Garden Stars of the Autumnal Equinox

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Garden Stars of the Autumnal Equinox

Categories: Blog, Garden Guru

Flowers of the Autumnal Equinox always have a rich color saturation that makes a visit to the garden at the beginning of fall an extraordinary experience. This blog was put together on September 23, 2009, but technical difficulties didn’t let it appear until October 9.

The gorgeous red buds of the Scarlet Rose Mallow (Hibiscus coccineus) beckon Ruby-throated Hummingbirds to come for a sweet taste of their nectar. This Texas native is where all the red flowers and divided leaves of hybrid Rose Mallows originate. Scarlet Rose Mallow has proven fully hardy at Powell Gardens and can be seen permanently in the Hummingbird Garden outside Cafe Thyme. We also have this plant on display on the Island Garden as it flourishes with wet feet.

The spectacular Lord Baltimore Rose Mallow (Hibiscus hybrid) still outshines all others after 19 years in Powell Garden’s Perennial Garden. The huge red flowers are borne from mid summer until fall on a huge perennial 6 feet tall and wide. Scarlet Rose Mallow is an obvious parent of this hybrid.

Lady in Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea) another Texas native that blooms profusely in fall and in waves through the entire season. It is a favorite nectar flower of hummingbirds and thus a major plant in the Hummingbird Garden. It is a self-sowing annual in our climate.

The velvety orange flowers of Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia) entice hummingbirds and butterflies to imbibe their sweet nectar and pollinate them so the goldfinches have some seeds to feast on.

Native Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) can be seen blooming along the dry stream garden and along the lakeshore. This fall-blooming annual related to the impatiens in your garden is always visited by migrating hummingbirds. It is a fun plant to introduce to children as another name for the plant is “touch-me-not” — that refers to the ripe seed pods which explode when touched. The seeds inside are also extraordinary as they have oil of wintergreen in them and if you scrape the seed coat you will smell this just like candy wintergreen lifesavers and reveal a robin’s egg blue seed underneath!

The orange-themed bed on the northeast terraces of the Visitor Center was a visitor favorite. The tall Orange Crush canna was a top performing summer plant in 2009.

Native Perennial Sunflowers are at peak bloom around the solstice and certainly are flowers of the sun. Maximilian’s Sunflower (Helianthus maximilianii) grace the north “prairie” side of the Island Garden. Be sure and smell the flowers of the native sunflowers growing around the gardens, many of them have a distinct cocoa scent.

Golden-Asters (Chrysolepis sp.) and Verbena bonariensis provide a stunning contrast of flowers colors on the Island Garden.

The magnificent Heavenly Blue Morning Glories (Ipomoea purpurea) in the terrace gardens of the Visitor Center were a royal treat to any visitor in the morning or cloudy day.

Heavenly Blue Morning Glory is without doubt, aptly named.

The perennial groundcover and Plant of Merit Hardy Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) is still in full flower and will remain so well into fall even after its leaves turn reds and burgundy. This is certainly one of the finest groundcovers for our area. Look for fine examples of this plant on the Island Garden.

The locally native New England Asters (Aster novae-angliae) are in full bloom, depicted is the cultivarHella Lacy,’ which has such rich colored blooms with a sunny center. Look for this plant in the Perennial Garden. It was trimmed in midsummer to give it more sturdy, bushy growth.

This pink-flowering New England Aster was discovered in the wilds nearby and has proven to be one of the finest pink-flowering New England Asters I have ever seen. Maybe one day we will give it a cultivar name and make it available to perennial lovers everywhere. Look for this plant in the Perennial Garden as well.

The cute native annual Palafoxia (Palafoxia callosus) remains one of the most underutilized of our native flora. It self sows along the bottom of the Island Garden’s living wall as it is native to rocky glades. If you have a well-drained rocky spot or you want a baby’s breath-like plant that thrives in our summer heat — this is your plant!

Come celebrate the season with the plants of the Autumnal Equinox. The gardens are at their most exuberant now as most plants have grown to their maximum size.