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

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Wildflower Wednesday: Thankful for my wildflower habitat



Tomorrow is officially the day of thanksgiving in the USA, but I try to be appreciative and thankful every day about the good people, good things, good wildflowers and good garden critters in my life. Because the last two years have been especially challenging for me as a gardener, I am working extra hard at appreciating what is revealed to me every day in my garden. This Wildflower Wednesday post is in celebration of the wildflower and native plant beauty in the garden this month. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have in putting it together. xoxogail

November 24, 2021~what an aster!

After several freezing nights the flowers are gone from the garden, except a few of the last to bloom Willowleaf asters. They are a must have plant for me and I recommend that you add them to your garden, too. You need a plant that survives several frosts and deep freezes and this one does. If the temperatures were to rebound to warmer than 60˚ in the next week the bees would be back.


Hamamelis virginiana is also still blooming. The flowers furl when it's cold and unfurl when the day warms up. I can't imagine gardening without this understory tree. On warm days its honey scent wafts around the garden on the slightest breeze. It's been a Wildflower Wednesday star and will be again.

Can you spot the partridge pea seed in its pod?
Verbesina virginica's marvelous and magical frost flowers were blooming this morning.  I never tire of seeing them "blooming". All it takes is a warm winter day followed by a cold winter night. During the day, the roots draw water up into the stem and later that night freezing temperatures force the sap from the stems where they freeze into sculptural ice candy flower curls. When I see them on my early morning walk I am reminded that magic is still happening and that the garden is just resting.

Frost aster

Just a few days ago, along with the witch hazels and ex-asters, False dragonhead, mums, Frost aster, Pineapple sage and African Blue basil were in bloom. The resident bumbles and our neighbor's honeybees were visiting. The annuals were alive only because I was covering them up on frosty nights. When the inevitable winter weather came to stay I folded the sheets up and put them away ready for next April when late frost threatens my spring garden. Oh, in case you wondered, I made cuttings and saved some basil for salads.

Bumble on African Blue basil flowers

New readers may be wondering why I have non-natives in my garden, long time readers know that any plants added to this garden need to be more than just pretty faces. Our growing season is long; bees that are provisioning their nests for the winter and migrating butterflies and hummingbirds need all the pollen and nectar than can get. Basils and Salvias  provide that much needed nectar and/or pollen in mid/late fall when many native plants have gone to seed. My garden continues to be mostly native, but I believe that adding pollen and nectar rich non-natives enhances a pollinator habitat.

They also have very pretty faces and taste wonderful in salads.

Cotinus 'Grace' and Cercis canadensis

 I am thankful for all the wildflowers. They have brought me so much joy. When I stop and think about it I have wildflowers to thank for helping me gain new knowledge, for great adventures and for meeting new people. Without wildflowers I might never have realized the possibilities for a garden with difficult growing conditions like I have here at Clay and Limestone. I would surely never have met the unique plants and trees that grow in middle Tennessee, I wouldn't have begun blogging and I wouldn't have met wonderful friends like you dear readers  or at Garden Bloggers Flings. Nor would I have become a Tennessee Naturalist.

Porteranthus stipulatus

 My love for wildflowers opened my eyes to pollinators and their importance to our gardens, to agriculture and to the earth. When I speak of wildflowers I include shrubs and trees.

 

Shagbark hickory

In the drama of a wildflower garden there are no bit players. The canopy, the understory, the herbacious layer and the ground cover are all part of a diverse ensemble. All the players are essential; all provide food, nesting and shelter for mammals and birds; they're host plants for a variety of insects that are a primary food source for birds, bats, small mammals, amphibians and even other insects that you want in your garden. 

Lindera benzoin

As I walk the garden I marvel at beauty of late fall colors.

Looking down I notice that the spring blooming biennials and annuals have germinated. Fallen leaves never smother them.
Phacelia bipinnatifida
 

The garden is a sea of browning leaves and seedheads. I think they're beautiful. 


The promise of spring is in every one of those seeds. It's everywhere if you look carefully. Take a close look at your native shrubs. Dogwoods and Viburnums show their flower buds at the tips of their stems and the buds of late winter blooming witch hazels and spring blooming spicebush line the stems. 

