What’s in Bloom
With autumn finally here, there are a variety of fall blooming flowers on display at Madison Square Park. Our horticulturists have chosen five plants currently blooming that we feel brighten up these shortened days and deserve your attention.
First up is the Japanese anemone, Anemone huphensis. Often called windflower due to the way their long, slender stems sway in the wind, A. huphensis is actually native to Central China, not Japan. However, a long history of cultivation in Japanese gardens, as well as its subsequent naturalization in many areas of Japan, has led to the mistaken belief that the archipelago is their original home. Anemone are herbaceous perennials with a tendency to form colonies over time. Emerging from the ground in the spring, anemone blooms from late summer all the way through autumn.
Next is a fall favorite, the aster. In the Park, we have members of the European and Asian genus Aster, as well as the genus of North American natives, Symphyotrichum. Regardless of the genus, asters are fall bloomers, with our asters starting their bloom in September. These flowers are herbaceous perennials and require full sun to perform their best. Here at the Park, we plant Aster ‘Wood’s Blue’ and ‘Wood’s Purple’ that are more resistant to certain diseases. Aster plants are hardy to zone 4.
Ageratina altissima, or white snakeroot, is an herbaceous perennial with profuse clusters of small, white flowers. This woodland plant is native to the eastern U.S. and grows in full sun to part shade. While snakeroot prefers moist soils, it has decent tolerance to dry soils. Snakeroot derives its name from the belief that Native Americans boiled the root to create a medicine for snakebites. The mysterious affliction, called milk sickness that affected European settlers, was caused by drinking milk from cows that had eaten white snakeroot.
Heuchera sanguinea, which are alternately called coral bells, fairy flower, or crimson bells, are another herbaceous perennial that are gracing the Park with their blooms. A native to the western half of the U.S., coral bells are evergreen plants that grow well in shady areas of the garden. Owing to the dry conditions of its native range, H. sanguinea is rather tolerant of dry conditions, making it very suitable for dry, shady areas. As is it evergreen, its foliage, generally of greater ornamental interest than its flowers, will add color and interest throughout the year; in areas with exceptionally cold winters, foliage may be damaged by low temperatures. One of this plant’s common names, alumroot, is a reference to the astringent properties of its roots, which can substitute alum when pickling. The inflorescences rise above the foliage, and the tiny, pink flowers lend an airy feel to the plant.
Last, but far from least, we have Senna alata, emperor’s candlesticks, candlebush, seven golden candlesticks, or a dozen other names paying homage to the flowers of this Central and South American native. S. alata is statuesque bordering on imposing, especially when grown without proper support. As a native of the tropics, the candlebush plant functions best as an annual outside of the southernmost parts of the U.S. In areas not lucky enough to enjoy S. alata as an evergreen, it can start from seed during the winter months and be transplanted outside, where it often reaches heights of between 6 and 8 feet. Come winter it can be brought indoors for overwintering, though this is often difficult. Blooms are seasonal and come after the plant has grown for a while. Candlebush leaves are used as a treatment for ringworm and fungal infections of the skin, owing to the presence of fungicidal compounds. Candlebush plants are hardy to zone 9.