Second Thoughts & Encores . . .

October 15th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

With a Backdrop of Golden Clethra alnifolia and Side-Show of Blackened Rudbeckia Pom Poms, Glistening Asclepias tubersoa (Butterfly Weed), Parachutes Await a Breeze

Some things in life are one-hit wonders, and others are worth a second thought or three. When it comes to gardening in a cold climate, I’m always looking to get the most out of my growing year. With this in mind, I am generally pretty picky in my selection of plants. With rare exceptions (fragrant plants like peonies come to mind), I ask at least two seasons of performance before I’ll let any newcomer through my garden gate. Points of consideration: flowers are a real plus, but their absence is not a deal-breaker; good bones are always important, especially for trees and shrubs; foliage —dramatic or changing— is considered a high value asset in both herbaceous and woody plants; and colorful berries/drupes/seeds/calyxes/tufts/bark are always very desirable.

The three plants featured here are unusual knock-outs both in bloom and again, later in the season with other special effects. Butterfly Weed (Aesclepias tuberosa), gets double points as a beautiful butterfly magnet; foliage for caterpillars and later, brilliant orange flowers for adults. But it’s autumn that brings out this plant’s hidden treasure: spiky, dramatic seed pods that split to release silver-white parachutes into blue October sky. Magic!

Recently Featured, Seven-Son Flower (Heptacodium miconioides), is an Autumnal Double Feature worth Repeating. Here Seven-Son Flower’s Calyxes Shimmer Alongside Rose-Tipped Tufts of Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis).

Seven-Son Flower (Heptacodium miconioides), recently featured, is another butterfly favorite in the late-season garden. Watching Monarchs dance about the fragrant blossoms would be gift enough, but the long-showing rose calyxes offer an unusual hue at this time of year. I love this plant paired with purple-tinted Ninebark leaves (Physocarpus opulifolius, ‘Diablo’ is my favorite), and silken tassels of Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis).

Another less-common beauty, Fingerleaf Rodgersia  (Rodgersia aesculifolia), offers three season interest from early to late in the garden year. Creamy white or pink cultivars bloom on sturdy stems in late spring through early summer, looking fresh and cool above gorgeous, dark green foliage. Then, in early autumn, the boney remains begin to ruddy up to purplish ruby, just as the leaves morph to gold. Sweet alchemy! Don’t grab your shears just yet, though. Left standing over winter, the flower heads will slowly shift from dark brown to jet black —perfection with sparkling frost or a light dusting of snow.

With gorgeous foliage and beautiful summertime flowers, Fingerleaf Rodgersia (Rodgersia aesculifolia), is just a great garden plant, all the way around. Still, I think her best attributes are on display in autumn, when her gilded foliage is offset by a bejeweled crown, shifting from complementary ruby-violet to dramatic jet black bead.

So many garden plants offer more than one season of beauty, but sometimes, it takes a bit of sleuthing to discover them. Of course it helps to haunt great public gardens and commercial displays at this time of year. Make notes for shopping clearance sales at garden centers or return in spring to snap up those collectible, rare gems before they’re all sold out. The best plants are always worth at least a second thought!

Article and Images copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through the affiliate-links here. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to The Gardener’s Eden, and will help with site maintenance and web hosting costs. Thank you!

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

September 23rd, 2018 § 5 comments § permalink

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!

Article and Images copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through the affiliate-links here. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to The Gardener’s Eden, and will help with site maintenance and web hosting costs. Thank you!

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