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

Monday, June 19, 2017

Gloriosa Daisies for National Pollinator Week

I am grooving on the 'Irish Eyes' and 'Indian Summer' Black-eyed Susans I planted last month.
 Seriously, just look at that emerald green central cone on 'Irish Eyes' and you'll know one of the reason I invited it to the garden.

'Irish Eyes' with that green center
I love all the Susans and have a special place in my heart for Rudbeckia hirta and  Gloriosa Daisy varieties specifically.
'Indian Summer' displaying hairy parentage
 Rudbeckia hirta flowers have been described as course, hairy and common...You know, that makes me appreciate them more.
'Cherry Brandy' and 'Prairie Sunset'

The Gloriosas have most of the characteristics of their R hirta parent, except the flowers are three times as large and their colors are mixtures of pure yellow or bicolored, many with dark mahogany red splotches at the base of the petals.

Yes, I do love the many colorful varieties and  the big flowers, but I also love that they're all rough and tumble flowers that can take the heat and humidity of our Middle South summers and continue to bloom until frost (deadhead them).
The cats of the Silvery Checkerspot feed on the leaves and nectar at the flowers
Pretty flower faces are delightful, but, you know me, plants that are invited to Clay and Limestone also have to have good wildlife value and Gloriosa Daisies do. Butterflies, bees of all sizes, wasps, beetles and even little loper caterpillars rely on the many Susans for food, and shelter.

Plant them in your garden and sit back and watch the pollinators. I've already seen small Carpenter Bees, Green Metallic bees, Bumbles and skippers visiting the flowers to feed and/or gather pollen.


Now get your wildflower on and share a favorite or two for National Wildflower Week!
xoxogail 

PS If you want to help pollinators this week and every week of the year, then, never, ever, ever, ever, ever use pesticides. Also, make sure the plants you bring into your garden have never been treated with neonicotinoids.

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, May 24, 2017

Wildflower Wednesday: Spiderwort

I love my garden in the early morning. Once the sun has made it past the trees, it begins to spot light the shadier garden nooks.

Spiderworts look their best in that cool morning sun. The sun light makes those feathery violet hairs glow. Later in the day they're washed out by the hot, bright light, but that is the case for many delicate flowers.
Spiderwort is ephemeral - its flowers stay open only one day.

Tradescantia  virginiana like all members of the dayflower/Commelinaceae family is ephemeral - its flowers stay open only one day (half day if sited in full sun), but, it continues blooming for a long time. The leaves are strappy, with pointed tips. Each has a channel (which looks like the perfect place to fold it) and is bright green with a dark green midvein and visible parallel veins.

Cultivars are now offered with, blue-green, chartreuse, or yellow leaves. I love the species plants and usually prefer them to cultivars, but, in this case, I say, go ahead and add whatever spiderwort cultivars you want to your garden. They all attract pollinators and for me, that's important...but, so is beauty! Just take a look a 'Kate' in the photo below. She's a beauty in chartreuse leaves and those purple flower pops against them.
'Kate' a cultivar same flowers prettier leaves

In my garden, spiderwort's arching stems are usually 2 to 3 foot tall and the clumps are never wider than 2 feet. The plant hasn't spread aggressively beyond their original plantings, but then C and L doesn't have rich, moist soil, which would encourage it to misbehave. They are known to spread by seed and if any seeds sprout where you don't want them,  they're best dug out when young, before a thick, fibrous root can develop in the middle of one of your prize ornamental plants.

There seem to be two explanations of the origin of the common name: either from the sticky secretion exuded from cut or broken stems, which hardens into web-like threads or from from the angular placements of its leaves, which suggests a sitting spider. The sitting spider is a new one to me, but certainly got me on my hands and knees checking out the flowers.


It's a fabulous garden worthy plant, but it is not without its detractors!
striking purplish blue flowers with three petals, 6 yellow stamens and the most exquisite spidery violet hairs.

