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

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Wildflower Wednesday: Blephilia ciliata

Downy Wood Mint and I have been gardening friends for over 30 years. I met it the first summer after we moved into this house. It looked like Monarda growing in the shady freedom lawn behind the carport shed. Although, it wasn't Monarda, it was definitely a mint with its square stems, opposite leaves and whorled light lavender flowers at the top of the stalk!

Downy Wood Mint is a beautiful flowering plant with upright unbranched stems. The foliage is lance shaped or oblong and opposite along the stems. Leaves and stems are pubescent/hairy and faintly aromatic when crushed.

 I have never seen it growing in the wild, but, once upon a time my neighborhood was a woodland and there are still wildflowers growing in lawns and woodland edges. I wonder how many of my neighbors are even aware that this pretty and others might be growing along the edges of their yards.

As more people move into Nashville and older ranch homes are torn down our freedom lawns with Salvia lyrata, Western Daisies, Fog Fruit, Ruellia humilis, clover and other "lawn weeds" are herbicided away. It makes me very sad and motivates me to continue to advocate for planting for wildlife in our gardens through my garden writing. 
watch out little bees there are crab spiders waiting to capture you

The literature from native plant nurseries suggests that it grows best in full sun or part sun with average or dry soils. I love that it's tolerant of dry shade, but doesn't seem to be bothered by our winter rain. While it does slowly spread from a central taproot, it's not aggressive like its Monarda cousins and it easily transplants. It might be time to test it in the sunny Susan's bed to see if it will flower and how much it might spread.
scads of native pollinators visit the flowers.
In late spring and summer, dense whorls of clustered flowers encircle the stems for about a month.  The tiny individual flowers are two lipped and pink, lavender or white with purple spots.
Scads of native pollinators visit the flowers. According to Illinois Wildflower the flowers attract long-tongued and short-tongued bees, bee flies, Syrphid flies, butterflies, and skippers. The numerous bee visitors include honeybees, bumblebees, Anthophorine bees, little carpenter bees, leaf-cutting bees, Halictine bees, masked bees, and others.
After bloom and pollination, attractive seed heads form. The seed clusters remain on the plant all winter along with the green basal leaves.

Blephilia ciliata ranges through most of Eastern North American and through parts of the Central United States. It's been found growing in fields, steep slopes, disturbed sites and roadsides. Plants often occur in thin soils over limestone. You can see why it's a perfect plant for Clay and Limestone!

While it's shade tolerant, too much shade and competition from neighboring plants can cause plants to weaken and decline. So give it some room to spread and a few hours of sunshine.
the flowers are white, light pink, or lavender, and individually slightly less than ½" long.
LANDSCAPE USES:  This is a good choice for a pollinator garden, wildlife garden, prairie garden, rock gardens, Butterfly garden, water wise gardens, or, in a meadow. If you're patient it will eventually make a lovely ground cover. 
 There are two prominent lips, with small purple spots on the lower one, and fine hairs in the back.

 COMPANION  PLANTS:  You can pair it with other plants that enjoy similar cultural requirements, like Aster laevis, Phlox pilosa, Coreopsis tripteris, Solidago nemoralis, Bouteloua curtipendula, Sorghastrum nutans or Schizachyrium scoparium. In my garden it's planted with Western Daisies and Porteranthus. It's still growing in the way back freedom lawn.

The particulars:
Family: Lamiaceae
Blephilia ciliata
Common names:  downy wood mint, downy pagoda plant, sunny woodmint and Ohio horsemint.
Type: herbacious perennial
Range: Native to eastern North America.
Occurs in rich open woods, glades, valleys and ravines, borders of woods, old fields, and along roadsides. It naturally occurs in thin soils over limestone
Hardiness zones 4-8
Height: 1.00 to 2.50 feet
Spread: 0.75 to 1.50 feet
Flower: Showy
Bloom Time: May to August
Bloom Description: Blue, purple, pale, almost whit with dark dots
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Medium
Tolerate: Drought, Dry Soil, Deer resistant
Comments: Needs a few hours of bright sun to flower best. Flowers in early summer in my garden.
The seed heads are attractive all winter. Basil leaves remain green all winter. The leaves can be used to make a mild mint tea. NOT browsed by dear or other mammals.

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.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Wildflower Wednesday: Phlox pilosa is still a star

My friends, welcome to Wildflower Wednesday.

I love introducing you to new wildflowers, but, this month I want to honor a very old and dear wildflower friend.
Phlox pilosa
Practically Perfect Pink Phlox is our star....and what a star with fragrant delicate pink blooms that last for more than a month.

