Early October in the Perennial Garden

A- A A+

Early October in the Perennial Garden

Categories: Blog, Garden Guru

It’s hard to believe mid-fall is upon us! Senior Gardener Jennifer Comer (right) and Gardener Ginger Johnson (left) pose in front of the Perennial Garden’s most flowerful perennials: Parkfreund Mallow (Malva Parkfreund‘). This German selection has proven to bloom summer into fall for three years now.

A closeup of Parkfreund Mallow’s flowers show a pleasant lavender pink hue. This tall perennial has flower power and we have it scheduled for sale at our annual Spring Plant Sale which will be the first weekend in May 2009. (Mark your calendars now!) Jennifer has picked 4 dozen of our best perennials to be at the sale.

There is still much color in mid-fall flowers in the Perennial Garden. This is Raydon’s Favorite Aster (Aster oblongifoliusRaydon’s Favorite’) a selection of the locally native Aromatic Aster. It is just starting to bloom and becomes a billowing mass of light purple flowers with an accompanying hoard of late season insects and butterflies.

This new Hardy Geranium ‘Rainbow’ (Geranium wallichianum ‘Rainbow’) was new on the market this year and available at our Spring Plant Sale. It has bloomed from May until October! The flowers are hauntingly beautiful and glowing with a blend of subtle colors. This geranium is low and creeping in form and the flowers are about 2″ across.

The Home Run Rose (Rosa ‘Home Run’) is still blooming and holding vivid, self-cleaning crimson-red flowers. This rose has not had the popularity of Knock Out Rose but its flowers remain truer red even into fall. It has been very disease resistant for us.

Knock Out Rose’s ( Rosa ‘Knock Out’) flowers are more cherry-pink than cherry-red in the lower light levels of mid to late Fall. This can be a good or bad thing depending on your design and color desires. Knock Out Rose has been our most disease resistant rose bar none. Unfortunately we are getting tired of its use in landscapes everywhere.

The magnificent Variegated Giant Reed (Arundo donaxVariegata‘) is certainly the largest perennial we grow! They have formed their beautiful flower plumes (inflorescences) that will turn sugary white soon — some have topped out near 20 feet in height. Yes this is the plant from which reeds for wind instruments like clarinets come from. Giant Reed is a horrible invasive plant in some parts of the country but is kept in check by our harsher winters. We have never seen a seedling here. Yes, these grasses must be cut down in early spring and that is quite a job but worth it for such a magnificent plant.

The rare Whorled Sunflower (Helianthus verticillatus) is also a magnificent perennial with 10 foot stems of stunning gold flowers now. This very rare perennial is endemic to the Chattanooga, Tennessee, area.

The Common (fall-blooming) Witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is starting to sport some of its spidery autumnal flowers. The plants we have in the Perennial Garden are our first to bloom while the oldest plant (a small tree) in the Rock & Waterfall Garden usually is not at peak bloom until Thanksgiving.

In mid fall, colorful fruit and fall foliage begin to steal the show from the remaining flowers. The luscious, lipstick red fruit of the Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) are currently ripe. Only female shrubs have the gorgeous, glossy red fruit which are a great source of energy for migrating birds. Their timing to fuel bird migration also insures the dispersal of this plant’s seeds. If the fruit are not eaten by birds they will drop and rot — too rich in fats to hold on the plant and show for winter color. This wonderful, shade-loving native shrub can be seen in the Shade Native and Woodland sections of the Perennial Garden. This is an essential plant for a bird garden!

The vivacious purple fruit on the Asian Beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma) are a stunning sight in the core of the Perennial Garden.

Be sure to see the unique White Beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotomaAlbofructis‘) to the left of the mass of purple beautyberries. It is a stunning color echo to the Variegated Giant Reed. Both the purple and white beautyberries‘ fruit holds colorful for many weeks through fall but do discolor and drop by winter.

The China Girl Holly (Ilex cornuta x I. aquifolium) is fruiting more heavily than ever this year. The fruits are just now turning red and unlike the spicebush will be colorful well into winter. In winter this is also a good bird attracting plant as a circus of Eastern Bluebirds, Cedar Waxwings, and Northern Mockingbirds slowly consume every berry.

The Tapestry Hedge in the Perennial Garden continues to grow and fill in. The glowing chartreuse tips to the ‘Bergman’s Golden’ Chinese Arborvitae (Platycladus orientalis) really shows at this time of year. It reminds me of vivid moss. The bluish ‘Glauca‘ and deep green ‘Emerald Sentinel’ selections of our native Redcedars (Juniperus virginiana) make a good contrast.

The Powell Gardens Perennial Garden still has a good array of mid-fall blooming perennials but luckily is a garden of strong “bones.” In other words, the perennials have a good backdrop of shrubs, evergreens and trees to create the wonderful spaces of the garden and extend the season of ornamental character through the entire year. Pay it a visit at every season!