I love gardening in the Middle South, but, this has been an especially challenging growing year. Droughts are a regular occurrence in Tennessee’s climate, but, the one we experienced throughout the late summer and all fall was devastating. I feared for shrubs and trees. Then came the cold weather in the form of an Arctic air mass that had us rushing to cover plants and making sure our pipes wouldn't freeze. As I look out the window snow is falling. It's lovely. I wish that we had had two inches or more to blanket the garden before the temperature bottomed out at 0˚. Climate scientists said, "Expect extreme weather patterns.". and they were right. It's a good thing we gardeners are flexible and every plant that didn't make it presents us with an opportunity to find another wonderful native wildflower to plant in its place.
|Hypericum frondosum in December color
None the less, we are fortunate to have four seasons in the middle south; a mercifully short winter and a delightful spring and autumn which make up for the steamy hot and often too dry summer weather. The days are starting to lengthen and before long the earliest spring ephemerals will break dormancy and the gloriously long bloom of wildflowers will begin.
Here's the Wildflower Wednesday Roundup. This year I've expanded my wildflower star posts to include a challenge. I hope that you have enjoyed the posts and accepted the challenge. Please follow the links to read about glorious wildflower stars. xoxogail
I've been posting Wildflower Wednesdays for 13 years. To quote a post from May 2009~
out as a regular post to celebrate the wildflowers in my garden.
It's been a fun way to introduce you to my soul mates! I treasure
them and love sharing them. They grow with ease if planted in the right
spot and they draw native fauna, like bees, birds and butterflies to
the garden. There are articles all over the internet extolling their
virtues. You've read many, I'm sure! Here's how I sum it up~Native
wildflowers are good for the earth and good for its inhabitants. (Here for the post)
Of course I still love wildflowers and of course I plan to continue sharing them on the Fourth Wednesday of every month, but, it's time to shake it up with a challenge.
A two part challenge!
The first part of this challenge is to do something every month during
2022 that supports native wildflowers, pollinators, and the critters
that visit and rely on our gardens. Activities that increase our
knowledge of the natural world are equally as valuable. Below you'll
find a list of possible activities you could do...If you choose to
participate! But, don't limit yourself to my list, make your own list or
check out the internet for ideas.
The second part of the challenge is to post about it somewhere: Your blog; Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or even your neighborhood listserve.
Why post it? Because positive publicity is needed to educate our friends, neighbors and communities about how important even the smallest changes we make as gardeners can be for pollinators, birds, insects and mammals that live all around us.
Why now? My neighborhood is changing. Yours might be, too. Every day a 1950s ranch along with many of the mature oak, hickory and hackberry trees that have been there for over 75 years are bulldozed down. In place of the "bee lawns" composed of Salvia lyrata, Ruellia humilis, fleabane, Western Daisy, violets, self-heal, clovers, Dandelions that grew so well in the shallow soil that sits on top of limestone bedrock are sodded non-native lawns that get daily watering, whether it rains or not. Gone are the lightening bugs. Gone are the ground dwelling/nesting native bees. Gone is the habitat for insects, spiders and other critters. Gone is plant diversity. Gone are trees that provided for hundreds of moths, butterflies and other insects. Gone are the nesting sites for woodpeckers, hummingbirds, Chickadees and other birds. It breaks my heart. We can't stop the multi-million dollar houses from going up, but, maybe we can make a lot of educational noise and help our new neighbors see the value in providing for critters.
A gardener can hope!
I'd like to think spring has arrived at Clay and Limestone. When I open the door on the 50˚ mornings, it smells like
spring. You've smelled it! It's the fresh dirt smell that wafts on
the breeze on warm spring days. Scientist call the chemical that makes
dirt smell fresh geosmin, I call it delicious. We can thank the plant munching bacteria that live in our soil for making it.
