Cynthia Druckenbrod spoke at the Hudson Library last week, and she had some excellent suggestions for beautifying your autumn garden.
Druckenbrod is the director of horticulture at the Cleveland Botanical Garden, and she says that all of the plants she discussed are suitable for the climate and growing conditions in Hudson.
Druckenbrod advises people to consider classic fall plants like chrysanthemums when creating their autumn garden, but she also encourages people to be adventurous and try something new and different.
Most gardeners are familiar with chrysanthemums, which are readily available in pots at area nurseries in late summer.
According to Druckenbrod, everyone should know that most chrysanthemums are bred as annuals and will likely not return the following season.
She recommends hunting down some of the older varieties and planting them as small cuttings in the spring. “Clara Curtis” is one of these older varieties that is hardy and will return year after year in a colorful display of pink blooms with yellow centers.
The secret to attractive mums, Druckenbrod says, is to pinch them back in early summer. If you do not, they will still bloom, but they will get leggy, have a sloppy form and fall over in the early fall rains.
Commonly known as the autumn crocus or “naked ladies,” colchicum is a bulb that sends up leaves in the spring that disappear in the heat of summer.
In early fall, the flowers pop up in bright spots of white, pink or purple that look quite similar to spring crocus.
Beautyberry, Callicarpa americana, is a deciduous shrub that has small, lavender-pink flowers in spring, followed by vivid purple or white berries in fall. It is not the first choice of food for birds, so you will get a long season of enjoyment out of it. It is quite striking in a floral arrangement when paired with contrasting yellow flowers or foliage.
Druckenbrod says native plants should not be forgotten in autumn gardens and recommends native asters as well as the little-known Virginia Knotweed, Persicaria virginiana, which is also called “Painter's Palette.”
She also says not to be turned off by a plant with “weed” in its name. The Virginia Knotweed is not the same as the noxious Japanese Knotweed. Instead, it is a well-behaved plant with variegated green and white leaves in summer. In the fall, it provides a surprise for the gardener when bright red berries appear.
Druckenbrod says that the native viburnum, Viburnum dentatum, has intense blue berries. Unfortunately, all the viburnums in Ohio are under attack from the viburnum leaf beetle. If you want to grow this plant native, you should be prepared to apply a systemic insecticide or insecticidal soap to control this destructive creature.
Rosa virginiana is another recommended native. It has pink single roses in the summer, followed by red and edible rose hips in the fall, which are loaded with Vitamin C.
And while considering edibles, Druckenbrod points out that blueberry bushes have attractive fall coloration, providing fall interest long after the berries have been harvested.
Druckenbrod recommends a trip to the Cleveland Botanical Garden before the fall gives way to winter.
Right now there are displays of pumpkins and gourds, and they even have pumpkins painted to look like giant candy corn.
The Cleveland Botanical Garden is open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.