As summer draws to a close, Petworth flowers begin to produce fruit

by Steven Feingold

If you’ve found yourself walking around our beautiful neighborhood admiring the flowers and wondering what you’re looking at, we’re here to help. Welcome to "Petworth Blooming,” a popular series featuring some of the most common plants and flowers seen around Petworth.

Summer is coming to a close, which means that a lot of plants are ripening up their seeds. Beautyberry is a lovely native shrub that really shines this time of year. The clusters of purple berries lining the stems are quite distinctive. I’ve seen mockingbirds and catbirds enjoying the fruits. There’s also an Asian variety which has slightly smaller leaves and berries.

A beautyberry at the 4th and Buchanan triangle park

Up next in the fruit lineup are some Apples! Like cherries, peaches and almonds, apples are in the rose family of plants. Originally from central Asia, apples have come to be a sign of the fall harvest throughout the temperate world.

Apples in the mini-orchard on Allison Street NW

Virginia Creeper is a fantastic native vine, which produces clusters of tiny berries this time of year. Mockingbirds and starlings are both big fans of the berries, as I’m sure are other birds. This vine also hosts the caterpillar of a large Sphinx moth. In the shade, it will form a nice ground cover, and in the sun it will can easily climb anything.

New foliage and berries of virginia creeper in a 4th Street alley

Moonflower or Thorn-apple makes fun spiky fruits that are starting to ripen now. This nightshade (related to potatoes and tomatoes) produces large white flowers which are especially fragrant at night to help attract moths for pollination.

Moonflower is such a nicer sounding name... blooming on Buchanan Street NW.

Enough fruits, let’s get back to the flowers. Annual Vinca are looking quite lovely now.  With bright tropical flower colors and glossy leaves these guys really stand out. Originally from Madagascar, they are available in pink, red, purple and white.

Vinca outside Rock Creek Church Cemetery on Webster Street NW

Potted Vinca at the Hitching Post restaurant.

Abelia was once commonly planted shrub in basic foundation plantings; however, it is used less frequently now as native plants have gained in popularity. Originally from China, Abelia is related to honeysuckle. It produces large arching stems with small shiny leaves. Often, it is improperly pruned resulting in an interior full of ugly dead twigs.

Abelia growing on Illinois Avenue NW

Chrysanthemums or simply Mums — are a staple of fall decorating. While they can be grown as perennials, most often they are treated as annuals. The available flower colors nicely match the palette of Autumn. These flowers have been grown ornamentally in China for over 3,000 years and there are now more than 20,000 varieties in cultivation!

Mums lining porch stairs on 3rd Street NW

Marigolds are a cheap and easy to grow sun-loving annual, either from seed or seedling. Varying from yellow to red, the complex flowers provide compact blotches of color all summer long. These garden favorites originally came from Mexico

Marigolds on Illinois Avenue NW

Morning Glory is a fairly common vine in our alleys. While some varieties with larger flowers are purposefully grown, most of the ones I see around the neighborhood are growing all on their own. On the hottest days, the flowers shrivel up after only a few hours, but if it’s cooler or cloudier the blooms will persist into the afternoon. Vines grow by twining, and have either deeply lobed, or heart shaped leaves.

Morning glory growing in an alley off 4th Street NW

There’s always something blooming in Petworth! Let us know your favorite, or if there’s a particular flower in the area that you want to know more about!

Previous Petworth Blooming articles…

Steven Feingold

Steven moved to Petworth in 2013, and he and his wife have since adopted three of the neighborhood's finest felines. He works in the biotech industry, programming robotic laboratory equipment. He enjoys gardening, hiking, carpentry and playing pickup soccer. You can email him with any plant or gardening questions you might have.

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