Last week’s cold snap ignited some really vibrant fall colors, categorically glorious enhancements to our landscapes. Specifically, the Raywood ash, Fraxinus oxycarpa, has taken center stage with its robust shades of scarlet and purple. No other tree right now is endowed with these intense colors. Besides its fall beauty, this ash is a moderate-sized tree, growing to 30 feet, and a very drought tolerant addition to any landscape.
I have a list of favorite locally grown plants that look great in autumn, but also deliver distinctive interest in the other seasons as well. Characteristics of these evergreen plants are spring flowers, summer berries, and autumn color; these plants are good-looking during all four seasons.
Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis, is very fragrant, 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.
Service Berry, Amelanchier, is showing its fabulous red to orange foliage now. A short tree or tall shrub this plant has bridal-white flowers that adorn every branch in spring and produce berries in summer. The fruits are edible and tasty, but you’ll never harvest many of them because birds LOVE them! I like to take care of the birds in my yard, so I planted one of these shrubs just for “my birds”.
Oregon Grape, Mahonia aquifolium, is the perfect mountain evergreen which is often mistaken for a holly. Solar yellow flowers cover the entire plant in spring followed by a summer berry, thus the name Oregon grape. The berries are 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 the sun, heat, wind, and requires less water than many natives.
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 into 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 cold or heat.
Red Cluster Berry, Cotoneaster parneyi, has white flowers in spring evolving to red berries that remain on the plant through winter. It’s a welcome food source for feather friends hanging around after the New Year. A good, and much hardier, substitute for the red tipped photinia, it’s also valuable as a tall (to ten feet) screen.
Strategically interplanted with winter-blooming flowers, any of these plants will bring interest to an otherwise drab winter landscape. Flowers and lawns should be watered about twice per week right now, easing off to irrigation every 5-7 days as Thanksgiving approaches.
Until next week, I'll see you at the garden center.
Throughout the week Ken Lain is at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Road, Prescott, and can be contacted through his web site at www.wattersonline.com. Ken says, "My personal mission is to help local homeowners garden better in our mountain landscapes."