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.)

If you want to be kept up-to-date on new Plant Availability Lists, and other announcements, follow us by using the Follow button – the white rectangle in the bottom in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen — to receive e-mail notifications. (I know the dratted thing disappears; that is WordPress’s doing, not ours. It re-appears if you scroll up.)

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

Seeds available, Winter 2021/2022

Growing native plants from seed is an economical way to get more plants, whether to plant a large area or to have extras to share with friends. This winter, Beaux Arbres is offering seeds from more than 80 species of wildflowers native to eastern North America. The species in this collection are among the easiest wildflowers to grow from seed, all seeds tolerant of dry storage and none demanding tricky germination techniques. Packets are $4.00, minimum order – 5 packets.

Many native woodland plants are challenging from seed — either the seeds are intolerant of dry storage or require multiple winters (or both). Because of that, the collection is slanted toward the sunny meadow species. Blue-stemmed Goldenrod (Solidago caesia) and White Snakeroot (Agertina altissima) are plants for shady gardens that are also easy from seed.

Some other seeds have very hard seed coats that require physical abrasion (scarification) to allow water to get into the seed. They may have evolved to pass through the gizzard of a relatively large bird like a grouse or a turkey, or they may be shoreline plants that have evolve to roll about on a beach, being abraded by the sands and gravels. Frankly, I hate dealing with these fussy seeds. There are some seeds on this list that require scarification but they are all species that I have had success with by using the much easier boiling water method to soften the seed coat. (Basically, put the seeds in a cup, pour boiling water over them, let cool and soak overnight, and drain off the water in the morning.)

The commonest germination technique for native seeds is cold, moist stratification. Essentially, the seed needs to experience winter. This prevents it from germinating on an unusually warm afternoon in December. You can either use the outdoors or a refrigerator. If you do use the outdoors, best to place your pot in a snow-covered place out of the late-winter sun (which can be very warm). The only at-all-tricky species on my list are White Turtlehead (Chelone glabra) which needs a longer than usual cold period, and Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium montanum), which responds much better to fluctuating outdoor temperatures than to “winter” in a refrigerator.

Wood Mint

Visitors to the nursery this past summer were impressed by the fine clump of Downy Wood Mint (Blephilia ciliata)(pictured above) in front of the hoop house. Had I any plants for sale, I could have sold dozens. But every single last pot of Wood Mint that I had in the hoop house failed to overwinter. Every last plant of Wood Mint that I planted in the garden wintered just fine. There are some plants that, in western Quebec, well north of their native range, are just like that. They are hardy in the garden but just not hardy enough to overwinter in pots, even when well protected. (The lovely Wood Poppy is another problem child this way.) Fortunately, Downy Wood Mint is fast and easy from seed. Like many plants in the Mint family, it is attractive to small bees. It also has the advantage of being moderate in height and having a long period in bloom, nice features for the flower border. Despite the ‘Wood’ in the common name, this is a plant for places that are more sunny than shady. And, although it is related to Mints and the plants expand a bit after flowering, the roots do not run about all over the place the way true mints (Genus Mentha) do. (Downy Wood Mint is on the Seeds list and I should have seedlings available for sale next summer.)

Wingstem

With so many other tall yellow daisies for late summer to chose from, the rather gangly Wingstem (Verbesina alternifolia) was never a big seller and I dropped it from my nursery list. I just had to tell folks that Tall Sunflower was the better looking plant. However, if the main focus of your garden is to provide for birds (and, yes, there are lots of birding enthusiasts for whom this is the main reason to garden) then Wingstem is a serious contender for inclusion. (Do also consider Tall Sunflower, as well). The flat, winged seeds of Wingstem are arranged in a rather different pattern than those of most of the yellow daisy clan — more of an accordion file than a tightly packed cone. They are eagerly sought by Goldfinches. Although the yellow daisies of Wingstem are rather small for the height of the plant, if bird-watching is your aim, plant a clump of Wingstem where it is easy to see from the sunny spot where you sit to drink your coffee or tea on September mornings. After several years off the list, Wingstem is again available in seed.

Wingstem

Seed Collecting Fall 2021

I have finished collecting all the seeds I intend to collect this fall and have picked over and done preliminary cleaning on most of them. I will be posting a list of the available species soon.

Pink Turtlehead

Pink Turtlehead (Chelone lyonii) — pictured above — seeds will be available this year. I almost gave up on this species. It is not native to Canada but native to eastern USA and it is generally available in garden centres, so I was willing to let it go. It ripens its seeds so late in the year I had never been able to collect good seed from my plants. However, this summer’s heat and the long, open fall weather produced a good crop of seeds.

Nothing replaces the locally native White Turtlehead (C. glabra) as a host for the caterpillars of the beautiful Baltimore Checkerspot butterflies. Baltimores lay eggs on White Turtlehead and the young caterpillars eat only White Turtlehead. The caterpillars overwinter at the third instar stage. The following spring, however, the larger (and very hungry) fourth and fifth instar caterpillars will eat White Turtlehead and several closely related plants, including Pink Turtlehead and Hairy Beardtongue.

Pink Turtlehead is showier as a garden flower than is White, not only because of the colour but also because it often has more flowers open at once on a stalk. It is also a bit shorter and less dependent on constant moisture, although it too does like a moist soil. If you have an appropriate spot for White Turtlehead, do plant several for the Baltimore Checkerspot butterflies, but you might also like to include some Pink Turtlehead in a nearby flower border, to provide additional food resources for the larger caterpillars.

Seed pods of Pink Turtlehead, waiting to be cleaned.

Plants into Ottawa, Saturday, September 11th

Beaux Arbres will be bringing plants into Ottawa on Saturday, September 11th. We will be distributing prepaid orders of native plants from a Britannia area parking lot on that Saturday, from 9:30 am until noon. This will probably be our last delivery of plants for the season. The nursery will still be open until the end of September.

Ironweed ($12) and the native hibiscus, Swamp Rose Mallow ($18) are now available and looking very good. We still have seedling Butterfly Milkweeds available — now is a good time to get this much-in-demand species. Many other species are still available. Because some species are available only in small quantities, rather than post a new Availability list, I am asking you to use the August Availability List as a wish list, and I will fill your orders to the best of my ability, in the order they come in.

September is the ideal time to add early spring bloomers to your garden. Some great early blooms, which cheer you and help feed overwintered pollinators, are Prairie Crocus, Early Buttercup, Common Bluets, and Early Saxifrage.

Please email your orders to me by the evening of Thursday, September 9th, and I will get back to you with details about payment etc.: naturalgarden@xplornet.ca

At Westboro Market this Saturday

A stall has opened up at Westboro Farmers’ Market this Saturday, July 24th. We will be bringing a wonderful selection of plants to the market — from Three-toothed Cinquefoil (about 2″ high) to Compass Plant (topping 10 ft, this rainy summer).

We hope this presages more access to the market this summer. We will be continue with pre-paid orders (for pick-up at the market), we hope with more advance notice of the dates.

Of course, we can only bring a small selection to the market. To purchase from the full range of Beaux Arbres plants, plan a visit to the nursery. We are only an hour and a bit away.

chèvrefeuille dioïque

Plants coming to Britannia and to Navan

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?