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

Monday, August 20, 2018

It's mid August and you know what that means in a mid south garden

 Golden yellow flowers are everywhere.

Yes, it's composite time! Most of the yellow daisy like flowers in my garden are blooming or beginning to bloom. They excel in the sun and brighten the shadier parts of my garden.
Rudbeckia laciniata
When you garden in the middle south you learn to plant and appreciate these rough and tumble golden yellow beauties. Especially in our hot and dry summers.

The yellow composites keep this garden floriferous when the Phloxes are beginning to look puny, the Joes have faded and the ex-asters haven't broken into song. 

Rudbeckia hirta cultivar
"Some gardeners are snooty about yellow. I used to be one of them." wrote Carol Klein in an article about growing Rudbeckias.

I didn't need to learn to appreciate yellow or the Rudbeckias,  I am crazy about the entire genus! They're my go to late summer flowers. They're reliable, easy to grow, low maintenance and with the many different species to choose from, you can have flowers from June to frost.
Rudbeckia fulgida are notorious for spreading both vegetatively and by seed
More importantly, they don't fade or melt in the intense sunlight. 

Let's talk about sun light for a bit. Our sun isn't brighter in the south, it just feels that way because the angle of the sun strikes the earth more directly here (and other southern cities) than cities in the north. The closer you get to the Equator the more directly the sun strikes the earth.  I think this affects how we experience colors and frankly, we need intense colors to deal with the sun light.
 Does that mean we get stuck with yellow composites! I don't feel that way! I love them all, even the rambunctious ones and R fulgida var sullivanti is a thug!

I don't hold that against her, it was entirely my fault she practically took over the front garden.  She could plow down the best of plants and she did.  Now there's a kind of detente among the Rudbeckias and the other take care of themselves colonizing wildflowers! Editing is the key...and some years I do better than others! This is not a bad year.
Rudbeckia subtomentosa 'Henry Eilers' is a special Susan! It's not very aggressive and needs protection from its cousin. If you're not crazy about some of the golden yellows, you might want to give this one a try. The yellow flowers  are the same golden yellow, but, their rolled/quilled petals dim down the brightness and make this beauty shine.

 The statuesque Rudbeckia laciniata is a Clay and Limestone rough and tumble wildflower beauty that is tolerant of our hot and humid weather, but, it definitely needs an extra drink of water during our dry summer months. Clusters of showy daisy-like flower heads top the plant from late July to fall in my garden (Central South/Middle Tennessee, Zone 6b/7a). It's a favorite of the little bees.
RFvF might be my favorite of the Susans. The little bees love them, too.
Another Rudbeckia beauty is Rudbeckia fulgida var fulgida. Please don't confuse it with Miss Goldie. Trust me when I say that this Susan is choice, with smaller flowers on tall straight stems, shiny green foliage and a longer bloom time than Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm'.  It's never been planted in the front garden, but, I think I've found the best spot~where Ms. Goldy won't over run it.
Rudbeckia triloba. It's a bushy, free-flowering annual/biennial that self sows as aggressively as Miss Goldie! Plant it where it can naturalize and pull the seedlings that have planted themselves where you don't want them. The daisy-like, golden-yellow flowers bloom on purplish stems from late summer to early fall and this plant can take the dry weather, although, it is much happier when they have regular rainfall.

These are the Rudbeckias blooming in my garden now, I treasure them all. Please, don't be like some gardeners and poo-poo the golden yellow flowers of summer. Embrace them, welcome them into your garden and celebrate all that they offer, you'll be happier and so will the pollinators and birds.


“How wonderful yellow is. It stands for the sun." Vincent Van Gogh

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, July 25, 2018

Wildflower Wednesday: Growing Wildflowers in Containers

 I used to think my garden wasn't sunny enough for the prairie wildflowers and Central Basin natives that I adore. Not anymore, now I plant my favorite wildflowers in containers and place them where ever it's sunny.
Joe-pye a few summers ago spent two seasons in a container

I have been gardening this way since I realized that the sunniest sections of my garden were also the ones with the shallowest soil. When I say shallow, I mean three or four inches of decent soil that sits on top of enormous limestone boulders and bedrock.  I've been able to pry out smaller rocks and plant a prized wildflower, but not always. It used to be maddening, then, I figured out that those shallow spots were opportunities for me to add my favorite native wildflowers to the garden...in containers!
April 2018
In this front garden bed (April 2017) I have two containers of Boltonia,  a lovely glazed purple pot with Phlox 'Jeana' and several pots of Liatris spicata. Early this summer I added two large containers planted with non-native Salvias and African Blue Basil that bloom until frost. The pollinators love them.

