Fall’s Flowers, Foliage and Fruit

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Fall’s Flowers, Foliage and Fruit

Categories: Blog, Garden Guru

The “core” of Powell Gardens was decked out in peak fall attire on November 2, 2008, when I took this picture. The overall fall colors of our local oak-hickory woodlands are in these burnt reds, oranges and brown. Like our Mission statement: we embrace our spirit of place. We may not have the fiery colors of the mountains of New England or the golds of Colorado aspens but we have a beautiful blend of colors all our own.

The Missouri native Common Witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is one of our few woody plants that bloom in the fall. The lightly scented, spidery flowers are always a last floral hurrah in the woodland understory. This small “understory” tree is native only under the shade of others and a great addition to any shade or woodland garden.

The last butterflies enjoyed the mild spell that has just ended. Here a Painted Lady nectars on Missouri native Tall Delphinium (Delphinium exaltatum). Painted Lady butterflies are not cold hardy–new butterflies return here from Mexico each season: some years just a few and other years massive movements blow northward on spring winds.

The Missouri native Baldcypress (Taxodium distichum) is one of our few deciduous conifers. Its needles turn this beautiful rusty orange in fall before dropping. We often get calls in the fall by new homeowners wondering if their “pine” is dying. After a few questions it is often that they have a baldcypress and they don’t realize this tree is supposed to go dormant for winter. The Chapungu sculpture (foreground) has been taken down now and will surely be missed.

No, this pine is not sick. It is the ‘Chief Joseph’ cultivar of Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta) whose needles turn yellow in the fall and remain so through the winter. In spring the needles turn green again for the summer! Thank you to Marvin Snyder for donating this rare conifer to us. Not all evergreens are ever green! Look for this pine in the conifer garden north of the Visitor Center.

This Shumard Oak (Quercus shumardii) turned a really beautiful shade of burnt red. We grew this tree from an acorn off a local tree. Shumard Oaks are very tough shade trees and if you want one with good fall color, pick it out from the nursery while it is in fall color! (Photo taken on Sunday.)
Missouri native Tulip Trees (Liriodendron tulipifera) are one of our best shade trees for consistent yellow fall color. This one was photographed on Saturday. They should be grown in rich, moist soil in our region and can suffer in dry sites or where they have confined roots.
Sunday, our Missouri native Sweetgums (Liquidambar styraciflua) were in peak fall attire. This tree is either loved or hated by gardeners–mainly because of its hard, spiny fruit (known as gumballs!). It’s not a good choice where you want to walk barefoot but the gumballs make good mulch, especially around hostas, because they inhibit slugs. Most trees have a beautiful blend of red to purplish or red to yellowish fall color. However, if trees are imported from too far south, the trees retain their green leaves too long–making the tree susceptible to early ice storm damage. Powell Gardens’ trees are from a good source and all color up well and lose their leaves along with the local wild trees.
The Eastern Wahoo (Euonymus atropurpureus) is a native understory large shrub or small tree with unique fall fruit. This obvious relative of the bittersweet vine provides great fall color and beautiful fruit, which are soon consumed by our state bird the Eastern Bluebird. Wahoo is an informal, loose and lightly suckering plant so is best used in a natural shade garden or planted at the edge of a woods.
The deciduous Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata) is native to a small area of eastern Missouri but a most beautiful shrub for garden color in fall and winter. Here the cultivar ‘Winter Gold’ and ‘Winter Red’ grow side-by-side near the Rock & Waterfall trolley stop. The leaves will soon drop, leaving the berries to really show off until severe cold or until birds consume them in late winter. Winterberry Hollies become very large shrubs over time. They can even be trimmed up into mini-trees like near the entrance to the Kauffman Memorial Garden.
The peak of fall color is past at Powell Gardens with last nights wind and over 2 inches of rain, but a few trees like dogwoods still shine. Fall berries are the major color in the landscape now–so come out to see their beauty. I plant to capture their beauty to share with you here next week.