Beaux Arbres Native Plants has a new Plant Availability List out. We will be bringing pre-paid orders to our regular Britannia area parking lot on Thursday, July 8th, and then, on Monday, July 12th, we will be bringing plants to an address in Navan. Both days the plant order distribution will be in the afternoon, from 4 to 7:30 pm. We expect folks have plans on summer weekends, hence the weekday dates, but we don’t expect our east-end customers to fight the rush hour traffic across town, especially with all the road construction, so we are trying out the new address in Navan. (Order Plants)
Customers who come to the farm have often picked up some species which hasn’t made it on to the Availability List because I only have one or two of them in stock. This spring, one lucky customer happened to ask about Hobblebush on the very day I decided that I would never have room for all three of my precious Hobblebushes, so she left with a pot of seed-grown local genotype Hobblebush. Yes, children, that actually happened. So for this issue of the Plant Availability List, I start the list with some of the oddments and singular items that wouldn’t usually make it on. The larger shrubs are things I have grown for our own landscaping and I have been selling off the extras. Once, say, the last Grey Dogwood is gone, it probably won’t be on the list again. The herbaceous items are just things I happen to be low on.
I should point out that the Pearly Everlasting is available with or without resident American Lady Caterpillars, while supplies last. And while we are talking about caterpillars, the Butterfly Milkweed is not yet big enough to include on the list, but it will be on a list coming out soon. They are coming along nicely but not yet ready to plant out.
I have a couple of new things for the Rock Garden: Showy Jacob’s Ladder and Littleflower Penstemon. Not locally native at all, just little cuties from the Rocky Mountains.
Oh, and yes, that Glaucous Honeysuckle vine that I have been promising will be ready any week now — it is ready now and is on the list. Everybody should consider planting a Glaucous Honeysuckle: not too big, two seasons of interest with flowers and fruit, and a host plant for the caterpillars of the charming Hummingbird Clearwing Moths. What’s not to love?
I have a new Availability List to download. The demand for native plants has been so great this spring, that many, many species are temporarily out of stock. For many species, plants seeded this year will soon start to be available. However, some of the slower growing woodland plants are not available until next year.
We had been hoping to be part of the Fletcher Wildlife Garden Sale. However, this year they are doing the sale entirely on-line, with prepaid orders, and they are spreading the pick-ups out over several weekends, to avoid crowding. Under the circumstances, it doesn’t make sense to add ourselves to the process. We are already doing on-line prepaid orders.
We have decide to pause on deliveries for a couple of weeks. Rather than bringing in partial orders, it seems a better use of my time to stay on the farm and build up stock again.
Please remember that adding native plants to your garden is a process that can go on all season. As long as you can bring a hose to the plants, or get a bucket of water from the lake, planting potted nursery stock can be done all summer. Some great heat-loving, summer-flowering natives are very slow to get going in the spring, and some just hate overwintering in pots, so the only time they are available for sale is in the summer. Keep revisiting the web site for updated Availability.
Although I had said that the cut-off for putting in orders for Saturday, May 8th, would noon on Friday, the response has been so great (Thank You, Customers!) that our trailer has no more space. We we be bringing plants into Ottawa again, for Saturday May 22 and possibly before.
We will not be at the Westboro market this coming Saturday, May 8th. Due to COVID protocols, the booths have to be more widely spaced, and there was no space available for a Daily Vendor, such as Beaux Arbres.
We will be distributing your prepaid orders from a west-end Ottawa condo parking lot, from 9:30 to 2 pm on Saturday, May 8th. (Address details in your order response.)
We have seen a fabulous response to our first Availability List. Some species are now out of stock and are crossed out on the new updated list. Some, such as the popular Foam Flower will be back in stock soon, as newly potted plants firm up. Others will be back as first-year plants towards the end of the summer.
I have added a few new species: Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Allegheny Fringe, Foxglove Penstemon, and a few others. Notably, I have 2 pots of Rosy Twisted Stalk on the list. And, yes, if you have any idea of the time it took to get them to a salable size, you will wonder how I can price them so low.
It is extra-ordinarily difficult to capture in a photo the charm of Water Plantain (Alisma trivale). The small, white, three-petalled flowers are widely spaced on a tall but insubstantial inflorescence, which, in a photo, is mostly just not there. In life, however, the transparent scrim of little stalks and buds and flowers, held high above the water, has delicate appeal. The leaves are relatively small on long petioles, glossy and pointed, and arranged in a rosette at the base of the stalk.