Where ever there's sun I place containers. You'll find dozens of wildflowers planted in containers at the top of the driveway. There's also a ten foot culinary bay tree and a large Rosemary. I've even  planted evergreen shrubs in large galvanized trash cans to use as room dividers and to hide the real trash cans.

The only way I can keep Helenium alive is in a container.
I've successfully over wintered Pycnanthemum muticum, Heleniums, Echinaceas, Boltonia, Asclepias,  Coreopsis, Liatris, Phlox, Rudbeckia, Penstemon, Monarda, Physocarpus opulifolius, and Hydrangea arborescens cultivars.
overwintered outside in a container then planted in the spring

More often than not, plants thrive in the containers for years. Occasionally, I will transplant them into the garden to replace any plants lost over a too dry summer or too wet winter.

For long-term container planting, I use a mix of real soil (yes, real garden soil), compost and soil conditioner. When sharp drainage is essential I add expanded shale to the mix. I mulch with leaf mold or mulch, just like I would in the garden.

 I use an assortment of containers: colorful glazed pots (frost proof), terracotta, galvanized trash cans and faux terracotta (plastic). I have even planted ferns in hollow logs.
Frost-proof containers add color to my gardens all year long. Simple painted bamboo poles light up this spot when the pretty fall color have disappeared.

 Here's an idea you might try. This terracotta pot (above) lost its bottom to winter freeze/thaw, so I placed the container in the garden, added soil and planted Echinaceas. The roots have grown further into the shallow soil and appear to be quite happy.

Containers are a great choice for plants like Agastache and some Penstemons that need sharp drainage.  They used to drown over the winter, but, not anymore. To make sure the soil is fast draining, I add expanded shale to the potting soil. So far the plants are very happy.

 I've had great success growing shrubs and trees in containers. Two of my favorite H arborescens cultivars-'Emerald Lace' and 'Hayes Starburst' have thrived in pots for years. Another cultivar (seen below) was sent to me to trial. It arrived too late in the season to be planted in the garden, so it over wintered in a container. It's now been transplanted to the woodland garden and is doing fine.
overwintered outside in a container then planted in the spring

Containers don't have to be  jam packed with non-native annuals, nor do they have to make a seasonal statement! If you want to garden for wildlife and pollinators, don't let lack of space stop you! Plant your favorite wildflowers and see what happens. You just might have the prairie or woodland garden you've always wanted.


The Particulars:
Perennials and shrubs

Zone: Middle Tennessee is Zone7a, but, when I first began gardening in containers it was 6a/b. Most of the wildflowers and annuals I plant can tolerate the occasional Zone 6a winter.  I do cover them with sheets and protective cloth if we have a late spring frost/freeze and they've broken dormancy.

Aspect: Sun, part sun, shade and full shade.

Soil: Good soil is essential. I don't like potting soil, it's too light and dries out too quickly so, I make my own container soil of real garden soil, soil conditioner (finely ground bark) and compost. The soil conditioner makes the soil aerable.

Bloom: Spring until late fall. If you plant a winter blooming native shrub or tree, you will extend the bloom time.

Size: Size and depth of containers depends on plant requirements. You can find large and extra large containers almost everywhere. Your budget and whether they can be overwintered outside will determine how large you want to go. The bigger the container, the harder it is to move indoors.

Maintenance:  The one constant is watering. I don't have to water the big pots daily unless temperatures are extreme (July and August), but as the containers get smaller they do require  a daily big gulp (15 seconds of hose watering on average for most containers, longer for shrubs and trees). The Rosemary and Bay tree spend the winter in my unheated garden shed and get watered a few times.  I don't move the wildflower containers inside. If you live in a colder hardiness zone, I recommend that you move the containers to a protected spot (garden shed or garage) or transplant the perennials into the garden.

Wildlife value: What you plant in your yard makes a difference to wildlife. I garden for wildlife so every tree, shrub and plant is chosen with wildlife in mind. Plant your favorite native perennials and shrubs. Leave them standing after they've gone to seed to continue to provide for wildlife.

