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

Monday, October 5, 2015


Possibly Fall's best landing pads of deliciousness


 Locust Borer (Megacyllene robiniae)
Green Sweat Bee
More Bumbles
Honeybee from neighbor's hive
They might all want to watch out for this Ambush bug (subfamily Phymatinae), which waits to prey on all of the Goldenrod visitors!

Goldenrods provide a big flower show each year and any insect that needs pollen and nectar is sure to be found visiting.Today after a week of rain I stood in the garden and could see hundreds of insects stopping by their golden blooms! You can't ask for a better wildlife valuable plant when it comes to fall wildflowers and when you combine them with the ex-asters, you get beauty and happy pollinators.


 PS If you want to provide for fall pollinators you must plant landing pads of deliciousness like Goldenrods and other wildflowers and you must never, ever, ever, ever, use pesticides in your garden. I mean never!

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 23, 2015

Wildflower Wednesday: Autumn Equinox in Flower

I wasn't sure which of the glorious wildflowers of the Autumn Equinox to showcase for Wildflower Wednesday!
My first candidate was Salvia azurea. It's the best blue in my fall garden and each time it blooms I wish I had more.  

Pitcher sage is not only beautiful, it's a favorite of bees. The bumbles are the primary pollinator of this salvia and fit nicely into the lipped flowers. The Carpenter bee, although another frequent visitor, is not a pollinator.  It cannot fit into the flower, instead it slits open the corolla and robs the nectar while avoiding contact with the pollen. Occasionally, butterflies visit, but, I've not captured any photos this year...It's a sweet flower that's native to North Carolina south to Florida; west to Texas; north to Nebraska and Minnesota. It's happy in full sun or partial sun as long as it gets good drainage.
Conoclinium coelestinum
I considered Hardy Blue mist flower as a contender and even wrote a post, which I'll share later this season. It's another of my rough and tumble, take care of themselves wildflowers. 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, like me, begin wondering why the heck they haven't more of it! I am not wondering this year, I let it spread about 4 feet down the side of the Susan's bed and I am thrilled with the river of blue.
the red stems and the rough leaves are attractive, too.
It's a plant that you might want to consider using as a ground cover on most any soil, but it excels in heavier, moist soils. This wildflower species is native to eastern and central North America, from Ontario south as far as Florida and Texas.
Tall Coreopsis
The yellow composites were also in the running for Autumn Equinox star. Check out Coreopsis tripteris, it's still going strong. Imagine a Coreopsis on steroids, but, just the stems! These  plants can get really tall and are good at the back of most borders. We don't do that here...we plant where ever there is soil and no bedrock! Tall Coreopsis rather charmingly leans over and gently brushes against its neighboring plants! It's what happens when the trees create a shadier garden than the plants need. 
 I am so glad it's still in bloom to cuddle up next to the ex-asters. It can be found naturally occurring in the eastern US as far north as Rhode Island, south to Florida and across the Mississippi River as far west as Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa.
Ex-asters, Goldenrod and Tall Coreopsis
Symphyotrichum novae-angliae are the first of the ex-asters to bloom. They're tall and gently sway in the slightest breeze and look especially beautiful this year. I didn't weed them this past spring and they've spread to make a lovely show in pinks and purples.
found in every state but a few western ones and LA, TX  and Fl
They are pretty nondescript in a summer garden, but, more than make up for their greenness in mid September when they open up to feed the bees, skippers and butterflies. This native of eastern North America is an autumn-flowering gem with blooms ranging from pale pink to deep purple. New England asters are a critical late season nectar source for migrating Monarch Butterfly, so if you're lucky to be on the Monarch migration trail please plant a lot of them!
narrow elongated foliage and self supporting stems are a plus
Another good looking Asteraceae that was under consideration was Helianthus salicifolius 'First Light'. The later bloom is a plus for this tamer sunflower! Willowleaf sunflower has dozens of golden-yellow flowers with dark brown eyes on stems that need no support~even in my shadier space. If you grow 'First Light' or the species in shade it will be taller and less floriferous. When happy it might spread so be prepared to divide it every three years.
Birds enjoy the seeds and  the crab spider hiding on the petal lets me know that bees and small pollinators visit the flower. Helianthus salicifolius is not a native of Tennessee! I love it anyway! It is a native of the central United States, primarily in the Great Plains and Ozark Plateau (States of Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas).
Rudbeckia fulgid var fulgida might be my favorite of the Susans this year! They bloom late, and flower for a very long time. The long stemmed beauties have smaller flowers and are a favorite of the smaller bees. I've been growing it in containers to keep the more aggressive R fulgida from running it over.