It's not just the smells, although late winter blooming Hamamelis vernalis' clovey scent is wafting about the garden on warm days. When it's a bit chilly I have to get up close and sniff the flowers, but, it makes me long and hope for more blooms and spring. And, have you heard the birds? They sing louder and more melodious in the spring. It's not my imagination, they're singing louder!
A few of the spring ephemerals have poked up from under the leaf liter demonstrating once again that leaves on the garden don't kill our native beauties and that spring is just about to bust open. My garden is just beginning to undergo the marvelous transformation from brown to green. Over head the elms are budding, in near by yards the maples have begun to bloom and many shrubs are starting to push out leaves.
|the diminutive woodland beauty and WW star, Erigenia bulbosa
Freezing nights and pounding rain can't dim my hopes for an early spring. But, let's not rush headlong into a big spring crescendo before it's time, after all we do need to admire our wildflower of the month, Harbinger-of-Spring/Erigenia bulbosa.
If you're looking for a charming native groundcover then look no further than Chrysogonum virginianum. The common name Green and Gold is a nod to its fuzzy foliage and golden flower.
|The early bloom provides nectar for visiting bees and butterflies.
Like a few of my favorite wildflowers, this one was first spotted in my way back backyard many moons ago! It was growing in full sun (before the trees leafed out) where the soil is wet in the winters and dry in the summers. I knew immediately that it was something special with its fresh white flowers. It looked like a wild Allium, but the scent was not at all like an onion or garlic; it was sweet and worth crawling on my hands and knees to get a good sniff. Of course, I looked it up in my wildflower guide. Turns out this wild garlic looking plant is Nothoscordum bivalve a native member of the Amaryllidaceae (Amaryllis or Narcissus family). Once upon a time it was in the Lily family.
The word Nothoscordum is derived from the Greek word Nothos meaning “false” and Scordum, meaning garlic. Individual plants are about a foot high with a single smooth hollow stem/scape that emerges from an underground bulb. Each plant also has several long, grass-like leaves that emerge from the base of the plant. Mature clumps can reach up to 16" tall and spread to fill an 8" area. The scapes can reach up to 16" tall and are topped with an umbel of 4-8 small, upward-facing flowers in spring. The 0.5" wide flowers are made up of six white tepals with yellow tinged bases. MOBOT
I purchased bare rooted False Indigo on a whim last fall. I bought three because three is the number that is stuck in my head when buying plants! I had no idea where in the garden I would plant them, so I soaked the roots and planted them in quart sized containers and let them over winter.
I completely forgot them until the classic pinnately
compounded leaflets that screamed "I am a member of the Pea family"
emerged. Then I began imagining all the different fab Fabaceaes I might be growing.
It wasn't too long after the plants had fully leafed out before the
narrow racemes developed. A few weeks later the blooms began opening
from the bottom up (acropetal development). I knew by then that it was Amorpha fruticosa and I was thrilled.
I appreciate all the pollinators at Clay and Limestone, but, my favorite has always been Bumbles.
We moved into this house in early fall 3 dozen years ago. The yard was a mess and there were no real garden beds, but the Summer Phlox and blue wood aster were still blooming. I was captivated by the Bumbles who were actively working the flowers as much as I was by the flowers. Those bumbles stole my heart. Over the years I noticed how hard they worked in the garden. They were the first pollinators up and about each morning and the last to leave each night. I found them sleeping on flowers on cool mornings and watched them nectaring and gathering pollen on the last of the latest blooming ex-asters in November. They were a joy to watch and I wanted to learn all about them. (from earlier post)
I love Clematis and when I discovered that there were native Clemmies I had to have one or two or more. So far I've planted three in my garden: Clematis virginiana, C pitcheri and C viorna. I wasn't surprised to find out that like other Clematis they can be placed in groups that determine how and when to prune. Clematis viorna is our star and it fits in group 3, which means it blooms on new growth and you need to give it a hard pruning in late winter. Be sure you've harvested seeds or enjoyed their frothy fall look before pruning.
