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

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Wildflower Wednesday: Winged Elm

I almost missed the first of my native canopy trees in bloom! That's what happens when your eyes are searching for spring ephemerals on the woodland floor.


Look what you will see when you look up... the prettiest red flowers that pop against the blue sky.
Flower Source: Joseph A Marcus
The wind-pollinated flowers have a reddish tinge and are borne on long pedicels in early spring before the leaves appear.

Samara Source: Joseph A Marcus
The fruit is a flat, hairy, reddish-orange samara, about 1/3” long, surrounded by a narrow wing. It usually disperses by the end of April. 


Source: MTSU Biology Dept

The leaves are small and oval to narrowly elliptical, from 1" to 3½" long with doubly serrated edges.
They are dark green with a smooth upper surface and paler, hairy undersides.


They turn bright yellow in the fall...Aren't they lovely.

 The corky wings are often irregular and may appear as warty growths or knots on one or both sides of the twigs.
Ulmus alata is the botanical name and those corky, ridged wings on young stems are a hallmark of this native tree. Winged elm is also called corked elm. It's a small- to medium-sized deciduous tree (in the best conditions they can be much taller) native to the southern and south-central woodlands of the United States. It has a vase-like shape, with lateral branches and a rounded, open crown.

Naturally occurs in southern and south central woodlands

Elms are host plants to over 200 butterfly and moth species (think important bird food) and squirrels and chipmunks eat the nutlets of the samaras. I've never seen this tree offered at a local IGC, but, it can be found at specialty tree farms and orchards (search online).

The tree is often grown in parking lot islands, medium strips, and along residential streets. Winged elm trees tolerate air pollution, poor drainage and compacted soil. Wow. Poor drainage and compacted soil~No wonder it's doing okay at Clay and Limestone.

The Particulars

Botanical name: Ulmus alata
Common Name: Winged Elm, Corked Elm
Type: Tree
Family: Ulmaceae
Native Range: Eastern and central North America
 Zone: 6 to 9
Height: 30.00 to 50.00 feet
Spread: 25.00 to 40.00 feet
Bloom Time: Late February, March to April
Bloom Description: Reddish green
Sun: Full/part sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Shade Tree, Street Tree
Flower: Insignificant...lovely against the blue skies of spring
Tolerate: Air Pollution, compacted soil.
Pollination: Wind born
Wildlife value: Numerous insects feed on the foliage, wood, or plant juices of Winged Elm. Check out this insect  table to see listed critters.
Common uses: Boxes, baskets, furniture, hockey sticks, veneer, wood pulp, and papermaking.


Trees are so important to a critter friendly native plant garden and this tree provides shade for early blooming spring ephemerals and shade loving wildflowers, while being a host plant to numerous butterfly, moths, beetles and other critters.

My dear readers, don't forget to look up this spring or you might miss the magic that's happening in the canopy.

xoxogail

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 your WW star of the month is blooming or not, after all it's winter for many of you. 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.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Wildflower Wednesday: Winter Blooming Witch Hazel



Hamamelis vernalis is a lovely native shrub/small tree that blooms when you have just about given up hope that winter will end and warmth will return to the world...In my Middle Tennessee garden it often begins blooming in early to mid January and it's not unusual for it to continue blooming into February and sometimes March.
Petals furled and unfurled
Ozark witch hazel's flowers are an unusual reddish color with four yellow/orange crepe paper streaming petals that unfurl as the day warms and furl back up when the temperature drops. This is a marvelous adaptive behavior that insures that the spidery blooms will survive the fluctuating winter weather and be in bloom for almost two months.

On a 50˚ day they perfume the air
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 think they're spectacular in my mostly brown winter garden and I planted one along the front walkway so visitors can enjoy the blooms and their sweet scent.
Just before they burst open

It's no accident that most winter blooming plants have some fragrance...Nature had to insure that insect pollinators could easily find their way to a plant that blooms when most of the garden is fast asleep. I've seen honeybees in the garden on days where the temperatures are above 50˚, but, have only seen small gnats and flies visiting these beautiful fragrant flowers!

Witch hazels are indeed insect pollinated flowers, just check these clues out: They have long, bright-yellow petals, sweet smelling nectar and their stamens (pollen-bearing male bits) are right next to the nectar source. But, how you wonder is insect pollination possible in mid winter? Bernd Heinrich discovered that winter moths are responsible for pollinating witch hazels. These owlet moths have a remarkable ability to heat themselves by using energy to shiver, raising their body temperatures by as much as 50 degrees in order to fly in search of food.  (source). 

