Favorite or New Plant
Blue-Mist Shrub, Blue Spirea, Blue Beard
Just as the growing season begins it's swan song, blue-mist shrub, Caryopteris x clandonensis, bursts forth with clusters of small lavender-blue flowers, providing the perfect counterpoint to asters and mums. The flowers are also attractive to butterflies. One of the most indestructible of shrubs, blue-mist grows into a rounded mound 3 feet or so wide and tall. It does best in full sun, but tolerates a wide range of well-drained soils. Tolerant of heat and hardy at least to -10 degrees F, blue-mist shrub blooms on new growth, so plants are usually cut back to 6 to 10 inches in late winter to encourage new stems. Most varieties have gray-green leaves, but 'Worcester Gold', 'Lil' Miss Sunshine', and 'Sunshine Blue' have golden foliage. Some varieties have darker flowers, including 'Longwood Blue', 'Kew Blue', 'Dark Knight', and 'Petit Bleu'.
Clever Gardening Technique
In addition to drying and freezing herbs for use throughout the winter, another excellent way to preserve some of the summery flavor is by making herbal vinegars. There are endless possible flavor combinations from both an herb and a vinegar point of view. At the most basic, half fill a clean, sterilized canning jar with washed and dried herbs, then pour vinegar to within a half inch of the top and cap with a plastic lid. Put in a cool, dark place for several weeks, then strain, bottle, and put back in that cool, dark place. A basic all-purpose vinegar for salads might include basil, thyme, marjoram, and chives in white wine vinegar.