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.

First Plant Sale in Two Years

I am really looking forward to the Friends of the Farm Sale tomorrow. It will be the first plant sale Beaux Arbres has participated in in two years. (We did manage one Farmers’ Market last July and two in September of 2020.) We have a wonderful array of plants to bring to the sale – a mixture of spring flowers and some summer-flowering plants that have emerged in the recent heat.

It has been a challenge getting the plants organized in this extreme heat and some of the early species I had hoped to have in full bloom have already passed their peak. Prairie Crocus is long over but we are bringing some plants to the sale anyway. This incredibly early beauty is a great addition to any sunny rock garden.

A species I am very proud to be able to offer is the lovely little Early Buttercup. It has taken two years to get these small plants up to salable size. The seed is originally from the local Ottawa Valley population of this alvar specialist plant. We are not on limestone at Beaux Arbres so I have planted what will be my stock plants for future seeds in a hypertufa trough with limestone mulch to mimic their alvar home.

Early Buttercup in a hypertufa trough.

Everyone gardening with butterflies in mind wants to know when the milkweeds will be available. Milkweeds are real heat-lovers and are always slow to emerge in the spring. I do have some nice pots of Whorled Milkweed to bring to the sale tomorrow. This low-growing species from south-western Ontario is not the showiest in flower but it is very attractive to Monarchs looking for a place to lay their eggs. We expect to be bringing some Dwarf Milkweed (seed from Manitoba) to the Westboro Farmers’ Market next Saturday.

The forecast for this Sunday is rain and possible thunderstorm. The weather gods must know we are bringing prepaid orders in cardboard boxes. Some folks who ordered from us last year will remember the soggy muddle of our first rainy delivery day last May. Honestly, I should start charging a fee to farmers – putting plant orders into cardboard boxes seems to be the most effective rain dance ever devised.

Warm-season Plants Starting to Grow

A week of (very) warm weather has pushed all sorts of summer-blooming, heat-loving plants into growth, unfortunately not in time for the pre-orders for the Friends of the Farm Sale on Sunday. I will be bringing a smattering of summer-blooming flowers to the sale, along with many spring flowers. And you have more chances to pre-order for pick-up at the Westboro Farmers’ Market.

The Fletcher Wildlife Garden Annual Sale, it has just been announced will be on a pre-order only basis, as it was last year. With no sale event, we don’t have a chance to be the guest vender at the sale event. We will be at the Westboro Farmers’ Market again that Saturday, June 4th.

I have sold out of a few species: Anise-hyssop, Blue-stemmed Goldenrod, and some others. I overwintered only so many in each species. However, they will be available again later in the summer as this spring’s seedlings get to salable size. I will post a new Availability List this week.

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The vivid red flower in the feature image is called Royal Catchfly and it is one of the summer bloomers that I will be bringing a few pots of to the Friends of the Farm Sale.

Plant Availability List for May, 2022

The long spell of cold weather in the latter part of April really slowed down plant growth, but I promised a Plant Availability List for the first of May, so here it is. The fine weather forecasted for the next week or so might bring many more species into growth. If there are enough additional species, I will put out an updated list before May 11th.

For pick-up of prepaid orders at the Friends of the Farm Sale on Sunday, May 15th, I ask that you get your orders e-mailed to me by 6 pm on Wednesday, May 11th. For this event, there is a minimum of $50 for pre-paid orders.

Please put in your orders via email: naturalgarden@xplornet.ca

First Flower of the Spring: Prairie Crocus

Last post, when I said I would have to move the Prairie Crocuses to a cool spot to keep them in bloom for the Friends of the Farm sale, I wasn’t joking, but I didn’t think I would have to start doing the move on April 2nd. Yesterday, the largest bud on the Prairie Crocuses in the hoop house started to open in the warmth of the afternoon sun. Perhaps this is the one I shouldn’t sell but keep for seed, for future very early blooms.

In the Rock Garden, the fuzzy buds of Prairie Crocus are visible but still small.

