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

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

February Gardenbloggers' Bloom Day

There's not much showing in my garden right now. By not much, I mean any of my wildflower loves, but there are a few delightful non natives that have been in the garden since it's earliest days. Like the golden yellow daffodils that came with the yard. I've added more over the years and I'll have them in bloom until the temperatures soar into the 80s!

The rivers of Crocus tommasinianus that I planted every year have been eaten by hungry chipmunks and voles/mice. Mr I Don't Garden says I don't get to complain since I have invited wildlife into the garden. He's right, I do have a very welcoming sign posted in the front garden, but that doesn't mean, I want them to eat all my plants!

But, being a non-gardener, he doesn't understand how brokenhearted a gardener can feel when she waits all year to see crocus blooms on chilly winter days and instead of a river of the thousands she's planted there are less than a dozen. I know you all understand.
Did I say there were no native wildflowers blooming. How could I forget, Hamamelis vernalis! She's  still in bloom. I do love this beauty. It has the loveliest small orange/yellow/reddish crepe paper streaming petals that furl and unfurl as the temperature falls and rises. They perfume the garden with their sweet clove vanilla scent on warm days. I planted them for the earliest visiting pollinators and for that unforgettable fragrance. Once you smell them, you will, want them in your garden, too.

I love that not only do winter blooming shrubs and trees flower for months, they almost always have some fragrance. How clever of Mother Nature to give winter bloomers that something special to insure that a little fly, gnat or bee will follow the scent and pollinate the flower.
 Hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane' is also in bloom. She's unfurled her spidery crepe paper petals like solar collectors. and they're in full sun receivership, waiting for any early pollinating visitors. Even the marcescence leaves do not detract from her red flowers against the nice blue winter sky. There's speculation that the leaves that cling (until after the last flower petal folds up for the season) actually help protect the blooms from foraging mammals, but, I wonder if they might protect the delicate looking flowers from the bitter cold winds that often arrive when they begin to bloom.

In a few weeks the earliest spring ephemerals will be shining heralds of spring's arrival and I will be back on GBBD to share them. In the meantime, head over to May Dreams Gardens to see lots of other posts celebrating blooms.


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, January 25, 2017

Wildflower Wednesday: Chasmanthium latifolium (River Oats)

There aren't nearly enough grasses in my garden. Shallow soil and a shady conditions limit them at Clay and Limestone, but, one that is quite happy here and makes a gorgeous big impression is Chasmanthium latifolium (River Oats).
 clump-forming, upright
I think it's important to tell the truth about plants I showcase and the truth is that I love this one.

Yellowing up on its way to bronze winter color
I planted it for it's year round beauty.
 This cool season clumping grass is a bright green in early spring, growing quickly to about 2 foot tall and sending up arching stems. A bit later, there are attractive flat, drooping seed heads that hang in terminal clusters on thread-like pedicils on arching stems.

As river oats age they begin to yellow (see above June 2016)  and by late summer or early fall the foliage and spikelets have turned a nice bright yellow. By mid winter they're a gorgeous bronze.
I leave them stand all winter where they continue to dance in the breeze, stand up beautifully in the snow and provide shelter for small mammals and birds.
the ex-asters are good companions
Way back when Clay and Limestone was just becoming a garden, a more experienced gardening friend exclaimed, "Oh my, why did you plant that?" when she spied a large clump of river oats. She knew what many of us learn from experience, that river oats can be a bit thuggish in some gardens. Each and everyone of those spikelets can make a new plant in moist soil. It can in dry soil, too!
April green leaves with Phlox pilosa
I love it anyway! But, then, I am a huge fan of colonizing, rough and tumble, take care of themselves native plants. This one has more pluses than minuses, but, plant it only if you don't mind a plant that vigorously reseeds.
wind pollinated
I've seen it growing in rich woodlands adjacent to cedar glades where it it comingles with Hypericum frondosum, Rhus aromatica and sedges.  It can also be found naturally growing in rich woodlands and  stream beds slopes. It's perfect for stabilizing a stream bank or a slope that's eroding. If you've ever tried struggled to dig a clump to divide or transplant you know that its fibrous and deep root system would hold back the steepest slope!
drooping inflorescences and compressed spikelets
I appreciate its year round beauty...flaws and all.

