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

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

How Videos Can Promote Native Plants

My dear readers, please welcome my good friend Susan Harris of GardenRant to Clay and Limestone! She's my first guest writer, so, you know that what she's sharing must be special!

I think it is! For the last many years we gardeners have lamented the lack of garden shows on television, Susan has addressed this by creating a Good Gardening video channel on Youtube! It's a great collection of videos. She's included links to it and a few special native plant videos that I am sure you will enjoy.

I was excited to discover that making a video isn't all that difficult. Her easy to follow instructions will make it easy for we native plant enthusiasts to reach a larger audience and to share our enthusiasm for our favorite plants and gardening for wildlife. I am going to give it a try and I hope you will, too.

Here's Susan's post.


I’m a big fan of videos and a believer in the enormous importance of YouTube, now the number two search engine on the web, after Google.  Savvy marketing experts are urging their clients to get into video in a big way.
Videos are especially useful in turning people on to particular plants and to taking up gardening in the first place. Gardening is a show-me thing, like cooking, but even more so because plants and gardens are so visually inspiring – even more than lushly stylized photos of food.  
So how can videos nudge people to include more native plants in their gardens? Well, not so much by telling them about the benefits of native plants – that's a tell-me kind of thing, and already done well in books and text all over the Internet. Instead, videos are best at helping people choose from the long lists of native plants the ones that do well and look great in gardens, and are actually available on the market.
Here's one I made showing off the best natives I've ever grown in my Maryland gardens, using images from my garden and public gardens near me.

Advocates of wildlife gardening and Master Gardener groups in my area have eagerly shared it, which is great. But I'm telling you there aren't nearly enough videos like that one showing natives in gardens. I've found a few videos about plants for pollinators – natives and nonnatives - but those are all sun-lovers. Videos about natives for shade or the native shrubs and small trees that could make up the backbone of a garden are sadly few and far between.
I went looking for more videos of natives in the garden for the ad-free educational nonprofit Good Gardening Videos that I edit and found just a few more, by people in just a few states and none from Canada. I compiled them in a Best Videos of Native Plants in the Garden collection containing 13 plant videos and three video tours of native-plant gardens. Seriously, that's all??
But you can help. All it takes is some halfway decent photos of grown-up natives looking good in gardens – your own, a friend's or at your local public garden.
Easy Video-Making
Did you notice that my video uses just still images, narration, and some free background music? No need to buy an expensive camera, microphones, or learn to use expensive editing programs, like Final Cut Pro. I went that route a few years back, paying $800 for an 8-week class in documentary filmmaking, and quickly learned that the arduous process of editing is not for me.
But with still photos you can avoid arduous editing and these common flaws seen so often in garden videos - traffic and wind noise, shaky camera motion, and uneven sunlight that causes deep shadows.  Also, with still photos it's easy to show plants at several times of the year.
To turn your photos into a video you could use a slide-show programs like Pictures to Exe that I use or the super-easy program Animoto, which Pam Penick used to promote her book about Water-Saving Gardens. You can use Animoto free for 14 days, pay $8 a month after that, then unsubscribe if you're done.
Writer Evelyn Hadden used iMovie to easily make this video promoting 50 Beautiful No-Mow Gardens.
If you prefer to take actual video, all you really need is a smart phone or your regular camera set to video. Or combine video with still photos. But to avoid the many, many pitfalls I see in garden videos (and I've watched over a thousand as chief curator of Good Gardening Videos), read our Tips for Making Videos Yourself.
One tip that bears repeating here for anyone using video to promote native plants? Identify them in text! Naming them in your narration isn't enough because the captions that YouTube automatically creates will recognize only the most common names. For example, captions in the otherwise excellent videos by Eco-Beneficial included in the collection above identify ragwort as "red white," and seersucker sedge as "seersucker said," with the Latin name "Carrick's planted Jenaya" instead of Carex plantaginea.
So don't let that happen to you! It's best to put captions in the video itself but at the very least correct YouTube's automatic captions. (It's easy.) Mississippi State's videos also include the entire transcript in the video description, which is great for viewers while helping search engines find the videos, too.
So how about it? This winter you could use the forced indoor time to cull through your garden photos and make a short video to inspire more people to plant natives. Then post it to Facebook, which is now promoting videos more heavily than any other kind of post.
Next, publish it on your own YouTube channel. Or simply send me the file of your video and I can either suggest possible improvement or if it's fine as is, publish it to GGVideos' own YouTube channel. Once it's on YouTube I can promote it on our website, on Pinterest and Facebook, and add it to our special Best Natives Video guide.
Videos could be your best tool yet in encouraging gardeners to use more native plants!
Susan Harris founded the nonprofit educational campaign Good Gardening Videos and blogs at GardenRant.

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, November 22, 2017

Wildflower Wednesday: Polystichum acrostichoides

The flowers are gone from the garden, except for a few of the last to bloom ex-asters and two tiny fleabanes that are protected by fallen leaves. There is still color in the trees and shrubs and stalwart blooms on the native witch-hazel, but, we're quickly moving toward the season of gray and brown in my part of the gardening world.