Finding the first wild Prairie Crocus to bloom is something of an obsession for naturalists in Manitoba. Manitoba’s floral emblem occurs in the wild in Ontario, in a few locations near the Manitoba border. Prairie Crocus can be cultivated in rock gardens in the Ottawa valley, providing early floral resources for pollinators and cheering gardeners with their very early bloom.

Spring Sales: Getting back to normal

After a two year hiatus, the Friends of the Farm Annual Plant Sale will be held this spring. Although colloquially known as the Mothers Day Sale, it is not always held on Mothers’ Day and this year it will be on May 15th, the Sunday after Mothers’ Day. For several years, this was our first big sale event of the year. During a cold, late spring, we never know what will be up and looking good in time for the sale, but we can hope to have Eastern Shooting Star, Prairie Smoke, Early Saxifrage, Showy Jacob’s Ladder, Bird’s Eye Primrose, and other early spring cuties in bloom, or at least in bud, in time for the sale. Prairie Crocus is so darn early, we may have to move our pots into a cool spot to keep them in bloom for May 15!

We will be bringing a selection of spring flowers to the sale table for sales on the day. In addition, you can pre-order from our Availability List for pick up on the day of the sale. Our first Plant Availability list of 2022 should be up on the website by on or around the 1st of May, with details of how to order.

We are also going to be at the Westboro Farmers’ Market on Saturday, May 21. That is the Saturday of the 24th of May weekend, a traditional time to stock up on garden plants. We will be bringing in a good selection of spring and early summer plants for sale at the Market, but just as for the Friends of the Farm Sale, you can pre-order from the Availability List for pick-up that day. (Because we are doing two things on one day – a sale table and prepaid orders – we will have a minimum in effect for prepaid orders for both days.)

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Pick up seeds at Seedy Saturday

Beaux Arbres has chosen not to be a vendor at this year’s Seedy Saturday but you can pick up pre-ordered seeds at the Seedy Saturday pickup wicket.

If you are heading to the Ron Kolbus Centre for Seedy Saturday on March 5th, you can pick up pre-ordered Beaux Arbres seeds, and other vendors merchandise, at an outside wicket. Please get your seed orders in by Wednesday, March 2nd. We will WAIVE THE SHIPPING CHARGE for orders picked up at Seedy Saturday.

Slow Plants have to be More Expensive

I have kept the prices of most species constant for the past few years and I intend to keep those prices — mostly $6 for small pots and $12 for 4 1/2″ tall pots — for any of the species I can get up to salable size in one season.

However, some species require more effort or time to get up to salable size and their prices have to reflect this. For example, Nodding Prairie Onion (Allium cernuum) germinates without much fuss, but it spends its first summer with one or two skinny little leaves, wispier than a sprig of newly sprouted lawn grass. It doesn’t fill out a pot for three, or even four, years. A nice, plantable specimen of Nodding Prairie Onion, which I have been looking after for three or more years, needs to be more expensive than a similarly sized pot of, for example, Ironweed, which I have been looking after for 3 or 4 months.

It is just an unavoidable aspect of native plant gardening that many of the plants for shade are going to be in the costlier categories. They may have fussy germination protocols, sometimes requiring two or more winters before they germinate, or they produce few seeds, or the seed pods need to be individually bagged to prevent ants from carrying the seeds off. The seeds cannot be stored dry, or, sometimes, stored at all. And, because they are growing in shade, they have a smaller energy budget, and therefore slower growth, than plants for sunny places.

Although I try to grow from seeds (for genetic diversity) there are some woodland creepers that are so slow or difficult from seed that it is impractical. The lovely Twinflower is one that I grow from cuttings. Taking cuttings — in the case of Twinflower, with permission from a friend’s several extensive wild patches — requires more time, and time in the middle of the spring growing season, than sowing seed in winter, and it results in many fewer little plants. Pots of Twinflower have to be more expensive than pots of things which come easily from seed. However Twinflower, cuttings of which root readily and start to form new growth in a couple of months, is far faster than the rather similar looking Partridgeberry. Partridgeberry cuttings take a year to decide whether they will root at all, even with level 3 rooting hormone, and I lose about half of them. The price of a pot of Partridgeberry has to reflect the time and effort that has gone into it.

