This week has felt distinctly autumnal, with a couple of days barely getting into the 70s (21-24 C), and the rest of the week in the low to mid 80s (27-29 C). The number of hummingbirds fighting over the feeders has decreased sharply, and I am starting to notice the first hints of color in the forest trees. The tulip poplars and black tupelo, always the first to show the change of season, are dropping their leaves all over the driveway and paths, but peak color is probably another six weeks away.
In the garden, there are fewer flowers, but more seeds and berries. Several plants whose flowers featured in earlier blog posts are back again this week.
As always, navigate over to The Propagator to see his six and those of other garden bloggers.
1. Canna ‘Flaming Kabobs’
I love the spiky seed capsules of Canna species and hybrids. This plant was blooming for “Six on Saturday #4” on July 15 and shows no signs of stopping. Has anyone ever tried germinating Canna seeds?
2. Gloriosa superba (flame lily)
My G. superba plants have produced seed capsules that are now starting to split. The ripe seeds, like the rest of the plant, are highly poisonous.
3. Aesculus sylvatica (painted buckeye)
I showed the flowers of this species back in April. It is one of the first woodland species to leaf out in spring, and it’s also one of the first to drop its leaves in autumn. In a dry year, leaves will start yellowing in August. Unlike their relative the horse chestnut, North American Aesculus have smooth capsules. The seeds also seem to be softer than horse chestnut seeds. I don’t think they’d be very good for conkers.
4. Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry)
C. americana, with a native range extending from southern Maryland to eastern Texas, is one of the most beautiful of our native shrubs. Birds adore the berries, so it is a great species to grow if you want to attract wildlife. Despite the beauty of the native species, I notice that its Asian relatives are frequently used by landscapers. The native is larger in every way than the Asian species, so perhaps they’re better suited to smaller gardens. If you have the space, I think C. americana is superior, and you can cut it back to the ground in early spring to keep it under control. It blooms on new growth, so you’ll still have a good crop of berries in autumn.
Because it grows fast and spreads wide (my largest is about 8′ (2.4 m) tall and 10′ (3 m) wide), it’s useful as a quick source of shade for woodland perennials.
4b. Callicarpa americana var. lactea
A recent purchase still in its nursery pot. I have wanted a white beautyberry for a while but only saw Asian plants at nurseries. Finally found this one at the Raleigh farmers market last week. I haven’t decided where to put it yet, but I think the white berries will brighten up a shady spot.
5. Hymenocallis occidentalis
Here is some self-pollinated seed from the plant that bloomed in early August. I’m not quite sure what to do with these seeds. Most tropical Hymenocallis and Crinum seed germinates soon after it ripens, whether or not it has been planted, but H. occidentalis comes from regions that have a distinct winter. Do its seeds need a cold stratification before sprouting?
I have planted about half the seeds and will keep them warm in the greenhouse over the winter. These remaining seeds I will probably store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for six weeks before planting.
Big fleshy amaryllid seed like this usually does best if you just press it into the surface of the soil rather than burying it. When it germinates, it produces a single sprout that grows down into the soil and swells into a tiny bulb. Only later does the little bulb produce a leaf.
6. Rudbeckia species
And finally, some flowers. I wish I could remember what Rudbeckia species this is. I got the seed some years back from the NC Botanical Garden, but I forgot about the pot. The seedlings rooted into the ground through the pot’s drainage holes, flowered, and produced a second generation in the ground at the back of my shade house. Now I have several clumps of volunteer plants growing in less light than is ideal. Perhaps this winter I’ll move them to a sunnier spot. If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll uncover a label in the leaf litter.