With minimal effort, the gardener in the mid Atlantic is able to have one thing or the other flowering in the garden every day, even through winter, which is not so difficult with a few well chosen shrubs and a small assortment of early flowering bulbs. Along with a few orchids and forced stems of pussy willow, this does wonders for a dour disposition through January and February.
I suppose that November is the leanest month for flowers in this garden, but certainly there is no shortage in September. In recent years I have added to the collection of toad lilies (Tricyrtis) so that several flower early in August, but most common cultivars bloom beginning in mid September. While early ones are still flowering, ones starting in September will often flower until frost, which should be no earlier than a month from now, and is likely to be closer to the end of October.
The late summer drought has taken a toll on foliage of many plants, and several toad lilies are a bit crispy around the edges. Of course, this causes no harm except that a photo of the marvelous blooms is somewhat spoiled by brown tips to leaves. I cannot imagine trimming the tips (even for a photo) since the entire plant will be brown in six weeks.
I am most pleased that a few yellow flowered toad lilies have survived into their second year. For whatever reason, since toad lilies are among the most foolproof of plants to grow, I have failed a few times with yellow varieties, but now that is over. The plants are still a bit weak, but I expect them to grow with vigor next spring.
I see little excuse for a gardener with any amount of shade in his garden not to grow ‘Sun King’ aralia (Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’), though it can take more space than expected, and perhaps it is not appropriate for the smallest gardens. Today, flowers peak over six feet tall, with a roughly equal spread. In deep shade beneath a wide spreading ‘Seriyu’ Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Seriyu’), the foliage of ‘Sun King’ is bright yellow, and the few leaves that poke into the late afternoon sun are only slightly faded.
After failed experiences in the early years of this garden, I planted Encore azaleas reluctantly, but curiously wondering if azaleas bred in Louisiana could successfully flower in both spring and late summer in northwestern Virginia. Yes, I’ve found, though certainly not the full range that are intended primarily for gardens in the southeast. And, I’ve experienced variation where one flowers splendidly one year, and not so much the next, which is not really so unusual for many plants, I suppose.
On occasion, there will be flowers on a few Encore azaleas in early August, but this year there were none until a few scattered blooms late in the month. In mid September, five or six varieties are flowering, and several others will bloom in October if frost and freeze hold off long enough. As a side note, my prior poor experience with azaleas was mostly due to infestations of lacebugs, but Encores are not troubled by these pests, so they are a dependable bloomer in late summer and early autumn.