Actea Update

Actea in bloomActea - Fall Colors

My September blog focused on my favorite Actaea (formerly known as Cimicifuga), A. Racemosa purpurea. Since we’ve had such a wonderfully long Fall, I’ve had time to take more pictures between fall chores.

This is the same plant shown in the older blog. The first image was taken on the 28th of September, showing all the secondary blooms in their glory, while the primary blooms are going to seed. The second image was taken the morning of October 25th. It shows another feature that differentiates the A. Racemosa purpurea from the species (A. Racemosa) — fall color. (Some of the green leaves of the species, which flank the Purpurea, can be seen in the image.)

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A Plant for All Seasons

Golden Carousel Barberry

In 2002, I planted some barberries (Berberis), in the shrub border in the north yard, the Korean species, a little Royal Burgundy and a Golden Carousel. This area receives nearly full sun in the Spring and Fall, but light shade during the Summer. The Korean was a quick grower, but started looking like a very bad haircut after only six years, so I took it out. The Royal Burgundy, very similar to a Crimson Pygmy, is a tough little dwarf, and makes for a nice companion to the star of the show, the Golden Carousel.

Like so many other plants when properly sited, the Golden Carousel has grown larger than advertised. This specimen is over five feet tall and five feet wide. It’s a care-free shrub that both deer and bugs ignore, but its changing colors and bright red fruit attract the eye in every season. Due to its size and sharp thorns, it is planted behind other plants on the border.

Golden Carousel is a Bailey Nurseries introduction, a cross between Korean and Japanese barberries. While at the time I was hoping to get one of its top-rated siblings, Ruby Carousel or Emerald Carousel, I could not be more pleased with this year-around beauty. I have it backed by Diablo Ninebark, also planted in ’02. The dark, large leaves of the Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) provide striking contrast to this bright, small-leaved shrub through most of the season, but into the Fall the colors of the two plants begin to harmonize. Adding more interest in front of the barberries are the frosty, minty greens of Lamb’s Ears (Stachys byzantina) and a shimmering blanket of “Beacon Silver” Spotted Deadnettle (Lamium maculatum).

Golden Carousel Barberry - JulyGolden Carousel Barberry - SeptemberGolden Carousel Barberry - NovemberGolden Carousel Barberry - January

As the images above show (click for larger images), Golden Carousel changes throughout the year. It leafs out yellow, turning lime green in Summer, then to a dark green in early autumn, and takes on more oranges and reds until the green is gone in late Fall. Winter interest is provided by the thicket of red berries that hang like jewels from nearly every branch. A few branches get pruned off around the holidays to add some color and texture to the festive arrangements of pine boughs and other dried-flower arrangements for enjoyment indoors.