It’s always fun this time of year to walk around the nursery and see what looks interesting. Most evergreens look like they always do but the deciduous shrubs can become pretty darn spectacular in October. Here are a few that caught my eye.
Beautyberry (Callicarpa bodinieri “Profusion”). This shrub if fairly nondescript for most of the year but in the fall it sports the most incredible display of purple pearl-shaped berries that will just knock your socks off. Beautyberry likes to grow in full sun and can reach 8 to 10 feet tall. The flowers are almost inconspicuous in late summer and the fall color is so-so but the berries are the reason to grow this shrub.
Plant it in the back of the border where you will forget about it until this time of year. In the spring chop the heck out of it and watch it repeat the whole show again. For a great picture and description go to www.Monrovia.com
Chinese stachyurus “Joy Forever” (Stachyurus praecox “Joy Forever”). Joy Forever is an interesting shrub in that it is a late winter bloomer with long drooping racemes of pale yellow cup-shaped flowers. It definitely adds some visual interest to the garden in the dark time of the year. In the summer it has very attractive variegated foliage that also turns a dark purple this time of year.
Grow it in moist soil with partial sun (think woodland setting) where it will reach 6 to 8 feet tall and almost as wide. This is a great shrub for adding winter interest to the garden.
American Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens Autumn Revolution). This is a north American native vine that turns a bright yellow this month (which is why it caught my eye of course) but it also has incredible orange to red berries which are much larger than the native species due to it having self-fertile flowers (unlike the native version).
This vine grows in full sun and can reach 15 to 25 feet tall. The leaves are green during the season and the flowers are insignificant but in the fall it is “oh so impressive” and well worth working into our gardens. For more information go to www.baileynurseries.com
Mid-Winter Fire Twig Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea): There are several species of twig dogwoods that are native to North America, Europe, western Asia and Siberia. All of these species are noted for their striking brilliantly colored twigs in the winter. Many also have colorful leaves that can range from yellow to green to purple and even green and white.
Mid-Winter Fire is especially showy because the twigs (think stems) are red at the base, coral in the middle and yellow at the tips. During the season the leaves are a pale green which helps them to stand out from other shrubs. Fall color is usually a dark purple.
Twig dogwoods will grow in wet or dry soils and sun or shade. Once they are established you should cut them down to one foot tall in late March. This will stimulate lots of new growth which will give you the best color the following winter. While you are searching for photos of Mid-Winter Fire also check out Prairiefire Dogwood, it is one of my favorites.
Any of the above plants will be fine additions to a northwest garden. Check them out early before they lose their leaves for the season and only look like a pot full of sticks.
Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and you can send your gardening questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Colorful Conifers is 10 a.m. Saturday. For more information go to www.sunnysidenursery.net.