Tuesday, December 28, 2010
A Year in the Life - Joe Pye Weed
Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum 'Gateway')
Well, as we all know, winter is generally not a time spent IN the garden. For many of us, however, it is a time we spend thinking about the garden. In that spirit, I've decided to do a few posts focusing on one plant and it's growth stages from the beginning of the growth season to it's death in winter. First up is my beloved Joe Pye Weed.
In my garden in Zone 8, Joe Pye makes it's first appearance in late March/early April. It's easy to miss the first buds as they appear, they are a deep, wine-red color. Once above the ground, however, they grow at an astounding rate, as you can see in the pics above. By July, it stands easily as tall as me, if not taller, which means it has put on 6+ feet of growth in around 3 months.
Even before flowering, Joe Pye is a beautiful and impressive plant in its own right. It's subsantial size alone give it great presence in the garden. It's straight stems have a dark wine-red coloring that really stands out amidst the deep green foliage. The leaves are arranged in whorls around the stems, making it a wonderful architectural specimen for any border.
Above, you can see Joe Pye flowering with Miscanthus 'Malepartus' in the foreground. Although the Miscanthus looks taller in this pic (since I'm below both shooting upwards) Joe Pye is almost 2 full feet taller. I didn't realize it when buying the grass, but I love how its blooms echo the color of the Joe Pye.
Another huge plus for Joe Pye is how big of a draw it is for bees. Honestly, it was almost comical how many bees were jostling on the flower heads for nectar. Strangely, it seemed to be mostly bumblebees on the Joe Pye Weed, while honeybees favored the nearby Sedums.
Of course, fall rolled around and the Joe Pye continues to shine. It's one of the few perennials with good, dependable, fall color. It doesn't last terribly long (maybe a few weeks), but during that time, the foliage turns a lovely buttery yellow, which contrasts quite well with the still-red stems.
And of course, after frosts and rain have stripped the plant to its skeletal framework, it still remains striking. I love how the once-full and heavy flowers are now delicate and ephemeral, catching rainsdrops and dew. Joe Pye, truly a plant for all-season appeal.