Welcome to Clay and Limestone's December's Roundup!
Wildflower Wednesday is about sharing wildflowers no matter where you garden~the UK, tropical Florida, Europe, Australia, Africa, South America, India or the coldest reaches of Canada. It doesn't matter if we sometimes show the same plants, how they grow and thrive in your garden is what matters most. I hope you join the celebration...It's always the fourth Wednesday of the month!
Without further ado, here are the best and brightest of Clay and Limestone's 2013 wildflowers.
January 2013 The Rare Alabama Croton
I am singing my happy song and dancing my happy dance. After years of searching for this rare shrub that is endemic to a few counties in Alabama, one county in Middle Tennessee (Coffee) and three counties in faraway Texas (Croton alabamensis var. texensis/Texabama croton). I now have one of my very own.
Alabama Croton is a semi-evergreen, thicket forming shrub which can easily grow between six to ten feet tall and forms a lose rounded shaped shrub at maturity. It produces very few leaves, but, the ones it has are noted for their oval-shape and glistening silver scales and stunning autumn color. In milder winters the leaves hang on and flutter green and orange until spring.
Alabama Croton is the bees knees. It's not deterred by dry, poor, limey soil, easily braves hot summers like we've been having the past few years, will grow in decent garden soil that is well draining, grows in the full sun, but, can appreciate a semi-shady location, is native to Middle Tennessee, is locally sourced, and it has year round interest.
February 2013 Harbinger of Spring
It is a tiny member of the Carrot (Apiaceae) family, growing from a round tuber and I count myself fortunate when it showed up in my garden a few years back. I dearly wish it were commercially available~it's a lovely little flower and should be in more of our woodland gardens and there should be more in my garden!
March A Side of Mustard
April: Practically Perfect Pink Phlox pilosa
Seriously, you must have this plant in your garden!
May: Scentless Mock Orange
It's a wonderful shrub for the back of the border, at the edge of the woods, as a good basic hedge/screen, a specimen in a large border or in a cottage garden. Scentless Mock-Orange has clusters of small flowers with a marvelous amount (60 to 90) stamens in each flower. The entire plant can reach a height of 10'. The mature bark is often gray, but can become more of a mahogany color over time. It is more floriferous in full sun, but grows well in part shade with at least four hours of sun. It prefers calcareous or neutral soils (my garden) and can be found in nature from Canada to Florida and weest to Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana. (source) It's a beautiful flowering shrub that's not only easy to grow, but, takes very little maintenance....I never water it. Trust me here, it has survived in the Garden of Benign Neglect for almost 30 years.
June: Bottle Brush Grass
Elymus hystrix is a graceful ornamental grass that I only noticed about six years ago. It just appeared in my garden, a gift on the wind and I have loved it ever since. It's hard not to appreciate any plant, especially a grass that actually prefers the shade and is tolerant of dry soil.
While other ornamental native grasses are barely showing life, cool season Bottlebrush Grass is green and beginning to sway in the garden. It's a grass with medium green coloring and an interesting loose structure. It's not at all like Panicums or River Oats that command a lot of space in your garden, in fact, I find the loose structure makes it a perfect grass to fit into a smaller space....perfect for jam packed gardens.
July: Rough and Tumble Cup Plant
Once it blooms there are dozens of bumblebees, carpenter bees, honeybees and butterflies stopping by to feed on the nectar and pollen that the daisy like flowers produce from late July till early fall. Come fall the seed heads are a tasty treat for Goldfinches.
August: Hardy Blue Mist Flower
Butterflies and bees are drawn to the nectar-rich flowers, while birds eat the seeds. If you want more, and once you see it massed you will, it's easily propagated from seeds, cuttings, rootball divisions or layering. It thrives best in a well-drained acidic to neutral soils in a sunny environment. If you want easy care this is a great wildflower, but, it does naturalize easily, spreading by rhizome and seed (and is pulled out just as easily).
September: False Dragonhead
Mother Nature designed False Dragonhead with bumblebees in mind. The tubular flowers are perfect for plump little bee bodies to slip right in to find the sweet spots of nectar and while pollinating the flowers. Although, Bumbles are the primary pollinators of False Dragonhead, it's visited by many other pollinators. Swallowtail Butterflies and Silver spotted skippers with long proboscis can reach far into the corolla for nectar and Carpenter bees, although, much too large to fit into the corolla, cleverly drill directly into the flower side to get at the nectar.
It's a clump-forming North American native perennial that is found in fields, prairies, thickets, woodland openings and borders, along rivers and streams and lake sides in much of the eastern and central United States, as well as eastern Canada. In other words, it prefers a moist spot in full sun or part shade! This member of the mint family typically grows 2-4' tall on stiff, square stems and features spikes of pinkish, tubular, lipped, snapdragon-like flowers which bloom in my garden during September and early October, just in time for late arriving pollinators which are making a mad dash to collect as much nectar and pollen for their last brood.
October: A Different Kind of Aster
|Ampelaster carolinianus is well worth breaking my garden rules
Because it's a southeast coastal native of freshwater marshes or other damp places, it can take a saturated soil, but, it's equally happy in good garden soil that is well mulched to keep the roots moist. It does bloom best when the summers are wet (and we've had a good wet summer), but, to be honest, I need to water it weekly most July and August. I am happy it has survived 4 years of crazy Middle South summers and winters.
November: In Praise of a Native Tree
Merry Christmas and thank you all for a marvelous year of wildflower celebrations! Your enthusiasm and support make it all the more fun to indulge in one of my favorite past times~talking and sharing information about wildflowers! See you January 22, 2014 when it's once more time time to get our wildflower on.
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.