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

Monday, March 28, 2011

Got Wildflowers! Lucky Pollinators!

A Fab Fabiaceae with a tiny pollinator
This past weekend was the big test! The first of the wildflower sales in Middle Tennessee with tempting flowers and shrubs! Cheekwood Art and Gardens, the closest we have to a botanical center, had it's annual wildflower sale benefiting the Howe Wildflower Garden (17th sale). In those early years I met many new wildflowers~Not so much anymore, but, I always come home with a few surprises.
Pollinator nectaring on Great Blue Lobelia
You may be wondering if I was able to keep the plant buying guidelines I put together way back in January? Here they are~in case any of us forgot them~
  • Will they survive the difficult conditions at Clay and Limestone?
  • Is this plant a nectar or pollen source for pollinators?
  • Is it a host plant for pollinators?
  • Is this plant available locally, therefore, more likely to survive the extremes of the Central Basin?
  • Will this plant add to the diversity of my pollinator friendly garden?
  • Is there a native plant that makes more sense than that seductive exotic?

Baptisia australis with pollinator
Guidelines are easy to compile on a cold winter day. A wildflower fair, on a cool, sunny Spring morning is an altogether different challenge. It's a great big tempting carrot to dangle in front of any gardener. Even a gardener with resolve.

Shooting Star/Dodecatheon meadia

I am happy to report, that our heroine kept those guidelines in mind the entire time~Kept them in mind when she walked past the Swamp Azaleas three times and did not grab them all! Kept them in mind when she walked past swamp anything! Kept those guidelines in mind as she added a few that pushed the Central Basin guidelines! Kept them in mind when she added the following native lovelies to the pile. Here's what was added!
  • Lobelia siphilitica: One accidentally arrived to C and L with a new aster and it's a keeper. But more were needed. Blooming a lovely blue in the August, it was a bee magnet; survived the droughty summer; and, tolerated the wet winter. The flowers attract long-tongued bees primarily, including Little Carpenter bees, Miner bees, Mason bees, and Leaf-Cutting bees. Small butterflies and skippers also visit the flowers.
  • Dodecatheon meadia: A Central Basin native, Shooting Star thrives at C and L. The preference is full or partial sun, and moist to slightly dry soil. Queen bumblebees and Carpenter Bees are the most typical visitors. They use 'buzz pollination'; that a rapid vibration of their thoracic muscles to get pollen from the flowers. Anthophorine bees, Eucerine Miner bees, and Green Metallic bees also visit. All of these insects collect pollen, as the flowers offer no nectar reward.
  • Campanulastrum americanum: American Bellflower is a Central Basin beauty that I have wanted to get established in the garden for years. Long-tongued bees are the primary pollinators of the flowers, including bumblebees and large Leaf-Cutting bees. Other visitors of the flowers include Halictid bees, butterflies, and skippers. These insects seek nectar, and some of the bees collect pollen from the anthers. Syrphid flies may feed on the pollen, but they are not effective pollinators. Deer occasionally eat the flowers and foliage. (source)
American Bellflower/Campanulastrum americanum
  • Thermopsis villosa: A terrific legume, that can take the heat. Lovely spikes of large deep yellow flowers on foot long racemes from May-June. Host plant for Wild Indigo Duskywing Butterfly caterpillars.
  • Chionanthus virginicus: Fringe tree is found from eastern Texas and southern Missouri eastward to the Atlantic Coast and north to Ohio and Pennsylvania. Trees grow in moist wooded areas, swamp borders, rocky bluffs, streams and outcroppings. It grows in the Central Basin in areas with richer, deeper soils. Fringe tree fruits are among the favorite foods of wild turkeys, blue jays, cardinals and mockingbirds. White-tailed deer and other animals browse the foliage.
  • Echinacea pallida: A Tennessee native, but, not a native of Davidson County. Long-tongued bees (Carpenter bees, Bumbles, Leaf cutting bees) butterflies, and skippers are the most important visitors to the flowers. Occasionally small bees like Green Metalic bees, Short-tongued Green Metallic bees and other Halictine bees also visit the flowers occasionally. The caterpillars of the butterfly Silvery Checkerspot feed on the foliage, as do the caterpillars of the moths Wavy-Lined Emerald and Common Eupithecia. Goldfinches eat the seeds.
  • Euonymus americanus: I love this marvelous semi evergreen native with its spindly branches and gorgeous seeds that bust open each fall. I have several but, thought a few more would make a nice showing. The inconspicuous flowers attract small bees and flies. The foliage is eaten by the caterpillars of the moths. Birds including~the Northern Flicker, Brown Thrasher, Catbird, Eastern Bluebird, Cardinal, and Eastern Towhee eat the fruit to a limited extent (Source: Morton Arboretum). These birds help to spread the seeds in the fruits to new locations. White-Tailed Deer browse on the leaves and young shoots.
Hearts-A-Bustin/Eunymous americanus
  • Silene carolina: Grow in average, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Prefers sunny sites in dryish sandy or gravelly soils with some part afternoon shade. Plants are best left undisturbed once established. Requires excellent drainage. Just reading this description and you know that I am pushing the envelope!
  • Trillium luteum: A sweet lemon scented Tennessee native that was happy in my garden until a wall decided it needed to be built right on top of it! Bees, carrion flies and others have been observed visiting the blooms and ants are known to aid seed dispersal (myrmecochory).
The next test is in April! Wish this pollinator friendly wildlife gardener much luck!

PS Because it bears repeating~ If you want to attract pollinators~Never, never, never, ever, use pesticides in your garden.

This post is part of a series on native pollinators in the garden~ Earlier posts and their links are listed below for your convenience.

