‘Chocolate’ in early autumn

I don’t recall if the clump of ‘Chocolate’ Joe Pye weed (Ageratina altissima ‘Chocolate’, formerly Eupatorium rugosum, below) just off the driveway is the original or a seedling. Long ago a single plant was added, somewhere in the garden, and after many seedlings have come and gone only this one remains. Most sprouted in inappropriate locations, and these were weeded out before growing too large. Of course, the origin of this Joe Pye doesn’t matter except that the foliage of seedlings is often slightly faded from the dark leafed original, and for this reason I suspect the few plants that have grown into a clump by the garage are seedlings.

Chocolate Joe Pye weed is bordered by Pieris Scarlet O'Hara to the back and variegated liriope and a dark leafed violet in front.

Chocolate Joe Pye weed is bordered by Pieris Scarlet O’Hara to the back and variegated liriope and a dark leafed violet in front.

Despite its attractive, dark foliage, ‘Chocolate’ is mostly unobtrusive until its clusters of small flowers appear in late summer, which is not terribly unusual and certainly not a reason to exclude it from the garden. ‘Chocolate’ has a shorter and more compact habit than other Joe Pye weeds, and its flowers are dissimilar to the common Joe Pye (which is likely to be part of the reason ‘Chocolate’ has been reclassified from Eupatorium (now Eutrochium) to Ageratina). The dusky purple blooms of the more typical Joe Pye weeds faded weeks ago, but for early autumn flowers ‘Chocolate’ is a marvelous plant.Autumn crocus

The autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale, above) faded more quickly in this summer’s late drought, and recent rain was too little, too late to revive them. Handfuls of new varieties were jammed beneath shrubs at the edges of beds a few weeks ago, and these came into blooms and faded in a few days. They will be much better next year, since nothing besides excess dampness or shade bothers them. As I shoehorn the bulbs into tight spaces I must allow for growth of the shrubs, but otherwise the only consideration in locating them is where the splendid late summer flowers can be readily seen.

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