The woodland trees haven’t really begun to turn yet except for the dogwoods but color abounds in berries and late flowers. Japanese beautyberry, Callicarpa dichotoma, sprays waterfalls of purple through the mixed border. I confess I prefer it to the native C. americana, variously known as French mulberry or Indian poke, because of the former’s more refined habit. The latter has larger berries, but with much coarser leaves and a heavier blotchier form. Both feed the birds, especially in late winter when I see mockingbirds eating the shriveled raisin-like fruits. Earlier in the season, catbirds visit.
Up until last week the delightful Sternbergia lutea (aka winter daffodil, fall crocus, yellow amaryllis) bloomed for over a month under our poor doomed ash which we will have removed this spring before it totally succumbs to the dreaded emerald ash borer. Elizabeth Lawrence in her classic The Little Bulbs describes them as “like crocuses in form, and like buttercups in color and substance” and you can’t say better than that.
Cooler nights bring out the best in the nasturtiums. This year I grew “Empress of India” and “Old-fashioned Tawny” from John Scheepers along with the usual “Double Gleam Mix”. Empress is quite lovely with dark green leaves and deep red flowers and the Tawny made a nice combination with the orange Zinnia angustifolia.
Finally, “the last rose of summer”, which really turns out to be first of autumn, is a welcome souvenir. ‘Don Juan’, a fragrant red climbing or pillar type, has offered enough blooms to make small fragrant bouquets or bud vases and the climbing tea ‘Sombreuil’ , also fragrant, made a poignant vignette with a stray jackmanii clematis bloom.
I remember when our first day of frost was October 15, but those days are long gone. I’m glad the longer warmth of our current climate doesn’t seem to inhibit the rich colors we love so much this time of year. It only seems to prolong the beauty and richness as we ripen with the years.