All this is to let you know that the prices for some (but certainly not all*) woodland and other slow-growing plants are going to be going up and when some interesting new species become available, they may be more pricey than the easy species.

*Easy-from-seed woodlanders, such as White Snakeroot and Blue-stemmed Goldenrod, are not going up in price for, at least, Spring 2022.

Dropping some species

Anyone who has visited the nursery knows how little bench space I have. To make room for the new species, some less popular species are going to be dropped from the nursery.

Thimbleweed is certainly locally native but it is not that showy. I tried to keep two very similar species going, Thimbleweed and Long-headed Thimbleweed, but neither was very popular. I will still have Thimbleweed available in seed as it is a good choice for naturalizing.

I am dropping both Bluestars (Amsonia spp.), Common and Hubricht’s. Neither is locally native and they are often available in garden centres. I have cooled on Hubricht’s Bluestar – it was trendy for a bit – although I still like Common Bluestar as a garden plant and will keep a couple of plants of it in the garden.

Wild Blue Indigo is also not locally native and usually available in garden centres. It is a BIG perennial and very slow to mature and I just don’t have the patience for it. I am going to continue to stock Lesser Wild Blue Indigo. The original seed for this plant came to me from Gardens North; it is seldom available commercially. About half the size of its larger cousin, it is also quicker to mature – just a nice blue for the flower border with interesting black seed pods.

I am also dropping Prairie Cinquefoil – almost the only ones I have sold in two years were ones I put into garden designs. I am not sure why this plant doesn’t sell. I like it, but it is not very emphatic. It is very easy from seed and I will continue to grow it in my garden and offer it in seed form.

American Ipecac (Gillenia stipulata) is also going to go. I was happy to be able to try it out and see how it differed from Bowman’s Root (G. trifoliata). Bowman’s Root is clearly the prettier plant. If you happen to specifically want some American Ipecac, say for herbal purposes, I still have some plants in the garden I could collect seeds from.

I am giving up on Prairie Cord Grass (Spartina pectinata). I never did figure out a good way to offer this big, coarse grass with amazingly tough spreading roots. It has a certain usefulness in the landscape for erosion control and because it is salt-tolerant, but…

I am also dropping Riverbank Wild Rye (Elymus riparius). It just cannot compete with its much showier relative, Bottlebrush Grass (E. hystrix).

The larger shrubs I have sometimes had available in small quantities were surplus from some I had grown for our own landscaping. I sold most of the surplus this past summer. Beaux Arbres will concentrate on smaller decorative shrubs, such as Kalm’s St. John’s Wort, and a few very special shrubs that are hard to source. I will leave it to other nurseries to carry the more tree-like shrubs.

I have been telling folks that I was not going to continue with Gray Dogwood (Cornus racemosa). However, my stand of Gray Dogwoods has started to produce volunteers among the adjacent prairie grasses. Not too surprising, since Gray Dogwood is one of the woody species whose spread in prairies may need to be controlled by managed burns. It is also the most drought tolerant of our native dogwoods. All dogwood fruit (pictured above, with Brown-eyed Susans) is very nutritious for birds so I feel Gray Dogwood is useful in our gardens and it is not that available. I may pot up a few of the volunteers.

One plant that will be back in stock next year is Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). I had thought that I needn’t carry this species as I believed it to be readily available in garden centres. However, quite a number of customers asked about my Purple Coneflower clump, saying that all they could find in the garden centres were highly modified oddities, that the straight species was hard to come by. Purple Coneflower is NOT native to Canada — the only Echinacea that has any claim to be native to Ontario is Pale Purple Coneflower, based on two tiny populations southwest of London. However, this past summer I watched the Great Spangled Fritillaries fly past the Pale Purple Coneflower to zoom in on the Purple Coneflower. Obviously, Purple Coneflower earns its place in Butterfly Gardens. It is also much more tolerant of partial shade than Pale Purple Coneflower, a plant of open prairies that flops sideways and flowers sparingly in even a little shade.

Purple Coneflower