2020 Autumn Joy: Disanthus & Viburnum

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the garden communing with nature. I find that closely observing and working with plants, while dreaming and scheming about future plans for the landscape, is calming and restorative. Especially so in Autumn when the leaves turn color. It’s a magical time. The native Dogwoods are usually the first to capture my attention. Photo below.

dogwood in Fall

copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld


But this September I was distracted when the circus came to town! My goodness, Mother Nature has a sense of humor. Meet the uncommon, whimsical clown, Saddleback Caterpillar. Photo below.


copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld

Yeah, yeah, I know it is eating my rhododendron…….yet, it makes me smile. So do two uncommon, deciduous ornamental shrubs that enrich my Autumn landscape. Consider:


Disanthus cercidifolius Z 5-8

copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld

This 6-10 foot Asian native shrub has elegant blue-green heart-shaped leaves in Spring and Summer. In Autumn it explodes into spectacular color. Photos above. Disanthus is disease-resistant — disease-free for me — and thrives in well-drained, acidic, organically rich soil in shade. It dislikes drought. Protect from strong wind.

I was filled with trepidation when I had to move the established plant to another area in the garden. I needn’t have worried. It didn’t drop a leaf. A most reasonable, accommodating plant.


Viburnum setigerum (Tea Viburnum) Z 5-7

copyright 2020 — Lois Sheinfeld

Tea Viburnum is a native of China where monks used the leaves to make medicinal tea — which explains its common name. The shrub can grow 8-12 feet and has attractive dark green foliage which turns red in Fall. But it is the abundant, showy clusters of fat, cherry-red berries that make this a standout plant in the Autumn garden. Photo above. Grow in sun or shade, in rich, well-drained, acid, moist soil. Disease-free for me. (Note: It is said that Viburnums are very social — they like to party. So, to ensure heavy fruit display I grow it with other Viburnums.)

Be well. Stay safe.