Color your fall world for the best winter memories

Franklinia alatamaha has never bloomed, but I'm pretty proud it's still alive. In its fourth year,and after suffering the death of its central leader, I'm holding out hope for a bit of improvement.

My husband bought it as a beautiful tree in the summer of 2007. We planted it in a spot sheltered on three sides by our house, a fence and a boxwood hedge. The downside to all of this is its proximity to a silver maple, a tree notorious for its moisture-hogging nature.

I won't lament its placement. It's really doing just fine. Time will tell whether or not it will recover from the brutal removal of its main stem. The year it died the tree also was attacked by borers. We've been babying it a bit, providing time-release fertilizer, a layer of organic mulch each season, and supplemental water during drought.

I can't help thinking, no wonder it hasn't been seen in the wild since 1803. Learn more about the Franklinia, which was discovered by American botanists John and William Bartram in 1765.

Cotinus c. 'Royal Purple'

Cotinus x 'Grace'
Cotinus is one of my favorites for its great color all season-long. Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple' has smaller leaves than Cotinus x 'Grace', which is a cross between our native species C. obovatus and C. coggygria 'Velvet Cloak'. 
At left is 'Grace'; at right, 'Royal Purple'
But unless you see the leaves side by side, you really couldn't tell the difference. Both offer a deep, dusky color that looks great with chartreuse-leaved plants, and provide a great backdrop for just about anything. Cotinus doesn't mind some shade, which is likely why I like them so much.

I keep them small by pruning them down by about two thirds each spring. This also creates a "smoke-free" plant, but it's a small sacrifice to keep them from getting too big.

Azalea 'Karen'
Azalea with fall color? We love our Azalea 'Karen', a hybrid that is reported to be one of the hardiest evergreen azaleas. Unfortunately, our deer herd loves them as much as we do and so blooms are a bit spotty after they've had their way with the buds in winter.

Making its home at the feet of a speck of woods consisting of mostly pin oaks (Quercus palustris), Azalea 'Karen' is quite happy, otherwise.

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