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

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Wildflower Wednesday: Thankful for my wildflower habitat



Tomorrow is officially the day of thanksgiving in the USA, but I try to be appreciative and thankful every day about the good people, good things, good wildflowers and good garden critters in my life. Because the last two years have been especially challenging for me as a gardener, I am working extra hard at appreciating what is revealed to me every day in my garden. This Wildflower Wednesday post is in celebration of the wildflower and native plant beauty in the garden this month. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have in putting it together. xoxogail

November 24, 2021~what an aster!

After several freezing nights the flowers are gone from the garden, except a few of the last to bloom Willowleaf asters. They are a must have plant for me and I recommend that you add them to your garden, too. You need a plant that survives several frosts and deep freezes and this one does. If the temperatures were to rebound to warmer than 60˚ in the next week the bees would be back.


Hamamelis virginiana is also still blooming. The flowers furl when it's cold and unfurl when the day warms up. I can't imagine gardening without this understory tree. On warm days its honey scent wafts around the garden on the slightest breeze. It's been a Wildflower Wednesday star and will be again.

Can you spot the partridge pea seed in its pod?
Verbesina virginica's marvelous and magical frost flowers were blooming this morning.  I never tire of seeing them "blooming". All it takes is a warm winter day followed by a cold winter night. During the day, the roots draw water up into the stem and later that night freezing temperatures force the sap from the stems where they freeze into sculptural ice candy flower curls. When I see them on my early morning walk I am reminded that magic is still happening and that the garden is just resting.

Frost aster

Just a few days ago, along with the witch hazels and ex-asters, False dragonhead, mums, Frost aster, Pineapple sage and African Blue basil were in bloom. The resident bumbles and our neighbor's honeybees were visiting. The annuals were alive only because I was covering them up on frosty nights. When the inevitable winter weather came to stay I folded the sheets up and put them away ready for next April when late frost threatens my spring garden. Oh, in case you wondered, I made cuttings and saved some basil for salads.

Bumble on African Blue basil flowers

New readers may be wondering why I have non-natives in my garden, long time readers know that any plants added to this garden need to be more than just pretty faces. Our growing season is long; bees that are provisioning their nests for the winter and migrating butterflies and hummingbirds need all the pollen and nectar than can get. Basils and Salvias  provide that much needed nectar and/or pollen in mid/late fall when many native plants have gone to seed. My garden continues to be mostly native, but I believe that adding pollen and nectar rich non-natives enhances a pollinator habitat.

They also have very pretty faces and taste wonderful in salads.

Cotinus 'Grace' and Cercis canadensis

 I am thankful for all the wildflowers. They have brought me so much joy. When I stop and think about it I have wildflowers to thank for helping me gain new knowledge, for great adventures and for meeting new people. Without wildflowers I might never have realized the possibilities for a garden with difficult growing conditions like I have here at Clay and Limestone. I would surely never have met the unique plants and trees that grow in middle Tennessee, I wouldn't have begun blogging and I wouldn't have met wonderful friends like you dear readers  or at Garden Bloggers Flings. Nor would I have become a Tennessee Naturalist.

Porteranthus stipulatus

 My love for wildflowers opened my eyes to pollinators and their importance to our gardens, to agriculture and to the earth. When I speak of wildflowers I include shrubs and trees.

 

Shagbark hickory

In the drama of a wildflower garden there are no bit players. The canopy, the understory, the herbacious layer and the ground cover are all part of a diverse ensemble. All the players are essential; all provide food, nesting and shelter for mammals and birds; they're host plants for a variety of insects that are a primary food source for birds, bats, small mammals, amphibians and even other insects that you want in your garden. 

Lindera benzoin

As I walk the garden I marvel at beauty of late fall colors.

Looking down I notice that the spring blooming biennials and annuals have germinated. Fallen leaves never smother them.
Phacelia bipinnatifida
 

The garden is a sea of browning leaves and seedheads. I think they're beautiful. 


The promise of spring is in every one of those seeds. It's everywhere if you look carefully. Take a close look at your native shrubs. Dogwoods and Viburnums show their flower buds at the tips of their stems and the buds of late winter blooming witch hazels and spring blooming spicebush line the stems. 

