Doubling Down on Tall Plants

In addition to the bulbs, I’ve ordered some new perennials for fall planting. Most of these are for the Front Island Bed. This bed is an irregular oval wedged between the rectangular Driveway and Sidewalk Borders, all three divided by grassy paths.

The Front Garden at the beginning of August. The Island Bed is pretty much invisible except for the Cup Plant and Sweet Joe Pye Weed in the back. Otherwise the Island Bed is hidden by the Driveway Border to the right and the Sidewalk Border to the left (with the Bee Balm). 

I’ve realized that the Island Bed is viewed primarily from the sidewalk, and to a lesser extent from the street or from the path to the front door. And I’m fine with that, and should plant accordingly.

What this means is that the shorter plants toward the front of the Island Bed are essentially invisible by summer – hidden by the taller plants of the Sidewalk and Driveway borders. You can see them from the grassy paths, but I’m the only one who walks on those paths with any frequency.

So I’ve decided to make the Island Bed an island of tall plants and get rid of most of the low-growing perennials that grow there currently. Layering is all well and good, but it doesn’t have to be applied to each and every bed. 

royal catchfly2
Royal Catchfly. Photo from Prairie Moon Nursery.

I’ll also be pulling some of the Brown-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba) because, much as I love this plant, it’s pretty much all over the place.


Here’s what will be added to the Island Bed:

Rust-resistant Hollyhocks, specifically Russian Hollyhock (Alcea rugosa) and Fig Leaf Hollyhock (A. ficifolia). Russian Hollyhocks have yellow flowers, the Fig Leaf has a mix of colors much like the traditional A. rosea. These should bloom through summer and grow 5 to 7 feet high. (I should say here that our front garden, which has rich soil and ample moisture, plants tend to exceed the height listed in the catalogs.)

Royal Catchfly (Silene regia), which should grow 4+ feet, blooming mid- to late summer with crimson flowers. A good hummingbird plant, incidentally.

Meadow Blazingstar (Liatris ligulistylis), about 5 feet tall and has tufted purple flowers in late summer. This is supposed to be a superlative plant for attracting Monarchs and other butterflies.

Stiff Goldenrod (Solidago rigida). Another late-summer bloomer about 5 feet tall. This one will require watching to prevent excessive self-sowing.

meadow blazing star 2
Meadow Blazing Star. Photo from Prairie Nursery. 

You may notice that this selection offers nothing for spring. Right now there’s some Ohio Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis), which blooms in May and June, and that will stay. The back of the bed is also composed of later-season plants: Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum), Sweet Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum) and New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae).

russ hollyhock
Russian Hollyhock


This isn’t a big problem because the Front Garden’s spring-blooming bulbs and perennials are concentrated in the other beds and borders. However, I might mix some bulbs or annuals into the Island Bed to provide more interest in the earlier part of the year.

As this gardening year comes to a close, I’m already excited about what next year holds in store.

25 Comments on “Doubling Down on Tall Plants”

  1. That Russian hollyhock is gorgeous. I like those plants. We had some sort at the side of the house when I was a kid, and I made dolls from the flowers.

    But the real surprise here was your royal catchfly. I’m getting ready to post photos of Silene subciliata, a member of the genus that’s endemic to far east Texas and portions of western Louisiana, and rare in Texas. I found some while tromping around the Big Thicket — they’re brilliant red, like yours, but have glabrous leaves and stems. I’d never heard of catchflys until this year, and now here you are, plunking them into your garden!

  2. That sounds sad that the gardening year is coming to a close. It should go all year, with one year flowing right into the next. I suppose winter in between does not work that way.
    Is catchfly another traditional flower, like Joe Pye weed and goldenrod?

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