Perhaps it those detractors and their negative reviews of spiderwort that keep it from being in more wildflower gardens. I have often been asked to recommend plants for native/wildflower gardens and when I suggest Spiderwort, I inevitably hear, a list of negative statements. "It's too weedy." It's unruly. "It's aggressive." "It's too floppy and messy."

It can be unruly in the right circumstances and once the big bloom period passes, it is a whole lot of plant and no flower!

In my eyes it's still a garden worthy plant. I garden for wildlife and this plant always has bumbles and smaller critters visiting it. I appreciate the delicate flowers in vibrant purples, blues, pinks and even white. They are delightful in a shady garden. When the narrow, strap like leaves start to look ratty, and they do by July, I cut them back. I am rewarded with fresh growth and occasionally more blooms. Cutting back spiderwort will also curb rampant reseeding.
a white flower  from several years ago with a visiting hoverfly

Spiderworts might not belong in a formal garden, but, they are certainly at their best in a woodland or cottage garden where they mingle nicely with native geraniums, Carex, Heucheras and foamflowers. I like to let them duke it out with colonizing plants like River oats and false dragonhead. Btw, False dragonhead is winning.
Geranium maculatum 'Espresso' with 'Kate'

Spiderworts are pollinated by bumbles and that makes me really happy. Beautiful and unique flowers that are not terribly temperamental about soil; that come in a kaleidoscopic palette of sumptuous colors; bushy plant that helps fill bare areas and mixes well in layered plantings; and, easy care, make this plant attractive to me.

If you can deal with a thuggish, tall, strappy, grass like plant when out of bloom; that is more plant than blooms, and; one that declines in the heat of summer; then, this is a plant for you. If you don't want to plant it in the garden, why not plant it in a container. You can move it out of the way when it stops blooming, cut the floppy stems back and wait to bring it back out when the cooler fall weather brings on the second flush of blooms.

I hope I've made a good case for Tradescantia virginiana! I want to be honest and not mislead you! Let me know what your experiences have been.

Thanks,
gailxoxo




The particulars

Tradescantia virginiana aka Spiderwort
Type: Perennial
Size: Usually around 2 feet tall, may get taller
Leaf: Green, blue green. Cultivars offer more color including lime green.
Bloom Color: Blue, purple, pinks and white. Cultivars may cross and create a lovely palette of colors
Bloom Time: March through June. May rebloom in fall.
Native Distribution: A Central basin native plant. Eastern half of the US and Canada. W. CT to WI, s. to GA, TN & e. MO 
Native Habitat: Meadows; open woods; limestone outcrops
Water Use: Low when established, prefers moist soil
Light Requirement: Sun, Part Shade, Shade
Soil  Description: Very adaptable plant prefers humus-rich soil, but will grow in a wide range of soils: moist/dry, clay/sand, acid/alkaline.
Wildlife: Attracts bees. Pollinated by bumblebees.  Butterfly nectar source.
Comments: Juglones tolerant. POISONOUS PARTS: Leaves. A good ornamental in the garden. Attractive seasonal color for a shady or sunny area. Plant looks good with Heucheras, foam flowers and other native plants. Probably best in naturalistic plantings, woodland and shady gardens. To keep plants looking healthy, cut them back in late summer (or when they appear to stop blooming). Spiderwort spreads easily, but if kept under control, it can be used as a border plant. It is striking in mass when in bloom.



Welcome to Wildflower Wednesday and thank you for stopping by to see Tradescantia virginiana, a sweet wildflower that I think has gotten a bad rap! Thanks also, for joining in and if you are new to Wildflower Wednesday, it's 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. 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, April 26, 2017

Wildflower Wednesday: Golden Alexander


Our Wildflower Wednesday star of the month is Golden Alexander. It's a lovely wildflower and should have been a Wildflower Wednesday star years ago, but, it has always been over shadowed by the showier early blooming Aquilegias, Baptisias and Phloxes.

