Gardening in the Fall
If your idea of fall gardening is a few mums in pots on the front steps, Fallscaping: Extending your garden season into autumn by Nancy Ondra and Stephanie Cohen (Storey Publishing, 2007, $22.95) will open up a world of new possibilities for extending the interest of trees, shrubs and flowers in the landscape. Concentrating on plants with late season appeal from flowers, foliage, berries and seedheads, the authors, both experienced gardeners, show you how to keep you garden colorful and exciting as the days cool and shorten, with advice on choosing and combining plants, along with ten garden plans for a variety of settings. There is also plenty of practical advice on fall garden care, including sections on soil improvement, preparing plants for winter, seed saving and caring for your lawn in fall. This is also one of the most beautiful books I've ever seen; the numerous photos by Rob Cardillo are stunning and are sure to whet your creative juices!
Favorite or New Plant
Sometimes it seems that everything is made in China these days. I had to chuckle last summer when I noticed that the seeds of my 'Fourth of July' tomatoes (so named because they are an early-ripening variety, but patriotic sounding nonetheless) were grown in China!
One Chinese import I'm happy did make the trip to our shores is a flowering shrub or small tree with the unusual common name of seven-son flower, Hepatcodium miconioides. Growing about 10-15 feet tall and 10 feet wide, with an irregular, arching habit, its leaves emerge chartreuse in the spring, changing to deep green as they mature. But the real show begins in late summer when clusters of fragrant white flowers come into bloom for a month or longer. The flowers are arranged in whorled sets of seven, giving rise to the plant's common name.
Flowers are not the end of the display, however. As they fade, bright red, petal-like calyxes are revealed that add an additional season of color, persisting on the plant until late fall. The pale, peeling bark adds more interest during the winter months.
The blossoms of seven-son flower are attractive to butterflies, so it makes a nice centerpiece to a colorful butterfly garden. It also looks lovely as part of a shrub border along with plants such as spring flowering dwarf fothergilla, whose vivid fall colors echo the red Hepatcodium calyxes.
Hardy in zones 4-8, this easy to grow plant has a fast growth rate, few insect or disease problems and is tolerant of dry soils. It prefers full sun, but will adapt to part shade and does best in well-drained soil of average fertility. Its flowers are formed on the current season's wood, so prune in early spring before new growth begins.