Our garden club had a demonstration of fall arrangements at our October meeting. We were told to bring appropriate cuttings from our yard. I looked around and didn’t see much of anything in abundance except pine cones. So I went looking along the roadways. I came upon a row of shrubs vigorously blooming in the low spots along the parkway. Looking around, that same shrub was blooming beside a pond on the golf course. I started seeing it everywhere in my neighborhood.
Keep in mind it was October and these shrubs were spectacular. They seemed to be covered with tiny silvery paintbrushes. I cut some to take to the meeting. Club members admired them, but no one knew what they were – sort of surprising in a room full of gardeners.
I used them with burgundy chrysanthemums and liked the combination. Sometimes in dim indoor light the dark mums don’t show their beauty as well as one would wish. However the silvery white branches stuck in with them really makes a stunning statement.
I went looking on the internet for Mid-Atlantic native shrubs to see if I could nail down just what this plant was. There are not many bushes that bloom in October so it was not so difficult once I got to the Chesapeake Bay Native Plant Center.
I found Baccharis halimifolia. It has a plethora of common names: high-tide bush, snow bush, white cloud tree, aster tree (it’s the only woody member of the aster family), salt bush, sea myrtle, and groundsel tree. I like the name sea myrtle so I’m going to go with that. It’s a deciduous shrub with gray-green leaves and silvery, plume-like achenes on the female plants. They grow to between six and twelve feet and of course bloom in October and November. The Greek name comes from Bacchus and means sweet scented roots. I haven’t personally checked that out.
Who doesn’t love a shrub that can take occasional drowning as well as occasional drought and salty water as well as fresh. The only thing I’m not sure of is how well they will take to pruning to keep them on the small side. I have a back yard that gets strong northeast winter winds, brutal summer sun and periodic waterlogging. Sounds like sea myrtle and my back yard are a match, if not made in heaven, at least made for possible gardening success. Now I need some landscaping advice and a nursery with sea myrtle for sale.