Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wildflower Wednesday: A few must have fall blooming Asteraceas for the garden

Asteraceas rock Autumn. They bloom spring and summer here, but, come September they take center stage for all the pollinators, birds and mammals that are preparing for winter.

They may even be my favorite flower family....and what a flowering family it is with over 23,000 recognized species world wide. Here in Tennessee we have 320 to choose among, many of which we will only see if we look for them as we walk trails in wilderness areas or nature preserves.

Many of the Asteraceaes that I love can be found in old fields, prairie remnants and along the roadsides;  plants that until recently have been thought of as weeds.
Goldenrod/Solidago flowers
You've probably heard folks refer to these flowering plants as composites. Sunflower family is another name I've seen used. When plants are classified in a family it's because they have a similar genetic makeup and similar characteristics. Most Asteraceas have characteristics that make identifying them easier. For instance, if you look closely at any of the flowers in this post, you will see that what looks like one single flower is actually a composite of many smaller tube shaped florets. They have disk flowers, ray flowers or a combination of disks and rays. They also have bracts rather than sepals and they need wind or animals to disperse their seeds.
Verbesina virginica with numerous disk florets that are surrounded by ray florets
Most of the Asteraceas in my garden are rough and tumble, take care of themselves beauties that fill an important role in a garden ecosystem. Each one of these darlings provides more pollen and nectar return on investment than many other flowers combined.
numerous gold or yellow disk florets, surrounded by 30 or more ray florets
I think of them as landing pads of deliciousness for butterflies, bees, wasps and moths. They're magnets for all kinds of insects; including some that are themselves food for spiders, birds and other insect eating critters

I love this time of year with the attention grabbing Frostweeds, golden yellow of goldenrod, the brilliant pink and purple of the ex-asters, and the lilac-blues of Hardy Blue Mistflower against the Autumn blue sky. These early fall blooms with their intense, rich colors are a treat for our senses and necessary for our garden residents and visitors. 
If you asked me what plants I recommend for a pollinator friendly fall garden, I would tell you that you can't go wrong with the four I'm showcasing today.

You don't have to take my word for it~just walk trails in a local park, visit native plant gardens or check out your local nursery and notice which plants are attracting the most pollinator visitors.

Please enjoy a few more photos of my early fall favorites!

Verbesina virginica with its unusual white ray flowers is found on roadsides, woodlands and waste areas. It's a take care of itself plant that has enormous wildlife value for foraging pollinators (carpenter, honeybees, bumbles and small tongued bees and butterflies) during late summer when gardens are winding down.  It’s such an important food source for Monarch Butterflies that it had been selected as a monitoring plant by Monarch Watch. Frostweed grows in full sun, partial shade, or full shade with minimal watering or care.  Like most rough and tumble wildflowers, it can take care of itself.  Keep in mind that it reproduces very well from seed! The earliest I've seen the flowers open is late August in my Middle South garden and the best bloom is mid-September. Once in bloom you can expect them to be visited by an array of pollinators. The foliage is a larval host for the Summer Azure, Bordered Patch, and Silvery Checkerspot butterflies.

It really has a  lot going for it

  1. rough and tumble good looks, 
  2. it's a pollinator magnet
  3. drought tolerant 
  4. native species 
  5. it magically makes ice flowers on cold and frosty mornings
  6. Okay, it's not magic it's capillary action, but, I think that's magical.
It's a pretty spiffy wildflower.

Symphyotrichum novae-angliae/ex-aster

Here's another roadside weed that has hundreds of beautiful cultivars. It's a classic daisy flower that blooms in mid-September in my garden and looks spectacular with the Goldenrods. At one time this planting had a cultivar name, but the seedlings have taken over. Symphyotrichum novae-angliae are the first of the ex-asters to bloom. They're tall and gently sway in the slightest breeze. I didn't edit any out this past spring and they've spread to make a lovely show in pinks and purples.

Bumblebees, small bees, carpenterbees, butterflies, skippers and beneficial insects flock to these flowers.  Full sun and moist soil is preferred. I cut this plant back in June, but it still gets tall. Very easily grown from seed, this beauty has seeded itself all over my garden. But, you know, I love that!

Hardy Blue mist flower: Many gardeners under appreciate the charms of Hardy Ageratum. They consider it too weedy and aggressive for their gardens, until it blooms and then they begin wondering why the heck they haven't more of it! I no longer wonder why I haven't more, I've let it spread 4 feet down the side of the Susan's bed and I am thrilled with the river of blue.  

