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August 15, 2011

Ten Signs of Autumn in the Garden

ANEMONOPSIS MACROPHYLLA EXCITES EVERYONE WHO FIRST VIEWS IT IN THE LATE SUMMER WOODLAND GARDEN
#1 RARE ANEMONOPSIS FLOWER IN THE WOODLAND GARDEN

 The second week of August may mark high summer, but here in New England, this weekend also brings a hint of fall, most noticabe in the garden. I like to complete my bulb repotting in the greenhouse by this weekend, for once  the Perseid Meteor Showers, and the full sturgeon moon passes, we tend to get the certain smell in the air that arrives with noticibly cooler nights, enough to cause you to throw a sweat shirt on in the morning. The days are still hot, and there are many days of summer ahead, but with state fairs starting and tomatoes beginning to fill baskets, fall is not far off. Here are some more unusual signs of fall that I noticed today around the garden.
 Anemonopsis may be new to you, but this woodland plant from Japan where it is still extremely where even in its native habitat int he woodlands of Honshu island, can be found in finer garden centers. Hardy to zones 5-9, it liked a sheltered cool location, for this is a plant that suffers in heat. Find that sweet spot that is always damp, for moisture is key also. This beauty looks like a cross between a Columbine ( Aquilegia) and a Japanese Anemone ( Anemone japonica) with lovely nodding blossoms in late summer along with black, ebony like stems.

Cyclamen graecum bulb being repotted

#2 CYCLAMEN BEING REPOTTED, AND STARTING INTO GROWTH

I repot my species cyclamen collection every two years, since most dislike root disturbance. This year I took a chance and planted some of the hardier species in the garden - they should be blooming in a few weeks if they survived, but in the greenhouse, where I keep the majority of the collection, they remain dry in pot, the way the like it ( except the species in the above image, which is from Greece, Cyclamen graecum - these are left on a damp sand bed where their deep roots can reach a little moisture, as they do in the wild). All of these will start to grow in a week or two, and some are even starting already.

A COLLECTION OF CYCLAMEN SPECIES AFTER BEING REPOTTED, REMAIN DRY UNTIL THE FIRST COOL NIGHT ARRIVE IN A FEW WEEKS, AROUND SEPTEMBER 1, IT IS THEN, WHEN THEY WILL RECEIVE THEIR FIRST WATERING.

ANEMONE JAPONICA

 #3 ANEMONE JAPONICA, A LITTLE EARLY?

Much more common than the previous plant Anemonopsis, but still rarely seen outside of true plant geek gardens, and I can't imagine why, other than the fact that most people pass over this fine perennial in the spring while shopping for perennials. Look for plants now in your local garden centers, and buy 5 or 7 to plant in a larger area. This is an easy-to-grow and long-lived plant, with tall wands of anemone flowers in white, pink and magenta with a pretty silver fuzz. The plant blooms from late August until frost, and a bed dedicated to just this plant makes a real impression with visitors. In the perennial border, plant 3 or more plants together.

THALICTRUM ROCHEBRUNIANUM 'LAVENDER MIST'
 #4 CLOUDS OF THALICTRUM WISP IN THE AIR

Since I have brought up many of the key Ranunculus relatives, I might as well mention this plant, a native genus here in New England, but one that has many find species from other parts of the world, such as this one. I grow mine from seed, but they can be found in garden centers. Tall ( over 6 feet in some cases) they are not imposing, rather, they are airy and misty additions to a shady, damp border. I grow mine in the ephemeral bed, where other anemones and many spring flowering wild flowers live, but in late summer, little else is in bloom. The foliage on Thalictrum looks exactly like Aquilegia, and often it is mistaken for a columbine, even in the wild, until it shoots up taller than a sun flower and blooms with these billowy clouds of sweet blossoms in late summer. Delightful.
ACIS AUTUMNALIS, THE LAST BULB TO BLOOM IN THE GARDEN
#5  ACIS - COME ON, IT HAS AUTUMNALIS IN ITS NAME!

Acis is a rarely seen little bulb, that is predominantly a fall bloomer. This bulb always surprises me, as it looks very much like  something that should be blooming in April, and not August or September, but I cherish it in the alpine garden, even though its arrival signals the end of summer. Look for Acis in your spring bulb catalogs listed in the back where (other bulbs) are listed. There will rarely be a photo, but trust me, this one is a jewel, as it is long lived, self seeds and a clump just gets better each and every year. Plus - no one else will have it so stump your friends!



 #6 DOLL EYES, YEAH, DOLLS EYES.

OK.....eew, but yes, doll's eyes, or White Bane Berry (Actaea pachypoda) is a true sign of autumn in our Massachusetts woodland, where they are native, but also in many gardeners gardens as this highly poisonous plant is commonly grown. The White Baneberry ( it also comes in red), is somewhat toxic if eaten, so if you have kids or pets who want to munch on such things as Baneberry and wolfsbane, then you nest not grow it, but nothing compares with these berries once Halloween comes around, for that is when they look their best, pure ivory white with a black spot on them, but even in the late summer garden, they look pretty with their pink and light green tints.


SPIKENHARD, OR ARALIA BERRIES ARE STARTING TO COLOR
 #7 ARALIA RACEMOSA

Another New England native - turned garden plants signals the end of summer, Aralia racemosa, with its violet berries starting to color up in the woodland garden near the duck house. I adore the golden leaved variety shared with me by my friend Glen this year, but it won't fruit until next year, but common native is just as fine. All of the Aralia species look great in the late summer, but those that have berries really stand out.


#8 CAMELLIA SASANQUA 'WHITE DOVES'  FLOWER BUDS

The fall-blooming Camellias are spectacular and so rewarding, since little else blooms in November, but I was surprised to see the flower buds fully formed on this large potted specimen today. Surely, winter snows are not that far behind! I leave the large tubs of sasanquas outdoors until nearly Christmas in some years, where their late in the year floral display can be enjoyed. The rest, must bloom under glass for we are far too north to enjoy year-round camellias outdoors.


#9  EDGEWORTHIA FLOWER BUDS FORMING

While on the subject of flower buds forming, the late winter blooming Japanese shrub Edgeworthia papyrifera is already forming it's odd little flower buds, which appear like quarters, or coins, on the end of a sub-stem. This plant will be moved into the greenhouse in October, where it will loose its leaves, but the 'coins' will remain until they open up and flower in late January on bare stems.  You may remember the images from last winter.


#10 HOSTA PLANTAGINEA - THE FRAGRANT HOSTA

It's no secret that I love fragrant plants, but I often overlook the most common, such as this Hosta plantaginea or Plantain Hosta, and old-fashioned, heirloom hosta often found in  the gardens of great grandmothers. If you don't have one, get it, for the foliage is rather boring and green, you must grow it for its late summer display of intensely fragrant flowers, which I have to admit, I pick large bunches of to bring into the house so that I can enjoy the strong jasmine scent.

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