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.

New for 2021: Early Buttercup

This cheery little flower is an under-appreciated Ottawa Valley native. Along with its early-blooming companions in the wild, such as Early Saxifrage, Prairie Smoke and Hooked-spur Violet, Early Buttercup (Ranunculus fascicularis) is a great choice to provide floral resources for newly emerged pollinators. Early Buttercup is a true spring ephemeral — the plant withers into dormancy shortly after the seeds ripen in late spring. The leaves re-emerge from the somewhat tuberous root almost as soon as the snow is gone the next spring.

Early Buttercup grows wild on only one alvar in the Ottawa Valley. It is more common on the alvars of central Ontario. Beaux Arbres’ stock of Early Buttercup was grown from seed collected in the Ottawa Valley, i.e. it is local genotype.

Early Buttercup occurs in the wild only on alvars and similar open, calcareous habitats. This gives us a clue to what it likes in the garden: full sun, sweet soil, and not being crowded by larger neighbours. Like other alvar inhabitants, it is tough, adapted to heat and cold and spring wet, and its summer dormancy allows it to endure the droughts of summer.

I am making an assumption, on this snowy day in January, that I will have Early Buttercup available in the spring of 2021. We went into the winter with a good supply of seedlings. However, I have had unexpected winter losses in the past, and I am never totally sure plants are available until I see them start to grow in the spring. I will be posting Availability Lists in the spring, as growth resumes.