Nature and its critters are amazing!
The flowers are deep to bright red, rarely yellow, with four ribbon-shaped petals 7–10 mm (0.28–0.39 in) long and four short stamens, and grow in clusters
Long time readers know I have garden guidelines that I strive to follow. Simply stated I like to plant a mixture of Central Basin natives that have good to excellent wildlife value and that provide bloom as close to year round as is possible in a middle south garden. I have occasionally pushed the envelope and planted perennials and shrubs that are native to adjacent states or that grow in conditions similar  to Clay and Limestone*.  I pushed that envelope when I decided to plant Hamamelis vernalis/Ozark witch-hazel. It is not native to any where in Tennessee. It's found growing in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri. I planted them for the earliest visiting pollinators and for its delightful perfume. It's happy in the garden, it gets fertilized by visiting critters and that makes me happy.

That's my story and I am sticking to it!

If you want to grow this Central South/Southern native shrub just give it a partially shady location with good morning sun, moist acid soil. It tolerates Clay and Limestone's more neutral soil, so, I am pretty sure you can have success with it, too. It has great fall color, attracts pollinators, and blooms for two months. Mine are species but, there are marvelous cultivars if you are so inclined!



The Particulars

Hamamelis vernalis
Common Name: Ozark witch hazel
Family: Hamamelidaceae
Type: Deciduous shrub  or small tree
Native Range: Southern and central United States in rocky stream banks, in moist open woodlands.
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 6.00 to 10.00 feet
Spread: 8.00 to 15.00 feet
Bloom Time: January to April
Bloom Description: Yellow with red inner calyx
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium, consistently moist. NOT drought tolerant
Maintenance: Low, does not need to be pruned
Suggested Use: Rain Garden, along creek banks,
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Good Fall color
Usage: Please plant them where you will be sure to appreciate them during the winter months. They can colonize and would make an effective screen along property boundary.  Use in mixed border or as a specimen.
Wildlife value: Habitat value for insects and for birds that come to nest in their branches. The seeds and flowers are eaten by turkey and ruffed grouse.
Comments: An important medicinal plant for many native American tribes. Twigs, leaves and bark are the basis of witch hazel extract.
Tolerate: Deer, Erosion, Clay Soil 

I love that not only does Hamamelis vernalis flower for months, it has a lovely fragrance. How clever of Mother Nature to give winter bloomers that something special to insure that moths, a little fly, gnat or bee will follow the scent and pollinate the flower.
xoxogail


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. It doesn't matter if they're in bloom (think winter sharing), how they grow and thrive in your garden is what matters most.


*If you're new to C and L, my garden is a Central Basin woodland (there are some sunny areas) with dryer, heavier, shallow and neutral clay soil. I've unearthed enough limestone rocks to build several small walls and there's still more. Not too far below my plants is a thick layer of Ordovician limestone that makes for challenging gardening experiences. The native plants I've chosen are adapted to the environment and conditions at Clay and Limestone and provide food, nesting and/or shelter for mammals, reptiles, birds and insects. Humans seem to appreciate it, too.



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, December 26, 2018

Wildflower Wednesday: December 2018 Annual Roundup


Welcome to the Wildflower Wednesday December 2018 Roundup!

There's still color in the garden and I thank the beige colored stalks of wildflowers, grasses and shrubs for brightening the gray days. Gardening in the Middle South is a treat, we have four seasons, but our winter is mercifully short and spring and autumn make up for the steamy hot summer weather. It won't be long before the earliest spring ephemerals will break dormancy and the gloriously long bloom of wildflowers will begin.


Without further ado here are the 2018 stars of Clay and Limestone's wildflowers.







January Wildflower Wednesday: The Siren Call of a Wildflower

with pedulous umbels that are similar to allium (source 
My favorite garden catalogs arrived this month and just like that I am head over heels in want of a plant that could be wrong for this garden! Meet Asclepias exaltata! A Monarch butterfly host plant that grows in shade. I'm not kidding, Asclepias exaltata is one of the most shade tolerant of its genus. That's exciting news for those of us that have more shade than sun in our gardens and want to grow host plants for the Monarch butterfly.

