On a dreary November day, with the golden tamaracks providing the only colour in the landscape, the interior of the hoop house is only a couple of degrees warmer (still quite chilly) but colourful fall leaves still linger. The brightest colour comes from the leaves of Wild Geranium. I like the green and red carpet of Prairie Smoke. The lovely soft apricots of Bowman’s Root have mostly faded to brown but one plant is still glowing.
Rock Pink (Talinum calycinum) has been in bloom for weeks and it just got better and better, as long as the warm weather lasted. I love the bright magenta of the flowers against the natural greys of the rocks and stone mulch. I hope it proves to be hardy, here in western Quebec, but even as an annual it is worth growing for mid to late summer colour in the rock garden. Small bees love the flowers.
A useful contrast to all the tall yellow daisies, the bright saturated purple of ironweed (Vernonia sp.) glows in the autumn sunshine. This plant is tall and rugged.
Of the many tall yellow daisies for late summer and early autumn, my favourite is Tall Sunflower (Helianthus giganteus). It can be very tall – to 3 metres. That’s a plus. If you are going to do tall, do it! Even small gardens have lots of room in the vertical direction. Tall Sunflowers flowers are a lovely clear yellow and the purple stems are a nice contrast. On warm afternoons the plants hum from the volume of pollinators. After the flowers fade, the seeds are relished by goldfinches.
Now, I warn customers that pretty Heart-leaved Aster (Symphyotrichum cordifolium) is a pushy native that spreads, but let’s face it: most gardens have spots where a tough, pushy plant is just the thing. We have an ancient clump of common lilacs, as do most old farmyards. The lilacs are fragrant and lovely and visited by Canadian Swallowtail Butterflies, for about a week in the spring, and then, for the rest of the summer, they are a big, boring green lump with no fall colour. Heart-leaved Asters are willing to grow in the dry root-filled conditions under the lilacs and bloom in a beautiful pale blue ruff at their feet. Like other asters, they are important for late-season pollinators.
Daisy-form flowers dominate late-season wildflower gardens. Native plants with distinctive and unusual flower shapes are always interesting and even more welcome when they bloom in the fall. This is a white-flowered garden selection of the native Closed Gentian (Gentiana clausa).
I am almost too busy getting the plants ready for the sale to blog about them but there are a few new species that are too interesting to ignore.
Seeded earlier this year and already big enough to plant now, the lovely biennial Swamp Thistle (Cirsium muticum). I know, Swamp and Thistle. Don’t let your experience with weedy non-native thistles, neither the stately but dangerous Bull Thistle nor the absolutely appalling Russian Thistle, put you off this great native for damp spots. It is so unlikely to seed into gardens that I suggest you collect some seeds in the fall to ensure you don’t lose it. I received my seeds as a generous gift from Lis Allison, whose Pine Ridge Studio, near Carp, is a great source for locally grown native ferns. Native thistles are great nectar sources for butterflies and the nutritious seeds feed many birds.
Also new this year: Dwarf Arctic Iris (Iris setosa var. arctica), a miniature wild iris and seriously cute. We have some in bud. Seriously cute. Shop early.
We are bringing a few pots of Rock Whitlow-grass (Draba arabisans). Perhaps not the most exciting of Drabas — the really tiny, exciting ones are all denizens of either the high Arctic or Alpine peaks and dislike hot weather — but we just this past Sunday saw this species used very effectively in the Natives area of the Alpine Garden of the Montreal Botanical Garden (featured image). This Draba species is an easy plant for rock gardens, small enough for troughs.
And speaking of rock gardens, yes, we will have lots of Common Bluets, still happily blooming.
We will not be bringing many shrubs to the sale this year — three species of roses, some Shrubby Cinquefoil, a few others. Plan to come out to the nursery for more shrubs.
The Fletcher Sale is the only time we bring the mid to late summer meadow flowers into Ottawa. They won’t be in bloom now, of course, but take the opportunity to add some great heat-loving natives, for flowers throughout the summer. Many of the prairie and meadow flowers are important nectar and pollen food sources for diverse pollinators: Boneset, Great Blue Lobelia, Cardinal Flower, Swamp Milkweed, diverse yellow daisies and many others. New this year: Rattlesnake Master and Tall Coreopsis.
We have always tried to have some genuinely rare and/or unusual plants for the Rare and Unusual Plant Sale . This year we have some new and very special species.
We are keeping a close eye on our pots of seed-grown Eastern Shooting Star (Dodecatheon meadia). This species is not locally native; it occurs in Canada in Manitoba, with a wider distribution in the U.S.A. Beautiful and distinctive, Shooting Star is on the logo of the North American Rock Garden Society. Shooting Stars are spring ephemerals, which is to say, the entire plant disappears after flowering, to spend the summer as an underground tuber. The short period in growth means they are slow to develop. We have been growing ours for three years now and hope some will be up to salable size in time for Mothers’ Day..
New for 2018
Rattlesnake Master Eryngium yuccifolium – odd mace-like flowers.
Closed Gentian Gentiana clausa – a white-flowered garden form, 4-year old plants. You can expect them to flower well this September in a damp spot in your garden.