Conoclinium coelestinum is a graceful, low growing, eastern North American native wildflower that begins blooming in late August and continues through early fall. The lilac-blue flowers add a softness to late summer and fall gardens when rough and tumble flowers like the Susans, Goldenrods, Cup Plant, Verbesinas, Joe-Pye weeds and Ironweeds are making a large and loud scene. It's especially beautiful when allowed to naturalize and make its own big statement.

Butterflies and bees are drawn to the nectar-rich flowers, while birds eat the seeds. If you want more, and once you see it massed you will, it's easily propagated from seeds, cuttings, rootball divisions or layering. It thrives best in a well-drained acidic to neutral soils in a sunny environment. If you want easy care this is a great wildflower, but, it does naturalize easily, spreading by rhizome and seed (and is pulled out just as easily). 

Goldenrod/Solidago sps.

Goldenrods provide a big flower show each year and every bee, skipper, butterfly, soldier beetle, ambush bug, fly, spider, flower fly, etc... that visits or lives in this garden can be found noshing on it. You can't ask for a better wildlife valuable plant and when you combine them with the ex-asters, you get beauty and happy pollinators.

Goldenrods are the king of the colonizing wildflowers, some more than others! Don't let that stop you from adding them to your sunny garden. There are 100s of Solidago species in North America and you can be sure you will find several that make sense for your garden. I grow Solidago 'Fireworks' in the Susans Bed and Zigzag goldenrod/Solidago flexicaulis in one of the woodland gardens.  Neither are colonizers.  The rest are species and aggressive colonizers that I cull every spring and fall.

Give me this time of year with the intense colors of the wildflowers and the frenetic activity of pollinators, birds and other critters. These early fall blooms are a treat for the senses. But, my friends, it's only the beginning of the full fall show in a Middle South garden and I'll be sharing more Asteraceas and their critter visitors with you in the coming weeks.

Please remember, if you want to provide for fall pollinators you must plant landing pads of deliciousness like Goldenrods, Verbesinas, Hardy Bluemist flower, the ex-asters, and other wildflowers and you must never, ever, ever, ever, use pesticides in your garden. I do mean never!

Happy Wildflower Wednesday.

Thank you for stopping by and welcome to Clay and Limestone's Wildflower Wednesday celebration. WW is about sharing and celebrating wildflowers from all over this great big, beautiful world. Join us on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Remember, it doesn't matter if your wildflower is in bloom or not; and, it doesn't matter if we all share the same plants. It's all about celebrating wildflowers. Please leave a comment when you add your url to Mr Linky.

Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: The Autumn Dance Begins

Physostegia virginiana/False Dragonhead and Chasmanthium latifolium/River Oats,

When you let two rough and tumble wildflowers duke it out in the garden, they make beautiful music together.


Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Gaura is finally happy in the garden

And that makes me happy.   
Gaura lindheimeri/Oenothera lindheimeri is a fantastic plant for my pollinator friendly garden. This Texas and Louisiana native is a beauty with lovely cultivars like 'Whirling Butterfly' and 'Siskiyou Pink'. I chose a pink variety for Clay and Limestone.
Bees of all sizes love Gaura
 The secret to success is: full sun, great drainage and a few neighbors to lean upon! That spot is at the bottom of the sloping Susans border, where it makes a big, colorful flowery presence.
Prior to trying out the slope, Gaura happily bloomed in a large container planting
Its supporting neighbors are also beauties.

Amsonia hubrichtii is sited just above it on the slope. It flowers lightly for me, but the fall foliage is a delightful golden color and as it ages/dries the leaves curl. (Post: Amsonia after the fall)
 Agastache 'Blue Fortune' is next to the Bluestar. I love Agastache, but, it's not a perennial in my garden. Every spring I trek all over the city/county to find Agastache plants! Trust me they're so worth it and the blue flowers are lovely, just ask the bees.
A true annual in my garden, Cleome 'Senorita Rosalita' is planted in a container between the two Gauras. She's never happy in the ground here, but, thrives in containers. Btw, when you see containers in my garden beds, they're probably sited above a hunk of limestone bedrock that this gardener cannot dig up!
Allium tuberosum is the third beauty in this planting. It has seeded itself on the bottom of the slope and no amount of editing has been able to rid the garden of all of it, so I decided to go with it. The white flowers echo the white on Gaura and the hint of white on the Cleome.

Yes, the Garlic Chives are thuggish, but, it really does look great and the pollinators love it. Just remember to cut the seed heads off when the flower dries up or they will spread every where. I do mean every where!

I am really happy with the trio.

Fingers crossed that there's enough drainage to keep the Gauras alive this winter.


Please note that Gaura has a new Genus name~Oenothera! Now they shall be known as the ex-Gauras!

Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


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