But, there's a but, Asclepias exaltata is a moisture loving plant! Where I garden the soils are generally dryer (summer), heavier and more neutral than where poke milkweed is naturally found. Is this enough of an issue to make me turn a deaf ear to the siren call of this beautiful wildflower?

I don't know, so I'm going to research Poke milkweed before I sail toward it!

February Wildflower Wednesday: Dirca palustris

The small bell-shaped pale lemon-yellow flowers of Dirca palustris are in bloom today. The flowers with their long bright yellow stamens bloom in clusters along the branches before the leaves emerge.

What a lovely surprise for a late winter day.

Dirca palustris is an early blooming deciduous native shrub. It can be found in rich, moist, neutral soil in woodlands scattered (meaning uncommon) over much of eastern North America. The small yellow flowers first appear in late winter and continue into early spring just in time for small bees to stop by for nectar and pollen.


If Lindera benzoin (Spicebush) is happy in your garden conditions, then, so will Leatherwood. They may be found near one another in woodlands and forest settings. They also share similar characteristics: bloom time, yellow flower color, leaf shape, blooming in deep shade, red fruit and lovely yellow fall leaf color. They're both blooming in my garden right now and make those shady spots pop with their yellow flowers.
 

 March Wildflower Wednesday: Asarum canadense

Asarum canadense is poking out of the soil in my garden. The heart/kidney shaped leaves are velvety soft and an attractive deep green. The delicate bell shaped flowers are also up, but, hidden beneath the leaves at the base of the plants.

Wild ginger is found in rich, moist forests in Eastern N. America - Manitoba to New Brunswick, south to N. Carolina and west to Kansas. It's an early bloomer here in middle Tennessee and the delicate bells shaped flowers are already beckoning pollinators. In cooler climates look for them in early April.

April Wildflower Wednesday: Sedum ternatum

Sedums are a must have, hot plant these days. I've seen them for sale at local grocery stores and even at a chic furniture store. Yes, I agree, they're adorable and while, they may be a decorator's must have accessory, our Wildflower Wednesday star is the real deal. It's an easy peasy native wildflower you'll want for decorating your garden/woodland floor, not your dining room table!

Sedum ternatum, is commonly called three-leaved stonecrop or wild stonecrop. It slowly creeps to form an attractive green patch. It's happiest in average, well drained soil, in bright to filtered light and is naturally found growing in damp locations along stream banks, bluff bases and stony ledges. You can try growing it in full sun if your soil is consistently moist. I planted it along the front path with visions of it cascading over the limestone wall, but, the clay soil is too dry during the summer and it's never spread like I hoped.

Sedums are often touted as drought tolerant, because their fleshy leaves can hold moisture, but, wild-stonecrop needs moisture. Don't plant it in dry sandy soil and expect it to thrive. It's a woodland plant. 


May Wildflower Wednesday: Bear's Foot and a walk on the wildside

We walked the Richland Creek Greenway with our toddler granddaughter this past weekend. It's a 4 mile loop around a local golf course and is frequented by runners, walkers and bikers. We love the greenway and often use it to access favorite coffee shops and restaurants, but it's also a fantastic way to connect with nature. It's exciting to see so many parents and children there each time we go.  I imagine that for a lot of urban children greenways are their first introduction to nature. It's a pretty cool resource and it's exciting to see that Nashville is continuing to expand its greenway system.
Bear's foot/Hairy leaf cup leaves are giant sized
The greenway has a wide asphalt path that crosses Richland Creek several times and since we've had a lot of rain this spring the creek was flowing. We were excited to show our granddaughter the turtles basking in the sun and minnows in the deeper water, but, the biggest excitement came when a black snake crossed the path in front of us on its way to the water's edge. There are several open fields where we saw bluebirds, cardinals and other familiar birds. There's plenty of wildflowers like our Wildflower Wednesday star, Smallanthus uvedalius, along the path to attract butterflies and other pollinators. It's a good place to connect with and watch nature.

June Wildflower Wednesday: Lanceleaf fogfruit

I've recently discovered Phyla lanceolata, a cutie pie relative of Verbena growing on the other side of Hedge near the street. I'm very excited since the only other time I've seen it was while hiking at Owls Hill. Seeing it so close to Clay and Limestone's shallow, dry soil was a great surprise.

