Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Lovely Christmas Cassia

How would you like a tropicalesque bush with lush green leaves and showy yellow flowers that makes an amazing statement in a yard in the fall?  If you do, then I present to you the Christmas Cassia.

The flowers are so profuse that they cover the large shrub.  They will fall forming a carpet of fallen petals under the plant too.  Butterflies and bees come in by the droves to visit the blooms in the fall just before that first killing frost.

The plant gets 10' or so tall and can be just as wide.  It likes full sun and reasonably moist soil.  I have mine planted against the south side of my house to keep it going as long as possible before being killed to the ground by frost.  (In the above picture, the large leaves are from a brugmansia plant and the smaller leaves are from the cassia.)  It will come back each year in zone 8 where I live.  Further south it can stay evergreen year-round.  This plant is very fast growing and should be trimmed back to keep it from sprawling and flopping.

The plant is a host for the sulphur family of butterflies - those bright yellow ones you see all over.  This makes it even more attractive to me since I'm so fond of butterflies.  It is not a great plant for northern areas because it needs a fairly long growing season to reach the point of making flowers.  However, when it does reach flowering time, it does so with gusto!  Highly recommended for the Gulf Coast region.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Sweet Fragrances of Autumn

Fragrances fill my life with pleasure.  Nothing brings back old memories and nostalgia to me like a smell from my childhood.  Fall is one of the best times of the year for fragrance.  Houses are filled with the aroma of pumpkin, apple, and the spices that go with them.  Yards are filled with the perfume of flowers of many types.  

One of my favorite Autumn flowers is the Butterfly Ginger (hedychium.)  This sister of the canna just isn't grown in enough places.  It thrives all over the South and is so easy that it should be in every yard.  The gardenia-like fragrance permeates a yard like nothing else. They bloom from late summer all the way till frost.  Then they come back again next year and spread even more.  Such an easy pass-along plant that you can give plenty away by the second year.

However, my absolute favorite fragrance of the fall comes from the delectable Sweet Olive (osmanthus fragrans.)  This one is dear to my heart because it was a staple in my grandmother's yard and in my mother's yard.  My memory is stoked every time I get a whiff of the distinctive aroma of this shrub.  The shrub itself is a nice evergreen plant that gets the size of a small tree.  The flowers are barely noticeable.  But from mid-fall through spring the fragrance wafts through the cool air of any yard where the shrub is planted.  I think a hedge of this plant would be a delight.  Give your own children and grandchildren another aroma to bring them good memories in the future.