But, I digress, let's start with getting you acquainted with this delightful herbacious vine native to rich wooded banks and thickets throughout the north, central and eastern United States.
The Susans are summer sizzling beauties and if you've heard me say this once, you've probably heard me say it a dozen times: I cannot imagine gardening without them. In fact, I can't imagine gardening without the Rudbeckia family of beauties. When you garden in the middle south you learn to plant and appreciate these rough and tumble golden yellow beauties. Especially in our hot and dry summers. The yellow composites keep this garden floriferous when the Phloxes are beginning to look puny, the Joes have faded and the ex-asters haven't broken into song. All with their golden yellow flowers are must haves in the middle to deep south in our blazing sun. They don't fade or melt in the intense sunlight.**
Even with the gorgeous berries/drupes stripped from the plant by hungry birds, the leaves are a lovely chartreuse and still glow in the garden. The arching stems with the yellowing leaves looks especially lovely as fall continues.
In case you're
wondering, this is not the first time a native shrub or tree has been a
Wildflower Wednesday star. But, it is the first time I've shared one
when the garden is still full of blooming wildflowers. It's
important that we who garden for wildlife make sure we have energy
foods beyond pollen and nectar. Critters who visit and or live in our
gardens need them, but they also need seeds, nuts and berries that are
fat and protein rich. Trees and
shrubs are essential plants in a biodiverse garden. They are host
plants for moths and butterflies, provide nesting sites for birds and
small mammals and have nuts, berries and seeds that a variety of
critters rely upon. Here's something to consider, Doug Tallamy suggests
we plant trees and shrubs before we plant flowers and grasses!
It's October and Nashville is in a moderate to severe drought. The blue wood and white frost asters are still blooming and the shrubs and trees are showing color deeper and sooner than usual. I've been watering to insure that the impossible to replace 50, 60 and 70 year old trees have a chance to survive until rain returns. They've been soldiering on and they all deserve to be Wildflower Wednesday stars and so they are.
|Hydrangeas, Hamamelis and Hickories above the wildflowers
|Verbesina virginica's frost flower
This month I'm sharing my personal guidelines for wildlife and wildflower gardening. I hope you find them helpful, especially if you're thinking of gardening for wildlife.I started sharing these posts more than a dozen years ago and I still love introducing wildflowers to you. Our native wildflowers are treasures. Many are underappreciated and underplanted beauties and that's a shame. Most grow with ease if planted in the right conditions and right spot. They are even happy in containers. The bonus is that they attract crawling, flying, nesting, digging and feeding critters to our gardens. With a little research you can find just the right ones for your garden conditions.
First, let me tell you a little about my garden, Clay and Limestone. I garden in middle Tennessee in what's known as the Central Basin. The garden soil is shallow clay that is wet in the winter and dry in the summer. The native plants I've chosen are adapted to the environment and conditions here and provide food, nesting and/or shelter for mammals, reptiles, birds and insects. Humans seem to appreciate it, too.
The sunniest bed is along the driveway where the soil is especially
shallow! One visitor commented on all the containers with a kind of "What the heck!"
tone. Yes, there are a lot, but it's the only way I can plant my
wildflower beauties that need either deeper soil or winter drainage.
There would be no Agastaches and Salvias in my garden
without containers, nor could I grow native Iris. The rough and tumble
native plants like the ex-asters, goldenrod, Verbesinas, Fleabanes, River Oats, Bottle brush grass and cup plant battle it out for garden dominance among the containers.
The guidelines I use are simple and there's no shaming. Guidelines encourage me to plant for critters not just plant pretty flower faces. My guidelines can be applied (with appropriate modifications) no matter where you garden for wildlife.
Welcome to Clay and Limestone's Wildflower Wednesday celebration. On the fourth Wednesday of each month I share information about wildflowers and other native plants. Please join in if you like. You can write a blog post or share your favorite wildflower on social media. 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.
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.