A year ago we planted a stand of Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium dubium ‘Little Joe’) in a sunny spot on the path down to the garden. Fireworks of colorful purple blooms are the result this late summer. We love the late bloom time because of the color it adds to our garden and the pollinators it attracts. It’s a magnet for bees and brings a steady stream of Monarch butterflies too.
Our ‘Little Joe’ variety, at five feet tall, also adds drama. Glancing down into the garden, we sometimes mistake this tall stand of perennials for an unexpected group of garden visitors. No wonder the Brits often add it to perennial borders. Every garden needs some punch.
Named for Joe Pye, a Native-American herbalist who used it for treating a variety of ailments, it’s native to eastern North America and is part of the aster family. We’re always happy to find a spot for more natives in the garden. They resist disease and seem to adapt to the swings in weather we’re having on our Maryland hillside.
Fortunately, Joe Pye prefers lots of moisture. We’ve certainly had that this summer, sometimes three inches of rain in one day. (Nothing compared to what our Southern neighbors endured in Hurricane Florence.) Joe Pye is a good plant for sunny to partially shaded areas or spots too wet for other flowering plants. Good for rain gardens too. We’ve previously had some trouble growing Calycanthus floridus (sweetshrub) in that spot. Now we’ve found the right plant for the right location.
Joe Pye weed has other common names: gravel root, kidney root, purple boneset, queen of the meadow and snakeroot. We’ll stick to Joe Pye though; it looks like a long, lanky man.
Joe Pye is not too finicky about soil. Decades of deciduous trees on the hillside have given us rich, humusy soil, but Joe Pye will tolerate clay. Because of our deer fence, we have never had much trouble with deer. While Joe Pye attracts bees and butterflies, it’s happily not a deer magnet.
The vanilla-scented blooms are fading now, but we’ll let them be. They’ll soon bring other life to the garden. Well into winter the seed heads will give food to the birds.
And next year we might try what another Baltimorean has suggested: pruning them to two feet in June. They would then bush out and look more like a shrub. Might miss those tall, lanky Joes though. Over the winter we’ll think about what to do to this welcomed addition, Joe.