I noticed some Marsh Marigolds growing in the ditch of the dirt road that runs down the side of the farm. I also knew that the road, which was in rough shape where it slopes down to the creek, was due for some grading from the municipality. So I dug up the clump that was furthest into the road, divided it into four, and potted it up. I should have taken more. Re-visiting after the road work, I notice some of the clumps in the ditch had been uprooted, dragged, and partially covered with gravel. I rescued the roots and potted them.
In the feature photo you can see the original four, in large pots at the back, blooming beautifully. I plan to keep these to collect seeds. The plants in front are in rough shape. A few may recover in time for this year’s sales. Most won’t be salable till next year, if they recover at all.
These are some of the plant I would have been bringing to the Friends of the Farm Mothers Day Sale on Sunday. They are the best looking bunch of plants I have had in the six years since Beaux Arbres first attended the sale.
However, I can bring them into Ottawa for you next week. We are aiming for Wednesday, May 13th, to bring prepaid orders to a west-end Ottawa parking lot.
Print off the list (PDF) to help plan your Seedy Saturday shopping.
Some of the seeds I have in very small quantities, perhaps because that was all I was able to harvest, or sometimes because I think the plant is a bit specialized and will be attractive to only a few gardeners. Tall Coreopsis (Coreopsis triptera) is one such. It is a nice, easy, tall yellow daisy, but the number of gardeners who need a 7 foot plant which runs is limited. However, if you have an expanse of Big Bluestem Grass (Andropogon gerardii) and want to add colour and diversity to your fledgling tall-grass prairie, Tall Coreopsis would be just the thing. If you want a tall yellow daisy which very much stays put, I have seeds, new this year, of Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum), tap-rooted, with elegant leaves.
Another species I have only a couple of seed packs for is Fen Grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia glauca). Everybody loves this little charmer when they see it in bloom, but I have to warn you it is both fussy to site and very, very slow from seed – a species only patient and experienced gardeners should attempt from seed.
Lead Plant (Amorpha canescens) is a lovely summer-blooming little shrub in the Pea family. It is slow to mature but otherwise not difficult to grow in a dry, sunny spot. Each pod has only one seed, and the hard, tightly-wrapped pods must be removed for the seeds to germinate. I suspect that folks who have had difficulty germinating this species were not using hulled seeds. I go at a small heap of the pods with a heavy marble rolling pin and some elbow grease. Some of the seeds get crushed in the process but I do manage to release many seeds. I have had great germination success with seeds I have prepared this way and now offer for sale. Lead Plant is so slow and tap-rooted, it almost never appears in the nursery trade, which is a shame.
Dwarf Mountain Fleabane (Erigeron compositus) is a charming species, easy to geminate and easy to grow. I think anyone with a rock garden might like to have this little mat-forming daisy in quantity. It grows in the Canadian Rockies and also across the north to the Atlantic. It seems to be tolerant of the hot, humid summers of the Ottawa Valley.
White Camas in front of orange Butterfly Milkweed.
A few species want such a long period of cold-moist stratification I have put them in little bags with moist vermiculite and they are already (December) in my fridge: White Turtlehead, Dwarf Arctic Iris, and Beach-head Iris. If you take any of these home from Seedy Saturday in March, you can place them back in the fridge until you are ready to sow them, probably when it starts getting warm about the beginning of May. Alternatively, you can sow them and place their pot outdoors to experience natural winter temperature fluctuations.
Although it is quite common in woods and hedgerows, this native honeysuckle is known to few gardeners.
Glaucous Honeysuckle’s red tubular flowers with yellow anthers, in mid-spring, have the same colour scheme as the much better known Wild Columbine, and it should come as no surprise that ruby-throated hummingbirds are the pollinators it has evolved to attract. The buds are a deep, dark red. This seems like it should be an exciting colour but, in fact, dark red is quiet and hard to spot in the landscape. This may be part of the reason why this vine is so little known. As well, the flower clusters, and the berry clusters which follow, are often partially hidden in a cup formed by the uppermost pair of leaves. The bright red fruits, which ripen in early summer, are, like most soft summer fruits, taken very quickly by birds.