Long time readers know how much I adore this beauty. I can't imagine gardening without her.
Downy phlox was a gift from a gardening friend so long ago I can no longer remember when she came to Clay and Limestone. After a few years she had spread into a beautiful pink carpet over the Garden of Benign Neglect. I thought she would always be there to delight the senses, but, she almost disappeared. The summer droughts that lasted way too long and possibly bunnies and deer decimated the colony.

But, she's making a come back. Believe it or not she's very happy in the sunny Susan's Bed despite the shallow soil and limestone bedrock. She gets more attention and a good soaking when the summer droughts arrive.

 P pilosa is a stoloniferous, semi-evergreen native wildflower which can form large colonies. Although, I've never heard anyone call PPPP a thug, some gardeners may not appreciate how quickly it can spread in rich soil. Colonizing is a plus for me, I love that it makes a big statement and unlike some colonizing plants, it's easy to lift and transplant.
There is wide variety in flower color from the palest pink to shades of light and dark purple and pink. It has the sweetest fragrance that wafts all over the garden on warm days. You'll have to agree, a plant like that is practically perfect!
Hairy stems and leaves

Phlox pilosa is about a foot tall in my garden. It has narrow, opposite lance like leaves. The inflorescence is a panicle of loosely branched clusters of individually stalked flowers (cymes) atop the stem and from the upper leaf axils. Prairie Phlox is also called Downy Phlox for the somewhat hairy appearance of the stems and leaves.
Phlox flowers are the classic butterfly plant with their perfect landing pad (flared petals), a narrow tube that is accessible to the long proboscis of butterflies and fragrant flowers that occur in loose, rounded clusters.  The long bloom time (6 weeks if the temperatures stay cooler) means there's plenty of nectar for pollinator visitors from early to mid-spring. I've seen butterfly, skippers, bumblebees, Minor bees, carpenter bees and Flower flies visiting. I've read that Hummers visit as well and since it's blooming late here, they might stop by, too.

P pilosa is found naturally growing in open woodlands, meadows, prairie remnants and limestone glades through out the central and eastern US and Canada. I am especially pleased at how well it's growing in the shallow soil in the Susan's Bed....That says a lot about a plant.

The Particulars
Phlox pilosa
Common names: Downy Phlox, Prairie Phlox, Fragrant Phlox
Family: Polemoniaceae
Size: 1 to 2 foot tall
Color: shades of pink
Frangrance: Yes and noticeable on warm days

Native Range: Connecticut south to Florida, west to eastern North Dakota, south through the eastern part of the prairie states to most of Oklahoma and Texas as far as west Texas, south into Coahuila
Zone: 4 to 9
Bloom Time: April to June (in my garden)
Sun: Full sun, part sun
Water: Medium to dry (but not xeric)
Pollinators:  Hummingbirds, Butterflies, long tongued bees, Flies
Comments: Do yourself a favor and plant this beauty, the bees and butterflies will thank you.

Pretty pink fragrant flowers, long bloom, easy to grow, high wildlife value is how this plant got  Practically Perfect Pink Phlox as its sobriquet.

Welcome to Clay and Limestone's Wildflower Wednesday celebration. WW is about sharing and celebrating wildflowers from all over this great big, beautiful world. Join us on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Remember, it doesn't matter if they are in bloom or not; and, it doesn't matter if we all share the same plants. It's all about celebrating wildflowers. Please leave a comment when you add your url to Mr Linky.

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, March 27, 2019

Wildflower Wednesday: White Trout Lily

Welcome to Wildflower Wednesday and a celebration of one of my favorite spring ephemerals, the White Trout Lily.

Erythoniums is a genus of Eurasian and North American plants in the lily family. Of the nearly 25 species found in North America (mostly in western USA)  only 4 are found in Tennessee.  Those are: Erythronium rostratum, Erythronium umbilicatum, Erythronium americanum and Erythronium albidum.  Erythronium americanum, the yellow flowered trout lily (above) and E albidum the white flowered trout lily, are both found growing in Davidson county, TN where I live. The yellow flowered seems to be more abundant and on a recent walk I spotted them in bloom at the Warner Parks.

