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

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.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Wildflower Wednesday: Clay and Limestone Gardening Guidelines

Winter is here for many and it might be tempting to say that nothing is going on in the garden right now, but, we gardeners know that even a winter garden is teeming with life and activity. Birds are visiting the feeders especially on the coldest days when the ground is frozen and its hard to find a hidden insect or fallen fruit and seed. They also appreciate water, however you decide to provide it! A few years ago my birdbath cracked from the cold and I used a handy turkey roaster with rocks for easy access to the water.

There were no complaints and lots of visitors!

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.

Evergreens provide shelter for garden critters

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



1. Plan and plant for a year round garden by wisely choosing the plants.

 It's taken me a very long time, but, I finally feel as if I have found the right combination and balance of perennials, annuals, biennials, small trees and shrubs that can thrive in the shallow clay soil that is too dry during the summer and too wet during the winter. Nearly every plant at Clay and Limestone has been chosen with birds, insects and other critters in mind.

Simply said: Choose plants that have good wildlife value.

Hamamelis virginiana blooms in November in my garden and small pollinators are all over the flowers

Most of our gardens have enough food for critters in our spring and summer, but, late fall and winter are critical food times in the garden. I've chosen late blooming fall plants to provide needed food for butterfly, hummingbirds and bees that are visiting the garden in the fall. Their seeds will feed song birds and small mammals through out late fall.
 If you garden along the monarch trail I recommend planting this beauty

All our native asters are excellent nectar and pollen sources for late visiting pollinators, but,  Symphyotrichum praealtum 'Miss Bessie' is the best very, very, late blooming ex-aster in my garden. It  begins blooming in mid to late October, just as the little woodland asters and Goldenrods are starting to fade, and continues blooming throughout November. It can even survive light frosts. It was still blooming when I walked the garden yesterday. It's an extremely important food source for migrating Monarch butterflies and if you're gardening on the Monarch Migration Trail, you might want to consider planting it. Bees are also frequent visitors when the temperatures reach 50˚.

Native Lonicera bloomed until Late October feeding migrating Hummingbirds
Migrating hummingbirds need to constantly replenish their fat reserves. They feed heavily on flower nectar and where there are few flowers they will feed at the sugar water from feeders as they continue on their journey. Plant lots of nectar- rich hummingbird favorites~Salvias, Pentas, Cleome, Penstemmons, Trumpet honeysuckle, Zinnias and Monarda to keep Hummers happy and visiting. I often cover these plants if a light frost is forecast.


These are the questions I ask myself when plant shopping-at nurseries or online.
  • Does it make sense for my garden conditions?
  • Is it a source of nectar or pollen or a host plant for pollinators? 
  • Is it a food source for birds, insects or mammals?
  • Will it add to plant diversity in my critter friendly garden?
  • Is it native or garden friendly (a non invasive plant)? 
  • Have I included plants that bloom in the early spring and some that bloom until late fall to help critters getting ready for winter?
  • Have I included shrubs and evergreens? (They provide structure to the garden and cover and food.)
  • What worked this past year? Should I plant more?
Aronia arbutifolia


2. Wait until spring to clean the garden

Gardening friends it's time for us to help our neighbors understand that there's no need to clean up their gardens in late fall. Birds, bees, beetles, butterfly, beneficial insects and small mammals need our "messy gardens". They overwinter under leaves, tuck themselves in the peeling bark of trees, nestle at the base of plants and even nest/overwinter in the stalks of many wildflowers. Clearing the garden kills the insects and that means our resident birds won't have as many insects to feed their young come spring. Not only do the critters miss out, but, we don't get to see how beautiful our gardens can look when/if it snows.
The stems of decaying Silphium perfoliatum provide homes for overwintering critters
When you let native wildflowers like Echinaceas, Rudbeckias and the ex-asters stand all winter the seeds are consumed by Goldfinches and other seed eating critters. The stems of many wildflowers, like cup plant are perfect nest sites for overwintering insects~especially small bees.

Native grasses left standing are beautiful, but, also provide shelter and protection for small mammals and birds. Goldenrods support a curious little Goldenrod Gall Fly that makes it's winter home on the stem of the plant. If they aren't eaten by Chickadees during the winter the fly emerges in the spring to start this process all over.

Decaying stems play a roll in the winter garden. The older foliage of a Christmas Fern 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.


3. Leave some leaves! 

 I can't leave all the leaves that fall on my garden beds, but, I leave a lot. Over the years the decomposed leaf litter has improved the soil while providing a nice layer of mulch for some winter protection. I do relocate leaves to wooded areas in the garden where they decompose and provide a habitat for beetles, caterpillars, some bees to over winter.
any more than this and my plants might not survive the wet winter under the leaves

4. Create a brush pile, leave a snag or allow a fallen tree to remain in the garden

 Living trees provide food, shelter, nesting, resting places, perches for hunters and a "reproductive site" for hundreds of different kinds of insects.

Redbud snag
When a tree dies, good things continue to happen. 


Dead trees have an enormously important role in forests. Trees fall for a variety of reasons: disease, lightning, fire, animal damage, too much shade, drought, root competition, as well as old age. A big oak in my garden was struck by lightening a dozen years ago and limb by limb it's been falling down.

The snag that remains still provides shelter and nesting for a number of critters; while the limbs on the ground are a perfect shelter for small animals such as rabbits, chipmunks and squirrels and a habitat for beetles, termites and other insects.

If you haven't space for a fallen tree, you can create a brush pile for the wild critters that live in your garden. Insects, spiders, bees, reptiles, and small mammals love brush piles and birds will visit in search of insects.

