As Lisa and I were walking downtown this week, we smilingly admired those purple-leafed trees; they are the fall colors of the Raywood ash, Fraxinus oxycarpa. This ash, with such striking autumn beauty, is a moderate-sized tree, growing to 30 feet, and is very drought tolerant in our landscape. Like all the other fall colored trees, it is deciduous but looks great for three of our four seasons. Right now no other tree is endowed with such vibrant intensity. What an exhilarating contribution to the season’s many colors!
If you need plants that look good for all four seasons, you’ll benefit from the list that follows. Most bloom in the spring, look great in summer, then turn fall colors, but never drop their leaves in winter. Strategically mixed with winter-blooming flowers, any of these plants will bring interest to a barren landscape after other leaves have dropped.
Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis, is very fragrant outdoors and valuable in the kitchen. Sapphire-colored flowers adorn this 3-foot high shrub in spring and again in fall. It also is available as a ground cover where erosion control or a cascading appearance is wanted. Both varieties provide that popular seasoning for cooking.
Oregon Grape Holly, Mahonia aquifolium, is the perfect mountain evergreen that is often mistaken for holly. Solar yellow flowers cover the entire plant in spring followed by a summer berry that is very pretty and very edible. Heading into winter the leaves turn a mixed cranberry and orange color that remains until spring bloom. This plant loves sun, heat, wind, and requires less water than many natives. In fact, we have the native form of this plant at the garden center with two other taller varieties; the three span growths from ankle high to chest high.
Heavenly Bamboo, Nandina, is evergreen with bright red highlights through winter. Bamboo-shaped foliage is graced with clusters of white flowers in spring that form red berries as summer heat arrives. Think versatility with this 3-foot tall plant, as it is happy in any amount of sun, most soils, and tolerates any amount of cold or heat. It brings interest to every season in the landscape. This year’s late summer into early fall growing season was perfect for producing really nice nandinas.
Red Cluster Berry, Cotoneaster parneyi, has white flowers in spring evolving to red berries that remain on the plant through winter. It is a welcome food source for feathered friends hanging around after welcoming in the new year. Growing to 10 feet tall and equally wide, it loves sun, is easy to grow, and is a much hardier substitute for the popular red-tipped photinia.
Plant of the Week is the Sienna Sunrise Nandina. Come spring Sienna Sunrise will have clusters of white flowers with intense fiery red foliage that cools to lush green in summer. Its brilliant red highlights reappear from now through winter. The perfect shrub for high profile accents or nooks in architecture, it’s the consummate foundation plant that won't outgrow its allotted space. It adds pizzazz in shade gardens and it particularly beautiful in classic glazed ceramic pots. Plant it in fall and enjoy the drama from this evergreen right through winter. Sienna Sunrise is offered in varying sizes, but a lot of plant can be bought for any gardener’s dollar.
Garden Alert – It is time to drain, cover, and insulate our irrigation systems. This includes our ‘Backflow Preventors’. Make sure the green insulative wrap is in good shape; you might consider adding additional wrap to prevent damage from cold temperatures. If close to an electrical outlet, you could wrap these pipes with warming electrical tape; it’s very cheap insurance against breakage to this expensive part.
For years now, I’ve been telling you how I buy some of the soil amendments I will need in spring and use them as insulative pillows for my in-ground irrigation valves. Throwing a full sack of mulch over the top of your valves is effective and recyclable insurance against freezing of the valve manifold.
Important if you drain your landscape’s irrigation system: Be sure to water plants at least twice a month throughout the winter. If a good storm hits the region you can omit one of these watering cycles. Water by hand or take advantage of a nice day in winter and turn the system back on for the afternoon. This is especially important for autumn plantings.
Flowers and lawns should be watered about twice per week right now, easing off to irrigating every 5-7 days as Thanksgiving approaches.
Until next week, I'll see you at the garden center.
Sierra Sunrise Nadina