 

Panicum virgatum

Native grasses like switchgrass glow in many shades of brown and gold. Please don't cut them down in fall, they provide shelter for small mammals and birds, song birds eat the seeds and they're host plants for several skippers.

American Hop Hornbeam

By the first of December most of the American hop hornbeam, persimmon, ash, oaks, hickories, hackberries, elms, serviceberries, dogwoods, spicebush, paw-paws will have dropped all their leaves. I leave most of the leaves where they fall. Butterflies, bees and other insects rely on leaf litter for protection and I don't want to mow them or blow them away.       


Chokecherry offers miniature apple looking fruit if any critter wants to nibble. 

Understory trees and shrubs like Hydrangeas, Viburnums, hearts-a-bustin, witch-hazel, Hypericums, sumacs, Alabama snowwreath, leatherwood, Iteas, buckeyes, and Alabama croton add a lot of color to the late fall garden. So many more, all with excellent wildlife value and I haven't even listed the perennials/wildflowers. 

I am grateful that so many plants happily grow in my shallow, clay soil.

Euonymus americanus/hearts a bustin

I came to love wildflowers so much that I wanted others to appreciate them. That's why I started the Wildflower Wednesday monthly meme. Too many of our native plants are underappreciated and underutilized. They're also sometimes downright impossible to find locally. But keep on looking for them, each season more native plants are offered and there are wonderful online seed and plant resources.

Rhus aromatica an attractive sumac with great fall color

Blogging has changed since I began in February 2008, but, I still love sharing wildflowers with you all. Thank you for stopping by to read and thank you for commenting. After all these years your comments still mean the world to me. A special thank you for all of you who continue to plant natives and share them on your own blogs.

 Happy Wildflower Wednesday

This year, I am especially grateful for the health and well being of my family; for loving and supportive friends; for fall weather; and, for wildflowers that bloomed no matter how horrid the weather has been.  Happy Thanksgiving to you all, xoxogail


 

Welcome to Clay and Limestone's Wildflower Wednesday celebration. I am so glad you stopped by. 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.


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, October 27, 2021

Wildflower Wednesday: Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium


I am challenging you to say our Wildflower Wednesday star's name 5 times....very quickly! I could barely get three out before I was dropping consonants. Here's the phonetic spelling soo-doh-naf-FAY-lee-um ob-too-sih-FOH-lee-um in case you aren't familiar with it.

Here's the story of how it became our star.

It was a beautiful day, with a clear blue sky and bright late morning sun overhead. We were taking a walk on a road near a house we rented for the weekend in Ellijay, GA and had stopped to visit with a very friendly donkey. 

 

the very friendly donkey

Across from the fenced in donkey growing among a hodgepodge of weeds, grasses and pine tree seedlings were flowering plants that looked like they needed a second look. One plant caught my eye. The silvery stems, leaves and the unusual white, tubular clusters of flowers with a bit of yellow that were still in bloom stood out among the weeds. I recognized Rabbit tobacco immediately and wondered how many people passed by it and never realized what a cool wildflower it was. That's when I decided to make it the Wildflower Wednesday star.


Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium is  known by a variety of common names including, Cudweed, Fragrant Cudweed, Fragrant Rabbit Tobacco, Blunt leaved sweet tobacco and Sweet Everlasting. I've only known it as Rabbit Tobacco and was introduced to it a few years ago by a dear gardening friend who shared it on her blog. Although, it's native to Tennessee, I've never seen it available for sale locally, nor do I have it in my garden.

This sweet little composite family member supports American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) butterfly larvae and attracts bees, butterflies, pollinators and predatory insects. As my friend said in her Wildflower Wednesday post over a decade ago: " I just wish there was more of it! The American Painted Lady butterfly is said to favor it for egg laying, reason alone to have a field of it."

