Six on Saturday: Scarlet

Native Vaccinium shrubs self-seed in our upper garden.

Scarlet lingers longer than other colors in our garden. While the season opens in February and March with whites, creams and yellows, it definitely finishes in December with touches of red against evergreens and faded browns.

Camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide’

Late autumn reds energize and cheer us. There’s much to be said for the courage of a strong finish in most any endeavor. But there is a poignant sweetness to red leaves and red flowers on the cusp of December.

Our autumn came late this year after a lingering ‘Indian summer’ that lasted for week after week. Our deciduous trees are just past their peak, and beautiful scarlet Japanese maples, blazing red maples, rich red dogwoods, sumacs, and Virginia creeper vines still hold their color against chill November winds. Native Vaccinium shrubs, blueberries, deerberries and huckleberries, have also turned scarlet. We see stems of stalwart red pineapple sage flowers shining amid the faded Rudbeckia and goldenrod.

This oakleaf Hydrangea began its independent life as a stem cutting thrust into a pot. Three years later, it has taken hold and begun to grow into a beautiful shrub.

Oakleaf Hydrangea leaves turn bright red early in autumn, and hold onto their beautiful leaves deep into winter and earliest spring. It is good to plant these beautiful shrubs where you pass them often and can see the brightness of their leaves beckoning across the garden.

Camellia sasanqua will bloom for many weeks more in our coastal Virginia garden

Red and pink Camellia flowers bloom now in profusion. Holly berries and Nandina berries grow deeper and brighter with each passing cold night. It is good that seasonal colors shine in our garden now as our thoughts and efforts turn towards holiday making.

Acer palmatum

I bought a few six-packs of red Viola plugs this week for pots. I may regret their brash redness by April, but I am loving them now. Red warms the garden as Northwest winds blow dancing leaves from branch to ground.

We are grabbing our hoodies on the way towards the door these days. Hats, ear warmers, sweatshirts and sweaters feel good again. I’ve rediscovered socks. The seasons have turned, and change is in the air. Touches of red inspire a little merriment, even as we shiver a bit in the afternoon sun.

With appreciation to The Propagator, who hosts Six on Saturday each week.


    • It always seems a bit awkward to me to transition from the gorgeous oranges of Halloween and Thanksgiving to the bright red of Christmas. The scarlet leaves and berries certainly help, and cheer me as the branches of deciduous trees finally go bare. Hope you’ve had a wonderful Thanksgiving, Eliza ❤ ❤ ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Are beautyberries bare yet? Those that you sent to me are mostly defoliated, but are hanging onto the last few tiny distal leaves, as if the terminal buds did not go dormant soon enough. I suspect that it is normal for them, or at least a normal response to their recent relocation, but I watch them because I am unfamiliar with them. They are SO rad!

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    • Hi Tony,
      Delighted to hear that you are enjoying the beautyberries. Have any of your stem cuttings taken root yet? Funny you should ask about what they are doing here. Depending on where the shrub is growing, a few still have some yellow, drooping leaves and drying berries. But most are defoliated. I just cut back four shrubs at the Botanical Garden this morning. Three of them had self-seeded into an area where they were blocking the view of a Camellia sasanqua, and I cut them to the ground. The fourth one I cut is the last remaining beautyberry that is growing in the rock garden I tend there. It was time for it to go for the season, and cutting it allowed me to clean out the accumulated pine tags and leaves at its base. We will continue to cut them back between now and February, and they re-grow from their roots each year with new shoots, and of course new growth from nodes on the short stems we leave after pruning. Since yours are just getting started, I assume that you will leave the stems this year and wait a year or two to coppice them. I did a bit of guerilla gardening this morning, planting a few seeds of scarlet buckeye into areas where they can grow in all of their glory to the delight of every hummingbird in the area! I collected the seeds before they fell and have kept them in a bag of moist soil to watch them sprout. They are totally cool because everything about them is big and sturdy- even the first shoot out of the seed! What is more fun than playing with trees?

