Wednesday, November 18, 2009

November Surprise

The images around the neighborhood are mostly of trees showing the splendors of autumn. I have recently read that Americans now refer to Autumn as Fall. It is a shame, if it is true, that we are losing further distinguishing characteristics of our language. I know the British retain the practice of using the classic word. I wonder which way our neighboring Canadians go on this one?

The weather has been mild so far so there are numerous surprises in the garden beyond those that you kind of expect and are not surprises! But try some of these out. The berries (no surprise) are pretty much all set in. The Cranberry Viburnums are covered with juicy moist berries that the birds will devour over the winter. I have about a dozen plants throughout the garden as they can handle truly swampy conditions or drier soils.

The money plant or Honesty (Lunnaria annua) has set its big silver dollar seeds. My friend Carmen gave me some a few years ago and, as promised, they have laid claim to a corner of the woodland garden where I suspect they will over a period of time take over entirely. The money plant is a biennial that takes two years to bloom in either pink or white. On the fall of the second year they set these coin shaped seeds that are great for fall displays. I first saw them in masses at Monticello as they were a favorite of Thomas Jefferson.

Another berry in the garden is more dangerous, as is the entire plant, but very effective in feeding the birds. Nandina domestica (Heavenly bamboo) does not resemble bamboo in the least but is a rather toxic to mammals. Maybe that is why they call it heavenly bamboo: you eat it, you go to heaven. I know I am making light of this beautiful plant or its poisonous nature, but deer, rabbits and other animals that destroy gardens will not eat it hence they are smarter than humans in some ways. Birds are immune to it. If you think of your garden as a pharmacy filled with potential beneficial and poisonous plants you need to be the pharmacist and figure out what is what.

Some years ago, one of our immensely smart city people got a bargain from a major nursery for street trees. The plant in question was the Laburnum or Golden Shower tree, a magnificent plant in the right application that is covered with yellow fragrant flowers. The English create tunnels for people to experience them when in bloom, but it does come with a little catch: it is deadly poisonous. All who grow it know it, but our town bureaucrat thought she had discovered gold in planting a tree to fit under the power lines that flowered and was fragrant. It was an idea, but not as a street tree? Eventually, the town did their homework and all trees were discreetly removed before anyone could pick out the little peas from the seedpods and munch and die. Enough macabre, know your garden!

The true surprise of the year is that all the rose plants still have a bloom or so left in them. As I have many roses, there are a few to enjoy. Here is a small collection of the best.

Finally, given that all the plants will soon be totally dormant and it will return to a sea of twigs or brown I have started just a few bulbs to over winter the dreariness to come.

PS. Pooch Update: No replies from Shelter. I may have to enlist all your assistance in adopting this Dal. Enjoy…


  1. So that's what its called the money plant. I love them, they are quite interesting. Someone had given me a plant called "datura" (angels trumpets or moon flower)it started as one small plant and reseeded itself and now I have hundreds of them. I pull them up when they start to emerge and keep a few. They are as I discovered a hallucinogenic (imagine that!).

  2. To be honest, I didn't but the seasonal cycles as named and described by the various indigenous Aboriginal peoples of Australia differ substantially from one another according to their local geographical and ecological environment and are intricately dependent on local environmental events and resources. 2j3j