November is often thought of as a bleak garden season but there are many plants that are stars of the garden right now. Take note of these plants and add them to your garden next season as they are sure to brighten up the late fall garden for next year.
Deciduous Hollies are garden stars right now! This blaze of red is the Sparkleberry Holly (Ilex serrata x verticillata) in the Perennial Garden. A male Apollo Holly is planted next to this blaze of red to act as pollinator so that the berries are set each season.
Fickle “Blue” Hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla) are showing exceptional fall color this season. Here Hydrangea ‘Let’s Dance Starlight’ (Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Lynn’) in the Rock & Waterfall Garden shows its lacecap flower and foliage in pink to violet fall color. Hydrangea macrophylla cultivars are difficult to flower in our climate and soils — even the new remonant (blooming on new wood) varieties have not lived up to their hype. Let’s Dance Starlight has been our best variety while the cultivar Endless Summer has not bloomed here in years.
The best Endless Summer Hydrangeas are in the Kauffman Memorial Garden where they are grown in heavily amended soil, routinely watered and fertilized. Kauffman Memorial Garden Horticulturist Duane Hoover took this picture — some leaves I saw there were actually violet colored this fall! Acid soil or the availability of aluminum ions make this plants’ flowers blue — they are pink in our normally neutral to alkaline garden soils.
Our last-to-bloom understory tree is the Missouri Native, Common Witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana) in the Rock & Waterfall Garden. In the mild 70F weather of Friday afternoon (November 13), there was a pleasant scent carrying off these spidery, yellow flowers.
Why do all hedges and evergreen plantings have to be uniform? Consider a planting like the Tapestry Hedge of Berkmann’s Golden Arborvitae (Platycladus orientalis ‘Aurea Nana’), Emerald Sentinel Juniper (Juniperus virginiana) and Blue Juniper (Juniperus virginiana ‘Glauca‘) in the Perennial Garden. The results greatly enrich the colors and textural experience in the garden.
The few evergreen perennials really stand out now. Like bright green corn plants, Lily-of-China (Rohdea japonica) thrives in the woodland shade of the Rock & Waterfall Garden. This long-lived perennial is related to the lily-of-the-valley and has clusters of orange fruit at the base of the leaves. In its native China, it is given to new families as a long-lived plant of good luck; it is also much prized in its native Japan. Hardly any gardeners know it here!
Back lit Inkberry Holly (Ilex glabra ‘Compacta‘) really is the thousand points of light! I always have visitors look at this plant both lit and back lit in the low light of the season, the difference in the landscape is remarkable. The leaves are just evergreen and lackluster when viewed with the angle of the sun. Consider planting this plant on the south edge of a garden (and thus back lit) for it to really light up a landscape.
No, November is not dull in the garden. Make the trip to Powell Gardens and take a hike through its gardens to see even more wonderful plants at their prime in this season. The exercise will help compensate for a good Thanksgiving feast!