Saturday, November 12, 2011

Burning Bush and other Fall Follies

There's a big shrub in the back of my yard.  I  don't know how it got there, or when it first appeared.  Most of the year it's unruly and tries to muscle out the other inhabitants.  As I trim the octopus-like branches for the gazillionth time, I threaten to terminate its reign of terror.

Every fall the burly bush gets a reprieve.

When our dog Ralph chews on a nice stacked wood heel or bites the tassel off a leather loafer, he's assured he's avoided near destruction 'cause he's so darned cute.  Same goes for that unruly burning bush in the yard.  It's lucky to be so spectacular in the fall.  Sometimes prolonged irritation is worth the moment of glory.  Ask any parent of teenagers.

Whoever dubbed these "burning bushes" clearly had a knack for names.  In the fall, just as the final golden leaves drop from the maples, the "show of red" begins.  The finale to the autumn color review does not disappoint.  The absence of  golds and greens make the scarlet leaves stand out without distraction.

In winter the wayward brances add structure to the winter garden when grasses and wintergreens are weighed down by snow.

The burning bush can be the first pruning project in early spring.  In late February or early March it's easier to trim the shrub when the "y" junctions are apparent and unobscured by leaves.  No brushcuts across the top.  Cut at varying depths within the plant focusing on the older, thicker branches.  Always cut at a branching point with a pair of hand lopers. 

Stick the cut stems into an outdoor pot or windowbox filled with soil.   Many of the branches will unfurl tiny leaves.

The BB is not the only colorful garden character in the fall.  Hosta turns a bright gold, grasses sprout burgundy tassels and turtlehead mellow to soft yellow.  Gracefully towering over it all, the red leaves of the Japanese Maple gleam in the autumn sunlight. 

Every garden plant has its peak moment.  The key is to stagger plantings not only for size and blooms but for show, whether it be spring blossoms or fall foliage. 

The garden's an ever changing palate.  Each player shines at different times.

The perfect time in the yard is any time you are able to spend in it. 

Related Articles:

How to Trim Shrubs -- No More Bad Haircuts

Green Fences -- Boxwood Hedges to Hydrangea Hedgerows