Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Gorgeous Goatsbeards

This blog is a tribute to the perennial goatsbeard (sometimes spelled goat's beard). Also called bride's feather, this perennial is native to moist woodlands in the Northern Hemisphere and has a long use in our gardens.  There are also some historical herbal uses of this plant as well.  The photo above shows the standard goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus) in our sunken garden where it thrives in damp soils and in quite a bit of sunlight.  This member of the rose (Rosaceae) family is often relegated to shady locations which isn't ideal.  Part shade is perfect while full sun is acceptable with amply moist soils.  The species just mentioned will get 4-5' easily and blooms typically in June.  The flower plumes do age to a brown which I think is still showy while some of the shorter species and hybrids will bloom later in to the summer.  I consider the foliage textural and further below you'll see the cutleaf goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus 'Kneiffii') which has almost ferny foliage and the same "floral impact".  Goatsbeards that don't receive enough moisture will have quick foliage decline and may even go dormant early.  Fall color of the foliage is usually a muted yellow although some other selections (below) of a little more interest in that regard.

Aruncus dioicus at RBG just starting to bloom
Aruncus dioicus at Olbrich Botanical Garden (Madison, WI)
Aruncus dioicus 'Kneiffii'
Aruncus dioicus 'Kneiffii' (foliage below)

It was a quiet day at the gardens.  Urban went out to do some more pruning and has been cleaning out the interior of some large spruce (Picea) trees with dead branches.  He does a thorough job and created some very quick piles of debris.  Dr. Gredler came in for some of our last winter painting and we also saw Bev, Paul T., Lori, Mary W., Janice, Maury and some others today.  Geesje and her great niece stopped by too.  It's nice to see more snow melting out in the gardens and with some warmer weather and rain this weekend, hopefully we'll get a good crack at spring clean-up efforts next week when the grounds staff is back in action.

Below are some of the smaller goatsbeard options.  I really like the dwarf Korean goatsbeard (Aruncus aethusifolius) seen below.  At only 12" tall, this option is great to edge a pathway or in the front of a partly shaded border.  As with all goatsbeards, moisture is vital and without adequate moisture, this species will show serious foliage decline and go dormant quickly or suffer more serious damage.  Our best specimens at RBG are in very rich, organic soils with supplemental irrigation and mulch.  Consider root competition with larger woody plants and keep these plants happy.  The fine-textured foliage of this species is quite interesting too and gets an orange/red in the fall.  Further below are some nice hybrid goatsbeards that are in the mid-height (24"-30") range.  I like 'Misty Lace' and am new to 'Guinea Fowl'.  This year we'll try 'Horatio' which tops out at 40" tall and is the hybrid between A. dioicus and A. aethusifolius.  

Aruncus aethusifolius
Aruncus aethusifolius
Aruncus aethusifolius foliage
Aruncus aethusifolius in late September
Aruncus hybrida 'Misty Lace'
Aruncus hybrida 'Misty Lace'
Aruncus hybrida 'Guinea Fowl'

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