As the growing season begins to wind down, I’m always looking for plants that continue to add colors (berries, foliage, flowers) to the landscape or containers, and hopefully be an additional source of food for those pollinators late in the season. This week’s pick is one of many selections from the genus ‘Caryopteris’…it’s ‘First Choice’. It’s different from the others thanks to its tight branching habit and deep blue late-summer flower spikes. 'First Choice' is compact with mounds of dark green foliage and fragrant, dark purplish-blue flowers (few weeks earlier the others), beginning in midsummer and lasting thru early fall. (also great for cut flowers) This late bloomer looks its best when many other perennials are done for the season. Mass plantings are spectacular, and the foliage is great all season long (drought tolerant). And yes, it’s a great one for providing nectar for butterflies and other pollinators. I consider Caryopteris as a woody perennial that grows to be the size of a small shrub. In fact, it can be used in place of shrubs in the landscape. Allow it plenty of space to achieve maximum impact.
Our second pick is another late summer / fall bloomer that is truly a pollinator magnet. And when its arching branches are in full bloom, everyone wants to know what it is! Lespedeza is the genus – Bush Clover is the common name. And one outstanding selection is called Gibralter Bush Clover. Bright rosy purple flowers almost cover the arching stems in the fall. This is an easy to grow plant that tolerates infertile soils and some drought. It is perfect for erosion control and for adding color at the back of borders – great in perennial beds, spilling over walls. Prune in spring…will probably dieback over the winter – thus another ‘woody perennial’.