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

Friday, March 20, 2015

Winter annuals for a native plant garden!

Two of my favorites, Entireleaf Western Daisy and
Blue-eyed Mary are showing off their attractive rosette stage.  (A Passalong Plant:Blue-eyed Mary)

We have a tendency to think of winter as a dormant season with plants at rest, but there really is a great deal of growing going on all winter. Just take a walk in your garden and you'll see signs of active life! Mosses, fungi and lichens are alive and thriving and the weedy winter annuals are reminding you that weeding isn't too far away! (go toThe Fascinating World of Fungi for more on them)
Edible Auricularia auricula/Jelly Ear growing on dead hardwood branch (January)
The stars of this post, Blue-eyed Mary and Entire leaf Western Daisy have been germinating and developing underneath the leaf litter in my garden. They both are cool season growers, are tolerant of really cold weather (and snow) and, are excellent reseeders in most gardens. By the way, that's how other winter annuals like Chickweed, Henbit, etc. get a toe hold in our gardens.
Astranthium integrifolium/Entireleaf Western Daisy

Entireleaf Western Daisy starts blooming in April (and keeps on going most of the summer). Blue-eyed Mary is also an April bloomer, but, blooms only for about three weeks. If pollinated, they set seed that matures and drops onto the garden soil where it has several months of warm stratification (necessary) before it germinates. I find they both germinate best in situ and you need to be on top of  the BEM in order to  harvest ripe seed, (it needs to be planted immediately).

Here's what works for me: Place a soil filled container near them to catch falling seeds; leave the container in the garden until the following late winter or early spring and then plant those seedlings when the ground is no longer frozen. Repeat to increase your collection.

Collinsia verna/Blue-eyed Mary
The only problem with these wonderful winter annuals is that they they aren't generally available at nurseries. I suspect that seed collection is a big issue. They're also rather fragile, especially Blue-eyed Mary, and that's not an ideal selling point. I know that GroWild (call them) had a few Collinsia verna/Blue-eyed Mary for sale. When it comes to Astranthium integrifolium/Entireleaf Western Daisy, unless you know me and live in Middle Tennessee, you may be plumb out of luck trying to find it.

I am hopeful that there will be blooms to show you later this spring, in the mean time, here's a peek at what's to come.

Happy Spring my friends.

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.


  1. thanks for the shout out Gail - I always enjoy your bloggs

  2. I have never heard of blue eyed Mary here in the UK, although we may call it something else! Love its delicacy.

  3. I would love to have blue eyed Mary in my garden. I love her she is so beautiful. Lucky you to have her.

  4. I certainly wish I had these two pretty winter annuals instead of the Henbit and Creeping Charlie I have! Your idea for catching seeds in nearby pot is a great idea--I might try that for other re-seeders that don't like to be moved or divided.

  5. I love the name of Entireleaf Daisy, as if there was any doubt about how much leaf you'd actually be getting with this plant. Its directness is admirable. Plus, it's cute. :o)

  6. Thanks for showing us the foliage and the blooms, and explaining a bit about each plant. Happy spring!

  7. Lovely native plants! There's nothing quite as exciting for a gardener, than to see the first Spring plants popping out of the earth.....

  8. Hi Gail, IMHO, the fungus steals the show. Fungus fascinates me in most of it's garden forms. Not so crazy about the kind that grows in my fridge altho sometimes it is colorful. I have a few early spring bulbs breaking the surface but no perennials yet. Always and exciting time.

  9. Lovely flowers, and once the snow melts I will see lots that has been growing all snuggled under that thick white blanket.


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson