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

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Wildflower Wednesday: December 2018 Annual Roundup

Welcome to the Wildflower Wednesday December 2018 Roundup!

There's still color in the garden and I thank the beige colored stalks of wildflowers, grasses and shrubs for brightening the gray days. Gardening in the Middle South is a treat, we have four seasons, but our winter is mercifully short and spring and autumn make up for the steamy hot summer weather. It won't be long before the earliest spring ephemerals will break dormancy and the gloriously long bloom of wildflowers will begin.

Without further ado here are the 2018 stars of Clay and Limestone's wildflowers.

January Wildflower Wednesday: The Siren Call of a Wildflower

with pedulous umbels that are similar to allium (source 
My favorite garden catalogs arrived this month and just like that I am head over heels in want of a plant that could be wrong for this garden! Meet Asclepias exaltata! A Monarch butterfly host plant that grows in shade. I'm not kidding, Asclepias exaltata is one of the most shade tolerant of its genus. That's exciting news for those of us that have more shade than sun in our gardens and want to grow host plants for the Monarch butterfly.

But, there's a but, Asclepias exaltata is a moisture loving plant! Where I garden the soils are generally dryer (summer), heavier and more neutral than where poke milkweed is naturally found. Is this enough of an issue to make me turn a deaf ear to the siren call of this beautiful wildflower?

I don't know, so I'm going to research Poke milkweed before I sail toward it!

February Wildflower Wednesday: Dirca palustris

The small bell-shaped pale lemon-yellow flowers of Dirca palustris are in bloom today. The flowers with their long bright yellow stamens bloom in clusters along the branches before the leaves emerge.

What a lovely surprise for a late winter day.

Dirca palustris is an early blooming deciduous native shrub. It can be found in rich, moist, neutral soil in woodlands scattered (meaning uncommon) over much of eastern North America. The small yellow flowers first appear in late winter and continue into early spring just in time for small bees to stop by for nectar and pollen.

If Lindera benzoin (Spicebush) is happy in your garden conditions, then, so will Leatherwood. They may be found near one another in woodlands and forest settings. They also share similar characteristics: bloom time, yellow flower color, leaf shape, blooming in deep shade, red fruit and lovely yellow fall leaf color. They're both blooming in my garden right now and make those shady spots pop with their yellow flowers.

 March Wildflower Wednesday: Asarum canadense

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.

April 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. 

May Wildflower Wednesday: Bear's Foot and a walk on the wildside

We walked the Richland Creek Greenway with our toddler granddaughter this past weekend. It's a 4 mile loop around a local golf course and is frequented by runners, walkers and bikers. We love the greenway and often use it to access favorite coffee shops and restaurants, but it's also a fantastic way to connect with nature. It's exciting to see so many parents and children there each time we go.  I imagine that for a lot of urban children greenways are their first introduction to nature. It's a pretty cool resource and it's exciting to see that Nashville is continuing to expand its greenway system.
Bear's foot/Hairy leaf cup leaves are giant sized
The greenway has a wide asphalt path that crosses Richland Creek several times and since we've had a lot of rain this spring the creek was flowing. We were excited to show our granddaughter the turtles basking in the sun and minnows in the deeper water, but, the biggest excitement came when a black snake crossed the path in front of us on its way to the water's edge. There are several open fields where we saw bluebirds, cardinals and other familiar birds. There's plenty of wildflowers like our Wildflower Wednesday star, Smallanthus uvedalius, along the path to attract butterflies and other pollinators. It's a good place to connect with and watch nature.

June Wildflower Wednesday: Lanceleaf fogfruit

I've recently discovered Phyla lanceolata, a cutie pie relative of Verbena growing on the other side of Hedge near the street. I'm very excited since the only other time I've seen it was while hiking at Owls Hill. Seeing it so close to Clay and Limestone's shallow, dry soil was a great surprise.

Finding new to my garden wildflowers makes my day and I can't find any reason to not like this flower. It's a seriously cute little Verbena cousin that ought to be in more native plant gardens and considering that it's native to almost all of the US (except for the dryer NW states), it's amazing to me that it's not readily available. If I had a pond or stream in my garden it would have a place of honor.

If happy it will carpet the ground with attractive foliage that is accented in the summer with small clusters of pale lavender-pink flowers that attract bees and butterflies.  It's semi-evergreen (depending upon the zone you're gardening in) and can tolerate heat and humidity, as well as cold winters.  It is native to southeastern Canada, most of the United States southward into Mexico.

July Wildflower Wednesday: Growing Wildflowers  in Containers

Joe-pye a few summers ago spent two seasons in a container
I used to think my garden wasn't sunny enough for the prairie wildflowers and Central Basin natives that I adore. Not anymore, now I plant my favorite wildflowers in containers and place them where ever it's sunny.

I have been gardening this way since I realized that the sunniest sections of my garden were also the ones with the shallowest soil. When I say shallow, I mean three or four inches of decent soil that sits on top of enormous limestone boulders and bedrock.  I've been able to pry out smaller rocks and plant a prized wildflower, but not always. It used to be maddening, then, I figured out that those shallow spots were opportunities for me to add my favorite native wildflowers to the garden...in containers!

