Plants To Buy In August

It is not only possible to add perennials to your garden in August, some great native plants are going to be available as potted plants only in late summer.

Case in point: Poke or American Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana). This tall purple-stemmed perennial is a warm-season plant that doesn’t get going until the soil warms. It is impossible to start it from seed and have it up to any size for sale in the spring. With an enormous fleshy root, it also hates overwintering in a pot. Now, Poke is not difficult from seed and it grows quickly. Because it is at the very northern edge of its range here, Poke may be fussy to site. It needs a relatively warm, well-drained site to survive the winter. You may need several tries to get it in a favourable site. So, it makes sense to get a packet of seeds from us at Seedy Saturday and raise your own, to have some spares to experiment with – if you are handy at raising perennials from seed. If you are not experienced with perennial seeds and you would like to acquire a Poke plant growing in a pot, August is your best, or, indeed, only time to do so.

Get your Poke plant into the ground while the soil is still warm. Once you have a well-grown specimen, birds will eat the fruits and spread the seeds about and you will see volunteers from time to time. This is a good thing because you may well lose your original Poke in a harsh winter. In the mid-Atlantic states, Poke is a prodigious seeder and it is considered a weed. This far north, the volunteers are nothing to be feared.

Wild Lupin (Lupinus perennis) is another native plant that is really best raised from seed, direct sown where you want it. Wild Lupins are deeply tap-rooted and I find I cannot hold them in pots for very long. If the plants do not get into the ground at a fairly young age, they wither and die. This species only thrives in very well-drained, sandy soil; it will not succeed in tight clays. I will be bringing some young Wild Lupins in pots to the Westboro Market this coming Saturday (August 10). They can be transferred to the garden with care – note the extraordinary length of the taproot as you remove the still small plants.

lupin vivace
Wild Lupin growing in the wild.

Returning to Westboro Farmers’ Market

Beaux Arbres will be back at Westboro Farmers’ Market on Saturday, August 10th, bringing some spectacular late-summer wildflowers.

Folks sometimes ask: Is it too late to add plants? If you can bring water to your new plants with a hose (or even a bucket from the lake, at the cottage), you can continue to plant potted nursery stock throughout the summer and early fall. The heat-loving prairie plants are in active growth right now and they are better able to make new roots than if you wait until the soil cools in the fall.

Native wildflowers are the key to having a garden than does not fade in the hot weather. All those lovely Bellflowers and Wallflowers and Paeonies of an English-style cottage garden are gorgeous in the spring, but gardens based on these non-natives struggle in the heat of summer in our continental climate.

For spectacular flower displays that thrive in heat, look to the deep-rooted flowers of the prairies: Blazing Stars, Ironweed, Culver’s Root, Prairie Mallow, Rattlesnake Master, Wild Bergamot, Showy Tick-trefoil, Cardinal Flower, and a huge diversity of tall yellow daisies. These natives also provide for native pollinators: bumblebees and other wild bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Later, many will also provide nutritious seeds for seed-eating birds like the vivid yellow and black Goldfinches.

Create a garden that is full of life and easy to care for by putting native plants at the centre of your garden planting.

Prairie Blazing Star (Liatris pycnostachya)
Culver’ Root and Cardinal Flower
Tall Sunflower (Helianthus giganteus) at Beaux Arbres

A Successful Sale Day at FWG

Beaux Arbres had its best day yet at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden’s annual Native Plant Sale. Thanks to all our customers: some familiar faces and many new. We had a great time recommending plants to eager customers. Building on our experience in the past two years, this year we had laminated photo cards in place for every species, and many customers commented favourably.

The weather – cool but not raining – brought out the gardeners and was kind to the plants. The photo shows our full tables moments before the morning rush began.

Shade plants are always in demand by city gardeners. Shade plants are also slower to reproduce and some of them have exacting germination requirements. We can never keep up with the demand. Unfortunately, we are now out of several popular shade plants — Wild Ginger, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Bloodroot, et al. — for the year.

