Cheerful Giants of the Garden

The Island Bed in the front garden really peaks in high summer. That’s when the cupplant (Silphium perfoliatum) and sweet joe pye weed (Eupatorium purpureum) come into bloom. These friendly giants are Midwest natives and great plants for birds and pollinators.

Cupplant and Sweet Joe Pye Weed
Cupplant and Sweet Joe Pye Weed

In spring the Island Bed is blue – there is squill (Scilla sibirica) in April, and later on Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’ and Ohio Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohioensis).

'Purple Rooster' bee balm and swamp milkweed, which grow a mere 3-4', are in front of the really tall guys.
‘Purple Rooster’ bee balm and swamp milkweed, which grow to a mere 3-4′, are in front of the really tall guys.

By mid-summer the ‘Purple Rooster’ bee balm (Monarda didyma) is flowering, along with the pink and white blooms of swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata).

Another view of the cupplant.
Another view of the cupplant.

But the cupplant steals the show by the end of July. To an extent that’s because it is impossible to ignore at 8-10′ high in my garden.

Cupplant with wild bergamot from the Driveway Border.
Cupplant with wild bergamot from the Driveway Border.

But cup plant is not a malevolent giant. Instead, the bunches of yellow daisies are cheerful and friendly.

'Purple Rooster' Bee Balm
‘Purple Rooster’ Bee Balm is maybe just past its peak.

Some people fear cupplant as unmanageable, but I don’t find it to be so. It does self-sow, but the seedlings are not too hard to dig out. I certainly would not cut off the seed heads, which are a favorite of goldfinches.

Ditto the swamp milkweed.
Ditto the swamp milkweed.

The clumps do get very crowded, and I like to yank out every fourth stalk or so by the end of May. This results in sturdier plants, I think.

Sweet Joe Pye Weed
Sweet Joe Pye Weed

The sweet joe pye weed starts blooming within a few days of the cupplant. Pink and yellow are not supposed to go well together, but these plants seem like natural companions to me. Perhaps that’s because the joe pye weed’s flowers are a very understated, soft pink.

Sweet Joe Pye Weed blooms.
Sweet Joe Pye Weed blooms.

The texture of the flowerheads is soft and fuzzy as well. Sweet joe pye weed does self-sow, but not aggressively. As with the cupplant, I like to thin the stands of this perennial in order to get fewer but stronger stems.

 

Path between Island Bed and Driveway Border.
Path between Island Bed and Driveway Border. I took this and the other path picture with my phone. Judy took the other photos.

 

Oh, and I wanted to show that there are indeed paths between the beds in the front garden. Here is the path between the Island Bed and the Driveway Border.

Path between the Island Bed and the Sidewalk Border.
Path between the Island Bed and the Sidewalk Border.

And here is the path between the Island Bed and the Sidewalk Border.

What’s the tallest perennial flower in your garden?

44 Comments on “Cheerful Giants of the Garden”

  1. That’s really tall! I love almost any colour combination, but pink and yellow is one of my favourites in all seasons. The tallest perennial in my garden is probably a Thalictrum called ‘Elin’… about 6 or 7ft tall.

  2. Like Cathy, I’ve always been a fan of pink and yellow; I think they look great together. Your cupflower is amazing and the ‘Purple Rooster’ Mondardia really catches my eye. I have a tall Lobelia cardinalis near the river that was just coming into flower before I left for the beach…thanks for the reminder to check on it.

  3. Must have a cupplant! The tallest I have in my garden is Rudbeckia Maxima which I love and grows huge. Unfortunately, a couple of torrential rains early in the season made it flop and even though I tied it up best I could afterwords, it has stayed bent over most of this summer. Have you experienced any flopping with cupplant?

  4. I love the ‘Gentle Giants’! I have a hard time pulling the Joe Pye seedlings (soft-hearted fool that I am). I may try the thinning you do…one of my Joe Pye’s always has very weak stems and flops horribly…next year, I’m going to do it!

  5. I love giant flowers in August. I think we need big and bold at this time of the year. I love your two giants. I have Rudbeckia maxima too and big Miscanthus grasses with tall Echinacea. Dainty and subtle are no good in late summer.
    All sorts of lovely things in your garden.

  6. So fantastic Jason! I do so enjoy seeing those happy giants and yes I think that the purple and yellow are stunning together! The tallest plant in my garden is Joe Pye Weed….what a whimsical and outstanding garden you have in that shot up there! Happy gardening! Nicole

  7. This is lovely Jason and exciting to see lush tall growth in August. I grow Rudbeckia lacinata, with golden rod and Echinops, Verbena bonarenis and tall grasses. By this time of year my back hurts too much to bend down into small plants!

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