 I feel so lucky to have found White Trout Lilies growing in my garden. I've seen small colonies in nearby woodlands and in a neighbors small sloped side yard. Of course, I hoped the flowers would be white not yellow. Don't get me wrong, I would have loved the yellows, but, there's something extra special about these sweet white flowers.
When mature they gain a second basal leaf with a flower growing from the top of a long stem.
E albidum grows into large colonies with a lot of immature leaves and just a few flowering plants. My neighbor's colony is large and has at least a dozen blooming flowers this year.

My colony is much smaller, but is growing a bit larger every year. I have one flower this year. In fact, I've never had more than one at a time, but, I remain patient. According to research at Friends of Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden only 1% of the White Trout Lily colony flowers at one time. That's not many, but, imagine how lovely it would look if the colony was large enough to cover a forest floor.
From Prairie Moon Nursery
Isn't she lovely.

 The white six petaled flowers curve backward with the the bright yellow stamens nodding downwards. The inside of the flower’s petals are white, and the back of the petals are a mix of soft gray, brown, pink, and blue colors. It's been suggested that the nodding flowers might discourage nectar robbers from stealing the nectar without pollinating it. A practice that makes sense when you consider that this ephemeral has a short time to bloom, get pollinated, go to seed and go dormant.

White Trout Lily is commonly found in moist to mesic deciduous hardwood forests/woodlands from southern Ontario to Texas and much of the eastern USA except North and South Carolina. As hinted above, spring ephemerals have a lot to do in a short period of time and a steady winter diet of sunshine is an essential for their survival in a woodland.
Andrena erythronii bees are oligolectic bee on Trout lilies

Like other spring ephemerals, White Trout Lilies are a vital food source for pollinators at a time when there is little food available. The flowers are primarily pollinated by both long-tongued and short-tongued bees, including honeybees, mason bees, cuckoo bees, digger bees, Halictid bees and  Halictus. The bees suck nectar from the flowers; honeybees and short-tongued bees also collect pollen or nectar and ants feed on the elaiosome that surrounds some seeds. Their thick, fleshy, nutrient and carbohydrate rich corms, roots and tubers are especially attractive to white footed mice, chipmunks and voles. (source)

I am happy to have found them in my garden. I try to keep them safe from voles, mice and deer. A few years ago the small colony that I was so proud of was decimated by voles. They are bouncing back, especially, after I planted a flowering plant I found at a wildflower sale. It was pollinated and seeds were spread. That one planted flower is blooming again and if it gets pollinated there will be more seed to help the colony spread.

WTL also spreads vegetatively~The underground roots bud off new plants. So let's hope that the ants will spread the seeds and in only a few seasons, my small colony will be larger with a chance of more than one flower. Fingers crossed.

Before I go, here's some really cool info: It's been hypothesized by R Muller (1978) that spring ephemerals like White Trout Lilies have an additional important job besides providing food for pollinators. They take up nutrients like nitrogen and potassium in their roots, leaves and stems that would wash away in spring rains or melts and as they die back they release these "saved" nutrients back into the soil for vigorously growing plants to use. This is referred to as vernal dam hypothesis.

So know that when you add spring ephemerals like WTL into your garden, you are giving goodness back into your plant communities, while getting some beautiful flowers! That's a darn good bargain.
Now, let's all get out there and look for spring ephemerals!

The particulars

Lily family (Liliaceae)
Common name: White trout lily, white fawn lily, white dogtooth violet.
Botanical name: Erythronium albidum
Type: Perennial herbaceous, spring ephemeral. In the short period of time before the tree canopy emerges and blocks the sunlight, ephemerals like trout lilies, must grow, leaf-out, flower, be pollinated and produce seeds. This is called the epigeous or above ground growth phase. Once they fade they enter the hypogeous, or below ground growth phase when roots and buds are busy developing. 
Flower: White with a yellow base; bell shaped; early spring.
Foliage: Tulip-like and green with silvery markings, appearing singly or in pairs at the base of the flower stem. Looks like speckled trout and that is how it got one of its common names. Foliage dies back during summer.
Habit: Low-growing ground cover, 4 to 8 inches tall. Grows from corms (bulb-like underground storage stem) and slowly spreads to form large colonies.
Season: Early spring.
Range: Woods and prairies from southern Ontario through the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest to eastern Texas.
Cultivation: Grow in partial to full shade, in moist humus-rich soil. Prefers dappled sun in spring (important that it gets enough sun in spring) and heavier shade in summer. If available plant corms in fall. Do not dig from woodlands. If a friend wants to share be aware that the corms can be more than a foot underground.
Comments: Early spring bloom; ease of care if conditions are right; naturalizes in shade.

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. Leave a comment and a link with Mr. Linky.

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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