…How interesting will our times become? How much more interesting can they become?
A retired medical school dean would appropriately interject into conversations that hearing any one’s doctor mention, “isn’t that interesting,” should not always be the preface of what one wanted to hear next. “Isn’t that interesting,” is also heard from visitors walking our landscape, during this time of year, when coming upon any of our Symphoricarpos, Snowberry or Coralberry.
It is completely unimportant. That is why it is so interesting.
These modest-sized, twiggy, deciduous shrubs within the CAPRIFOLIACEAE, the honeysuckle family, are innocuous most of the year. Inconspicuous small opposite leaves, lacking any fall color and easy to miss small clusters of pinkish, 1/8-to-1/4-inch, bell-shaped flowers do not cause these to capture much attention. However, as we come into November, it is the distinctive and persisting, white and magenta fleshy fruits that serve as the most conspicuous ornamental features of these primarily native shrubs.
Of the 15 Symphoricarpos species, only one is indigenous to Asia, the rest are native to North and/or Central America. The etymology of the genus alludes to ancient Greek for fruit (karpos) bearing together (sumphorein). These ½-inch diameter, fleshy, berry-like drupes containing two seeds matured back in September. While offering food for various birds and small animals, the lengthy time these fruits ornamentally persist, for our enjoyment, suggest many birds do not have them on their top ten, or perhaps even top-twenty, bulking-up-list pre-migration.
someone remarks between bites.
“to be right here in the moment
yet also out there watching
some once-in-a-lifetime sublimity
unfold, as if living as if already
Nonetheless we can mention appropriate, bi-centennial historical notoriety. Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) in presidential retirement was adding these plants at Monticello. This enthusiastic botanist often shared his new plant finds with many others and we know he sent cuttings of snowberry to Madame de Tesse (1741-1814), in France, his friend and correspondent of three decades.
There is not a sprig of grass
that shoots uninteresting to me.
-T. Jefferson, Dec. 1790
The greatest service which can be
rendered any country is to add
an useful plant to its culture…
T. Jefferson, In Memoir
At Mount Auburn we recently added more cultivars of coral berry, some tried (‘Candy Sensation’) and some new for us (‘Proudberry’) which may be found on Spruce Avenue, along with snowberry found elsewhere.
What really dissatisfies in American civilization is the want of the interesting, …
…November sun that latens with our age,
Filching the zest from our young pilgrimage,
Writing old wisdom on our virgin page.
Not the hot ardour of the Summer’s height,
Not the sharp-minted coinage of the Spring
When all was but a delicate delight
And all took wing and all the bells did ring;
Not the spare Winter, clothed in black and white,
Forcing us into fancy’s eremite,
But gliding Time that slid us into gold
Richer and deeper as we grew more old
And saw some meaning in this dying day;
Travelers of the year, who faintly say
How could such beauty walk the common way?
What’s in Bloom: Week of November 4, 2019
Japanese anemone, Anemone hupehensis, several locations
Aster, Aster tartaricus, Asa Gray garden
Aster, Symphyotrichum ‘Raydon’s Favorite’, Asa Gray garden
Mountain fleece, Persicaria amplexicaulis, Asa Gray garden
Leopard plant, Ligularia sp., Asa Gray garden
Panicle hydrangea, Hydrangea paniculata, several locations
Rose, Rosa sp., several locations
‘The Fairy’ rose, Rosa ‘The Fairy’, @ Sphinx
Witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, Oak Ave., Hazel Path
Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum sp., many locations
Ladies tresses, Spiranthes sp., Beech Ave.
‘Endless Summer’ Hydrangea, Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Bailmer’, Spelman Rd.
‘Knockout’ rose, Rosa ’Radrazz’, Spelman Rd.
‘Rose Creek’ Abelia, Abelia xgrandiflora ‘Rose Creek’, Field Rd.
Geranium, Geranium ‘Rozanne’, Admin. Bldg.
Catmint, Nepetaa ‘Blue Wonder’, Azalea Path
Cosmos, Cosmos bipinnatus, Greenhouse garden
Zinnia, Zinnia sp., Greenhouse garden
Cock’s comb, Celosia sp., Greenhouse garden
Globe amaranth, Gomphrena sp., Greenhouse garden
German statice, Limonium sp., Greenhouse garden
…Yellow, yellow, yellow
it eats into the leaves,
smears with saffron…
-William Carlos Williams
Autumn at Mount Auburn is full with an impressionistic cornucopia of changing landscape colors. During this weeks-long period, different plants pass the mantle of being the “plant of the day.” One plant providing outstanding yellow is Amsonia hubrichtii, thread-leaf blue star.
The genus Amsonia includes about 20 species of clump-forming, herbaceous perennials, primarily native to North America, with one species each also native to eastern Asia and Europe. The name commemorates John Amson (1698-1765), English physician and botanist, who was the one-time mayor (ca.1750) of Williamsburg in Colonial Virginia.
Amsonia hubrichtii, thread-leaf blue star in May displays pale blue flowers atop of three-foot-high stems. Its leaves are uniquely narrow, finely textured, adding contrast next to any companion plants. In breezes, there are kinetic, delightful sways of this billowy foliage. October provides further grandeur as these leaves slowly morph into a butter-yellow or vibrant gold color that will persist for 2-3 weeks. This was the Perennial Plant Association’s “Plant of the Year” in 2011.
We also grow Amsonia tabernaemontana var. salicifolia, blue star that likewise produces blue springtime flowers and outstanding yellow fall foliage. The lanceolate, willow-like leaves are wider than thread-leaf. These two stars are problem free, three-season, reliable perennials. On your next visit to Mount Auburn look for these on Central Avenue, Narcissus Path, at the flagpole and in Asa Gray garden among other locations.
…Yellow as a goat’s wise and wicked eyes,
yellow as a hill of daffodils,
yellow as dandelions by the highway,
yellow as butter and egg yolks,
yellow as a school bus stopping you,
yellow as a slicker in a downpour…
…Something in me isn’t ready
to let go of summer so easily. To destroy
what I’ve carefully cultivated all these months…
The common onion, Allium cepa would not make many lists of beautiful ornamental plants. Nor would the garlic, Allium sativum, chives, Allium schoenoprasum, or leeks, Allium ampeloprasum. All are members of the large genus Allium, which depending on taxonomic interpretation include 750 or 850 or more species, primarily native to the temperate climates of the Northern Hemisphere. In historic times this genus’ place was in the kitchen or vegetable garden. In our modern era people began to know the “ornamental onions.” You will find in many nursery catalogues as well as landscapes, ornamental Allium species with exceptional beauty.
One well-known, striking example is the hybrid ‘Globemaster’, with its three-foot tall stems topped with large purple flowerheads. You may recall these from their earlier June display around our flagpole planting bed.
Allium ‘Millenium’ one of the more recent horticultural hybrid ornamental onions blooms during mid-to-late summer. This 10-15-inch, compact, upright clump, of dark-green, grass-like leaves is topped with 2-inch, rose-purple balls of florets.
This summer floral display may last four to six weeks, attracting many bees, butterflies and other pollinators. When the colorful florets wilt they dry to a tan color still providing texture and accent in the garden. Additionally, this is a drought-tolerant perennial that rabbits and deer leave alone.
Bred by Mark McDonough, a Massachusetts plant researcher, who specializes in growing and selecting Alliums, this was selected by the Perennial Plant Association as the Perennial Plant of the Year for 2018. On your next visit to Mount Auburn look for Allium ‘Millenium’ within our new Asa Gray Garden, just inside our main entrance.