orpin rose

New Plant Availability list for July 26

Beaux Arbres will be bringing pre-paid plant orders to Ottawa (Britannia area) on the evening of Tuesday, July 26th. I have a new Plant Availability List to download. It is very much like the last list with a few species, such as Boreal Jacob’s Ladder, no longer available. The special offer of Mix-and-Match flats is still very much in effect and all the species on its list are still available, although I am getting low in a few off them. Please do continue to order from the list posted on July 15th for the special offer – I will get in touch with you about substitutions only if I have to.

I have decided to include some Rock Garden species in the Mix-and-Match special. Not that I think you should put tiny rock garden flowers in with the Ironweed and Panic Grass, nor do I think that rock gardens are generally planted up in mass — a showcase for tiny gems is more the rule for rock gardens — but in case you are having difficulty reaching the 32 plants for the special, you can include plants from the list below:

Arctic Roseroot (feature photoabove) is back in stock again – it hasn’t been on earlier list this year.

Please email your selections to me by Sunday, July 24th, 6 pm: naturalgarden@xplornet.ca

Woven Polyfilm for Greenhouses – a good product

I have just received in the mail some channel lock for fastening greenhouse coverings, from a supplier, Northern Greenhouse, in Manitoba. The package included a little personal note from the proprietor, saying he is experiencing some serious health issues.

Northern Greenhouse was our source for the woven polyfilm currently on our hoop house. We put up the hoop house October, 2017. We put on the covering very badly, in a hurry, and it has still lasted 5 years. The better one puts up a greenhouse film, tightly and with even tension, the less wear and tear on it in the wind. Eventually, sunlight makes any plastic brittle, even UV resistant plastic. Our plastic is still sound except where it has worn out due to flapping and abrasion from the wind.

We are due to replace the film this summer and I will be ordering from Northern Greenhouse again. They are a small business and very pleasant to deal with. I have never made a product endorsement before and I may never do so again, but this woven poly is an excellent Canadian developed product that, given the proprietor’s health issues, may not always be available in the future. If you are looking for a strong covering for a green house or hoop house or even an outdoor dining area or hot tub, do check out:

Northern Greenhouse: www.northerngreenhouse.com

Special Offer: Mixed Flats – Your Choice

Beaux Arbres has a special summer price on mixed flats of 32 2 1/2″ pots — your choice (from the list below) of flowers and grasses — at $160 per flat. That’s $5 per pot. (Regular price: $6 or more.) If you are looking for native plants for a meadow, community pollinator garden, or other largish project, this is a chance to save.

There are 32 pots per flat so you must order in multiples of 32. For each flat, no more than 10 of any one species – we want you to mix and match. And no more than 6 pots of Butterfly Milkweed per flat. (You won’t see Eastern Ontario genotype Butterfly Milkweed offered at this price again!). Except where indicated, these are perennial plants for mostly sunny locations.

While I was potting up other species, my seedling Tall Sunflowers grew too big to keep in 2 1/2″ pots. I had to move them into larger pots but If you are buying one or more mix-and-match flats you can add Tall Sunflowers to your order for $10 each*. (Regular price: $12 each.)

Species for Mixed Flats at Special Price*

*While supplies last.

Send your selections to me at email: naturalgarden@xplornet.ca

We will be bringing plant orders into Ottawa again – another evening distribution from our Britannia area condo. (Date yet to be determined – possibly July 26th). Even better, plan a visit to the nursery.

Tall Sunflower at Beaux Arbres

Bringing Plants to Ottawa, Wednesday, July 13th

Beaux Arbres will be bringing plant orders to Ottawa on the evening of Wednesday, July 13th to distribute them from our Britannia area condo’s Visitor Parking Lot. I know some folks were not able to make the Saturday morning Farmers’ Market and others did not want to pick up a large order with Westboro’s potentially congested parking situation. So we are reverting to the parking lot distribution point we used during the pandemic and bringing the plants in mid-week. We will be back at Westboro in September.

I have a new Plant Availability List to download (below). This year’s seedings are maturing so there are lots of species now available in the economical $6 size. Noteworthy are Butterfly Milkweed, at the $6 price, and Downy Wood-mint, which I cannot overwinter in pots and so it is only ever available in the summer. (I have potted up a few Poke, which is another plant that I only ever have available mid to late summer, as it almost never overwinters in pots.)