That is until this year, when I noticed how nicely it had seeded around the garden.
I don't understand why they are so rarely planted. It's a stellar plant for early season color and the small flowers are an important and easily accessible food for tiny pollinators. There's a lot of other flowers in bloom when the Zizia flower in my garden, but, colder climate gardeners, I think this is a must have plant for your wildflower garden!
tucked in between an ex-aster and goldenrods
I thought them sweet when I planted them half a dozen years ago, and, have come to value their lovely yellow presence and their pollinator magnetism. They look beautiful when massed and viewed from across a garden, but, I like them best up close, where I can see the pollinator action.
Blooming begins in late spring and continues for about a month. 
If you like critter action in your garden, you'll find it on Zizia. They're very attractive to butterflies and to short-tongued insects. I see little carpenter bees, tiny beetles and other  fast flying critters when the sun finally makes its way over the trees and the garden warms up. They never hold still for photos, so you'll have to trust me and go ahead and plant this wildlife valuable beauty in your garden.
Deep green, leathery, handsomely foliage
Zizias are members of the carrot or Apiaceae family. They have rounded or flat topped compound umbels (think umbrella and you'll never forget) of tiny yellow florets that produce both nectar and pollen. Each umbel averages 2-3” across and can contain as many as 250 florets that are about 1/8” wide (from Illinois Wildflowers).
That is a lot of goodness in those tiny flowers and their nectar is easily accessible to short tongued bees and other critters
That's a powerfully attractive flower head for pollinating critters.

 Like other members of the carrot family (fennel, dill, parsley, cilantro, lovage and chervil), Zizia is a food source/host plant for the Black Swallowtail butterfly and its caterpillar, but many other small pollinators and beneficial insects are attracted to the flowers.

 Zizia aurea is a classic carrot family member and knowing its characteristics would make identifying it and other Apiaceae easy peasy in a woodland. Look for clustered small white or yellow flowers that make you think of an umbrella spokes! The clusters are called umbels and are actually individual flowers on stalks arranged like the spokes of an umbrella. You can practice in a herb/vegetable garden where you likely to find many carrot family member.

Golden Alexanders bloom in April in my Zone7, Middle Tennessee garden. Native to Tennessee and Davidson county where I live, they are usually found in wooded bottomlands, stream banks, moist meadows, and floodplains. They're native from Canada to Florida and east of the Rockies. They're a good choice for heavy clay soils in semi-shade to full sun. They're happy in moist soil but, once established they have some drought tolerance. They've been happy at Clay and Limestone and I never worry that our wet winters will kill them.

If you garden for pollinators, especially butterfly, you won't be disappointed with Golden Alexander. So give it a try. If it's happy you can enjoy a massed golden show. 

xoxogail

Genus: Zizia
Species: aurea
Common Name: Golden Alexander
Family: Apiaceae
Flowering: flowers in April-May in my middle Tennessee Zone 7 garden
Native Range: Eastern Canada to southern United States
Zone: 3 to 8
Size:  Height: 1.50 to 3.00 feet Spread: 1.50 to 2.00 feet
Bloom: yellow, umbel
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Soil: Heavy clay,
Maintenance: Water in droughty times if newly established. Unwanted seedlings might be an issue
Foliage: Attractive
Pollinators: Zizia is a food source for short-tongued insects that are able to easily reach the nectar in the small yellow flowers. Black Swallowtail butterflies feed on the nectar and lay eggs on the foliage and when the eggs hatch the caterpillars will feed on its leaves.
Propagation: Plant in the spring for good success. It spreads by seeds.
Wildlife: Has never been predated by deer or voles.
Comments: A delightful plant to allow to seed itself about in a damp sunny meadow. Use in a rain garden or in natural garden. Plant with Carex, Aquilegias, Packera aurea and other plants that like moist soil. Golden Alexander also attracts and hosts a number of beneficial insects that are predatory or parasitoid on many common garden pest insects.(Illinois Wildflowers)

Welcome to Wildflower Wednesday and thank you for stopping by to see my Golden Alexanders! Thanks for joining in and if you are new to Wildflower Wednesday, it's 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. 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.

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails