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Seven Spooky Shrubs for October

Seven Spooky Shrubs for October

By Natalie Carmolli, Proven Winners® ColorChoice®
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners® ColorChoice®

You can feel it. A crisp chill snaps the back of your neck as you traverse through the garden. A spindly arm reaches out and snags your pant leg with a pointy prickle; something dark seems to be looming in the corner as a cloud rolls over the sun, and dried leaves swirl around your feet. It’s fall, and with it comes the fun and frightening favorite holiday of many, Halloween.

While many deciduous plants are starting to transition into a long winter’s nap, creating a skeletal framework in the landscape, some have unique, spooky characteristics that they just can’t shake.

Let’s take a look at seven of them…if you dare!

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No Halloween would be complete without a black cat! And this Black Cat® pussywillow (Salix) is especially fetching with extra-large charcoal-black catkins that appear in late winter. Black Cat pussywillow is a perfect choice for cut flower arrangements and makes a striking backdrop to any landscape. Tolerant of wet soil and deer resistant, Black Cat Salix will grow to 10-12’ tall and wide and is hardy down to USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 4. Want to see Black Cat in action? Check out this time lapse video as the catkins emerge – it’s frighteningly fascinating.

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Careful! There may be a little goblin lurking in your garden! Little Goblin® winterberry holly, that is! Ranging from 3-5’ tall and wide, these plants offer a nice green foliage accent in summer, but they really shine in fall and winter. Little Goblin® Red has extra-big red berries that are very long-lasting. Its dwarf, compact habit is ideal for residential landscapes. But careful! Where there’s one Little Goblin, there must be another…if you want to have berries anyway. Little Goblin® Guy is the perfect pollinator for the berry scary plant!

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Don’t let the smoke from Winecraft Black® smokebush (Cotinus) cause you to stray off the garden trail! You’ll get lost in its beautiful, rich purple foliage that becomes deeper in color until it’s nearly black. Early summer brings wispy red flowers that become the beautiful, hazy-violet “smoke” that gives this plant its name. Brilliant orange fall foliage completes the season. Winecraft Black is a more compact presentation than conventional smokebush at just 4-6’ and is hardy down to zone 4.

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Urban legends are a favorite for stories around the campfire on a dark, spooky night. And Oso Easy® Urban Legend® rose is a favorite in low-maintenance garden beds! In bloom all summer long, this disease-resistant rose has bright red flowers with cheery yellow stamens. It has a wide hardiness range, zones 5-9, and a very dense, 2.5-3.5’ habit and glossy foliage. But take care; the prickles on this rose are extra sharp, and may give you a shock when you least expect it!

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Stonehenge Dark Druid® yew (Taxus) is a neat and tidy yew with outstanding color. Noted for its rich, dark green foliage and tight round habit, this yew is a useful and versatile low-mounded, 2-3’ plant that can be used like boxwood. It has superb hardiness and winter coloration. But beware, yew is toxic if ingested! Honestly though, you’d be surprised how many plants are somewhat toxic. The moral of the story, don’t put plants you don’t recognize in your mouth. If you’re concerned about pets, here is a handy reference page from the ASPCA.

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Did you hear something go bump in the night? Perhaps it was Jazz Hands Night Moves® Chinese fringe flower (Loropetalum). This fringe flower stands out from the rest with its combination of deep purple foliage and crisp white spring flowers that positively glow in the moonlight. The unusual variegation that develops on the new growth through the season stays true, even when the heat is on. Heat tolerant to zone 9, 2-4’ tall/wide.

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Finally, (sing with me) it’s after midnight, and something beautiful is lurking in the dark! Midnight Wine Shine™ Weigela has excellent hardiness, and while its flowers are a bit better than Midnight Wine, the plant is grown for its attractive glossy foliage and habit. New to garden centers next year, this shrub fits neatly into most landscapes at just 2-2.5’ tall and wide and is hardy down to zone 4.

And that’s it…I hope this article wasn’t too candy-corny for you! Seriously though, no matter what you grow, enjoy the cooling weather that fall brings and remember, a plant a day keeps the monsters away.

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Photos and story by Monrovia Nursery Company

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