June 17, 2010

Three Blue Stars

In late May, Blue Star --- Amsonia tabernaemontana --- was blooming pale blue, with flowers that look like multiple tiny stars.  It's a happy combination of delicate flowers and pointed lance shaped leaves.  The flower and foliage forms work really well together, which isn't always true of all plants.  The flowers are brief, but the green summer form is an upright, full presence in my garden that moves in the breeze.  In late fall, the leaves turn a nice buff tan that stands out even though it is pale, and I leave them standing all winter to rustle in the dry wind.

There's another type of Blue Star, with spiky wispy foliage.  It's Amsonia hubrichtii, and it also has starry eggshell-blue flowers, although mine is too young to bloom very much.  As this one matures it will get big and immensely fluffy, and it will become a yellow beacon in fall when the foliage turns golden, much brighter than the pale tan of the tabernaemontana.  The colored spire twists don't add anything to this lovely plant, and I'm removing them.  I put them there because the young plant was so wispy, but really, they're dumb.

Finally there is a third Blue Star in my garden.  It is Amsonia 'Blue Ice', discovered here in Connecticut.  It is supposed to be a variant seedling of Amsonia tabernaemontana since it was found growing among them, but I find it to be a very different Blue Star.  It has masses of flowers that are rich royal purple and they are still blooming well into June, after the other more ethereal pale Blue Stars have ceased.  It's compact, solid, low to the ground and very unlike its cousins' big forms that are full of movement.

Like the other Blue Stars, Blue Ice's leaves color up in fall, a clear yellow in between the tan and golden shades of the other two Amsonias.

Amsonias are perennials but they have all the low maintenance attributes of woody shrubs.  They take three years to establish and reach size.  They fill their garden spaces with interesting form and autumn foliage color.  They have woody roots and never need dividing.  They don't need deadheading.  Really, I think of them as part of the shrub layer in the garden, even though they die all the way back each winter.

I like the fact that I grow three different Blue Stars and get three completely different effects.  I have them in separate garden areas now, but I'm toying with planting all three in a single space and letting the shapes, foliage movement, varying structures and spectrum of color shades play off each other.  I'd give that garden three stars!


  1. Your blue stars get a gold star from me! I like the idea of putting them all together. I loved your fall photo! Our weather is so hot and sticky, I'm dreaming of the cooler days of autumn and all those glorious fall colors!

  2. I think a 3-star combo would be brilliant. Very pretty plants and I do love blue! :)

  3. It's nice to see a post praising Amsonia, an often underrated, underused shrubby perennial. I started with one and over the years have divided it into four good sized clumps. Another benefit ... deer don't eat Amsonia, at least the deer visiting my yard.

  4. Deborah and Garden Ms. S, your votes to put all three amsonias together is encouraging me to do exactly that!

    Joene, the deer don't touch my amsonias either, thank goodness.


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