Ohio Goldenrod Solidago ohionensis – well-behaved, flat-topped goldenrod from moist, calcareous soils, adaptable to ordinary sunny gardens. Pictured above, growing wild along Lake Huron shoreline.
New Plants for Shade
Wild Geranium I have a few of this popular flower for light shade or woodland edge. Unfortunately, many of my small plants of this species have not recovered from the winter. I hope to have more available for the Fletcher Wildlife Garden Sale in June.
Dog Violet A nice little plant for damp shade. Grows from central crown and does not spread into lawns.
Kidney-leaved Violet Grows in shade in damp, shady sites.
White Bear Sedge Carex albursina – an evergreen forest-floor sedge with relatively broad, deep green leaves. Limited supply.
Twinflower Linnaea borealis var. americana – beautifully fragrant pink bells in pairs above a low, evergreen carpet in cool, moist, acidic organic soil. From cuttings.
Some popular and special species which we introduced in previous years will be back again: Dwarf Canadian Primrose Primula mistassinica, Broad-leaved Sedge Carex platyphylla, Blue-stemmed Goldenrod Solidago caesia (a lovely clumping goldenrod for light shade) and American Spikenard Aralia racemosa, among many others.
This is a hectic time for me, trying to get the stock ready for our first big sale of the spring, the Rare and Unusual Plant Sale, traditionally on Mothers’ Day, in Ottawa. This will be our fourth year as a vendor at this sale. We now have enough experience to predict that the Weather Gods will provide an especially foul brand of weather for the event. (Hey, prove us wrong!)
We had hoped our new hoop house will help us to bring well-grown plants, showing some colour in their buds, to this sale. Ours is not a heated greenhouse – we were not trying to get too far ahead of the season. The idea was to have the plants only a week or so ahead, without forcing them so much that you have to worry about hardening them off before you can plant them outside. In this exceptionally chilly spring, we seem to be just treading water. However, growth is so rapid this time of year that a few days of sunny warmth, or a few shivery nights, makes a great deal of difference to how the plants display themselves by Mothers Day.
To bring your Spring Wildflower Gardener’s Anticipation Frenzy to a fever pitch, you can download our Spring 2018 Species Availability List: Rare and Unusual Sale 2018.
The cute little thing in the picture is Common Bluets or Quaker Ladies.
Getting excited about spring? Looking forward to all the wonderful seeds at Seedy Saturday?
Beaux Arbres will be bringing more than 70 species of seeds to two local Seedy Days. To really whet your appetite for wildflower seeds, we have now posted a PDF of our seeds for you to browse in advance. Download Beaux Arbres Seeds
This list reflects what we will be bringing to Ottawa Seedy Saturday on March 3rd. Some of our seed varieties are in very limited supply. We may run out of some varieties quickly.
We also have Gift Certificates available, which can be redeemed for plants at the spring sales in Ottawa or at our nursery. The Rare and Unusual Plant Sale at the Central Experimental Farm is on Mothers’ Day. Just sayin’.
Beaux Arbres will be bringing native plant seeds to two Ottawa area Seedy Saturdays: the Ottawa Seedy Saturday on Saturday, March 3rd, at the Ron Kolbus Centre in Britannia Park, and the Pembroke (Ottawa Valley) Seedy Sunday, March 4th. These are always great occasions to stock up on your heirloom vegetable seeds and garlic bulbs, as well as a great diversity of flower seeds.
Beaux Arbres will be offering some new species in seed for 2018. One to look out for is Large-flowered Beardtongue (Penstemon grandiflorus).
The showiest of the eastern North American Penstemons, this two-foot high beauty is native to the American mid-west, where it is considered rare or endangered throughout much of its range.
It has large (for a Penstemon) pink to purple-pink bells and distinctive smooth blue-green leaves. It is often short-lived in gardens, even in its native range, but it is easy to renew from seeds. Give it full all-day sun and sharp drainage.
Wood Lilies Seeds
We are pleased to again offer, after a few years’ absence, wild-collected Wood Lily seeds These seeds were collected in Bristol Township, Quebec. Wood lilies are unlike our other native lilies in that they are relatively short, grow in rocky places which can be dry in summer, and have up-facing flowers. Wood Lilies are the easiest of the native lilies to germinate but they are slow (4 years) to get up to flowering size and they have to be protected from voles and chipmunks, who love to feast on the bulbs.
Our original seeding of Wood Lilies in the Beaux Arbres rock garden came into bloom last June and they were stunning and certainly worth the wait. Last summer’s wetness seemed to be favourable to seed production in the wild stand from which we had collected those seeds, so we are again able to offer seeds of this exceptional species.
Saturday, March 3rd, 2018, 10 am to 3 pm
Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre in Britannia Park, 102 Greenview Ave, Ottawa, ON K2B 5Z6
Ottawa Valley Seedy Sunday
Sunday, March 4, 2018 10 am to 3 pm
Rankin Rec Centre, 20 Rankin Rink Road off Highway 41
Renfrew County, ON