Thursday, October 27, 2016

Amsonia in Autumn

An Amsonia hubrichtii growing in front of the house has never rivaled the first year I planted it, when it turned brilliant lemon yellow even though it was still small. Since then it has grown into a substantial plant, but it never had that vibrant fall color again.

In 2010 it was little but bright

In fact, in some years it barely turned a buff color in fall. This year, it's a strong golden and very eye catching at the front of the house.


When the stonemason put in our new paver walk this summer, he moved it over more than a foot, making the narrow garden strip in front of the brick wall a little wider. The amsonia appreciates the little bit of extra room. It had gotten big enough to cascade over much of the walk before.


It has the size and rounded shape of a shrub, but amsonia is a perennial, and dies back to the ground. I cut it down, usually before snow comes even though it turns a nice tan in winter, and could provide something to look at in winter as you come down the walkway. But snow weighs the feathery foliage down and smushes the whole plant, so best to cut it before then.

When I cut it back, though, I need to wear gloves. Amsonia has a sticky white sap that is annoying and hard to get off your hands. The milky white sap is full of alkaloids and is a deterrent to deer; they don't bother amsonias at all.

Other than the sap issue, it's an easy care plant, unbothered by pests. It does seed prolifically -- there are always lots of little feather seedlings right under it and they are hard to pull up. But it doesn't spread anywhere much beyond its own feet.


It was a fairly inspired idea to plant this next to a burgundy 'Crimson Queen' Japanese maple and a deep green Alberta spruce, with a red brick wall in the background. In fall this rich color combination is impressive at the front of the house.

It's a good thing this plant is well placed where I have it. Amsonias are very long lived, and they have tough woody roots. It won't want me to move it. It's staying right where it is, complementing the autumn scene at the front of the house just beautifully.

Happy Halloween.

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