Rabbit tobacco growing in the 'weedy' roadside

Sweet Everlasting is a summer annual or biennial plant that's about 3 foot tall with narrow/elliptical silvery-green stems and leaves. The underside of the leaves, stems and base of bracts of this plant are covered with dense white woolly hairs that one source described as cottony. The silvery white makes a good impression even in the bright sun. The leaves and stems are aromatic when crushed. One source says the crushed leaves smell like maple syrup. I did not crush any leaves to test for fragrance since it was on private property! Oh, but, I wish I had!

 I liked its looks and ordered seeds when I got home. 

The Particulars

Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium (formerly Gnaphalium obtusifolium)

Family: Asteracaeae

Common Name(s): Cudweed Fragrant Cudweed Fragrant Rabbit Tobacco Rabbit Tobacco Sweet Everlasting

Life Cycle: Annual and biennial

Range: Alberta east to Nova Scotia, south to Florida, west to Texas, and north to Nebraska and Minnesota. 


 Cultivation: Woodlands, coastal dunes, sandy pinelands, roadsides, and disturbed area. Needs some sand in soil to drain well.

Maintenance: Low, although, it doesn't like wet roots

Light: Full sun, partial Shade

Soil Drainage: Good Drainage appears to be a must.

Plant: 12 inches-3 feet

Flower Color: White with a touch of yellow

Inflorescence: Corymb, Panicle The flower head has disk flowers only.

Fragrant: Flowers and leaves when crushed

Bloom Time: Summer into fall

Flower Shape: Tubular (photo source)


 

Flower Description: Branching panicle of corymbs of yellow or brown buds that emerge to white tubular flower heads on 1-2 ft. stem. Flowers are 1/4" 

Propagation: Self seeding, wind born seeds. Seeds need light to germinate.

with long tailed skipper (source)

Wildlife Value: Supports American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) larvae.  Visited by short-tongued bees, wasps, butterflies, skippers and flies for nectar. Wild turkey eat the foliage and deer browse the foliage. (source)

Comments: With fabulous wildlife value, Rabbit tobacco is a good addition to a pollinator or butterfly garden. It is also a wonderful plant for a naturalistic planting and to enhance your native plant/wildlife friendly habitat. The unusual flowers and silvery leaves and stems are especially attractive in winter because they stay standing until the following spring. Ethnologists have documented the use of Rabbit Tobacco for treating asthma among the Rappahannock, Eastern Cherokee and other Native American groups. (source)

It's time for Cudweed, Fragrant Cudweed, Fragrant Rabbit Tobacco, Rabbit Tobacco, Sweet Everlasting or what ever it's called in your part of the gardening world to have the attention it deserves. It's time for this underappreciated native to shine. Should you want to add it to your garden you can order seeds from Prairie Moon Nursery.

Thank you for stopping by to meet our star!

xoxogail


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 your link in comments section.

 

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, September 22, 2021

Wildflower Wednesday: Symphyotrichum novae-angliae

I wouldn't have a fall garden without the Asteraceae family members!

That doesn't mean that there aren't Asteraceaes blooming in the Spring or Summer. Of course there are, but, come September New England asters and other beauties take center stage as they step up to the job of feeding the visiting pollinators, birds and mammals as they prepare for winter.

One of my personal favorites is our Wildflower Wednesday star, Symphyotrichum novae-angliae.  Ever since taxonomists placed New World Asters in two new Genera, I've affectionately referred to them as Ex-asters. You've got to admit that's easier than trying to pronounce than Symphyotrichum or Eurybia (the second Genus for New World Asters.)

 Tennessee has an abundance of ex-asters There are at least 32 in the two new genera:  Symphyotrichum and Eurybia. 

 I admit when ever one is in bloom, it's my favorite and right now, Symphyotrichum novae-angliae is in gorgeous bloom.

   

No matter what you call them, the late summer/early fall ex-asters provide more pollen and nectar return on investment than many other garden flowers combined. New England asters bloom just in time for the late arriving pollinators which are making a mad dash to collect as much nectar and pollen for their last brood. 

 Nature you are so amazing.

found in every state but a few western ones and LA, TX  and Fl

Mass plantings of New England Aster is the way to go! That's what I do. Its gorgeous shades of dark purple to pink blossoms make a powerful late Summer/Early Fall display.