Finding new to my garden wildflowers makes my day and I can't find any reason to not like this flower. It's a seriously cute little Verbena cousin that ought to be in more native plant gardens and considering that it's native to almost all of the US (except for the dryer NW states), it's amazing to me that it's not readily available. If I had a pond or stream in my garden it would have a place of honor.


If happy it will carpet the ground with attractive foliage that is accented in the summer with small clusters of pale lavender-pink flowers that attract bees and butterflies.  It's semi-evergreen (depending upon the zone you're gardening in) and can tolerate heat and humidity, as well as cold winters.  It is native to southeastern Canada, most of the United States southward into Mexico.

July Wildflower Wednesday: Growing Wildflowers  in Containers

Joe-pye a few summers ago spent two seasons in a container
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.

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!

August Wildflower Wednesday: Oenothera biennis

Night blooming Common Evening Primrose is our Wildflower Wednesday star. This tall biennial is  found growing in fields, prairies, glades, thickets, waste ground, disturbed sites, and in other sunny medium to dry sites. While native to almost all the states it's found more often in the central and eastern US.

While researching the plant I noticed that it showed up on several state weed sites!  That's always disconcerting to a wildflower/native plant enthusiast, but, not all wildflowers are appreciated or valued by everyone.  Some might be put off by it's height or it's unremarkable foliage, neither bother me.  I find the yellow flowers that are still blooming when I walk the garden early in the morning to be quite charming.  I like catching their sweet lemony scent and watching the occasional bee or other pollinator visitor that's out that early.

September Wildflower Wednesday: Fleischmannia incarnata


 
I found our Wildflower Wednesday star in the Susan's bed a few years ago. It looked like  Conoclinium coelestinum/Blue Mistflower, but, the flowers were less numerous and pink. There were a few other differences, too. Blue Mistflower is a sturdy plant with upright reddish stems, while this little beauty could be best described as airy and loose limbed.

I rather liked what I saw.

I'm never surprised to discover a new native plant in this neighborhood or even in my garden. Plants frequently appear, either having gone unnoticed or because conditions were favorable for growth of seeds in the soil seed bank. This was a woodland not so very long ago and there must be many wildflower seeds laying dormant in the soil.

October Wildflower Wednesday: Frost aster's moment in the sun


The blue wood ex-asters have always over shadowed the Frost asters in my garden until this year! That's when I noticed how delightful it looked arching over the Susans and other spent blooms in the sunniest garden beds. It's a blizzard of small bright white flowers and on sunny autumn days it's busy hosting bees of every size and any butterflies still out and about. Frost aster is doing the job I had hoped the Boltonias would do: blooming late and attracting pollinators. And it's doing it in dry soil.

November Wildflower Wednesday: Clay and Limestone Gardening Guidelines


It's Wildflower Wednesday and I'm sharing my garden guidelines with a special emphasis on fall and winter. Although, they're universal, I've personalized them with photos of past Wildflower Wednesday stars. If you're new to C and L, my garden is a Central Basin woodland (there are some sunny areas) with dryer, heavier, shallow and neutral clay soil. I've unearthed enough limestone rocks to build several small walls and there's still more. Not too far below my plants is a thick layer of Ordovician limestone that makes for challenging gardening experiences. The native plants I've chosen are adapted to the environment and conditions at Clay and Limestone and provide food, nesting and/or shelter for mammals, reptiles, birds and insects. Humans seem to appreciate it, too.

My guidelines can be applied (with appropriate modifications) no matter where you garden for wildlife.

It's been a challenging gardening year for many of us. Here in middle Tennessee, it got hot and humid earlier than usual and stayed that way for longer than we wished...and the rain, it was either a drought or a deluge. But, the garden, the gardener and the resident critters persevered and here we are at the end of 2018 with hopes and dreams of a good year of gardening ahead of us.

My friends, I wish you a very Happy Wildflower Wednesday and thank you for planting more wildflowers. Thank you for taking care of the bees and other pollinators. Thank you for tolerating pesky wildlife that too often eat your favorite flowering plants. Thank you for another year of your friendship, visits, comments and joining me in celebrating wildflowers all over this great big wonderful world. You are the best and having you in my life has enriched it beyond measure.

xoxogail

Most of you have been very busy with the holidays, but, if you have the time to join this Wildflower Wednesday, just add your link to Mr. Linky and leave a comment. Please remember, it's not necessary for them to be in bloom!



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