Part I~Now Is The Time To Bee-gin Thinking About Bees ( here)
This Is The Place To Bee ( here)
If You Could Plant Only One Plant In Your Garden~Don't (here)

Must Bee The Season of The Witch (here)
Go Bare In Your Garden (here)
We can't All be pretty Pollinators (here)
Eye, Eye Skipper, Big Eyed Pollinators (here)
What's In Your Garden (here)
Carpenter Bees (here)

Other bee posts you might want to read~
Count Yourself Lucky To Have Hoverflies (here)
Bumblebee Hotel (here)
Still Taking Care Of Bzzness (here)
My Sweet Embraceable You (here)

This post was written by Gail Eichelberger for my blog Clay and Limestone Copyright 2011.This work protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.


  1. You did good, Gail! So many lovely plants jumped into your cart, the car must have been riding low on the way home! Wish I had been there with you. :-)

  2. Which sister did you make ride on the roof? Love the native Euonymous. I have them growing along my roadway and in the fall they are spectacular. They have the smooth sepal though so a bit different from this one.

  3. Our heroine showed admirable restraint and great perspicacity in her choices! Bravo!!!!

  4. Wow, you did great! Lucky you. I would love to visit Cheekwood and you one day. H.

  5. You showed excellent restraint. Dodecatheon is one of my favorite wildflowers. You can never have too many of them. That bellflower is just lovely. Good score.

  6. What self-control Ms. Gail...I look forward to seeing your garden grow and bloom.

  7. I love to see new natives and familiar ones I have planted...many of the ones you found are hard to find here even though they are also native...I must explore local nurseries more to see if they are stocking more natives this year...envious of the campanula...I tried to get it from a supplier but they were not able to collect the seed in the fall so I am out of luck...if you ever get any seed you want to share let me know...

  8. Very nice! You're not limiting yourself to *only* natives,are you?

    There are a lot of great natives though...

  9. I too wish I had been with you. There aren't any wildflower centers around here. I have to watch carefully to find some. I hope my pollinators will like what I can scrum up for them. They are all still asleep here. Too much snow and cold weather. We are having a cool spring.

  10. A wonderful way to spend a spring day. Lovely choices, Gail. Stunning 1st and Shooting Star/Dodecatheon meadia images!

  11. Sounds like a great haul! I love lobelia siphilitica...and I hope the silene works out!

  12. Alan, Hello! I'm originally from St Louis! I have native friendly exotics, but, I limit myself to Cedar Basin~because this garden is a difficult site with shallow soil sitting on limestone bedrock. They thrive here~rather then struggle like many exotics and even some natives. gail

  13. Those are some lovely things you brought home - I just planted some Lobelia siphilitica in the meadow last September - can't wait for the August blues!

  14. Wow, what wonderful restraint! It may have been hard to resist at the sales, but I think you will be rewarded in your garden, by choosing the plants you did. I adore shooting stars, esp., plus everything else you acquired.

  15. Sounds like you got some great plants. I have a list of the plants available at the Native plant sale....so hard not to get one or two or ten of each and every one!!
    My Chionanthus virginicus is about ready to bloom, I am really excited.

  16. I was going to make a comment about admiring your resolve, but when I see what you were able to take home I became more jealous.

  17. Looks like you found a nice selection of plants! are you going to the perennial plant sale?

  18. I wish I was using your camera!
    Beautiful pictures, but they are from widely different times of the year...

    The indigo is up... here in middle GA, I'm expecting blooms within a month...

    I tried to shoot a bumble bee the other day as it visited a columbine bloom... In spite of several attempts, I couldn't get a decent shot...

  19. Great haul Gail! Did the Blue Lobelia come with Miss Bessie? I was just wondering because it grows wild here. I don't attempt to cultivate it but it comes up everywhere. American Bellflower grows wild here too and it's also really lovely.

    What a wonderful plant sale ~ can't wait to see these beauties established in your garden!

  20. Stone, They are certainly not all in bloom now~just using photos to illustrate the plants I bought!

    Sweetbay, It's possible they arrived with Miss Bessie! She is quite a beautiful aster!

    les, Does your nursery sell natives?


  21. Good for you for sticking to your resolve, Gail! Looks like a fantastic sale, and the pollinators are going to thank you for all the new additions.

  22. Looks like quite a haul Gail! Kudos for sticking to your resolve. Long may they all grow, bloom, and feed your lucky pollinators.

  23. You, my friend, are an angel in disguise.....'long live Gail's garden' say I. Home to the bee and many other pollinators.

    A pleasure to read.

  24. You are a heroine for sure dear Gail. I'm so proud of you for the excellent discipline ~ your pollinators have to be excited too not to mention lucky to have you as their gardener. I am going to be keeping your guidelines in mind when I make purchases this year too. It seems a very wise way to make selections. I hope I can stick to it as well as you did.
    ps Just to qualify ~ I am keeping the tropicals/exotics I already own, just not adding anymore...
    Small steps, right?

  25. Lovely choices, of course! But that baptista is fabulous! I keep resisting it, because the neighbors have one that is so huge it takes over the sidewalk, and I want no part of such a plant. The flowers are so pretty though, give me strength!

  26. Lovely species!

    Your guidelines are very similar to mine--regionally adjusted, of course. Have you seen the new Xerces Society book Attracting Pollinators? It's well worth reading.

  27. You were so good. I wonder if Hearts a Bustin will grow here. I loved it in North Carolina when we visited. It won't be long until I'm off for a Bustani run. Oh my, I'll have to remember your guidelines, although I allow some non-natives to play here too.~~Dee

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