5. Always provide water, it's as important in the winter as it is in the summer


Birds need water every day and if you live where there's no snow cover (yes, birds can eat snow), then, birds need your help even more. I have two heated birdbaths and I always have visitors at them. If you haven't access to an electrical outlet, you can look for a solar bird bath heater. Get frost proof bird baths. My concrete baths only crack if they are not heated. Keep the baths clean and if possible place them in a sunny spot.

The birds will thank you for it.

Blue birds flock to the bird baths when they visit the garden in late winter

I walked the garden while I was writing this post and there were still colorful leaves on the trees and blooming ex-asters, but, not for long, a cold wind is blowing in winter temperatures in the low 20s. My flowers will be gone, but, this gardener will continue to dream and plan. In the mid-south the garden and gardener rest for a shorter time than many of you experience winter. I hope this winter gardening guideline is helpful and that winter is good to you.

Happy Wildflower Wednesday.
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 a lot of us. 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, October 24, 2018

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.

Symphyotrichum pilosum is known by several common names, depending upon what part of its growing range you hail from: hairy aster, frost aster, hairy white aster, old-field aster, and, awl aster.

Often described as a bushy plant, it's a delicate arching plant at Clay and Limestone.  Snipping it back early in the summer might make for a shorter and bushier plant, but, I prefer the graceful look of arches in my garden to counteract the many tall wildflowers.

Frost aster started blooming as the S novae-angliae and Solidagoes were beginning to decline and just as the little asters everywhere began to bloom. They're still blooming and looking good after several heavy rainfalls and two frosty nights. I appreciate its long lasting floral display and so do the pollinators. Late blooming flowering plants are extremely important food sources for pollinators still out and about on beautiful warm fall days.

During the summer the green stems are hidden by Susans and other blooming beauties. You might consider combining them with bluestems (the red fall colors would be a delightful contrast) or perennials like Tradescantia and Phlox paniculatas.  If your garden is dry, Monarda punctata, Parthenium integrifolium and Asclepias tuberosa gone to seed would be good partners.

yellow centers are surrounded by many (16-35) white ray florets
Frost Aster has a lot going for it:
  • an easy peasy, no maintenance plant
  • a delightful extended season of bloom (Sept - Dec), 
  • showy white flowers
  • graceful arching stems
  • a floral display that keeps on keeping on~it's not stopped by rain, sleet, snow or freezing
  • a delicate sweet scent
  • a pollinator magnet 
the stems of this little aster are covered in fine, fuzz-like hairs
Frost aster is a Clay and Limestone rough and tumble wildflower.  It's a simple flower that blooms its heart out and require no special care. Please note, like many members of the Asteracea family, this one is a traveler (self seeding), but you can easily transplant any seedlings to other parts of your garden. If you don't want to edit, cut the flower heads off after bloom, but, remember,  you will be depriving song birds and small mammals of those seeds.

Symphyotrichum pilosum is native to every state in North America east of the Rockies and also to eastern Canadian provinces. In Latin, pilos means 'hairy' and the stems of this little aster are covered in fine, fuzz-like hairs.
 Symphyotrichum is a genus of about 90 species of herbaceous annual and perennial plants that were formerly treated within the genus Aster; I affectionately refer to them as the Ex-asters. Frost aster like the other ex-asters in my garden is native to Middle Tennessee. They all grow and thrive in the shallow clay soil and semi-shady to almost full sun conditions of my Zone7 garden (formerly Zone6b)
the yellow centers may become reddish with age
The Particulars

Botanical name: Symphyotrichum pilosum
Common Name: hairy aster, frost aster,  hairy white old-field aster, awl aster
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Asteraceae
Native Range: Eastern North America and western Canada
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 2.00 to 4.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 4.00 feet
Bloom Time: September to October and into November (middle Tennessee)
Bloom Description: White rays and pale yellow center discs. Showy and attractive to native bees and butterflies
Leaves: Alternate, Simple, Entire; Long lance-shaped. The lower ones often disappear during hot summer months
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Mesic to dry conditions
Soil: Loam, clay-loam, sandy loam, or gravelly material
Maintenance: Low
Distinctive features: Very fuzzy stem, as if coated with a thick frost.
Comments: This aster is easy to cultivate, but it can spread aggressively by reseeding itself, especially in open disturbed areas. You'll see this plant out the car window in empty field, highway  medians,  disturbed areas, along railroad tracts and empty neighborhood lots.
Wildlife Value: Moderately deer resistant. Host plant for the Pearl Crescent butterfly. Flowers are attractive to bees and butterflies. Songbirds and small mammals eat the seeds. Members of the genus Symphyotrichum species support the following specialized bees: Andrena (Callandrena s.l.) asteris, Andrena (Callandrena s.l.) asteroides, Andrena (Cnemidandrena) hirticincta, Andrena (Cnemidandrena) nubecula, Andrena (Callandrena s.l.) placata, Andrena (Callandrena s.l.) simplex, and Colletes simulans.  (source)
Ecological Value: Because of its "weedy" nature it is great at colonizing disturbed and "waste places". It protects soil from erosion and provides food for wildlife where more sensitive plants cannot yet grow.(source)



xoxogail

*The Bumble Bees, honeybees, Miner bees, and large Leaf-Cutting bees (long-tongued bees), bee flies, butterflies, and skippers that visit all the late blooming ex-asters for nectar and pollen are essential for cross pollination or all those fluffy seeds would be infertile. So never, ever, ever, ever use pesticides, if you want pollinators to pollinate your ex-asters and other plants!

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.


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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