If I had the energy I had 10 years ago I would take out most of the R fulgidas and plant this species. The stems are taller and the flower is in my opinion prettier. But, that's probably because the Susans are looking pretty seedy right now!

The Goldenrods are also star material for the Fall Equinox post.  I like to plant New England aster with goldenrod. A dynamic duo. A perfect marriage of good looks and functionality. They provide color and nectar at a time of year when both can be in short supply.
ambush bug just waiting for dinner to drop by
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 one cultivar~Solidago 'Fireworks' and love it. The rest are species, some prefer the woodland garden shade like Zigzag goldenrod and others are happiest in full sun.

I couldn't choose one, I love all my fall stars!

Give me this time of year with the intense yellow of goldenrod, the brilliant pink and purple of the New York 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 the senses.

But, they are so much more than pretty faces. Each one of these darlings provides more pollen and nectar return on investment than many other flowers combined. All of these native wildflowers are 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.
These beauties are essential nectar and pollen sources for late visiting bees and butterflies, but also are known host plants for many moths and butterflies. The caterpillars of  Pearl Crescent and Checkerspot butterflies feed on Symphyotrichum novae-angliae; about ten different moths and butterflies rely on the foliage of Goldenrod; although, Mistflower is primarily a nectar source~it's foliage is eaten by several moth and butterfly cats.

My love affair with native plants has been going on for so long that now they are more beautiful to me than many classic garden flowers. I love  rough and tumble, take care of themselves wildflowers. I love their good wildlife value. I love that they are absolutely perfect for Clay and Limestone! 

Happy Wildflower Wednesday my friends.

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 they are 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.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

I'm crazy about a good colonizing plant like Physostegia virginiana

If you like a well behaved plant that never, ever trespasses into another plant's space then forget about Physostegia virginiana, aka, False dragonhead, its colonizing ways will make you crazy.**
 the big late summer show from several seasons past
Of course, you could consider some other pretty lavender-pink late blooming flowers, but, you will miss the dramatic show and the cool bottom up bloom.
With colonizers you get free offspring and a dramatic show
 I didn't edit last year or this spring (hand surgery) and the result is a marvelous mass planting, much larger than usual. It makes me happy every time I step into the garden.  Surely this won't surprise any of you! My mostly native garden has its fair share of colonizers. I let them duke it out all summer and sit back to enjoy the fall show. It never disappoints me.
I garden for wildlife and grow False dragonhead because it's a magnet for pollinators, especially bumbles, carpenter bees and small bees and because it makes a wonderful and dramatic late summer/early fall show in the garden.

The purplish pink tubular flowers are perfect for plump little bumblebee bodies to slip inside and sup on the nectar and collect a little pollen.

 When you watch bees work these plants~ they move in and out, up and down and all around the flower head a mass planting makes sense.  When they're finished with one, they quickly move onto the next False dragonhead plant not a plant in a different genus. I've read that a planting of the same flower should be at least 4 foot wide...the key for me is "at least".  This planting is much larger~maybe 10 feet by 4 feet. This fall they'll have a whole lot of the same plant in one spot! That's what makes colonizing plants so attractive to me, they reproduce to create a nice sized planting for pollinators....and it's free plants. (I will have plants to share with others this fall.)
Bumbles are the primary pollinator~not the chubby carpenter bee~It's too large.
The entire flower head is striking, but, let's take a closer look at the individual flower. Do you suppose the dots, stripes and dots act like nectar guides to draw bees on to the perfect central lower lip landing pad? They're certainly colorful. When you get close you can see how perfectly designed the tubular flowers are for a bumblebee! It's a perfect relationship between bee and flower~ the bee gets food and the flower gets pollinated. We get to enjoy the beautiful flowers and watch the delightful critters.
A perfect flower for bumbles...ahhhh, the Pollination Syndrome at work!
Nature amazes me, every single day!
there's plenty of room for smaller bees


PS. In case you need a reminder, please make the pledge to never, ever, ever, ever use pesticides in your garden.

** Please don't call native plants invasive. They may be thugs, they may be aggressive, but, what they are is highly competitive plants that you must edit or decide not to plant in your gardens!

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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