The Rare and Unusual Plant Sale on Sunday, May 14th, at the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa is less than a week away and I am past hoping for a spell of warm, sunny weather to bring on some flowers. At this point, I am reduced to hoping fervently that our local ferry service will be resumed so that we can get across the Ottawa River! The 7-day forecast for next Sunday predicts “Rain” — what a surprise! Today it is cold and actually snowing.
We do not have heated greenhouses so what we can bring to the sale is what the season brings and that means this year we will not have any warmth-loving plants. All the summer-flowering prairie species are still below ground. (We will be back in Ottawa for the Fletcher Wildlife Garden Sale, Saturday, June 3rd, so you will have another opportunity to pick up swamp milkweed, compass plant, pale purple coneflower and many other summer flowers and native grasses.)
Some of the native spring flowers, long adapted to the vagaries of Canadian springs, are looking surprisingly good. Diverse pussytoes (Antennaria spp.) and early saxifrage (Micranthes virginiensis) are sending up flower buds on schedule, despite the inclement weather. Boreal Jacob’s Ladder, from the far north, doesn’t mind this weather at all. The wanna-be evergreen foamflower and heucheras are very slowly replacing their battered last year leaves with new growth; the new leaves are visible, if still small and curled.
Lovely Wood Poppies (Stylophorum diphyllum), picture above, are looking good — maybe even a flower or two by Sunday. This is the first year I can offer this charming flower for shade. It is not locally native, being represented in Canada only by two small populations near London, Ontario. However, it is an easy, hardy plant for gardens in our area and will even rebloom in late summer if happy.
Also new this year will be Broad-leaved Sedge (Carex platyphylla), which I have grown from seed collected locally on the Eardly Escarpment. Now, sedges are never wildly flamboyant in flower, and this one is not even showy in flower by sedge standards. Broad-leaved sedge has broad (for a sedge), evergreen leaves that are distinctively blue-grey and banded. Think of it as a miniature evergreen hosta, and you may begin to appreciate its possibilities. Full disclosure: I like native evergreen woodland sedges, I just do.
We will be bringing in a diversity of native wildflowers to the sale, even though some will be smaller and less developed than I had hoped: cardinal flower, common bluets, wild columbine, dwarf hairy beardtongue, golden ragwort, sweet grass, bottlebrush grass, purple chokeberry, and Carolina lupin, to name just a few.
See you there, umbrellas and all!