Flowers and Foliage

– Posted in: Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day
Pineapple sage with lantana, 'Blackie' sweet potatoes, chartreuse-leaved nasturtiums, and a late-blooming canna.

Pineapple sage with lantana

Like most gardeners, I spend far too little time simply enjoying my garden and the natural world around it. I’ve followed both Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day, hosted by May Dreams Gardens, for months now, and have also enjoyed all the fall foliage on the Garden Blogger Fall Foliage Project at The Home Garden. With today’s post, I’m making a grateful nod to both of them, because both inspired me to spend some long-overdue time just observing and appreciating.

Fall flowers. We still haven’t had a frost down here on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, although my coleus is showing signs of its imminent departure. A few annuals and tender perennials remind me why I love them so: They bloom all summer long despite heat and humidity, plus they continue to add color right up to the first hard frost. ‘Lemon Gem’ marigolds top the list this year. Mounds of them still line the pathways of my main garden, although I couldn’t get a picture of them today because the wind is blowing so hard off the creek. On a more protected side of the house, I still have lantana in bloom—a yellow-flowered cultivar whose name escapes me—growing with a tender perennial that makes a major late-season contribution each year: pineapple sage (Salvia elegans). It is always shrub-size by the time it blooms and is covered for weeks with showy scarlet trumpets. There also are impossibly blue blooms remaining on salvia ‘Black and Blue’, another plant located on the windy side of the house that wouldn’t sit still long enough for a picture.

Fall-blooming camellia.

Fall-blooming camellia.

Still, the best plant I have to report for Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day is my fall-blooming camelia (Camellia sasanqua), which came to us with the house. (It survived the renovation draped in orange caution tape.) It produces an abundance of showy single pink flowers from late September through November and even into December if the weather stays relatively mild. The evergreen leaves provide a handsome backdrop for the flowers, and each bloom boasts a boss of yellow stamens in the center. A variety of bees and wasps work the flowers daily. In some years, it’s been covered with snow while in full bloom, and while frozen flowers fall off the plant, new ones will open once the weather gets mild again.

Fall foliage. In the garden proper, I’ve just started adding plants that feature wonderful fall color. Although the hackberries (Celtis occidentalis) that inspired our house’s name—Hackberry Point—have lots of wonderful features, fall color isn’t one of them. They are pale yellow, but barely so, and this year they blew off the trees in a windstorm before they turned much beyond pale green.

Three-flower maple, Acer triflorum

Three-flower maple, Acer triflorum

One tree I brought down to Maryland from Pennsylvania is promising to be a beloved fall garden feature: three flower maple (Acer triflorum).  I can best describe it as a glowing yellow orange. I’ve also planted several ‘Henry’s Garnet’ Virginia sweetspires (Itea virginica) which are lovely and will be truly spectacular in years to come.

Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) and American holly (Ilex opaca)

Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) and American holly (Ilex opaca)

Leaves on the Creek. Because so many of our trees lost their leaves before they really colored up, I decided to take one of our kayaks out into the creek. The best of the red-leaved hardwoods are the tupelos (Nyssa sylvatica). They’re a native worth planting just for the fall foliage alone. We have them along the water, but they’re also fine in drier sites. I added ‘Autumn Cascades’ a weeping cultivar from Rare Find Nursery to my front garden this year because I love the foliage so.

Tupelo foliage

Tupelo foliage

If I had enough space, I’m sure I would plant a collection of every species, but for now, I’ve added two favorites to the garden: burr oak (Quercus macrocarpa) and black oak (Q. velutina). We also already have a variety of oaks in the woods that sport red fall foliage, so my collection could be larger than that. I haven’t keyed any of them out yet and suspect many may be of mixed parentage, since oaks tend to hybridize readily.

Oaks (Quercus spp.) and American hollies (Ilex opaca)

Oaks (Quercus spp.) and American hollies (Ilex opaca)

Just to show I wasn’t alone on my kayak tour of Worton Creek, I’ll close with a picture of one of my constant companions, Bing, who loves everything as long as he is involved.

Bing, a rescue, is the smallest of my four dogs and best fit for a kayak.

