We’re in that odd interlude where summer and autumn meet winter and spring. So the last of summer and fall, meets the first of winter and spring.
Arum italicum forms have been dormant all summer but now are developing their finest foliage just before they endure that unpredictable wait under winter’s snow – or, worse, without its protection. Below (click to enlarge) is Arum italicum ‘Eco Framed Picture’, from fabled Georgia plantsman Don Jacobs.
Alongside is one of the finest foliage perennials of recent years, Heuchera ‘Citronelle’. In its brightest and best color in summer, it keeps its color all year and has always emerged unscathed after winter’s snow to provide a patch of bright spring sunshine.
For three weeks now, Helleborus niger ‘HGC Joshua’ (below, click to enlarge) has been flinging up flowers which are highlighted so well by the rich dark foliage. And although the first frosts and the occasional deluge have combined to take the refinement out of these early flowers they’re welcome none the less. No other forms even show buds, many won't flower till March or April.
A few yards away, from the other extreme if you like, the golden brown coloring on Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Princess Susan’ (below, click to enlarge) has passed from bright butter yellow a few weeks ago but still stands out in spite of a weevil or some such creature taking little bites out of the edges of too many leaves. In spring its masses of pink and white flowers make it one of the best of all epimediums – and with the bonus of this fall foliage it really is a star. And E. pinnatum subsp. colchicum ‘Thunderbolt’ is only just starting to show hints of its purple fall foliage color, following its yellow spring flowers. Both these are from Darrell Probst.
With a few unexpected foxglove flowers, fall color hanging on with the last of the physocarpus, dogwoods and viburnums, pink ‘Mei-kyo’ and yellow ‘Nantyderry Sunshine’ pompon chrysanthemums still in color and the last of two or three months of pink flowers of Cyclamen hederifolium over its bright silver foliage – the seasons continue to mingle. But regular nightly frosts are forecast to start soon…
• Look out for my article on Arum italicum forms in the December issue of the RHS magazine, The Plantsman.
• For more on ‘HGC Joshua’ and other selections and hybrids of the Christmas rose, Helleborus niger, take a look at my article in the December 2009 issue of The Garden.