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

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wildflower Wednesday: Thankful for wildflowers and you

The flowers are gone from the garden, except a few blooms of the last to bloom ex-asters, one or two tiny fleabanes hidden beneath fallen leaves, a Blanketflower and Verbesina virginica's marvelous and magical frost flowers.
 I never tire of seeing the frost flowers blooming in my garden. All it takes is a warm winter day followed by a cold winter night. During the day, Verbesina virginica's roots draw water up into the stem and later that night freezing temperatures force the sap from the stems where they freeze into sculptural ice candy flower curls. I love finding them on an early morning walk, they remind me that magic is still happening and that the garden is just resting.

Amsonia's curlie cues are magical in the autumn sun
 In the mid-south the garden and gardener rest for a short time. Dreaming and planning don't stop.
 I walk the leaf covered paths and assess what worked and didn't. I notice that the Hypericum frondosum is moving toward its hyper-colored late fall look and that something has been snacking on its leaves. The Illicium parviflorum 'Florida Sunshine' that I've been trialing is doing okay despite a very dry summer. I like it enough that I added two more. They look good massed but, I am using them as specimen plants. This is a very green garden in mid summer and needs color where ever I can add it.
The Oakleaf hydrangeas are still brilliantly colored and their seeds heads are gorgeous.
The seedheads will stay put until late winter.
 I am so glad they're a part of the shrub layer in this garden, they add drama, color and texture.

  I noticed the native annuals and biennials have germinated.
Western Daisy

I've two annual natives that I am crazy about. Astranthium integrifolium/Entireleaf Western Daisy which I found naturally growing in the weedy back lawn almost 30 years ago and Collinsia verna/Blue-eyed Mary, which I added many years ago. They've both made a home for themselves in the shade of the taller rough and tumble wildflowers in the sunny Susans bed and as long as they are always allowed to go to seed they will thrive. One little plant can make a dozen offspring before you know it.
I hope you're fortunate enough to have a biennial like Phacelia bipinnatifida. The second year Phacelia rosettes are everywhere and that means early next spring will be dressed in gorgeous purple flowers covered with Mason bees. When I added Phacelia to the garden I was lucky enough to have first and second year rosettes.  I've had blooms every year since. Biennials are adept self-seeders and can be in your garden forever if you let them be!

The garden is a sea of browning leaves and seedheads. I think  they're beautiful. The promise of spring is in every one of those seeds. It's everywhere if you look carefully. Take a close look at your native shrubs. Dogwoods and Viburnums show their flower buds at the tips of their stems and the buds of late winter blooming witch hazels and spring blooming Spicebush line the stems.

Under my feet and hiding in the leaves are the acorns that keep the squirrels and chipmunks busy. I wonder when the deer will stop by to get their favorite bur oak acorns and I remembered to pick up a few to send to an OKC friend who wants to grow them in his garden. It will be beautiful by his lake!
Panicum virgatum
The panicum and phlox cultivars that I planted this summer were delightful. More will be added...That means plants like Verbena hastata that need wetter soil might need to be moved to a container near a faucet. They're too pretty to not have in the garden, but, they just aren't happy in the shallow soil.
Phlox in fall color

This year after irregular rains that verged on a drought, I am especially thankful for my rough and tumble take care of themselves wildflower beauties~Thank you Rudbeckia, Coreopsis, Pycnanthemum, Phlox, Penstemon, Eutrochium, and grasses, Danthonia spicata, Panicum virgatum and Schizachyrium scoparium~You make it worthwhile to garden with difficult conditions.
Schizachyrium scoparium

I am thankful for wildflowers. They have brought me so much joy. When I stop and think about it I have wildflowers to thank for helping me gain new knowledge, for great adventures and for meeting new people. Without wildflowers I wouldn't have met my first garden mentor, Paul Moore. I wouldn't know Mike Berkley and Terri Barnes of GroWild. Without wildflowers I might not have been drawn to the Tennessee Naturalist Program or volunteered at Owl's Hill.