Bing, a rescue, is the smallest of my four dogs and best fit for a kayak.

Barbara Ellis

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Gail November 15, 2008, 8:33 pm

Thanks for the kayak tour! It was a delight to see Opaca in it’s best haunt…full sun with plenty of water! Who wouldn’t love Tupelos…beauty and a great tasting honey from bees that visit their flowers! A friend gives me a jar each year. You’ve honored two deserving bloggers! Both are inspirational, creative and delightful people. Thank you, Barbara…Have a good weekend! Gail

Glad you enjoyed the tour! I’m so glad that both bloggers inspired me to take the time to paddle out and look for outstanding fall foliage! I never remember to take time to enjoy my garden and always seem to be looking at it in terms of what work I haven’t gotten done yet. Our woods is the same: I’ve got loads of non-native invasives to deal with out there and I forget to just enjoy it.


Cameron (Defining Your Home Garden) November 15, 2008, 10:25 pm

Bing is such a cutie! Seeing the leaves from the water is a different perspective, isn’t it?

Your camellia is a great one! Have you ever been down here in Chapel Hill to visit Camellia Forest? A great nursery for camellias.

My husband and I love to kayak on Jordan Lake to see the eagles, ospreys, herons and egrets.

Thanks for the tour.

A kayak’s-eye tour is certainly different! I love the way the hollies sweep out over the creek at the bottom and the lush, dark green backdrop they provide for the other trees. We saw Great Blue Herons on our trip. Ospreys are gone for the winter, and the Bald Eagles are still out on the Bay, sort of around the corner from us.

Bing really loved going. My husband reminded me when we got back that he should have been wearing his life jacket, though.


Sue November 16, 2008, 1:23 am

I love your fall colors, the pictures from the water, and flowers. The pineapple sage is nice and full! I grew mine in a pot this year, and maybe not quite enough sun. It got tall and a bit leggy. It didn’t bloom until quite late, and then we had a freeze.

Pineapple sage always seems to hold off blooming until the last minute, and in Pennsylvania it sometimes wouldn’t manage to bloom until right before frost. It also is so big it does take up quite a bit of room in the garden while it’s deciding when to flower. Still, it’s worth it.


Les November 16, 2008, 7:22 am

I am with you on the Nyssa. This is one of our most under-appreciated, and under-planted natives. The fall color is indeed fantastic, and it is easy to grow as well.

Yes, nothing beats Nyssa for fall foliage! I’ve found it extremely adaptable, too. Nyssa is a common tree along creeks and ditches here on the Eastern Shore, but it’s also very drought tolerant. I planted a weeping cultivar in a field above our house in Pennsylvania, and it did just fine without watering. The ‘Autumn Cascades’ I planted is also in well-drained soil, and I’m hoping it will cascade down the little hill that’s on one side of my front garden. I’ll have pictures eventually!


Mr. McGregor's Daughter November 16, 2008, 11:43 am

Nyssa is such a great tree for autumn color, what a wowee red! Bing must be a well-behaved dog to ride so nicely in the kayak. We had a crazy dog we tried to take out in a rowboat. Of course he jumped in the river.

Mr McGregor (or is it Ms McGregor??)
Wowee red is a great description of Nyssa’s fall color. They seem lit from within in the right light!

Yes, Bing is very well-behaved. I’ve got three other dogs, all Border Collies, one of which, Casey, also rides like a gentleman, but he doesn’t leave as much space for my feet as Bing does. Our Miss Bonnie likes to “kayak” but her version is to run along the shoreline at top speed while I follow along. This is best accomplished at low tide. She starts out a black-and-white dog and comes home an all-black one, so we don’t do it too often.


Layanee November 19, 2008, 7:58 am

Ooooooh, a post from the water! Great idea, beautiful color and who doesn’t love a pooch! My dog would be IN the water rather than in the boat.

There wasn’t much fall color left in or near the garden when I took my kayak tour, but obviously the color on the water was wonderful. My still-small oakleaf hydrangeas have a few colorful leaves left, but there’s not much else, although the hollies are still beautiful!

Bing has been in the water but will only wade up to about his knees. That’s fine with me because we depend on the water to fence the backyard for the most part.


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