October this year has been damp and cold and thus I have been unable to get out and work in the garden as much as I would like. As a result I have been spending some of my time writing. I have a big picture window in my office that looks out over the front yard and a big window in the dining area that looks out over the backyard so I can observe what is going on. During this “different” October I have noticed some colors brighter than usual. 

          Out front there is a brilliant red and yellow Chokeberry (not Chokecherry) that has been slowly taking over any available space near a Climbing Blaze Rose. It did have numbers of black berries hanging on but birds, especially robins have removed them.  The lower ones they simply jumped up and snacked. The others were harder to get as the branches aren’t too steady so they had to balance on a swing while snacking lunch.

          In the parkway not far from there is a Washington Hawthorne (Crataegus phaenopysum) solidly covered with red berries.  Still holding its leaves that are now bright red or yellow, it is a fat little tree, not very tall.  About forty years ago when trees were not usually in the parkway I had to get a permit for three Hawthorn in front and three Crab Apples on the west parkway.  But the Halloween storm we had a few years ago removed the other two Hawthorns. The snow was too heavy on top of the crop of berries and leaves and they collapsed.  This one is the only one to recover. Lincoln lost a large number of Hawthorns during that Halloween snowstorm.  Some years the Cedar Waxwings get here first.  They travel in a rather large group and all settle in the tree to eat berries till they are gone.  Other years the Robins do the same thing but never both in the same  year as they fight until one species wins.  Both also go down to the ground and clean up the fallen berries which is nice. It is susceptible to Hawthorn rust every spring so must be sprayed.  It lives close to both a Cedar and to a Crab Apple that keeps the disease alive and in the area.  See if you can find a resistant strain before you plant, unless you like to spray.

          In the back is a Beauty Berry (Callicarpa sp.) only about 6 feet tall whose branches are covered with purple berries usually described as beads.  Some Beauty Berries are not hardy in our Hardiness zone #5 so check before you buy.  I worry every fall that we might have a hard frost before the berries are purple. If this happens then I cut them down to the ground.  It takes them awhile to get started in Spring.

          This fall I added 3 more Caryopteris out in front of my fence where Roses have been for so many years that they are declining. They were over 20 years old. Sometimes called Blue Spirea or Bluebeard Shrub, there are many different shades of blue.  About 3 feet tall, they bloom on new wood so I leave them stand all winter before cutting all  the way to the ground in the spring.  This way they trap leaves and snow for some winter protection. As a late bloomer they are very popular with a variety of pollinator insects.  The leaves have a silvery tint. Two new seedlings appeared this spring so if this keeps up I may develop a blue hedge by the fence. 

          Toad Lilies (Tricyrtis sp.) are a late bloomer for shade.  They only grow about 2 feet high.  As they bloom so late I have never gotten any seed.  The flowers are weird looking. I can not see anything Toad about them with their spots and stripes.  A number of the species are not hardy in our Zone #5 but Tricyrtis hirta also called Tricyrtis japonica will be. When they first come up rabbits enjoy them so I cage until they are several inches high.

          Gallardia, also called Blanket Flower or Indian Blanket, did not even notice we had our first frost and kept on blooming in bright reds, yellows, and oranges.  Some are biennials, some perennials, and are natives of North and South America .  They do need to be dead headed to keep blooming into the fall.  Only about 18 to 24 inches tall I have them on the parkway as poor dry soil doesn’t affect them a great deal. 

          Hybridizers have developed a number of varieties all in those same color combinations with centers (disk flowers) in purple and brown.  Perennials will bloom in their first year if you get them started early.  They last a long time in a bouquet.  I am not sure how the seeds travel but I do find new plants some distance away. There are some double forms but I prefer the singles because of the contrast to the disk that is covered and thus hidden in the doubles.

Copyright 2009






          “When selecting landscape plants, those that provide interest during more than one season are good choices.  A plant that is beautiful for one or two weeks while blooming, but not highly ornamental the rest of the year is not as valued for landscapes.  Now is a good time to evaluate landscapes for interest during fall and winter season. Make note of plants that, along with providing interest to the landscape this past spring and summer, now have good fall color, are still green after the hard freeze, have interesting seed heads or fruit that will cling to the plant through the winter, or have attractive bark or branch patterns, and so on. With limited space, landscape plants that provide interest in multiple seasons are good choices.”

Reprinted from “Hort Update for the week of October 26, 2009 . For more information go to “”