Fabulous fall flowers
By By Gail Barton / horticulture columnist
Nov. 10, 2002
Last weekend the rain stopped long enough for a brief walk through my garden. As I walked, I stopped for a sniff of tea tea camellia (Camellia sinensis) that is. Right now this broadleaf evergreen is covered with drooping white fragrant flowers. Tea camellias are grown in the Orient for their leaves. Green tea is made from leaves that are steamed and dried. Black tea is made from leaves that are fermented and dried.
Tea camellias are well adapted in the Meridian area, but are not commonly seen here. I occasionally see them for sale in local garden centers. However, if you're determined to grow your own Lipton, you may have to mail order.
Tea camellia is similar in appearance to the more commonly grown sasanqua camellia (Camellia sasanqua). Sasanquas are just coming into full bloom and there are some luscious specimens in the old gardens around town.
I pass a pair at the corner of 45th Avenue on my way to work every morning. The two are located across from the Meridian Council of Garden Clubs. They could easily top 10 feet and are loaded with shell pink fragrant blossoms.
Usually sasanquas are white, pink or red. Some varieties have double flowers and others are single with bright yellow centers. There are many good sasanqua varieties, but two of my favorites are "Daydream" and "Yuletide."
Elaeagnus (Elaeagnus pungens) is another fall bloomer which thrives in gardens with sun and lots of room. The October flowers are tiny and white with copper speckles. They are practically invisible but are easily detected if you follow their intense honeysuckle scent to its source.
Elaeagnus may smell delicate, but it is tough enough to be used by the highway department in median plantings. Foliage is evergreen with a silvery patina. Mature shrubs produce oblong red berry-like fruit relished by birds.
I could summarize the merits of elaeagnus by saying that it is a tough drought-tolerant evergreen with no pests. The birds cherish it as an excellent provider of food and shelter. Crafty folks use it as filler in floral arrangements and as a sturdy wreath form.
The only down side elaeagnus can become quite large (up to 10 feet) and unruly. As long as you find the right site with plenty of room, elaeagnus is a garden jewel.
Mexican bush sage or velvet sage (Salvia leucantha) is another of my fall favorites. It is in bloom right now and will continue until frost. This salvia's spiky flowers are lavender and velvety the perfect complement for a black velvet Elvis painting. Velvet sage looks like a shrub, but is actually considered to be a herbaceous perennial. Each year the plants can attain height up to 6 feet. At the first frost, the flowers freeze-dry and foliage withers.
I cut the old stalks back to 2 or 3 inches after that frost. New growth will emerge from below ground or from the old stump next spring. Mexican bush sage thrives in sun and a well drained soil. It tolerates drought and likes lime. It will even grow in a parking lot with reflected heat. Admire Mexican bush sage now, but wait to plant this beauty in spring since a very cold winter can kill young plants.
I'm fond of plants that bloom at unexpected times. Right now most plants are slowing growth and getting ready for winter. These favorites are in full bloom and my garden wouldn't be the same without them.