As I mentioned earlier, this spring I completely sold out of some of the choice woodland plants such as Bunchberry and Twinflower. They will not be available again until next year. However, shade-loving stalwarts, Blue-stemmed Goldenrod and White Snakeroot are back in the $6 size. I have American Spikenard again in gallon pots. (I love Spikenard — the Spikenards behind our barn have benefited from the wet spring and are going to top 7 feet!) I have three new and interesting plants for the Shade Garden: an eastern North American Monkshood, and two delicate Tick-trefoils. Another hard-woking ground cover native for shady spots is Large-leaved Aster. I have a few now with lots more to come soon.

Although one of the common names of the Monkshood is Southern Blue Monkshood, as opposed to the vanishingly rare Northern Blue Monkshood, it’s native range comes up to central New York State and the plants in my garden came easily through last winter’s rather brutal cold temperatures. It is just as toxic as the European monkshoods — so definitely NOT a plant for a daycare garden — but if you are looking for truly deer-resistant species, this one might be for you. The blue flowers in late summer are gorgeous (featured photo above). It gets about a meter tall in my garden and twines in among other plants in a vine-like manner. Moist soil and light or dappled shade are what it wants.

Email me with your selections by Monday, July 11th, 6 pm and I will get back to you with payment details, etc. Email: naturalgarden@xplornet.ca

Notes on Plant ID

I had an email this morning from someone whose plant ID app was telling her that plants she had bought from me as Anise-hyssop were Stinging Nettle or possible Catnip. Now, I have never used a plant ID app but, for plants whose most easily distinguishing features are non-visual — familiar scents for Anise-hyssop and Catnip, and irritating stinging sensation for Stinging Nettle — using a purely visual method of IDing seems inadequate. Although I haven’t used an app, I see many posts and comments from people who encounter errors in their app’s IDs.

So, what do I recommend for IDing plants? Honestly, I think the best place to start is good ol’ Peterson’s Field Guide. Yes, it has errors and, yes, it hasn’t been updated since it was first published a zillion years ago, but for the beginner, it is easy to use and it covers many of the basics. When I started growing Prairie Blazing Star (Liatris pycnostachya) I realized I would need to be able to tell it apart from Spike Blazing Star (L. spicata). I knew Prairie was taller and a bit later in bloom than Spike, but when one is growing them in pots, that’s not very helpful. I thought I would need to sit down with some pretty heavy-duty dichotomous keys and actually do some botany. But, hey, both are in Peterson’s and Prairie Blazing Star’s field mark was clearly indicated by an arrow on its line drawing. Excellent!

For less common species and more up-to-date botany, I look on-line for resources such as the University of Michigan Herbarium. I found a dichotomous key there when I was puzzling over the differences between Long-leaved Bluets and Canada Bluets. However, even though I knew exactly where on the Bruce Peninsula I had collected the seed of what I thought was Canada Bluets, I am still puzzled, because published authorities do not agree on the ranges for the two. Oh, well, they are both very pretty.

That’s the thing with keys, They are only definitive for the geographic range they are intended for. Still, you can often get good descriptive information when you get down to species using a key. Lets’s take a Goldenrod I have recently started carrying as an example.

Last year, Berit Erikson of the Corner Pollinator Garden, gave me some seedlings of something she called Ontario Goldenrod (Solidago ontarioensis), which is now on my list. Let’s see if Berit and I were right about its name.

I know that Ontario Goldenrod is considered Rare in Ontario, so the first place I am going to look is a booklet called “The Asters, Goldenrods and Fleabanes of Grey and Bruce Counties” published by the Owen Sound Field Naturalists. Yes, Ontario Goldenrod is one of the species described in this book. Because I already think I know what my plant is, I am going to skip the dichotomous key and go straight to the description.

The first thing I notice is that this booklet, published some years ago, calls the plant Solidago simplex var. ontarioensis. Is that the correct botanical name for Ontario Goldenrod? A quick check of VASCAN (Database of Vascular Plants of Canada) and I learn that the currently accepted botanical name IS Solidago ontarioenis. Yay, Berit. (Technically, it is Solidago ontarioensis (G.S. Ringius) Semple & Peirson, but let’s not get into that today.) The Flora of North America website says that Solidago simplex, or Sticky Goldenrod, splits into seven varieties. Likewise, the Grey-Bruce booklet says “Solidago simplex splits into a number of varieties with specific geographic distribution.” This underlines the importance of knowing where your seed came from. If I really needed to know exactly what I have got, I would have to quiz Berit more closely than I did on the origin of her seed — maybe down to which county in Ontario.

However, Ontario Goldenrod is considered distinctive enough to now rate as a species, and its distinguishing characteristics are clearly described: “rather sticky stem and flower head bracts”.

