mag­net that blooms early in the grow­ing sea­son, bears a rich robe of pur­ple fall color, and has at­trac­tive seed heads long into win­ter? This Ozarks na­tive has be­come a main­stream and fashionable se­lec­tion for her­ba­ceous gar­dens, is a fetch­ing com­pan­ion to many or­na­men­tal grasses, and is sur­pris­ingly ver­sa­tile—it’s as at home in a mixed bor­der as it is in a strip along­side a street.

3 Cor­doba moor­grass (Molinia caerulea subsp. arun­d­i­nacea ‘Cor­doba’) I love bold, ar­chi­tec­tural plants, par­tic­u­larly grasses such as Cor­doba moor­grass with stat­uesque habits that serve as a scaf­fold of win­ter in­ter­est. Cor­doba doesn’t re­seed, nor does it run, in­stead form­ing a sol­dierly clump that rock­ets to its sum­mer apex with grace­fully arch­ing seed heads by Au­gust. By Thanks­giv­ing, its color glows in warm melon-orange tones, a de­light­ful sur­prise in a land­scape al­ready head­long into bleaker days. Usu­ally top­ping 7 feet, the stems with­stand snow and ice, of­ten still up­right the fol­low­ing spring. Kelly Nor­ris is the direc­tor of hor­ti­cul­ture at the Greater Des Moines Botan­i­cal Gar­den and the au­thor of Plants with Style (Tim­ber Press; 2015).

East­ern bee balm

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