Fall Color with Mike Darcy

October 9, 2017

As I walk around my garden on this October morning, I see many plants providing color not only with flowers but with fruits and berries. With our wonderful fall weather, I marvel at the extended season of color these plants can provide. Here are four favorites today!

Salvias are a group of plants that I particularly like and there are both annuals and perennials. My tendency is to go for the perennials although many that are technically perennial, meaning they last more than one year, I treat as annuals as they do not survive through most winters. One salvia in particular, ‘Saucy Red’, is in full bloom right now and has been in heavy bloom for about two months. This salvia has dark red flowers, my friend Rich Baer calls it a “dirty red”, but regardless of what the color is called, it is a spectacular fall blooming plant and it continues to be a hummingbird magnet. While I do not expect this salvia to survive the winter, I would not hesitate to plant it again next spring and treat it as an annual.

There are also many plants with berries that provide color at this time. Callicarpa bodinieri, (Beautyberry), is a very common one with berries that are turning purple now. Look for one called ‘Profusion’ as it is a very heavy bearer. Beautyberry is a rather nondescript shrub until this time of year and I would suggest planting it in the background of a flower bed where you can enjoy the purple berries in the fall. It is a very easy to grow deciduous shrub and the stems with purple berries make a nice fall arrangement in the house. Beautyberry is especially striking when the leaves have fallen and the exposed stems are laden with purple berries.

Most modern hybrid tea roses are not known for their colorful hips, but some of the species roses are. One that I have had in my garden for many years is Rosa glauca. This is a superb shrub in the spring and summer with leaves that are a gray-green color that stands out in contrast to surrounding green foliage. It has small single pink flowers in the spring but is best known for the foliage and the red hips in the fall. Rosa glauca becomes a tall shrub, the plant in my garden is over 8 feet and right now has clusters of red hips.

A favorite small tree in my garden is Clerodendron trichotomum, commonly called the Peanut Butter Tree because when the leaves are crushed, they give off an aroma of peanut butter. This Clerodendron blooms in mid-summer with clusters of white fragrant flowers which are followed by almost metallic turquoise fruit. This tree does send suckers up from the roots but they are easy to remove and worth the extra work for the fragrant white flowers and outstanding colored fruits.

These are just a few of the many plants that are looking good right now. Even though we are heading into mid-October, we still have a wide assortment of plants to provide color in our gardens.