There’s a lot that I’m thankful for, including a couple fall-season bloomers in my garden.
I have recently mentioned these two plants, which are natives of Mexico, but they are blooming right now and deserving of attention.
The first is the Tree Dahlia, which produces attractive blossoms in November, and also astonishes me each year with its annual growth. The Tree Dahlia (D. Imperialis) originated in the mountains of Mexico and Guatemala. It is an historic favorite of Mexican gardeners, and an ancestor of the garden dahlia, Mexico’s national flower and a current focus of hybridizers.
Botanists travelling with the Spanish conquistadores discovered the Tree Dahlia and brought it to the Royal Gardens of Madrid by the late 1700s. The genus became popular throughout Europe and was recorded in the United States bas early as 1821.
In one season, a Tree Dahlia with established roots will grow up to twenty feet tall, with clusters of lavender pink blossoms high in the air, to be enjoyed from below. The blossoms are free of fragrance, which is not a problem given their height.
If a Tree Dahlia were to be planted below a deck of just the right height, people could appreciate the blossoms more closely. That would be a fine deck-plant combination.
The magical nature of this plant is its annual cycle. Around March, after it finishes blooming and its leaves have faded, the canes can be cut to about six inches from the ground to stimulate new growth from the roots.
The canes can then be cut into sections and planted to start new plants. Each section should have at least four leaf nodes and still leaking liquid sap. These cuttings are then planted right side up in sandy soil or potting mix and watered from time to time, until they show new green shoots. This plant is not difficult to propagate!
I first encountered the Tree Dahlia several years at a Master Gardener workshop, when someone shared cane sections. I planted those sections at the edge of my garden, in a partially shaded area. They grew quickly.
This plant is available commercially at least occasionally from Annie’s Annuals and Perennials, and few other sources. It’s a good example of a “pass-along plant.”
appropriate site, it is a spectacular seasonal addition to the landscape.
A second favorite plant at this time of the year is another Mexican native, the Daisy Tree (Montanoa Grandiflora). This is an upright, evergreen shrub that grows up to ten feet tall and wide. It develops large, deeply lobed, rather leathery tropical looking leaves.
In November, it produces clouds of daisy-like flowers, white with yellow centers, with the fragrance of chocolate or freshly baked cookies. After about a month, the blossoms are replaced with long lasting “bouquet-worthy” chartreuse seed heads.
In the early spring, the branches should be cut to the ground to stimulate a new cycle of growth. Like the Tree Dahlia, this plant grows vigorously from its roots to produce a striking new presentation each year.
My first introduction to the Daisy Tree was during a visit to the Esalen Institute on Big Sur, during a stop on a tour hosted by the Pacific Horticultural Society. I was impressed by the plant, and searched diligently for a small plant for my garden. It’s not offered widely, but I found it it eventually at Annie’s Annuals & Perennials.
This is a large shrub, so it works best in the landscape if it’s placed in a space large enough to accommodate its spread, and close enough to a walkway to enjoy its fragrance. While it is evergreen, the recommended practice for rejuvenation pruning means that the garden design should anticipate its periodic absence. When the gardener cuts down the Daisy Tree, he or she might plan to fill the void with wildflowers.
Plants like the Daisy Tree and the Tree Dahlia bring dynamic qualities to the landscape, and welcome gifts to the holiday season.