Gardening Simplified Show

Ground Breaking Banter
We’re still talking fall, but shifting our attentions to conifers that lose their leaves. Yes, you read that right: not every evergreen is truly evergreen. Most conifers lose their oldest needles in late autumn, and this tends to be most obvious on white pines and arborvitae. As long as that yellowing stays confined to the innermost portions of the plant, it’s not a cause for concern.

We then shift our discussion to truly deciduous conifers – coniferous trees that naturally lose their leaves each year, like larch (Larix laricina – not Larix decidua, like Stacey mistakenly says in the episode – d’oh!) and dawn redwood. Also known as Metasequoia glyptostroboides, dawn redwood is a true living fossil: it was only known from the fossil record and was thought to be extinct until the 1940s, when a grove was discovered in China. The first specimen that was sent to the US was sent to Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum. You can still see that plant today! Dawn redwood is an excellent choice for your home landscaping, if you have room for a large and unique conifer. They are easy to grow, have beautiful bark, lovely salmon-hued fall color before its needles drop in autumn, and it makes a great conversation piece when your neighbors and passersby ask you what it is.

Plants on Trial: Temple of Bloom Seven-Son Flower
All this talk about leaves calls for sharing a plant in this episode that will not just give you some valuable leaves for your leaf pile or new bed projects, but beautiful, sturdy, long-lasting leaves, at that. And it’s one of my favorite of all the 320+ Proven Winners ColorChoice variety: Temple of Bloom heptacodium, also known as seven son flower. This small tree is hard to beat for four-season beauty: in spring, its thick, leathery foliage emerges and carries it handsomely through summer. As August winds down, the flowers start to appear – fragrant white blooms that are small but abundant. They attract a ton of pollinators, including hummingbirds. Once the flowers fall off, they leave behind a star-like bract that soon ages to a dusty red-pink color for fall, which creates what looks like a second bloom on the plant. The foliage turns deep yellow, then drops, all the better to enjoy the distinctive peeling bark.

There’s a lot going on in the names here. The scientific name, Heptacodium, translates from the Greek “seven-headed one”, and that brings us to the common name, seven-son flower. Each flower is part of a many-headed inflorescence, but they don’t stick neatly to that seven rule – you’ll find varying numbers, so it’s more like a catchy name than an accurate description.

Temple of Bloom is another Proven Winners shrub that was developed right here in Michigan, and it took nearly 20 years to create it. That’s because there’s really only one species – Heptacodium miconioides, which has been grown over time, so it took a lot of time and effort to induce the qualities that make it different – namely, the brighter red color of the fall bracts and the smaller habit. It’s still a big plant – 6-10’ tall compared to 15’ or more for the original, but that’s pretty small for a tree and a nice size for most home landscaping.

How to grow: You are going to want to plant Temple of Bloom seven son flower in full sun, but as far as soil goes, any will do, as long as it is well-drained. It’s very deer resistant, and because it’s a tree, probably won’t be bothered by rabbits, either, unless you start with a very young and small specimen.

Ready to add Temple of Bloom seven-son flower to your landscape? Ask for this Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrub at your favorite local garden center.

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