Saturday, October 10, 2015

October: Last hurrah for tender plants

For many people, fall foliage is the glory of October. The VVHG garden has its share: The dogwood (Cornus florida) has been slowly getting rosier since mid-September -- and has berried up nicely considering how dry the summer was. The leaves of the witch hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jelena') at the other end of the garden are a blazing orange. When they fall, wispy blooms of the same color will keep the show going.

But the foliage fiesta, though fleeting, can be counted on year after year. Take a moment to savor the herbs that won't make it past our first frost, and may or may not be replanted next season. These tender beauties have spent months building up strength, and are at their very best just as doom approaches.

It's been a particularly long wait for the gorgeous red flowers of pineapple sage (Salvia elegans), which only began to open at the end of September. If frost holds off until Halloween, as it has in recent years, the month of blazing blooms will make it all worthwhile. Pineapple sage's long tubular flowers are magnets for any lingering hummingbirds.

Other herbs that won't survive the inevitable freeze: bay (Laurus nobilis), which spends the spring and summer in the garden in a sunken container, for ease of bringing into a member's greenhouse in fall; lemon verbena (Aloysia citriodora), which can be overwintered indoors only if you have a place you won't have to look at it, and scented-leaf pelargoniums (aka "scented geraniums".