Comparing one of my plants of putative Ontario Goldenrod to the description, it agrees: early bloom time, downy stems on flower heads, tapering, slightly arched panicle, leaves narrowly oblanceolate, not sheathing the stem… Check, check, check. Now for the final test: Are the stems and bracts sticky? (Drumroll, please.) And …. I dunno. A bit gummy. Not as sticky as Sticky False Asphodel, certainly. A close reading of the description advises me that the stems are “slightly sticky”. Are these stems slightly sticky? I guess. Sort of. Thus concludes another great adventure in plant identification.

As a check, I went back to the key to Goldenrods and carefully read both choices at each level and got to, er, not Ontario Goldenrod. I go astray at a point where I have to chose “racemes in axils of leaves which are much shorter than the racemes.” Nope. But then, I am not in Grey-Bruce County looking at a wild plant, either.

Flora of North America, which is calling the plant Solidago simplex var. ontarioensis, gives one of the distinguishing characteristics as “peduncle bracteoles 1-3”. This is really getting into the weeds, if I may use that phrase. But, yes, my plant checks out. It has 3 peduncle bracteoles on the lower peduncles and 1 on the upper peduncles. Spellcheck is objecting to the word “bracteoles” and I am getting fed up with the very sight of the silly green thing in front of me.

Oh, dear. We are all trying to make our gardens livelier and more supportive of wildlife, not doing a doctorate on goldenrods or naturalizing a sensitive area on the Bruce. I think I can still call my plants Ontario Goldenrod. The flowers are not yet open, so perhaps the racemes will elongate as they mature. Also, I cannot get a good look at the bracts until the flowers get a bit larger. I will revisit this when the plants are in full flower.

This gives you an idea of the problems and puzzlements of doing plant identification. Sometimes one needs to revisit the plant at more than one season. Getting a key that pertains to your exact area in not always easy, or even possible. A plant growing in a garden out, even slightly, of its native range, has already lost defining information about range and habitat. Also, naturally occurring hybrids between species are relatively common. If a specimen of, say, Aster, or Goldenrod (two of the more troublesome groups) is giving you a hard time, it may be a hybrid. At some point, we can just leave the questions to be chewed over by professional botanists and note that the plant is doing its job of attracting pollinators and providing food for caterpillars in our gardens. For the most part, ecological connections are similar for plants within a genus, so we can leave geographic variants to the experts.

The featured photo above shows specimen of Ontario Goldenrod I was puzzling over. Please note the coffee cup, the single most important tool for investigations of this kind.

Plant Availability for June 18th market

To pre-order for pick-up at the Saturday, June 18th Westboro Farmers’ Market, please download and make your selection from the latest Plant Availability List. We will be coming into Ottawa Friday late afternoon. If you cannot make the Saturday market, perhaps picking up your order Friday evening from our Britannia area parking lot is possible. Please let us know if you would like to meet us in the Visitor Parking lot of our Britannia condo on Friday evening instead of at the Westboro market.

I am very low on plants for shady areas. It is always difficult to keep up with demand for native plants for shade. White Snakeroot seedlings are now available. I will have gallon pots of American Spikenard again this summer, but I am completely out of things like Wild Ginger and Bunchberry until next year.

This year’s seedlings are starting to become available. Anise-hyssop, Swamp Milkweed, Tall Sunflower, Purple Coneflower, and Hoary Vervain are now big and sturdy enough to plant out. At $6 each, these are an economical way to develop a meadow or large pollinator garden. More species will become available in the next weeks. And the lovely native biennial thistle, Field Thistle, is still available for $5 each.

I have added hot links to the Common Names of many of the species on the list. For pictures and info on growing conditions, please use the hot links to the species profiles.

To order, please send your selections, by 6 pm on Wednesday, to email address: naturalgarden@xplornet.ca and I will send you details about how to make payment.

The featured photo above is: Tall Sunflower

Some Ottawa Valley Wildflowers

We had something to pick up in Wilno and a delivery to make to Killaloe, so we made a little holiday of it, a break from the nursery, having a nice picnic at Golden Lake, and lovely walk in a bit of publicly accessible alvar at the Fourth Chute.

Here are some photos of some spring wildflowers growing in their alvar habitat in the Ottawa Valley. The featured photo above is Small Skullcap (Scutellaria parvula). All these little known wildflowers are truly lovely additions to sunny rock gardens, especially if the garden is built with limestone rocks (or marble or dolomite or urbanite* – all calcium carbonate rocks).

Rock Sandwort (Sabulina michauxii, formerly Minuartia michauxii) growing in a little alvar near the Fourth Chute of the Bonnechere River.
Hairy Beardtongue (Penstemon hirsutus) growing in its alvar habitat.
Seneca Milkwort (Polygala senega).
Balsam Ragwort (Packera paupercula). This bright flower is a true alvar indicator plant. However, its strict need for a limestone substrate and its biennial nature make it a difficult subject for our nursery. We do carry the closely related perennial Golden Ragwort (P. aurea) – a bigger plant, for moist sites.
  • A fancy name for re-cycled concrete.

