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

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

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.

It's short, usually around 8 inches tall and will tuck nicely under shrubs and taller, leggy perennials. It has small, fleshy, succulent-like leaves that are arranged in whorls around the stems. It's even more attractive when in bloom. The flowers are small white stars with noticeably purplish stamens and a hint of scent to delight the gardener's senses and provide for early visiting pollinators.
blooming in my middle Tennessee (zone 7a) garden right now

I adore it and planted more, this time in moister soil.
The flowers are small white stars with noticeably purplish stamens.

Three leaved Stonecrop is a member of the Sedum/Crassulaceae family. Almost all family members have star shaped flowers and succulent leaves. They're enormously popular plants and propagate relatively easily. Propagation is simple: by division or cuttings. Sometimes little bits of the plants break off, fall to soil and root. Now that's easy.
kind of beat up after 3 inches of heavy rain

Plant it with Aquilegia canadensis, Phlox divaricata, Mertensia virginica, Iris cristata, Polystichum acrostichoides, Tiarella cordifolia or Heuchera Americana. My new planting is in a bed of moisture loving Phloxes and Sedges. The beds are mulched with leaf mold to keep the soil moist. It's going to look lovely at the base o Baptisia australis and cuddling up to the pink Phloxes.


My dears, it loves shade, doesn't take over, has attractive flowers, feeds the bees and looks good...This may be the groundcover you've been looking for!

The particulars
Sedum ternatum 
Common Name: three-leaved stonecrop, wild-stonecrop,
Herbaceous perennial, in warmer gardens it might be evergreen.
Family: Crassulaceae
Native Range: Eastern United States, has escaped in eastern Canada
Zone: 4 to 8
Size: less than a foot tall and might spread a foot
Bloom Time: April to May with a showy star flower
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium: which means it is not a drought plant, although, listed as drought tolerant, it does not thrive in a truly dry garden.
Maintenance: Low
Propagation: Division or cuttings. Seeds take a very long time.

The seed heads are pretty cool, too.

Suggested Use: Ground Cover, Naturalize, perfect in a rocky, moist spot. I have it planted with Phloxes that like it moist. Tuck it between rocks or  under leggy perennials.
Wildlife value: The flower nectar and pollen of stonecrops (Sedum spp.) attract various kinds of bees, including Andrena forbesii. Less often, wasps and flies visit flowers of these plants. Insects that feed on the foliage of Wild Stonecrop (Sedum ternatum) include the Sedum Aphid (Aphis sedi) and the aphid Aphis acrita. The Eastern Chipmunk eats the roots of this plant. (Illinois Wildflower source)
Comments: Deer proof, but, chipmunks may eat roots. This sedum tolerates more shade than other sedums.

Where to find: Middle Tennesseans can buy them at GroWild a local native plant nursery this weekend (April 27-28) at their Native Plant Festival or, order them from Prairie Nursery.
I hope spring has finally arrived for my northern gardening friends. It's been a rough spring and soon, your wildflowers will be making your heart sing.

xoxogail



Welcome to Wildflower Wednesday and thank you for stopping by to see our April star. Sedums are popular plants known for their easy care, it's a too bad that growers over look our natives in favor of exotics. Sure they're lovely, but so are our local wildflowers, especially Sedum ternatum with it's star flower! Thanks for joining in and if you are new to Wildflower Wednesday, it's 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 your wildflower is in bloom or not and, it doesn't matter if we all share the same plants. 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.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Pollinator Watch

I've been watching for pollinators on the Camassia and so has this crab spider. Flowers spiders, as crab spiders are also known, have short, wide, flat bodies with two pairs of over sized front legs for grabbing and holding their prey, and small venomous fangs for injecting a paralyzing poison.


That fast acting venom means they can catch grasshoppers and butterflies. As hunters they wait  patiently for an unsuspecting bee or fly to land near their hiding spot and then grab them. They are quick and like crabs can move backwards, forwards and sideways with ease. Masters of camouflage, they can change colors to match the flower they are hiding on.
Carpenter bee and Blue Orchard Mason bee early spring 2015
Although, they eat beloved pollinators, they are considered beneficial in the garden and also prey upon flies, mosquitoes, moths, and other insect pests. Crab spiders are not immune to being preyed upon, they're often a tasty dish for wasps, ants, large spiders, lizards, birds and shrews.