New England Aster can grow to 6 feet tall with a two foot or more spread. It has hairy leaves that clasp the stems and help distinguish it from other ex-asters. Flower stalks and bracts are covered with gland-tipped hairs. Their flower heads are composed of a yellow center and pink-purple rays. It blooms for almost two months from August to October. It's easy peasy to grow...just make sure it gets more than a half day of sun and water during the droughty summer months.  

watch out little bees

 The colorful blooms and the abundant nectar are magnets for all kinds of insects, including some insects that are themselves food for spiders, birds and other insect eating critters. With all this buggy activity going on your garden will be a haven for pollinators and local and fall migrating birds. This fall look for Black-Capped Chickadee and American Goldfinch dining at the seedheads.

landing pads of deliciousness for butterflies, bees, wasps and moths.

 I have a special place in my heart for New England Asters. These rough and tumble wildflower beauties are often found growing in meadows, prairies and roadside ditches. Although, New England asters have been hybridized, I haven't any in my garden. I especially appreciate my species plants that haven't had their best characteristics bred out of them. They're beautiful, they're doing the job nature intended them to do, which is to make a lot of nectar and pollen, exactly when the critters need both.

Be careful soldier beetle, there's a crab spider lurking in that flower


They're nondescript towering green giants until they bloom and then they're magnificent. I Chelsea Chop them (cut back) by a third if they're going to tower over smaller perennials, but, those in the back of the garden are left alone. Stop stopping by mid-June or you will  not have any flowers! Chopping them back not only keeps them from towering over other plants, it keeps them from flopping. Planting them with other assertive growers like Solidago, Cup plant, taller Coreopsis and Rudbeckias will keep them in check. Grasses like Little Bluestem and Panicum will keep them upright. 
 
Trust me they can survive among aggressive plants! But, do watch some of the Solidago.
 summer bloom pops open in shades of pale pink to deep purple

New England asters are a must have nectar and pollen plant for my garden/habitat, but, they are a critical late season pollen and nectar source for migrating Monarch Butterfly. So, if you garden under a flyway plant New England asters.
 


 

The Particulars


Family: Asteraceae

Common Name: New England aster 

Herbatious perennial  

Native Range: Eastern North America 


Source

Zone: 4 to 8 

Size: 3.00 to 6.00 feet tall with a  2.00 to 3.00 foot spread

Bloom: August to September 

Bloom Description: Deep pink-purple 

Sun: Full sun 

Water: Medium 

Maintenance: Medium 

Suggested Use: Naturalize, Rain Garden Flower: Showy, Good Cut 

Wildlife value: "The flowers are visited primarily by long-tongued bees, bee flies, butterflies, and skippers. Short-tongued bees and Syrphid flies also visit the flowers, but they collect pollen primarily and are non-pollinating. Among the long-tongued bees, are such visitors as bumblebees, honeybees, Miner bees, and large Leaf-Cutting bees. Cross-pollination by these insects is essential, otherwise the seeds will be infertile. The larvae of at least 40 moths feed on various parts of this and other asters (see Moth Table). Other insects feeding on this plant include Lygus lineolaris (Tarnished Plant Bug), Poccilocapsus lineatus (Four-Lined Plant Bug), Corythuche marmorata (Chrysanthemum Lace Bug), and Macrosiphum euphoriaca (Potato Aphid). The seeds and leaves of this plant are eaten to a limited extent by the Wild Turkey, while deer, livestock, and rabbits occasionally browse on the foliage, sometimes eating the entire plant. However, New England Aster isn't a preferred food source for these animals. " (Illinois Wildflowers Source)

Companion Planting: Canadian Goldenrod, Ironweed, Smooth Blue Aster, Aromatic Aster, Perennial Black-Eyed-Susan, Tall Sunflower, Showy Goldenrod, Spotted Bee Balm, native grasses, Frostweed

holding its own with other wildflowers

Comments: Can tolerate clay soil, needs some regular moisture, will spread assertively by seed. I leave the seed heads on for any birds that might want to eat them, but, if you are concerned about it spreading too much, just remove them before the achenes blow away.

Happy Wildflower Wednesday. 

xoxogail




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 your link in comments section.



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.