Denise Ellsworth

Autumn is a glorious time in the garden, a time when we’re blessed with leaves changing colors, annuals overflowing their summer homes, abundant visits from pollinators, and a rich assortment of flowering perennials, all under the backdrop of crisp blue skies. If your garden lacks color and pizazz right now, it’s time to add some of these autumn favorites.

Secrest Arboretum in Wooster will host the third annual Autumn Discovery Day at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster from 9 a.m. to noon Oct. 6. The sale features these and many other plants to add seasonal interest to the garden.

Callicarpa dichotoma, common names ‘Early Amethyst,’ purple beautyberry. Beautyberry has rich, light purple berries covering the branches like brightly colored jewels. With a loose, arching form, beautyberry blends well in the mixed border and provides a backdrop for showier plants during spring and summer.

In late summer and fall, beautyberry takes center stage, when clusters of small, shiny fruit are produced along the stems at each leaf node. Locate in average garden soil in sites with full sun.

‘Little Lime’ Hydrangea (hydrangea paniculata). ‘Limelight’ is a large hydrangea growing over 6 feet in height. ‘Little Lime’ is its diminutive cousin, peaking at 3 feet. Both plants produce billowy, lime-green flower clusters in late summer. Flowers fade to white, then finish the season in shades of pink and rose.

Blooms are produced on new wood, and so these shrubs can be pruned in winter before new growth begins. Blooms make excellent cut flowers, both fresh and dried.

Winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata). Fall is the season to buy winterberry hollies, when plants are covered in red or golden berries. The fruit persists through winter, and is eaten by birds. Many outstanding winterberry hollies are available on the market, including ‘Winter Red.’ This shrub reaches to 9’ at maturity with an overall rounded shape. ‘Winter Gold’ is a sport (or genetic mutation) of ‘Winter Red,’ which boasts yellow-orange fruit.

Hybrids, resulting from crosses between common winterberry and Japanese winterberry (Ilex verticillata x Ilex serrata) are also widely available. The hybrids grow faster but have a similar display of showy fruit; however, the fruit of the hybrids sometimes becomes discolored as winter progresses. One of the most popular hybrid cultivars is ‘Sparkleberry,’ which can reach 15 feet at maturity.

Like other hollies, winterberries are dioecious, meaning there are male and female plants. One male plant is sufficient to provide pollen for several female plants. The male cultivar ‘Southern Gentleman’ serves as pollinator to ‘Winter Gold,’ ‘Winter Red’ and ‘Sparkleberry.’

Japanese stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia) Stewartia offers multiseason interest in the garden. Creamy white flowers are produced in summer, when few other trees are in bloom. The flowers are reminiscent of camellia flowers, hence the Latin name.

Fall leaf color can be red, orange and purple. Lovely exfoliating bark provides interest on mature trees in winter. Stewartia performs best in full sun but can tolerate partial shade. Hot, dry locations should be avoided.

Autumn Discovery Day will feature many other trees for sale, including pawpaw, pond cypress, umbrella magnolia and ‘Lavender Twist’ redbud. The sale is held at Secrest Arboretum, 1680 Madison Drive, Wooster. For information, including a complete plant list, visit Secrest Arboretum’s website at http://secrest.osu.edu.

Denise Ellsworth directs the honeybee and native pollinator education program for Ohio State University. If you have questions about caring for your garden, contact her at 330-263-3700 or click on the Ask Denise link on her blog at www.osugarden.com.