The food chain in a garden is so dramatic. It's better than most TV shows!

xoxogail

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 28, 2018

Wildflower Wednesday: Asarum canadense

Welcome to Clay and Limestone where we're celebrating our Wildflower Wednesday star of the month!
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.


The flower of Wild Ginger is a fuzzy little beauty, but, you'll have to get on your hands and knees to see it. The flower has no fragrance, but, it's unusual shape should be seen up close to appreciate. What looks like petals are really part of the calyx and have pointy ends that add to its attractiveness. The flowers fade fast, but, the leaves are green all season, making Wild Ginger an important ingredient for a woodland garden.

Asarum canadence is made for the shade. It’s a beautiful ground covering wildflower when grown in loose, rich, organic soil (spreads by rhizomes). Needless to say, it doesn’t spread wildly or fast in my heavy clay soil, instead it intermingles with other wildflowers. Because it remains green all season, it's a lovely addition to any woodland/shade garden that emphasizes leaf shapes, textures and variations on greens. I can see it planted along a path edge, massed or interplanted with clumping  Christmas Ferns, or any number of other shade dwelling beauties. In my garden it plays well with False dragonhead, Phlox divaricata, Christmas Ferns, Blue eyed Mary, Phacelia and Spigelia.
Wild ginger is a fuzzy little beauty, but you'll have to get on your hands and knees to see it.
When a flower is at ground level it only makes sense that it's inviting ground dwelling insects to either pollinate or disperse its seeds. That's the case with Wild Ginger, it's pollinated by flies and beetles and the seeds are attractive to ants.

Seed dispersal by ants is called Myrmecochory. This beneficial partnership between ants and plants is amazing: The ant gets a lipid (fat) rich meal from the elaiosome covered seeds and the plants benefit from the ant dispersing the seed far from the parent plant (thereby eliminating competition). Scientists also think that ants have a role in protecting seeds from seed predators when they carry the seeds away and by increasing germination rates when they eliminate the elaiosome surrounding the seed.

Nature never ceases to amaze me.

I love knowing that ants have moved wild ginger uphill in my garden. I sure didn't recall planting it there! This gives me an even better appreciation of ants, their midens (trash depositories) and their place in nature! I must thank them for planting it near the Christmas fern and wild Phlox!

Oh, in case you wondered, the leaves and rhizomes of Wild Ginger do give off a pleasant gingery fragrance when broken, but, this is not why I grow it. Not only is it lovely to look at, it's not palatable to deer and it's an important food source for the larva of the Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly. The caterpillar eats the leaves and thereby ingests aristolochic acid which makes it poisonous to birds.
Pipevine Swallowtail on Ruellia strepens


The particulars

Asarum canadense
Common Name: Wild Ginger
Family: Aristolochiaceae
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Aristolochiaceae
Native Range: Eastern N. America - Manitoba to New Brunswick, south to N. Carolina and west to Kansas
Zone: 4 to 6
Size: Height: 0.50 to 1.00 feet and Spread: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Bloom Time: Late March/April to May
Bloom Description: Maroon/brown
Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist (can take some dryness, but, it will fade fast in a drought)
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8) , Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Ground Cover, Naturalize, Rain Garden
Tolerate: Deer, Heavy Shade
Faunal Associations: The reddish brown flowers  attract flies and beetles. The seeds attract ants because of their fleshy appendages; these insects help to disperse the seeds.
***an important food source for the Pipevine swallowtail Butterfly.
Comments: Doesn't grow in the high summer heat of Zone 8.
Companion planting: This plant is a wonderful companion for most wildflowers that like moist soil Consider using them with Wild columbine/Aquilegia canadensis, Celandine poppy/Stylophorum diphyllum, Christmas Fern/Polystichum acrostichoides, Lady Fern/Athyrium filix-femina,
Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata, Indian pink/Spigelia marilandica, Carex species, Fothergilla gardenii, Uvularia sessilifolia, Jeffersonia diphylla, Maianthemum stellatum, Polystichum acrostichoides, Pachysandra procumbens and other woodland wildflowers.

xoxogail

Welcome to Wildflower Wednesday and thank you for stopping by to see our March star. It's been in my garden for a long time and once again I ask myself how this workhouse in the woodland got overlooked. Thanks for joining in and if you are new to Wildflower Wednesday, it's 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 your wildflower is in bloom or not and, it doesn't matter if we all share the same plants. 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.

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