Posts Tagged ‘Monkshood’


Daylilies work well for me because I start to lose interest in the garden later in the season. I love that glorious burst of growth in the spring, the dazzling flowers of summer. By the end of August, I’m ready to move on to other activities.


I’m content to stroll about the garden and not lift a finger on its behalf. I never trim back my plants until spring. Many of them provide winter interest, with interesting seed pods or twisty stems.


I can further justify my autumnal laziness with the fact that the seeds and leaf litter the garden offers will feed and protect a host of insects and birds over the freezing months ahead.


There are still a few flowers to be seen, such as a late-blooming head of masterwort (Astrantia major ‘Sunningdale Variegated‘), above.


And here is a bouquet of Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea) tucked in amongst the lowest branches of the corkscrew hazel.


The chocolate Joe Pye (Eupatorium rugosum ‘Chocolate’) is just wrapping up its blooming season for the year.


A few heads of phlox are contributing a bit of colour. This is Phlox paniculata ‘Sherbet Cocktail’.


The last, the very last flower to bloom in my garden every year is this monkshood (Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Barker’s Variety’). The flowers are set off nicely by the new green coat that the house received this summer.


The bright berries of the aptly named American Winterberry (Ilex verticillata ) brighten a shady corner and make a contribution to the garden’s offerings for wildlife.


The grasses are the mainstay of the fall garden. This little cutie is Piglet Fountain Grass (Pennisetum Alopecuroides ‘Piglet’).


The plumes of this unnamed miscanthus species look fabulous when backlit by the sun. This is one of the tallest grasses in the garden, but two others surpass it. Both are new this year, and are only just opening their plumed heads now. Hopefully, next year they will fill out more and reach maturity a bit earlier in the season. You can make out Giant Maidengrass (Miscanthus gigantus) in the photo below, standing to the left of the sunlit plumes. Behind it is the tallest of the three, the native Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii).


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While some plants have a long blooming period, and continue flowering well into autumn, others wait until the very last minute to do their thing. The asters in the garden bloom at the same time as the wild asters. This is Aster novi-belgii ‘Professor Kippenburg’. Although it looks very like its wild cousins, it is a very well-behaved species. It grows in a neat, dense clump, about a foot tall and blooms profusely.


Bluebeard, or caryopteris was new to me when I came across it last summer and bought a couple of plants for the garden. I have been waiting anxiously all summer to see it bloom and had just about given up hope when it finally flowered. This is Caryopteris x clandonensis “Longwood Blue”. It is said to be attractive to butterflies, but it is blooming so late that it has pretty much missed the butterfly season. However, the bees seem to like it, and it is nice to have something for them this late in the season.


The last,the very last plant in the garden to bloom is my monkshood, Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Barker’s Variety’. While the bluebeard is new, I’ve had this monkshood in my garden for quite a few years and moved a clump to Willow House a couple of years ago. I wouldn’t want to be without this amazing champion of the latebloomers.


It has a pleasing presence in the garden all summer, growing in a tidy clump. It’s long stems, which are over 5 feet tall, are very sturdy and I’ve never needed to stake them. It is just now starting to bloom. It is usual for this plant to still have a few flowers blooming when the first snow flies, long after the rest of the garden has settled into its long winter’s nap.


As suggested by their common name, the flowers have an interesting hooded appearance. They have been attracting lots of attention from late-flying bees and other pollinators, and when they visit the flowers, the bees disappear from sight, entering deeply into the blossoms.

Not all monkshood blooms at the end of the summer. There are early summer and mid-summer bloomers as well. The flowers may be ivory coloured, like those of Aconitum ‘Ivorine’, which blooms in late spring, or pink, like Aconitum x cammarum ‘Pink Sensation’. They grow to different heights, too. There is even a dwarf variety, Aconitum ‘Blue Lagoon’, which reaches just 12 inches (30cm) or so.


The plants are well-known as among the most poisonous of garden varieties, but they’re not a problem to work around. Just don’t eat them or use them for herbal purposes.

If you are interested in learning more about aconitum (ak-on-EYE-tum), Canadian Gardening magazine has an article about monkshood in the Fall/Winter 2010 issue.


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