The graceful arching fronds of evergreen Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) are especially appreciated this time of year.  It's wonderful to have a fern presence in the midst of a hot and humid Nashville summer, but, this fern shines in winter when the dark, leathery fronds pop against the decaying leaves or poke up through a light snow. 

The Christmas Fern is an accommodating fern for those looking for an easy care native in their woodland garden. It will grow in a variety of situations: shady, rich, poor, rocky, etc. Although, all information about this fern recommends we plant it in moist soil, it tolerates my dry, shady soil and can go for weeks without watering. It does occasionally suffer a dried frond but, once established, it seems immune to dryer soils.
Heuchera and Christmas fern both need good winter drainage

The fountain-like clump of leathery, lance-shaped evergreen fronds is a good companion plant for spring ephemerals and woodland wildflowers. It looks good with Phacelia bipinnatifida, Spigelia marilandica, Scutellaria incana, Heucheras and woodland phlox. Young fiddleheads (or crosiers) are silvery and scaled, and emerge in the spring from the loose old foliage. Btw, don't eat the fiddleheads! They aren't edible.
The older foliage collapses into the leaf litter
 The older foliage collapses into the leaf litter as the year progresses toward winter. This accumulated detritus of decaying fronds helps to stabilize the soil and prevent or lessen erosion. The built up mass is also a protective habitat for ground feeding and ground nesting birds.

Ferns are ancient plants (350 million years on this planet) and scientific research almost always focuses on tropical ferns, but, that doesn't mean our Christmas fern has no ecological value. It's not a host plant for any insects and mammals don't browse it, but, as stated above the decaying plant provides habitat for birds, while also stabilizing the soil.

But, we gardeners know that their value is beyond measure. We want plants that are easy to care for, lovely to look at, require very little fuss, can survive our hot humid summers and our long cold winters and are not eaten by pests, like deer and rodents.  I think you'll find that Christmas fern more than meets those qualifications.

Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 1: 16. Provided by Kentucky Native Plant Society.

Plant Particulars

Polystichum acrostichoides
Common name: Christmas fern
Family: Wood Fern Family (Dryopteridaceae)

Native range: Christmas fern is found in the north-eastern and north-central portions of North America from New Brunswick south to North Carolina. West to Minnesota and south to Florida and eastern Texas

Habitat: Garden and woodland conditions: The preference is light shade, mesic to slightly dry conditions, and soil that is loamy or rocky with abundant leaf litter. Found along stream beds and on rocky slopes.

Hardiness: USDA Zones 3-9.

Height 1 ft. to 3 ft. Spread 1 ft. to 3 ft. Moderate grower.

Light: Part Shade to Full Shade

Moisture: Moist to dry. Poor drainage in winter can lead to crown rot.

Ecological Significance: The accumulated detritus of decaying fronds helps to stabilize the soil and prevent or lessen erosion. The built up mass is a protective habitat for ground feeding and ground nesting birds.

Comments: This is a great accent plant or groundcover in a woodland garden. Good winter interest in an other wise brown winter garden. Erosion control on slopes. Is a valuable deer resistant plant for woodlands that deer browse. Useful in perennial, rock, water wise gardens and wildlife gardens. The fiddleheads are not edible.

spores on upper leaflets

People are of two minds regarding the  origin of our Wildflower Wednesday star's common name.  Some state emphatically that Christmas fern is so named because the leathery fronds are green throughout the winter and have been used as holiday decorations. Others say just as emphatically that the pinnae/leaflets, especially the larger ones, are shaped like a Christmas stocking or like Santa’s sleigh or boot.

I'll let you decide which you prefer.


Welcome to the November Wildflower Wednesday celebration. Today's star is a perfect plant to usher in winter with its evergreen foliage that's been used for winter decorations for generations.

Wildflower Wednesday is about sharing wildflowers from your part of the world. Don't worry if you have nothing in bloom, you can still showcase one of your favorites. 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.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

GBBD: November 2017

Wishing and hoping can't stop winter's approach, but an old cotton sheet can keep a few annuals blooming!

We've had two frosty evenings and I knew the weather would rebound to the sixties and pollinators would be buzzing around looking for flowers. So, I covered my two favorites must have fall blooming supportive players, African Blue Basil and Salvia 'Mystic Spires'.

As you can see they survived the light frost and are blooming for all the late fall visitors.
Also, blooming today is Willow-leaf aster.

Symphyotrichum praealtum is also known as 'Miss Bessie'and she's a very, very, late blooming flower. Blooming in mid to late October, just as the Little ex-asters are starting to fade, Willow-leaf continues to bloom through much of November.

It always survives light frosts and is blooming in my garden today for any pollinators that venture out as the day warms up...As you can see they have!

Hamamelis virginiana is still lighting up the shady garden. Frost doesn't faze it and neither does a heavy freeze.

Fall blooms can't last forever, my friends, and sheets can't stop winter. I am going to miss all the pollinators when winter arrives, in the meantime I will enjoy each and every flower that is still making me smile.

 Inspired by the words of Elizabeth Lawrence, “We can have flowers nearly every month of the year,” Carol of May Dreams Gardens started Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. On the 15th of every month, garden bloggers from all over the blogosphere celebrate their blooms, so pop on over to Carol's and take the Mr Linky magic carpet ride to see what's blooming.

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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