August Wildflower Wednesday: Oenothera biennis

Night blooming Common Evening Primrose is our Wildflower Wednesday star. This tall biennial is  found growing in fields, prairies, glades, thickets, waste ground, disturbed sites, and in other sunny medium to dry sites. While native to almost all the states it's found more often in the central and eastern US.

While researching the plant I noticed that it showed up on several state weed sites!  That's always disconcerting to a wildflower/native plant enthusiast, but, not all wildflowers are appreciated or valued by everyone.  Some might be put off by it's height or it's unremarkable foliage, neither bother me.  I find the yellow flowers that are still blooming when I walk the garden early in the morning to be quite charming.  I like catching their sweet lemony scent and watching the occasional bee or other pollinator visitor that's out that early.

September Wildflower Wednesday: Fleischmannia incarnata

I found our Wildflower Wednesday star in the Susan's bed a few years ago. It looked like  Conoclinium coelestinum/Blue Mistflower, but, the flowers were less numerous and pink. There were a few other differences, too. Blue Mistflower is a sturdy plant with upright reddish stems, while this little beauty could be best described as airy and loose limbed.

I rather liked what I saw.

I'm never surprised to discover a new native plant in this neighborhood or even in my garden. Plants frequently appear, either having gone unnoticed or because conditions were favorable for growth of seeds in the soil seed bank. This was a woodland not so very long ago and there must be many wildflower seeds laying dormant in the soil.

October Wildflower Wednesday: Frost aster's moment in the sun

The blue wood ex-asters have always over shadowed the Frost asters in my garden until this year! That's when I noticed how delightful it looked arching over the Susans and other spent blooms in the sunniest garden beds. It's a blizzard of small bright white flowers and on sunny autumn days it's busy hosting bees of every size and any butterflies still out and about. Frost aster is doing the job I had hoped the Boltonias would do: blooming late and attracting pollinators. And it's doing it in dry soil.

November Wildflower Wednesday: Clay and Limestone Gardening Guidelines

It's Wildflower Wednesday and I'm sharing my garden guidelines with a special emphasis on fall and winter. Although, they're universal, I've personalized them with photos of past Wildflower Wednesday stars. If you're new to C and L, my garden is a Central Basin woodland (there are some sunny areas) with dryer, heavier, shallow and neutral clay soil. I've unearthed enough limestone rocks to build several small walls and there's still more. Not too far below my plants is a thick layer of Ordovician limestone that makes for challenging gardening experiences. The native plants I've chosen are adapted to the environment and conditions at Clay and Limestone and provide food, nesting and/or shelter for mammals, reptiles, birds and insects. Humans seem to appreciate it, too.

My guidelines can be applied (with appropriate modifications) no matter where you garden for wildlife.

It's been a challenging gardening year for many of us. Here in middle Tennessee, it got hot and humid earlier than usual and stayed that way for longer than we wished...and the rain, it was either a drought or a deluge. But, the garden, the gardener and the resident critters persevered and here we are at the end of 2018 with hopes and dreams of a good year of gardening ahead of us.

My friends, I wish you a very Happy Wildflower Wednesday and thank you for planting more wildflowers. Thank you for taking care of the bees and other pollinators. Thank you for tolerating pesky wildlife that too often eat your favorite flowering plants. Thank you for another year of your friendship, visits, comments and joining me in celebrating wildflowers all over this great big wonderful world. You are the best and having you in my life has enriched it beyond measure.


Most of you have been very busy with the holidays, but, if you have the time to join this Wildflower Wednesday, just add your link to Mr. Linky and leave a comment. Please remember, it's not necessary for them to be in bloom!

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. Oh Gail, this makes me wish for time in the garden planting wildflowers and sipping iced tea. Ha, it will be a few months before this happens. It is good to have some pictures and suggestions to mull over these next cold months. Merry Christmas and Happy Growing year to you and yours.

    1. Happy New Year, Lisa. I want more time in the garden, too. I am all ready!

  2. What an excellent roundup of great plants. Thanks for sharing them all here as 2018 winds down. It’s definitely been an unusual weather year here, too, mainly because it’s been so wet! We’re in record territory for the year.

    All best wishes for a good year ahead!

  3. That fogfruit is so pretty. Thank you for your Best of 2018 review. Has me already looking forward to 2019!

    1. I liked it a lot when I spotted it in the lawn...I sure hope it reseeded.

  4. Your Asarum is calling me, attractive leaves and deep pink flowers.

  5. Thanks for the roundup! These are all such special plants. I added Poke Milkweed last spring, and I'll be interested to see how it performs this next year. They are caged so the rabbits can't eat them.

  6. I planted A. exaltatum last fall. Didn't know it wanted lots of water! I hope it does ok where I put it. Happy new year to you!

  7. It’s a tough choice, but June is my favorite. Not only is it charming and cute, but I can’t resist its silly name of lanceleaf fogfruit!


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