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      • Oh yes, I will wait a few or several years before copiccing the beautyberries. I will likely wait until they get big and overgrown so that I can see how they perform on their own. This is a completely new species for me. They will remain canned for their first year. I think that they are too tiny to put into a landscape, although I could plug some into a refined garden where I could observe them constantly. I had considered procuring a cultivar with white berries while in Southwestern Washington, but will delay that for now. I can always get one by mail order, ‘if’ I determine that I actually want such a cultivar. I really like them in pictures, but am also aware that they are ‘cultivars’ rather than plants from the wild. However, when the beautyberry go into the landscapes, I may add snowberries near them! There are a few grungy native snowberries near here that I believe could be grown into appealing specimens in the right situations. I must keep them separated, since snowberry spreads. Also, snowberry gets pruned differently, by alternating canes, since coppicing them prevents them from blooming. The berries ripen later than those of beautyberry, but might be starting to ripen while the last beatyberry remain. Unfortunately, the beautyberry cuttings will not likely survive. Coons dumped them out overnight prior to a warm day. They are back in medium, but likely got too dry to recover. They look dry. You should see the ginger though! Although it is not doing much, it is already starting to show buds, even before the Kahili ginger. If they get any foliage, I will move them to a more sheltered spot. They are under saran for now, but can get cool in there. Although I do not recommend them, would you like me to send some seed from the California buckeye? I believe that there are some still hanging around out there. The reason I do not recommend them is that they are ‘twice deciduous’, so that they defoliate during the warm and dry weather of the middle of summer. In a humid climate, they are likely to just get shabby, but without defoliating cleanly through summer, and then develop new foliar for autumn, mixed the the shabby spring foliage.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Tony- Will give you a more thorough answer later in the day. So sorry to hear that the coons got to your cuttings. I’m fighting the same thing here with squirrels in my fig cuttings. There isn’t any animal repellent to deter them when they are determined! I hope they will survive.

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      • I am annoyed that the coons damaged only a few items that are important, but ignored the items that they would not have hurt. The six beautyberry seedlings are fine, and after dropping most of their foliage, are still holding onto the last small leaves at the very tips. Actually, I actually prefer the slow defoliation, since I might worry about them if they defoliated suddenly like other items out there.

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      • Hi Tony, I’ve been thinking about your offer to send me some CA Buckeye all day. As much as I would love watching it grow out, I don’t have a good place to plant it. At the moment, I have a whole collection of trees in pots that need to go into the ground and I’m spinning my wheels siting them. And, I just rescued a cute little Acer palmatum yesterday that will also need a spot in a year or so. So thank you, but I am going to pass on your offer of seed and enjoy the beautiful scarlet buckeyes that have naturalized here, and that look nice through the entire season. Good luck locating your white beautyberry. It is rarely available around here, but I’ll keep an eye out for it.

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      • Oh, it is no problem. As I mentioned earlier, I would not recommend a California buckeye where there are better options. I only asked because some find it to be an oddity. Even though I am very familiar with it, I believe that the natural cycle of defoliating in summer makes it look rather shabby.
        There is no rush to obtain a white beautyberry. The ‘typical’ sort was more of a priority. I might grab a white one ‘if’ I happen to encounter one somewhere, perhaps while in the Pacific Northwest.

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      • Well Tony, if I see one here I’ll buy it and root a cutting for you. I thought the white varieties were Asian, but looked it up and see that there is a C. americana ‘Alba’. So now I’ll plan to add one to our garden, as the opportunity arises. Enjoy the day!

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      • Oh, there is no need to root one for me. I am in no hurry for it, and will only get one if I happen to run into one while in Washington. The seedlings that you sent to me are what I really wanted. For a while, I could have gotten one from the Arbor Day Foundation (I think). It happened to be the American species, which is relatively rare. All of the others that I see with white berries are an Asian species.


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