Water Plantain delights in mucky soil and shallow standing water. Unlike some other desirable wetland natives, Water Plantain actually likes stagnant water, so it is a good choice for hard-to-plant, out-of-the-way corners of constructed ponds. It also tolerates a bit of drying out by late summer, so it also thrives in natural wetlands and pond edges.
Water Plantain requires full sun, or nearly full sun, to promote flowering.
This charming little wildflower deserves to be much better known and more often cultivated. Grassy foliage, glossy and attractive, grows about 20 cm tall and spreads by rhizomes to fill in an area. In mid summer, the flower stalks rise above the foliage. The initially pink buds open to white flowers. After flowering, the vivid orange-red seed capsules are as showy as the flowers were. Pretty, short, and two-seasons of interest; why is this plant not more widely grown?
The answer probably lies in the rather specialized habitats in which it grows in the wild: fens, fen-ish prairies, and calcareous shorelines. Although it will put up with less than ideal conditions in cultivation, if you want it to thrive, you should give it moist, sweet soil, lots of sun, and not too much competition. This setting is not easy to supply in many urban gardens.
It occurs to me though, that in the Ottawa exurbs, there are many residential areas on the limestone bedrock, from Almonte to Dunrobin and beyond, where gardeners, trying to grow more traditional flowers, are frustrated by the shallowness of the soil. If you have a pocket of soil on limestone which remains moist for a long time after rain, you may have just the site for some unusual wildflowers such as Sticky False Asphodel.
I think there might also be a call, in more urban areas, for not-too-tall plants for rain gardens. Larger rain gardens and drainage swales are good places for tall, lush wetland plants such as Swamp Milkweed, Blue Vervain, and Purple-stemmed Aster. Great plants, fabulous for pollinators, but quite possibly overwhelming for small-scale gardens. Plants that can endure occasional inundation but do not grow too tall would be most valuable for smaller rain gardens. In sun, you could combine Sticky False Asphodel, Bottle Gentian, Upland White Aster, and, if you can source it, Van Brunt’s Jacob’s Ladder.
It is also possible that keen native plant enthusiast and wildlife gardeners might contemplate creating a pond or water feature that is particularly conducive to growing some our fabulous native wetland plants. The stunningly beautiful Fen Grass-of-Parnassus is worth creating a fen garden to enjoy, and Sticky False Asphodel would be one of its companions in this setting.
For my webinar on Alvars for the West Carlton Garden Club earlier this month, I played with re-imaging some very modernistic gardens, pictured in gardening magazines, redesigning them as Alvar Gardens. The picture below, of an installation for the Chelsea Garden Show a few years back, shows an Alvar and Fen garden waiting to happen – slabs of limestone and shallow pools. Imagine this planted up with Sticky False Asphodel, Fen Grass-of Parnassus, and a pocket of Lizard’s Tail in one of the pools. My point is that native wildflowers can be used to create many styles of gardens, including the sleekest contemporary styles. Exploring the range of native plants beyond the well-known meadow species offers extra-ordinary possibilities for innovative gardens.
(If you missed my Alvar talk, my list of Alvar species for Ottawa gardens is downloadable here.)
Soft, silvery, foliage is a desirable decorative feature in gardens. To augment the bright silver of native Pearly Everlasting and subtle silvery-grey of Parlin’s (Plantain-leaved) Pussytoes, I now offer the silky silver of Fringed Sage. It is much more hardy than the popular but notoriously finicky and short-lived Silver Mound, the standard garden centre offering. Compared to the neat rounded shape of Silver Mound, Fringed Sage (Artemisia frigida) is informal. Indeed, it can look a bit unkempt during flowering. If you want a low, neat effect, trim the flowering stalks as they form in mid-summer to promote attractive silvery bushiness for the autumn garden.
Fringed Sage requires dry, infertile soil and full sun; it does not survive in seasonally wet sites. It prefers an acidic soil. Fringed Sage is technically a sub-shrub, that is, it has a woody base. The woody structure can be pruned lightly to help shape an individual plant. If you have the space, consider growing Fringed Sage in a mass planting, to emphasizes the lovely soft silvery effect. The little bushes are rhizomatous and will, in time, form a ground-covering mat, easily limited by shade from taller neighbours.,
Fringed Sage has a large range in western Canada, extending north into North West Territories and Yukon. It does not occur naturally in the Ottawa Valley. There are a large number of Sage or Sagebrush species native to western Canada but only one native to eastern Canada, Field Sagewort (Artemisia campestris) and it is biennial and not especially decorative.
