HALL: From fruit to flame: The fab four of the fall garden

Laura Hall, Gardens with Annie
Beautyberry is beautiful in the private garden.

The end of the year is looming large, and I am down to a fabulous foursome that will be hard to beat in our Destin gardens. 

Over the course of a year, I am enthralled by the many beautiful blossoms, but the colors showing now in our autumn gardens are something you don’t want to miss. 

With the official start of winter not arriving until Dec. 21, this time of year, the blossoms of the Cassia create a vivid spotlight in the garden and many people will tell you they grow anywhere you give them room. 

They prefer full sun but will take a bit of shade. These shrubs will grow 8 - 12 feet high with arching branches and a light airy structure.  Starting late November, the bush covers itself with bright yellow, clusters of flowers that are long lasting.  Easy to find at Home Depot or Lowe’s, their beauty will repay you year after year. Looking for a fool proof, quick growing shrub, this is the one for you.

I have always loved the beautyberry (Callicarpa) and if you plant one of these, I can almost guarantee you it will grow to your greatest expectations. It takes full sun to light shade and is usually grown in home gardens for its violet-purple fruits (non-edible) appearing in tight clusters along the branches. 

The branches of fruit, with the leaves removed, are beautiful in floral arrangements. Some of the beautyberry bushes are most undignified and will grow with great abandon. The Callicarpa d. Albifructus is a white-fruited form and one of the most dignified for our smaller gardens.

I usually don’t get into the botanical names of plants as I rarely remember them for more than 10 minutes; however, for our readers who enjoy a bit of a tongue twister, this one is for you.  Brazilian Red Cloak or megaskepasma erythrochlamys. 

This shrub growing 10-15 feet tall shows off one of the most exotic and fascinating flowers you will ever see. This beauty must be handled as a tender plant for our area. For temperatures below 30 degrees, the plant should be moved inside or mulched and wrapped to get it safely through the cold of the night. The tall, spike flowers on this shrub resemble a torch flame of deep scarlet. The showy flowers are held above handsome leaves 12 - 15 inches long. It is a striking plant that is native to Venezuela and can be bought at davesgarden.com. Locating this plant in the front yard will create a buzz and make your garden the talk of the neighborhood.  It is a fast grower and can be grown from branch cuttings if available.

Last but not least in this article is the colorful ripening of our citrus fruits. 

I will briefly mention that my navel oranges, grown on a dwarf citrus tree, bring forth dozen of fruits each year. The dwarf trees are a bit difficult to find but can be ordered from our local independent nurseries. The dwarf fruit trees are finely tuned to produce incredible fruits, of normal size, and fit serenely into the landscape of our smaller gardens.

These seedless, good eating oranges ripen early and are ready for picking and eating before the first frost. Citrus fruit ripens only on the tree so try to be patient and wait until the deep golden-orange color tells you they are ready to pick.  Ever heard the expression, “nectar from the gods”? 

Laura Hall is a longtime gardener and Destin resident.  She explores area gardens and other local topics with her cavalier spaniel Annie.  If you would like to show off your garden or be profiled on a future column, contact Laura at llhall4386@gmail.com