 

Panicum virgatum

Native grasses like switchgrass glow in many shades of brown and gold. Please don't cut them down in fall, they provide shelter for small mammals and birds, song birds eat the seeds and they're host plants for several skippers.

American Hop Hornbeam

By the first of December most of the American hop hornbeam, persimmon, ash, oaks, hickories, hackberries, elms, serviceberries, dogwoods, spicebush, paw-paws will have dropped all their leaves. I leave most of the leaves where they fall. Butterflies, bees and other insects rely on leaf litter for protection and I don't want to mow them or blow them away.       


Chokecherry offers miniature apple looking fruit if any critter wants to nibble. 

Understory trees and shrubs like Hydrangeas, Viburnums, hearts-a-bustin, witch-hazel, Hypericums, sumacs, Alabama snowwreath, leatherwood, Iteas, buckeyes, and Alabama croton add a lot of color to the late fall garden. So many more, all with excellent wildlife value and I haven't even listed the perennials/wildflowers. 

I am grateful that so many plants happily grow in my shallow, clay soil.

Euonymus americanus/hearts a bustin

I came to love wildflowers so much that I wanted others to appreciate them. That's why I started the Wildflower Wednesday monthly meme. Too many of our native plants are underappreciated and underutilized. They're also sometimes downright impossible to find locally. But keep on looking for them, each season more native plants are offered and there are wonderful online seed and plant resources.

Rhus aromatica an attractive sumac with great fall color

Blogging has changed since I began in February 2008, but, I still love sharing wildflowers with you all. Thank you for stopping by to read and thank you for commenting. After all these years your comments still mean the world to me. A special thank you for all of you who continue to plant natives and share them on your own blogs.

 Happy Wildflower Wednesday

This year, I am especially grateful for the health and well being of my family; for loving and supportive friends; for fall weather; and, for wildflowers that bloomed no matter how horrid the weather has been.  Happy Thanksgiving to you all, xoxogail


 

Welcome to Clay and Limestone's Wildflower Wednesday celebration. I am so glad you stopped by. 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 they are in bloom or not; and, it doesn't matter if we all share the same plants. It's all about celebrating wildflowers.


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.




9 comments:

  1. I often enjoy your blog, Gail, but today I want thank you for being there with you deep knowledge and experience, and to say I am thankful for you!

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  2. Our new lowland fynbos nursery has suggested making Black Friday green - and buying wildflowers to plant.

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  3. Beautiful post Gail! I share the same sentiments with you. Native plants and blogging have made me grow so much as a gardener, educator and advocate of habitat gardens. I am so thankful for knowing you and all that you share on your blog! Wishing you and your family a very wonderful Thanksgiving!

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  4. There is such beauty in natural things. Thank you for a lovely post.

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  5. Happy Thanksgiving Gail! Your blog is such an inspiration to me as I continue to transform our 3 woodland acres in south-east Indiana. It was originally a cow pasture for decades. Over the past 5 years I've been slowly transforming it into a mostly native woodland garden. The battle continues against Rosa Multiflora, Asian Honeysuckle bush, Japanese Honeysuckle, and Garlic mustard. This year I got rid of all the Hostas in a bed, enlarged it, and replaced them with Christmas ferns, Columbine, spring ephemerals, Heart-leaved Asters, and Fire Pink.
    Like you, everything must not only be beautiful, but more importantly be for the critters from the soil to the top of all our Maple, Walnut, Elm, dying Ash, Wild Cherry, and Tulip trees.
    Thank-you for teaching me to leave the leaves, enjoy the seed heads, and be a good steward of the flora and fauna.

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    1. You are so welcome and thank you for your kind words. It sounds like you are creating a beautiful and beneficial habitat. Happy gardening.

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  6. It was so nice to meet you when you were on your walk the other day as we were planting trees! Thank you for a beautiful blog!
    Eri

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  7. Thank you for this lovely post and the photos of your garden. I hope more people come to realize the function of plants in the fall and winter.

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  8. Thanks for the tip about the Willowleaf Asters...I'll have to consider them. Beautiful! So many lovely blooms and colorful foliage plants, Gail. I'm always so fascinated when people post about Frostweed. I'm just a bit north of its native range, but I'd plant it if I lived further south.

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Let us be grateful to people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners
who make our souls blossom.