On Wednesday I swear I watched trees changing colors before my eyes. The cool and wet seemed to accelerate the inevitable approach of fall. Not that I don’t love the cool down, but it creates a sometimes bizarre mix of conflicting emotions right down deep in the very core of my being.
Glorious cool, sunny day. Revel in it. But that can be followed by killer frost. Some folks got frost last weekend. Frost!, you be so evil.
Yea, frost! No more watering or weeding tropicals and annuals.
Boooo, frost! No more annuals and tropicals.
Fabulous fall color on the trees. Yippee!
Trees bare and gray for nearly six months. Yikes!
See what I mean? But I know it’s all about the cycles and all part of being in a climate like we have in the Midwest. The state climatologists say we will warm back up mid-October. Does that mean no frost until November for many? Possibly.
But it’s because fall is kinda that special time when weather can be so wonderful that we include the autumn bloomers, like anemone and aster and woody plants, with great fall foliage color or berries, like maples and viburnums. Well, that and we are desperate to delay the gray of winter for as long as possible.
Which brings me to a plant that is coming into its glory this time of year – Heptacodium miconioides, seven-son flower.
It’s a relative of honeysuckle, but without the invasive tendencies of some of those. Discovered by the West in the early 1900s, seed did not arrive until 1980, so it is a pretty new plant to cultivate here. Now, I admit it isn’t for every garden. It’s big, for one thing. Actually, that’s the main thing. Heptacodium can be 15 feet tall or greater with a spread approaching 10 feet. It’s not a delicate little thing. It also has a gangly habit without a bit of judicious pruning. That pruning will also enhance viewing the very attractive peeling bark so I highly recommend it.
Heptacodium has very attractive foliage all season, the leaves exhibiting deep venation and holding on until late fall. No real fall color to shout about. But it does flower in fall, which is something to shout about. They can start as early as August but September seems the more likely time here. Ours are still flowering nicely and it is nearly October.
Apparently it is the arrangement of the flowers in clusters of seven that give Heptacodium its common name of seven-son flower. Oh! I almost forgot. The flowers are fragrant. Sweet and slightly reminiscent of what I call the Gardenia family of fragrances. Not members of the same plant family as Gardenia, but fragrances that make me think of Gardenias.
As the flowers fall away, the sepals remain and turn a bright red color, extending the show another two to three weeks.
There is a possibility that selections of this plant will be made for better color in the sepals, or plants that hold the color longer.
As I mentioned earlier, I like the bark. Not flashy, I know, but attractive.
So while not for every garden, Heptacodium certainly has many fine qualities that recommend its use more often. It is really nice to have plants coming into their glory at all times of the year and not have everything be spring and summer stars. Seven-sons fills that niche by being pleasing in the landscape all summer, then giving a tiring garden a boost of energy come September.
Filed under: Horticulture