Butterfly Food Plants

With all the conservation concern about Monarch Butterflies, gardeners want to plant Milkweeds, the food plants for the Monarch caterpillars. Will Beaux Arbres have Milkweed plants for sale at the Rare and Unusual Plant Sale this coming Sunday?

And the answer is No, not this Sunday. Milkweeds are very much heat loving plants of summer and they are slow to emerge in the spring, waiting until the soil is thoroughly warm.* Our Milkweeds are just starting to poke above the ground. You will have other opportunities to buy Beaux Arbres Milkweeds, as we are going to be at the Westboro Farmers’ Market on three Saturdays later this spring. And, of course, there will be Milkweeds for sale at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden’s great annual sale of native plants, this year on Saturday, June 1st.

Beaux Arbres has added two new species of Milkweeds this spring. In addition to the popular orange Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) and tall, fragrant Swamp Milkweed (A. incarnata), we have added Dwarf Milkweed (A. ovalifolia), seed from Manitoba, and Whorled Milkweed (A. verticilliata), from southern Ontario. Although neither of the new species is present naturally in the Ottawa Valley, the wide-ranging Monarchs are just as happy to encounter them here as they are in other parts of their summer breeding range. In fact, the narrow, thin leaves of Whorled Milkweed seem especially attractive to late-arriving mother Monarchs, who pass over the mature leaves of Common Milkweed. Both of these species spread into colonies, but they are much shorter than Common Milkweed and they may be just the thing for your garden if you have a sunny area of poor, dry soil.

We will be bringing some other essential butterfly host plants to the Rare and Unusual Sale. For the intrepid American Ladies (sometimes also called American Painted Ladies), Beaux Arbres is bringing Field Pussytoes, Plantain-leaved Pussytoes, and Pearly Everlasting, all with silvery grey foliage. For Black Swallowtails, we offer Golden Alexanders, with cheery yellow spring flowers. For the stunningly beautiful Baltimore Checkerspots, we have their only host plant: White Turtlehead. Now, Baltimore Checkerspots are homebodies, who do not easily find new plantings of Turtlehead, but if you don’t try, you’ll never know if you can attract this beautiful butterfly to your garden. American Ladies are strong fliers, who are good at seeking out food plants when you offer them.

✵ If you planted Butterfly Milkweed last year, do not give up on it. Butterfly Milkweed is one of the last to come up in the spring.

Swamp Milkweed

Two Native Primroses

Back in the winter, I showed a picture of two native primroses, Dwarf Canadian Primrose and Bird’s Eye Primrose, as they got ready for winter. Well, here they are in all their spring flowering glory and it is easy to see their different characters. Bird’s Eye Primrose (Primula laurentiana) has larger flowers and broader leaves, Dwarf Canadian Primrose (P. mistassinica) has delightful miniature proportions. I will have some of both to sell at the Rare and Unusual Plant Sale in Ottawa this Sunday.

Dwarf Canadian on the the left, Bird’s Eye on the right.

Native plants are coming to town!

Beaux Arbres is coming to Ottawa’s Westboro Farmers Market on three Saturdays this spring. We will be bringing a selection of the best of our native wildflowers, grasses, and small shrubs to the lively west-end market on Saturday, May 18th, and Saturdays June 8th and 15th.

Of course, we will be at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden Native Plant Sale on Saturday, June 1st. This is still the best sale of native plants in Ottawa, as you not only get to select from the Beaux Arbres tables, you also have all the great plants the volunteers at the Fletcher Wildlife garden bring to the sale from which to chose.

However, if you have to miss the FWG sale, or if you still have spots in your garden to fill, come out to the Westboro Farmers Market! Because spring has been so very late this year, and because the FWG sale is as early in June as it can be this year, we may not have slow-to-emerge species, such as the always popular Butterfly Milkweed(featured image), until later in the month.

You may be seeing our new poster around town in you live or shop in the west end of Ottawa.