Fall is definitely here
The leaves are slowly starting to change colors and for the most part everyone's garden is waning in color. If you are looking at your garden and contemplating buying some mums to get that fall color--I've got some other options for you. Asters are my favorite among fall flowers and right now, they are hitting the main stream pretty rapidly--I even saw some for sale at Giant the other day. However today, I'm going to talk about a much underused but great fall shrub: the native American Highbush Cranberry (Viburnum trilobum). This shrub gives you 3-4 full seasons of interest (mostly dependent on how many birds you have over wintering and munching on the berries)
In the spring you'll be treated to snow white blooms radiating in a pinwheel-like fashion around an inner circle of a tiny fuzz of cream, not unlike the lacecap form of the fabled bigleaf hydrangea flowers that northerners can only dream about. These are followed by bright cherry-red berries in large clusters that last from August through the winter and into the new year. In fall, let's deliver some of the finest fiery red and rich royal purple coloration available on any plant, starting early and usually lasting for weeks. Highbush cranberries are native to most of the northern woods, and prefer to grow in moist, organic soils with a little shade. However, they actually look totally different in a landscape setting as compared to their growth in the wild, and it's when they get adequate sun and good moisture without being crowded that they really earn their keep. They require virtually no maintenance and are relatively trouble-free. This plant is useful in so many common landscape applications; as a stunning background shrub in the garden, as a solitary accent in the lawn, in foundation plantings, in masses in parks, or as a tall privacy screen or unpruned hedge. It's still a good time to plant those shrubs before winter sets in, so maybe head on over to your favorite native plant nursery this weekend for some fall planting projects. If you need suggestions, I've got a list!