Containers: Use your imagination when thinking of containers. I use colorful glazed pots (frost proof), terracotta, galvanized trash cans and faux terracotta (plastic).  I have even planted ferns in hollow logs.You might enjoy formal urns or contemporary containers.

Plant combinations: Plant a hummingbird container with Aquilegia canadensis, Monarda didyma, and Lobelia cardinalis.  Prairie planting with Panicum virgatum and Solidago and Rudbeckias. The possibilities are endless.

As a reminder to all! Never, ever, ever, ever, ever use pesticides. I mean NEVER. Also, never, ever, ever dig plants from the wild. Purchase them from reputable nurseries.

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.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

GBBD July 2018

Welcome to the July Garden Blogger Bloom Day at Clay and Limestone. It's hot and humid and while many flowers thrive in these conditions, it's a challenge for others. I am hoping the Phloxes will last a bit longer, but, if they fade away we will have the Rudbeckias to celebrate later this month.

Without further chatter, here are some of the blooming natives in the garden.
Liatris spicata the dense blazing star or prairie gay feather, the blossoms begin opening from the top of the spike downward. Bees and butterfly love it. I plan to add even more, especially the fall blooming Liatris that are also native to middle Tennessee.

Echinacea purpurea 'Ruby Star' with a bee friend.  I love purple Coneflowers and wish I could get a huge stand of them...There's not enough sun and winter drainage is a problem, but, I do keep planting them.

Lonicera sempervirens 'Major Wheeler' has been blooming since early April...The hummers stop by everyday, but first they visit the Monarda!

 Bee balm/Monarda didyma 'Jacob Cline' ...I wish I had a hummer to show you here, but they visit when I am working in the garden and not when I am photographing it!

Cup plant/Silphium perfoliatum is one tall wildflower! This just opened and there were no bees visiting the morning I took this photo! This is a great plant for naturalizing; for a screen or the back of the border.

Phyla lanceolata/Lanceleaf fogfruit, a cutie pie relative of Verbena was the June Wildflower Wednesday star and is still blooming.

Helenium ‘Marti Gras’ — Yellow flowers aging to orange, rich chocolate brown centers, 3 – 4’ tall. Keep the soil moist and spent flowers deadheaded for long bloom. I love Sneezeweed, unfortunately some of the best cultivars never make it to the Nashville nurseries.

Phlox paniculata 'Jeana'. This cultivar was discovered growing along the Harpeth River near Nashville, Tennessee and named after its discoverer, Jeana Prewitt. It's a butterfly magnet and does not mildew!
Coreopsis rosea, a sweet flower that will bloom most of the summer if deadheaded or cut back. I find it's easier to keep it happy in a container than planted in my too dry clay summer soil. The little bees love it.

Phlox paniculata, let's just call it a seedling of a cultivar! Carpenter bees are notorious nectar robbers. That big body makes it hard to fit into many flowers and they will drill or cut into the corolla of a plant to get at the nectar. Not to worry, there are plenty of other visitors to pollinate them.
Chamaecrista fasciculata/Partridge pea, is an annual and a bumble bee magnet. Readily self-seeds in medium to dry soils, growing to 2’ in height. It's the host plant for Cloudless sulfur butterfly caterpillar. I expect to always have it in my garden. One plant in the Susan's bed is now 10! The leaves close up/fold up at dusk.
 Phlox 'Jeana' again...The Swallowtail butterfly love her. The plant that's budding next to 'Jeana' is Rudbeckia subtomentosa 'Henry Eilers'.

Non natives in the garden blooming this month

Hemerocallis 'Autumn Minaret' introduced in 1951 by Stout. It continues to be popular because it blooms late; is extremely tall (up to 66 inches); and, is fragrant. I love all that, but, appreciate the simple flower shape. I hope it reblooms and that the deer don't discover it.

 African Blue Basil is a hybrid of two different basil plants that has inherited a camphor flavor from one of its parents. Although, edible, some say it makes a tasty pesto,  I grow it because it's a bee magnet and flowers all summer.

Happy Bloom Day my dears,  now take the magic carpet ride to May Dreams Gardens where host extraordinaire Carol links to gardens all over this great big beautiful world.


PS If you want to grow beautiful plants that attract pollinators to your garden you must never, ever, ever, ever, ever use pesticides. I really do 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.


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