Wildflowers led me to blogging and searching the internet to learn all I could about native plants. That's when I stumbled upon Pam Penick's blog Digging and read about Garden Bloggers Fling. I've gone to many Flings and met bloggers who have become some of my dearest friends~I cannot mention everyone for fear I will forget some. I count myself fortunate indeed to have made friends with folks from all over this country,  Canada and the UK....Some of them are even as wild about wildflowers as I am.
The mailbox from my late sister's garden makes me so happy
My love for wildflowers opened my eyes to pollinators and their importance to our gardens, to agriculture and to the earth.
Still blooming after a freeze, although, this photo was taken before the freeze~this garden is magic
I came to love wildflowers so much that I wanted others to appreciate them. That's why I started the Wildflower Wednesday monthly meme.

Which brings me to today's Wildflower Wednesday post about thankfulness.

I want to thank the best ever group of bloggers who join me on the fourth Wednesday of each month to celebrate wildflowers from all over this great big beautiful world. Diana, Donna, Rose, Sue, Alison, Janet, Kathy, Lea, Carol, Cindy, Ann, Dee, Frances, Hannah, Greggo, Aaron, Jason, Shirley and Beth, you are all the very best.* I am honored that you join me as often as you can. Thank you for caring about wildflowers, for taking the time to share your gardens and your knowledge with all of us. You rock.

Happy Wildflower Wednesday to all of you who visit Clay and Limestone.

Ps. *I hope I haven't forgotten anyone, please forgive me if I have.

If you are so inclined please join us this month with a wildflower post. Just add your name to Mr Linky so others can read your post.

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.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Dear Friends, won't you come out and play...

We can wander the garden and see the last of the fall blooms.
One of my favorites is a little witch hazel tree that never fails to bloom the first week of November. It lights up the shade and glows when in bloom.
flower visitors are rewarded with sugary nectar and sticky pollen
If we stand very close and the day is warm, we'll catch a slight sweet scent. That sweet scent attracts the small gnats, flies and bees that pollinate it.
I've shared this before, but, just in case you're a new visitor~This garden wasn't a garden when we moved here. We live on land that was at one time a forest of hardwoods that was the source of building material for a growing Nashville. A woodland of secondary growth oaks, hickories and ash trees replaced the old growth forest. Many years later (mid-fifties) developers carved roads, built houses and created deep lots with expansive lawns. My yard has shallow soil and exposed limestone. It's not a cedar glade (too far from them to be one) but, it has some cedar glade characteristics that make gardening a challenge. It also had some very charming wildflowers in the woodland edges, declining redbuds, several lovely Ostry virginianas and absolutely no shrubs.

It took me a few years to figure out and then plant the shrubs and small trees that would make sense (survive) on the shallow, clay soil that was wet all winter and dry most of the summer. Hamamelis virginiana was one of the first to be planted. It's a slow grower, but flowered that first autumn. I love them so much I added one more and then, a few years ago, I planted three Hamamelis vernalis in the Garden of Benign Neglect (back yard) and one in the front garden to honor my mother. The Ozark witch hazels bloom in late winter for the earliest pollinators.  

 The question I ask you gentle readers is this: "Can there ever be too many beautiful late fall or early blooming small trees/shrubs in a garden? I think not! There's always room for flowering plants that offer a sweet scent to the garden and food for pollinators.
If you walk with me in the garden, I might wax poetically about witch hazels. Would you mind if I tell you how much I love them?

I love the odd little flower that blooms every autumn.
I love its spidery petals that curl open on warm days and curl up on cold ones.
I love it's soft sweet scent.
I love that it rewards pollinator visitors with sweet nectar and sticky pollen.
I love that it blooms as the rest of the garden is going to seed and shutting down for the winter.

I love the leaf shape and how it yellows up in autumn. 