The Particulars

Botanical name: Chasmanthium latifolium
Common Name: river oats, inland oats
Type: Ornamental grass, River Oats is a perennial cool season grass, but it's seed is dispersed in the fall like a warm season grass.
Family: Poaceae
Native Range: Eastern United States, northern Mexico
Zone: 3 to 8
Size: 2.00 to 5.00 feet height by 1.00 to 2.50 feet spread
Bloom Time: August to September~seedheads last until late winter in middle Tennessee
Bloom Description: Green,  compressed spikelets, turn golden as they mature

Sun: Full sun to part shade

River oats behind the bird bath with Solidago, Amsonia and false dragonhead
Water: Medium to wet; more water if planted in full sun. It's happy in my garden near the birdbath where it gets a good soaking while I fill the bath or when the birds visit. 
Suggested Use: Naturalize, stream banks, dry forests, slope stabilization,
let river oats duke it out with False dragonhead

Companion plants: Wildflowers, Phlox, Itea virginica, the ex-asters, false dragonhead
Flower: Showy seedheads year round
Tolerate: Black Walnut, wet soil, deer do not browse
Pollinated by wind
Wildlife value: larval host for several skipper butterflies. The seeds are eaten by small mammals and birds, and the stems and leaves are used as nesting material by birds.
Comments: When happy, it is a rampant self seeder and requires vigilance to catch the seedlings. I would recommend with reservations to gardeners who want their plants to behave.

Only you can decide if there are more pluses than minuses! You'll be happy with Chasmanthium latifolium  if you can accept its one flaw~vigorous reseeding! Good looking foliage and nodding seedheads that flutter and rustle in the slightest breeze, while providing shelter and food for visiting birds, mammals and insects, more than make up for having to weed out unwanted seedlings!

Happy Wildflower Wednesday.

Welcome to Wildflower Wednesday where we come together to celebrate wildflowers from all over this great big beautiful world. It doesn't matter if we sometimes show the same plants, how they grow and thrive in your garden is what matters most. I hope you join the celebration...It's always the fourth Wednesday of the month!

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, January 19, 2017

Hey, all you gardeners

It's catalog season and for winter weary gardeners it's an exciting time. I don't know about you, but, I am finding it hard to resist their seductive plant photos! I am tempted to order anything that looks lush and colorful right this very minute!
But, I have learned over the years not to fill the cart up with "I must have that gorgeous beauty" impulse buys. I have a mound of tags to commemorate the many dead and inappropriate plants that I've impulsively brought home over the years.  I keep them to remind me that without careful planning one can end up with a broken heart and a lot of wasted budget.
How can tempted gardeners survive buyers remorse!

 Guidelines!  You can  create your own plant buying guidelines. That's what I did a number of years ago!
Without guidelines, I would be stuffing my cart with plants that are especially seductive at this time of year. Beautiful they would certainly be, but, they might not make sense for my garden. It took me a few years, but, I made peace with Clay and Limestone's shallow, clay soil that is dry in the summer and wet all the winter. Most plants in the garden are rough and tumble native wildflowers that don't need coddling. They provide food and shelter for the critters that visit and live in this garden. Of course, there are some native plants that need special care, I am not that tough a taskmaster! Those plants get extra water in the summers or are planted so they don't drown in the winters. 

My guidelines are quite simple; before any plant goes into the cart, I like to make sure:
  • It has a good chance to survive the difficult conditions at Clay and Limestone.
  • It's a nectar or pollen source for pollinators
  • It's a host plant for pollinators
  • It will add to plant diversity in my critter friendly garden
  • It's native to Middle Tennessee or is garden friendly (a non invasive plant)
  • It isn't available locally

My dear friends, how do you handle the catalogs that are arriving daily in your email or mail box?

Hamamelis vernalis is not native to Middle Tennessee. It's one of those plants that made it into my cart and  needs some extra watering in the summer to insure bud set. When it blooms in January, I am happy that I dragged the hose all over the place.

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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