Master Gardener: Notice the varied colors of fall

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 12, 2012

By Karen Busby
Master Gardener Volunteer
SALISBURY – Fall arrives with a riot of color but fall color is not limited to the red, yellow and orange colors of the leaves. Bright colors of berries and fruits of trees and shrubs have formed by now. Hollies are heavily laden with their red berries this year. Dogwoods are shedding their red leaves now to reveal their bright red berries that the birds seem to enjoy. Beautyberries are also gleaming pearly white or purple in the garden now.
One of the real showstoppers in the fall is the deciduous shrub Euonymus americanus or the American strawberry bush whose nickname is “hearts-a-bursting.” The bumpy red fruits are popping open now to reveal shiny scarlet seeds. Native from New York to Illinois and south to Florida and Texas, hearts-a-bursting loves shade and grows in an open, airy form up to 8 feet tall. Its greenish-white springtime blossoms are only -inch. It likes well drained, humus-rich soil and is hardy in zones 5-9. You can easily propagate this plant from greenwood cuttings or you can refrigerate the seeds for three months and then plant them. Division of root clumps is another option.
The strawberry bush’s leaves are a rich dark green which turn orange, red and sometimes white in autumn. It is important to know that all parts of the American strawberry are toxic to humans. Deer, however, love the foliage and twigs. (Wrap wire high around a young plant to get it started. As the plant grows, a few leaves sticking out of the wire that are consumed by deer won’t bother the plant.) This shrub is also a source of nourishment for wild turkey and many other birds that ingest it without any untoward effects. The strawberry bush is not considered invasive or even aggressive and it is drought-tolerant after it is established, a feature true of many of our native trees and shrubs.
If you wish to see if your heart goes all-a-flutter, check out the mature stand of heart’s-a-bursting at Hurley Park’s main entrance at Lake Drive and Annandale. Take the path to the left. In addition to looking green and lush from our recent rains, the entrance is still attractive with orange and yellow marigolds, pink vinca and abelia, along with several pleasing grasses. Sasanqua camellias are currently blooming in white and various shades of pink.
“Autumn Jubilee” sedum is sporting large pink flower heads mixed in with pink muhly grass which makes a stunning combination in the landscape. Clumps of yellow black-eyed Susans are still fighting to be noticed among the purple fall asters. Be sure to catch that last whiff of honeysuckle in the air before Jack Frost makes an appearance.
Karen Busby is an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer with Cooperative Extension in Rowan County.