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Garden Reports and Rejoicing – November 12

A drive to the beach yesterday took me past this old burning bush. Several things about this plant captured my attention. First, of course, was the colorful foliage. This plant with coral red leaves was directly across from another Euonymus about the same size but three shades of red darker. So the first thing that came to mind was to remember that fall foliage color can vary tremendously, and it’s often a genetic trait.

Next I thought of why this plant is banned from being sold in Massachusetts. It’s certainly pretty at this time of year, but its tendency to self-seed and begin choking out native vegetation has put it on the undesirable list for good reason. This reminds us that just because a plant has one pleasing attribute doesn’t mean that it’s a good selection for our landscapes.

My third thought about this particular specimen was that it is another great example of a large shrub being pruned into a small tree. I wrote about doing this with Rhododendrons on my website recently. For larger growing shrubs it’s folly to try and keep them short: arborize them!

This plant is also interesting because of the two dead branches. Normally plants are improved in appearance if you take off all deadwood, but I think that the two bare branches make this plant, in this setting, more interesting. Perhaps it’s because the color of the wood picks up the color of the stonewall, or maybe it’s because the entire scene is just so autumnal.

All of these considerations require a change of perspective. Fall color isn’t consistent; sometimes we need to avoid a pretty plant for the greater good of our surroundings; instead of trying to control growth perhaps we should work with it; and sometimes things are successful even when they go against the rules.

You don’t want to plant burning bush in Massachusetts, but flexibility and perspective? You can grow that.

Here is the beauty by the beach...

Most of the year you don't see the burning bush that has seeded into our woodlands and fields, but in the fall, when it turns red, you notice just how prolific it is.

Even in the wild, where the burning bush have seeded, you see a great variety in fall foliage color. Some are light, almost pink, while others a few feet away are flaming red.

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