Gardening with Galligan: The flowers and berries of autumn

CAROL GALLIGAN PHOTO  My very own berries. The bush was not really full, but full enough.

My very own berries. The bush was not really full, but full enough.

While we have been spending time with great adventurers and grande dames, what’s been going on and what did we miss?

Not a lot, since it was the time of the season when not too much is happening, which is why we were wandering around in foreign lands.

The hydrangea paniculata is worth noting because, unlike the other hydrangeas, all of which seemed to have been badly damaged by last winter’s harsh weather, they loved it and bloomed wonderfully, full and rich. They were the bushes with the big white flower heads that now are almost gone.

The wild goldenrod is blooming everywhere. The proper name for goldenrod is solidago and it’s worth a look. It’s a very cooperative plant and will bloom even when its growing conditions are met only halfway or not at all. I know this because I have seen it growing in heavy woodlands and deep shade, when what it wants is full sun. The plants were only a few inches tall, rather than the 20 to 24 inches one could expect, but they were blooming their little heads off.

All of the asters are back, both the wild and domesticated varieties. I have both but my wild ones are only white, although I know they come in blue as well. My daughter said her wild white asters are gone, probably because of last winter’s cold. Mine are fine and I plan to try and save seed for her, although I have never paid any attention to how the wild ones go to seed.

That’s often the way things are learned in the garden — you find out when you need to. My blue ones are in full bloom now and I must say they look wonderful. It’s hard to go wrong with asters; they are another hardy, almost foolproof plant.

The pyracantha berries are bright orange now, in case we hadn’t noticed that it was really fall, and for the first time I have my own. For many years I was the Oliver Twist of berry-land, begging for orange ones from one friend and holly berries from another. I finally decided to become berry-independent and bought myself one bush of each, knowing full well that it might be a lost cause, since I have so little sun.

This is the third year I have had my pyracantha and the first year it has bloomed, despite the fact that it only gets about an hour’s worth of sun each day. I have babied it, feeding and spraying carefully. It bears out a general gardening principle — many plants will accommodate although it may take them time to do so. When you think about it, that’s something we have in common.

My holly had flowers in the spring, after its first winter, and it has some berries now although they have not yet turned red. I think I will be two for two. The garden gods are smiling.

Tip of the week: Second homeowners, unless you have a designated plant watcher on the Island, you probably should bring your potted plants in soon. We all should keep a careful eye on the weather report for lower nightly temperatures.