Many garden designs include vertical elements that draw the eye up and create volume in the garden. Plants that grow spire-shaped inflorescences provide one way to create this vertical element. Because my garden is surrounded by forest, I don’t need my perennials to draw the eye up; the tall trees do that, and they dwarf even the tallest of garden flowers. I do need to use big, bold plants, however, to set my flower beds off from the woods; and at this time of year, my garden is full of flowering spires.
The delphiniums are the dramatic divas of tall flowering spires in my garden (see Delightful Delphinium), but they are accompanied by many other vertically flowering plants. There are the feathery inflorescences of goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus) floating above my head. And there are many varieties of spire-shaped Astilbes, including the early blooming Astilbe x arendsii cultivars, the North American native Astilbe biternata, and the later blooming spires of Astilbe chinensis. Although the tall flower scapes of Hosta fortunei varieties are not really spires, masses of them waving in the breeze echo the color and shape of these other flowering plants.
|Not all the flowering spires in my garden are in shades of blue, lavender, pink, and white. The flowering inflorescences of Ligularia stenocephala ‘The Rocket’ add a bright yellow presence, as do the about-to-open flowers of goldenrod (Solidago).|
There are other plants in my late summer garden that do not have spire-shaped inflorescences but that do have vertical aspirations. These include the morning glory vines (Ipomoea ‘Heavenly Blue’) which are busy climbing the 6’ fence at the back of the fence border, the flowers of Hemerocallis ‘Autumn Minaret’ which float high above their foliage on slender stems (see Extending the Daylily Season), and the tall Rudbeckia nitida ‘Herbstsonne’ (see Try This Rudbeckia) whose flowers have already begun to bloom more than 7’ above the ground.
What plants aspire to great heights in your garden?