Many of the Asteraceaes that I love can be found in old fields, prairie remnants and along the roadsides; plants that until recently have been thought of as weeds.
|Verbesina virginica with numerous disk florets that are surrounded by ray florets|
|numerous gold or yellow disk florets, surrounded by 30 or more ray florets|
I love this time of year with the attention grabbing Frostweeds, golden yellow of goldenrod, the brilliant pink and purple of the ex-asters, and the lilac-blues of Hardy Blue Mistflower against the Autumn blue sky. These early fall blooms with their intense, rich colors are a treat for our senses and necessary for our garden residents and visitors.
You don't have to take my word for it~just walk trails in a local park, visit native plant gardens or check out your local nursery and notice which plants are attracting the most pollinator visitors.
Please enjoy a few more photos of my early fall favorites!
Verbesina virginica with its unusual white ray flowers is found on roadsides, woodlands and waste areas. It's a take care of itself plant that has enormous wildlife value for foraging pollinators (carpenter, honeybees, bumbles and small tongued bees and butterflies) during late summer when gardens are winding down. It’s such an important food source for Monarch Butterflies that it had been selected as a monitoring plant by Monarch Watch. Frostweed grows in full sun, partial shade, or full shade with minimal watering or care. Like most rough and tumble wildflowers, it can take care of itself. Keep in mind that it reproduces very well from seed! The earliest I've seen the flowers open is late August in my Middle South garden and the best bloom is mid-September. Once in bloom you can expect them to be visited by an array of pollinators. The foliage is a larval host for the Summer Azure, Bordered Patch, and Silvery Checkerspot butterflies.
It really has a lot going for it
- rough and tumble good looks,
- it's a pollinator magnet
- drought tolerant
- native species
- it magically makes ice flowers on cold and frosty mornings
- Okay, it's not magic it's capillary action, but, I think that's magical.
Here's another roadside weed that has hundreds of beautiful cultivars. It's a classic daisy flower that blooms in mid-September in my garden and looks spectacular with the Goldenrods. At one time this planting had a cultivar name, but the seedlings have taken over. Symphyotrichum novae-angliae are the first of the ex-asters to bloom. They're tall and gently sway in the slightest breeze. I didn't edit any out this past spring and they've spread to make a lovely show in pinks and purples.
Bumblebees, small bees, carpenterbees, butterflies, skippers and beneficial insects flock to these flowers. Full sun and moist soil is preferred. I cut this plant back in June, but it still gets tall. Very easily grown from seed, this beauty has seeded itself all over my garden. But, you know, I love that!
Hardy Blue mist flower: Many gardeners under appreciate the charms of Hardy Ageratum. They consider it too weedy and aggressive for their gardens, until it blooms and then they begin wondering why the heck they haven't more of it! I no longer wonder why I haven't more, I've let it spread 4 feet down the side of the Susan's bed and I am thrilled with the river of blue.
Conoclinium coelestinum is a graceful, low growing, eastern North American native wildflower that begins blooming in late August and continues through early fall. The lilac-blue flowers add a softness to late summer and fall gardens when rough and tumble flowers like the Susans, Goldenrods, Cup Plant, Verbesinas, Joe-Pye weeds and Ironweeds are making a large and loud scene. It's especially beautiful when allowed to naturalize and make its own big statement.
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).
Goldenrods provide a big flower show each year and every bee, skipper, butterfly, soldier beetle, ambush bug, fly, spider, flower fly, etc... that visits or lives in this garden can be found noshing on it. You can't ask for a better wildlife valuable plant and when you combine them with the ex-asters, you get beauty and happy pollinators.
Goldenrods are the king of the colonizing wildflowers, some more than others! Don't let that stop you from adding them to your sunny garden. There are 100s of Solidago species in North America and you can be sure you will find several that make sense for your garden. I grow Solidago 'Fireworks' in the Susans Bed and Zigzag goldenrod/Solidago flexicaulis in one of the woodland gardens. Neither are colonizers. The rest are species and aggressive colonizers that I cull every spring and fall.
Give me this time of year with the intense colors of the wildflowers and the frenetic activity of pollinators, birds and other critters. These early fall blooms are a treat for the senses. But, my friends, it's only the beginning of the full fall show in a Middle South garden and I'll be sharing more Asteraceas and their critter visitors with you in the coming weeks.
Please remember, if you want to provide for fall pollinators you must plant landing pads of deliciousness like Goldenrods, Verbesinas, Hardy Bluemist flower, the ex-asters, and other wildflowers and you must never, ever, ever, ever, use pesticides in your garden. I do mean never!
Happy Wildflower Wednesday.
Thank you for stopping by and welcome to Clay and Limestone's Wildflower Wednesday celebration. WW is 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. It's all about celebrating wildflowers. 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.