Flowers & Berries of the Late Summer Season

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Flowers & Berries of the Late Summer Season

Categories: Blog, Garden Guru

Fall is in the air but sunshine has returned after our two bouts with remnants of hurricanes. We have had no less than 7-1/2″ of rain at Powell Gardens in the past two weeks so the gardens are as lush as ever. Many of our most beautiful fruiting shrubs and small trees are becoming quite showy now and there are some really special flowers of the season as well.

Many Asian hybrid crabapples have beautiful displays of fruit from now until severe cold. This is the cultivar ‘Centurion’ south of the Perennial Garden arbor. Powell Gardens’ crabapples have great displays of fruit but not foliage: it has been a year of severe pests on crabapples from webworms to leaf-eating beetles. Disease resistant varieties fared no better than any. We will still enjoy their beautiful fruit displays for months!

The Chinese Seven Sons (Heptacodium miconioides) is adorned with myriads of white flowers (in small clusters of 7). The fragrant white flowers would not be that showy for spring but are a welcome sight in this season. Seven Sons becomes a small tree 15 to maybe 20 feet in height. It has beautiful sandy bark that exfoliates through the season to show an alabaster base. Seven Sons has proven to be a great plant for our region and has earned a Plant of Merit status.

The flowers of Seven Sons attract every butterfly nearby! The tree may be cloaked in a dozen species of butterflies: here a Red-spotted Purple (top) with its sister species the Viceroy (bottom). Both these butterflies in the “Admiral” group are mimics of other distasteful butterflies–the Red-spotted Purple mimics the Pipevine Swallowtail and the Viceroy mimics the Monarch. The Seven Sons attracts every migrating Monarch too: be sure and see this small tree in the Fragrant section of the Perennial Garden.

First cousin to the Seven Sons is the shrub Chinese Abelia (Abelia chinensis). Our shrubs are growing along the Dogwood Walk below the Visitor Center in mostly shade — I suspect if they were in full sun they would attract lots of butterflies too. They flower for a long season in late summer into fall. If you don’t have space for Seven Sons, you can plant this shrub instead (although it is very hard to find anymore).
The berries of the White Beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotomaAlbofructis‘) are already ripening in the Perennial Garden. This is an neat shrub for a white garden or evening garden with fall interest. The berries will last for a couple months until severe cold change them to ivory-yellow.
Vibrant red berries can be seen on the Asian Linden Viburnum (Viburnum dilatatum). This is the wonderful cultivar ‘Catskill,’ which is nicely compact and fruiting well early. Linden Viburnum is a weed on the East Coast but we have never seen a seedling. It takes two varieties to set fruit: ‘Asian Beauty’ is another good one that holds its red berries well into winter. ‘Cardinal Candy’ and yellow-fruited ‘Michael Dodge’ are other cultivars to use as pollinators for best fruit set.
The Witherod Viburnum’s (Viburnum nudum) fruit have reached the pink stage and are beginning the change over to blue. This is one bought as a pollinator for the ‘Winterthurcultivar in the Fountain Garden. The “pollinator” has a far better fruit display than ‘Winterthur‘ (the cultivar that everyone sells around here). We bought our pollinator mail order from Fairweather Gardens because like most Viburnums, you get the best fruit set with multiple varieties around. Witherod Viburnum is native just south of Missouri and is a great shrub for wildlife and problematic wet sites: a good rain garden shrub!
The new cultivarBrandywine (trademarked) has the most spectacular of any Witherod Viburnum for fruit with large clusters of fruit reminiscent of hydrangea flowers. Brandywine is also in the pink stage with more berries turning blue each day. Birds usually do not eat the berries until after they are all blue and shriveled by several freeze-thaw cycles. Look for Brandywine Viburnum near the trolley stop at the Perennial Garden.
Don’t forget to pick shrubs and small trees not just for spring bloom but for fall flowers and fruits! These plants really enliven the landscape when it can look a bit tired. Powell Gardens’ extensive collections of shrubs and trees are a must to peruse before you visit your favorite local nursery.