Sweet-Scented Seven-Son Flower: Heptacodium miconioides Blossoms Welcome Autumn . . .

September 23rd, 2018 § 5 comments

Heptacodium miconioides in and amongst September garden favorites: Rudbeckia, Solidago, Miscanthus and Physocarpus opulifolius

It’s no secret that we northeastern gardeners struggle with a limited growing season. Bare trees for nearly six months is a bit much to take. We want to hold onto the glory of autumn. Where winters are long and summers are short, early and late blooming plants —especially those with expanded foliage/bark interest, spring through fall— are key to getting the most out of the gardening year. When it comes to extending interest in the latter part of the gardening season, it’s hard to beat the beauty of Heptacodium miconioides. Commonly known as Seven-Son Flower, this unusual, low-maintenance shrub or small tree (hardy in USDA zones 5-8 with a preference for full sun and average, well-drained garden soil), is just beginning to turn on her charm in early September, when many other blooming trees and shrubs have long since faded away.

Seven-Son Flower (Heptacodium miconioides). September’s Sweet-Scented Bloom 

Fountain-shaped and substantial enough for the back or center of a large border (approximately 15-20′ high and 10′ wide), Seven-Son Flower may be grown as a multi-stem shrub or trained as a small tree. Shiny, medium green leaves cover branches throughout the growing year and then come late summer, Seven-Son Flower welcomes migrating Monarch butterflies. hummingbirds and bees with sweetly fragrant clusters of white flowers (each whorl containing seven blossoms).

But wait, as they say in late-night infomercials, there’s more! Although we gardeners would be more than happy with any shrub blooming this late in the growing season, the deliciously fragrant flowers are only half Heptacodium miconioides‘ surprise. After her blossoms fade, reddish purple fruit appears, surrounded by brilliant rose calyces. These spiky, sepal-like casings spread wide open, giving the appearance of a second flowering flush. I love the cherry red color against bone white tufts of feathery Maiden Grass. October surprise indeed! And just when you think the show is over, beautiful, two-tone exfoliating bark will take you by surprise as you stroll through the garden on the first frosty mornings of late fall and then continue on throughout the winter months.

Rose Calyces with Wide-Open, Sepal-Like Form, Persist Late into the Autumn

Although this beauty can be a bit hard to find, she’s worth seeking out. I love her planted beside Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’ and Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens, supported by a cast of simple, late blooming perennials like Rudbeckia, Solidago, Aster and Chrysanthemum. Color and texture to extend garden beauty from late summer into autumn and early-mid winter. What a delight!

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