The flowers of Fringed Sage are wind-pollinated so it is of no interest to pollinators. The aromatic foliage is not eaten by deer or other mammals. On their native prairies, Sages have several specialized insect herbivores. In our area, Field Sagewort is eaten by certain insects, and they may also eat Fringed Sage.
I have not yet tried it, but I read that leaves of Fringed Sage can be burnt on campfires to repel mosquitoes.
This is an oddity for sure. A lanky plant, 30 to 60 cm tall, with undistinguished leaves and small cream or pale green flowers, it is an unlikely candidate for inclusion in our gardens. Ditch Stonecrop’s only ornamental asset is its colourful seedpods. In late summer, the capsules turn pink — grown in sufficient sun, they turn a bright pink.
Ditch Stonecrop (Penthorum sedoides) grows in damp ditches, often in some shade. However, at least half day sun is better to bring a bright colour to the seed capsules. It tolerates shallow standing water so it could be grown in the shallow shelf area of preformed ponds. It thrives in mucky soil. Ditch Stonecrop spreads by rhizomes.
I appreciate late colour in our garden, and interesting shapes to contrast with the ubiquitous daisy shape are especially valuable. A few customers saw the colourful pods last summer and were intrigued. Is this a plant for everyone? Hardly, but if you have a damp ditch, or a natural pond edge, and would like some late season pink, then Ditch Stonecrop might be the right plant for you.
The very first flower at Beaux Arbres is almost always a little non-native rock garden Iris, Iris reticulata. Although I discourage the use of many of the little bulbs from the garden centre, because they readily leap from garden to woodlands, I have never seen nor read of any problem with the little Irises. At the same time, Payson’s Whitlow-grass, a little yellow Draba from the northern Rocky Mountains, blooms in a small pocket of soil in the south facing rock garden. Within a week or so, these early pioneers are joined by several more ground-hugging sun-loving stalwarts of the early spring garden.
The little spring flowers of the deciduous forest – Trout Lillies and Bloodroot and others — are recognized by most fans of wildflowers. Early spring flowers for open sunny places deserve to be better known.
(Pulsatilla nuttalliana) The great spring wildflower challenge in Manitoba is to be the first to spot a Prairie Crocus blooming on a south-facing slope. The native range of Manitoba’s much loved floral emblem extends, just, into western Ontario. We can grow this lovely wildflower in our Ottawa Valley gardens to enjoy their lovely, fuzzy, and very early blooms.
(Ranunculus fascicularis) This cute, low-growing native buttercup carpets the ground on alvars (limestone pavements) in Central Ontario. In the Ottawa Valley, it grows on only one area but it is abundant there. As the photo shows, it can grow where the soil is very shallow. It escapes the searing heat on the rock surface in the summer by going dormant after ripening its seeds in June. Early Buttercup persist on alvars that are grazed because it is avoided by herbivores, and that includes deer.
(Micranthes virginiensis) The flower buds of Early Saxifrage can be seen in late winter, nestled deep in the centre of the rosette of fleshy, evergreen leaves. The flowers stalk lengthen and the little white flowers open with warming temperatures. The basal rosettes often turn an attractive red with cooling temperatures in the fall. This adaptable little native can grow in almost no soil.
(Viola adunca) This is a small violet of infertile, sunny places. It is sometimes called Early Violet and it does bloom very early in the spring. In the Ottawa area, it grows on sandy hills and on open alvars. Like other violets, it is a host plant for Fritillary butterflies. It is too small to compete with lawn grasses – this is not one of the native violets which grows in lawns. Hooked-spur Violet is a lovely native addition to sunny rock gardens.
(Geum triflorum) The nodding pink flowers of Prairie Smoke emerge very early. The most noticeable part of the flowers, the crazy pink jesters’ caps, are sepals; the actual flower is a cream or pale pink flask, within the jester’s cap, that never opens. Bumblebees force themselves into the centre of the flower to pollinate it. As the flowers fade, they turn and face upwards, and the ripening seeds extend a mist of smoky purple-grey. Hence the name. The leaves of Prairie Smoke persist into the fall and green up early in the spring. Prairie Smoke will slowly fill in but it does not run about. Its low, tidy habit and two seasons of interest make this a very popular choice for the front of a border.