Native Thistles

As a kid I loved the big Bull Thistles that sometimes appeared in our garden. True, the first year basal rosettes could be painful to a child who, like me, went barefoot as much as she could, but i loved them. I loved their enormous, prickly stature and their gorgeous purple flowers. Thistles have been valued by other gardeners: the silvery biennial Scotch Thistle called Miss Wilmott’s Ghost is a component of the most esteemed British gardens, and some northern gardeners struggle to grow cardoons, a Mediterranean artichoke relative, for their statuesque thistleyness.

Far too few Ontario gardeners know that there are lovely native thistles. The native Field Thistle (Cirsium discolor) has just as lovely a flower as as the non-native Bull Thistle, the plant is almost as large, but it is never an aggressive self-seeder in gardens. Field Thistle is well-armed with prickles, but, unlike the Bull Thistle, the prickles occur only on the leaves and in the axils of the leaves, they do not extend down the stems. This is the easy distinguishing field mark between the native and the non-native: the non-native Bull Thistle has thorns on the stems, the native Field Thistle does not. Field Thistle is found in the wild almost exclusively in very high quality natural sites. It is uncommon in Ontario and I believe it is officially considered Rare in Quebec.

The native thistles are such important nectar sources for native bees and other pollinators that the Xerces Society has devoted a publication just to promoting native thistles and their ecological connections. After the flowers, the high fat, high calorie seeds are very desirable for small birds such as goldfinches. I think you might want to grow a Field Thistle or two in your native plant garden.

I shall be bringing Field Thistle seedlings to the Wesboro Farmers Market’ this Saturday, June 4th. Like so many Thistles, they are biennials. They will flower in their second year and then die, although sometimes they leave small offsets at the base to keep the plant going. They get 5 or 6 feet tall, depending on the soil. They are plants of prairies and sunny meadows, so provide them with lots of sun and well-drained soil. Do be sure to wear serviceable gardening gloves when clearing away the spent flowering stems – the plants are thistles, after all. I think you will be pleased with all the bees and butterflies they attract, and the goldfinches will love you.

A Giant Swallowtail on a wild Field Thistle.
An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and a bee on a wild Field Thistle.
Field Thistle in the garden at Beaux Arbres.

Plant Availability List for the June 4th market

I have a new Plant Availability List for pre-ordering for pick-up at the June 4th Westboro Farmers’ Market. Many of the summer-flowering sunny meadow are now available, some in very limited quantities. I have been potting up seedlings like crazy all week – this year’s seedlings of things like Anise-hyssop, Swamp Milkweed, and White Snakeroot, will be available very soon, with many others to follow. The rapidly growing biennial Field Thistle is now available.

I just sold the last of my American Spikenards. Not to worry, I have little ones of this splendid woodland species coming along which will be available by mid-summer.

The last herbaceous plant to emerge in the spring is usually Swamp Rose Mallow. They have just started into growth but the warm weather predicted for this week will really get them going, so I have included them on the list. My plants are Ontario genotype, wild-form of this large and impressive flower.

Although our thoughts are moving on to summer flowers, one gorgeous little spring flower, Dwarf Arctic Iris (pictured above), a miniature version of the Blue flag, should be in full flower for Saturday. These are fine multi-year clumps, with lots of buds – a bargain at $15 a pot.

Instructions for pre-ordering are at the bottom of the list. Essentially, email me, at naturalgarden@xplornet.ca, with your choices and I will reply with payment details. To keep up-to-date on Plant Availability, follow the blog using the white Follow rectangle in the lower right-hand corner of your screen. And remember, we re-use nursery pots.

Beaux Arbres at Westboro Farmers’ Market on Saturday

We will be a vendor at Westboro Farmers’ Market for their opening day, this Saturday, May 21st. I have a new Plant Availability List if you wish to pre-order for pick up at the market.

The response to our plants at the Friends of the Farm Sale last Sunday was stupendous. We were just about completely out of stock by about 11 o’clock. So, I have potted up some more Virginia Waterleaf and Cardinal Flower, and some others, but they will not be ready for this Saturday. I also go behind on my plans to pot up some other species due to the incredibly hot and drying weather we had last week. So there are a few species on the Availability List paradoxically listed as Not Available Yet. I don’t want you to give up on them – they will be back in stock when we are next at the Westboro Market on Saturday, June 4th.