In late October, I was barreling toward the end of my working season. There were a couple of clients who wanted me to complete some projects at their homes, so I found myself scouring local nurseries to find plants, when all that was available were chrysanthemums and evergreens.
Earlier in the fall, I'd found and fallen in love with two beautiful Wintergreen plants. These were new to me and I was intrigued to learn that, not only did their glossy leaves and cheerful red berries look great, but they smelled delicious as well. I had used the Wintergreen in two large patio planters for a client's pre-Thanksgiving decor. The red of the berries was toned down by the orange pumpkins set among the plants. After Thanksgiving, I simply removed the pumpkins and replaced them with ornamental kales and cabbages, adding some English ivy, and the planters were now ready for Christmas, with the Wintergreens' red berries shining brightly.
For my other customers who wanted plants that would last through the winter, I was not so lucky. I couldn't find Winterberry in stock at any local nursery and I was having difficulty coming up with ideas that included color. Luckily, I ran by another nursery and was struck by the Aronia shrubs they'd used in an autumn-inspired display. The shrubs had lost their leaves, but their branches were covered in red berries that provided so much color! I imagined the birds would make quick work of eating those fruit, but wasn't too concerned about it -- as long as the berries would be around for a couple of weeks.
My mother-in-law loves Winter Berry. Every year that I've been part of the family, my father-in-law has trecked across the family farm, searching for branches of red Winter Berry that he'd cut and bring so she could use it for holiday decorations. Above the buffet in her dining room, she even displays a framed photo of ice-laden Winter Berry during December and January. The Aronia at the nursery reminded me so much of my in-laws that I instantly wanted one.
It was an easy choice to select the Aronia with the most berries and purchase it for one of my end-of-season gardening projects. And, low and behold, luck was with me, because not long after that I found a source for plenty of Wintergreen plants as well!
One of the last projects I completed during the 2023 season was a sort of "staging" event where the customer was hosting a party and wanted his house to look nice, but he has plans for an extensive landscaping remodel in 2024. So the design implemented fall of 2023 included plants that I think he may decide to keep, but for the moment are on loan to him. Is it wrong for me to hope he doesn't fall in love with the Aronia so I can give it a loving home in my own garden?!
I was delighted this year to have learned about some new plants. I've been expanding my knowledge of native plants, and I've started my own native bed in my front landscaping. Ever on the chase for a deep blue blooming hydrangea, I invested in many more of those plants this year as I attempt to see what will grow best in my gardens. But I've also branched out. I've added to the array of tall phlox in my garden, started an Asiatic lily bed and have a rainbow of colors of Echinacea. I added Winter Green, Rosemary, roses and a new color of clematis. And I am nursing along some new crape myrtles, a dogwood and my curiosity, an oleander tree. There are so many beautiful things to enjoy in our world. One of my favorites just happens to be plants, and I'm looking forward to seeing how these new specimens contribute to my outdoor spaces!