I love that the fruit ripens into little capsules that pop open to expel the seeds in fall.
I love that the branches were once used as divining rods to find underground water sources.
I love that it's happy in my garden!
If you take a walk with me we'll stop and admire the yellow blooms against November's beautiful blue sky, we'll look for pollinators and we'll get close enough to smell its fragrant flowers. I am sure you'll agree with me when I sigh and exclaim, "Nature is brilliant and amazing."


It bears repeating...If you want to have pollinators in your garden and visiting your witch hazels and other fall blooming flowers you must never, ever, ever, ever, ever use pesticides. 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, October 28, 2015

Wildflower Wednesday: Rhus aromatica

I'm showcasing this delightful native ground covering shrub for Wildflower Wednesday.
It's in full fall color. That's reason enough to make it a star, but, I think this fantastic native is under-appreciated and should be in more of our gardens.
Source: MOBOT
 It blooms in spring and the nectar and pollen attract small bees, flies and even some larger carpenter bees. 

Small clusters of hairy, red berries which may persist into winter replace the female flowers. The ripe fruits are a treat for birds and small mammals.
Fall brings gorgeous leaf color changes and inflorescence (male catkins) form in late summer and persist throughout the winter until eventually blooming in spring.
It's adaptability makes it attractive for difficult gardens
The species Fragrant sumac is a woody plant that can grow 6 to 12 feet. That's entirely too large for my garden (and most of yours), so I planted 'Gro-Low'. It was selected by growers for its dwarf habit making it very attractive for my garden. It will grow in poor, dry soil in full sun or deep shade. It requires only good drainage. At two to three feet tall and with a 4 foot spread it's a delightful groundcover under my Rusty Blackhaw. The spreading branches root where they touch the ground and that helps it form a dense weed suppressing mat.

Leaves and twigs are aromatic when bruised giving rise to its name~Fragrant sumac. The smaller leaves do have a slight resemblance to those of its relative poison ivy (Rhus radicans), however this fragrant sumac is a totally non-poisonous plant.
It has lovely orange-yellow fall color in October.
 Hamamelis, Hydrangea arborescens, Chasmanthium latifolium
In the drama of a wildflower garden there are no bit players. The canopy, the understory, the herbacious layer and the ground cover are all part of the diversity ensemble. Understory shrubs like Fragrant sumac provide food, nesting and shelter for mammals and birds, as well as being host plants to butterflies, moths and other insects. They are essential if you want to garden for wildlife and that's what my garden is all about. Rhus aromatica has been specifically chosen with birds, insects and other critters in mind and because it makes sense for this garden.

I love it and am here to tout its charms. 

Thank you for stopping by for Wildflower Wednesday!

Rhus  aromatica~The particulars

Cultivar 'Gro-Low 
Common Name: fragrant sumac
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Anacardiaceae
Zones: 3 to 9
Native Range: native to Canada and the United States from southeast Ontario to Vermont down into central Florida to west Texas up through Nebraska over to southern Wisconsin back to Ontario.
Height: 1.50 to 2.00 feet
Spread: 4  to 6 feet
Bloom: Yellowish flowers in April/May
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Dry to medium with good drainage, not particular about soil ph.
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Fragrance: The leaves and stems have a citrus fragrance when crushed
Flower: Yellowish and significant
Leaves: Alternate and trifoliate with the middle leaflet being the largest of the three.
Attracts: Birds, Butterflies and many bees
Fruit: Showy
Tolerate: Rabbit, Drought, Erosion, Clay Soil, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky SoilComments: A low maintenance, easy to please plant for naturalizing and for erosion control. The species form is considerably taller at 6 to 12 feet, but shares all other characteristics, including its charm.

Welcome to Clay and Limestone and Wildflower Wednesday.  This day is about sharing wildflowers and other native plants no matter where one gardens~the UK, tropical Florida, Europe, Australia, Africa, South America, India or the coldest reaches of Canada. It doesn't matter if we sometimes share the same plants. How they grow and thrive in your garden is what matters most.

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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