I am amused by the joined, or perfoliate, pairs of leaves, around the flower clusters — they remind me of the Tin Man’s hat. This is a nice vine to plant to by a sitting area, to enjoy the intricate flowers, and their hummingbird pollinators, close-up.
The botanical name for Glaucous Honeysuckle is Lonicera dioica. Dioica as a specific name, should mean that the plant is dioecious, i.e with male flowers and female flowers on separate plants. However, Glaucous Honeysuckle is NOT dioecious. Botanical names are assigned by whomever describes the species first, not necessarily by accuracy.
Glaucous Honeysuckle is a twining vine. It does not have tendrils or other clinging mechanisms. In the wild, it is often found growing as a shrub-like sprawling jumble. Give it a trellis or other support and a tiny push in the right direction, and it shows off its limber and obliging nature. (Limber Honeysuckle is an alternative common name in the U.S.) It is not a tall vine, topping out at about 2 m.
My first encounter with this charming little native primrose was on the wave swept shore of Lake Huron, on the Bruce Peninsula, where limestone pavements shelve incrementally down to the water’s edge. Nestled in tiny, moist cracks in the limestone, never far from the spray, were some small pink flowers with yellow centres, Primula mistassinica. I have since encountered this plant in other locations in eastern Canada, almost anywhere there is damp limestone, such as in seepage areas on limestone cliffs. Primula mistassinica is named for Lake Mistassini, the largest lake in Québec.
Brought into the garden, this little primrose flourishes and has many more flowers in each cluster. The buds form the previous year, visible but nestled deep in the basal rosette of leaves, and ready to bloom very early in spring. This is a charming little plant for a damp spot in a rock garden or a trough.
When I initially encountered Primula mistassinica, I called it Bird’s Eye Primrose. I have since learned that that name is perhaps better reserved for a very similar species, with a slightly more eastern distribution, Primula laurentiana, and P. mistassinica should be called Dwarf Canadian Primrose, although getting folks, including me, to alter the common names they learned in childhood is not an easy task. From their written description, I find it difficult to know exactly how the species differ. I decided the thing to do would be to grow them side by side. I was able to acquire some wild-collected Bird’s Eye Primrose seed, from the Ontario Rock Garden Society Seed Exchange, in 2018. The little P. laurentiana seedlings have not yet bloomed for me, and, honestly, did not look that different from P. mistassinica for most of the summer. However, by November, there were some differences apparent: Bird’s Eye Primroses have fewer and broader leaves and they are less persistently evergreen, as we can see in the photo below. Both plants have buds in their centres, ready for next spring’s early bloom.
While active outdoor gardening is on pause, this is a good time to introduce some wildflowers which may not be known to most gardeners in the Ottawa area.
These flowers may be unfamiliar because they are not native to the the Ottawa Valley, but hail from further south in the USA, as does today’s species, or, perhaps, from the tall-grass remnants from the extreme south west corner of Ontario. Species which are not locally native are obviously not appropriate for ecological restorations. But for gardens? There are arguments for and against restricting your gardening choices to locally native species, which we will leave to another day.
Another reason wildflowers may be unfamiliar to gardeners is that they are confined to highly specific habitats such as alvars or fens. Or they may be diminutive and easily overlooked until they are brought into cultivation in rock gardens and troughs.
Downy Skullcap, a fine border plant from the eastern USA, contributes nice blue colour and distinctive flower shape to the late summer garden. The summer leaves are edged with dark purple. Purplish pigments suffuse the leaves in the autumn.
Some other Skullcap species do occur in the Ottawa area: Marsh Skullcap (Scutellaria galericulata), the curiously named Mad-Dog Skullcap (S. lateriflora), also found in damp areas, and the diminutive (S. parvula) , which grows on alvars, including Ottawa’s Burnt Lands alvar. They all have blue flowers with the distinctive skullcap shape. Closely related, Downy Skullcap is suitable, in showiness and in size and in growing requirements, for a place in a perennial border.
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.
It is difficult to convey in a photo the great charm of Small-flowered Sundrops (Oenothera perennis). I was heartened recently when some discerning customers at the nursery made a bee-line to it.
Compared to the enormous luminous flowers of Ozark Sundrops (Oenothera macrocarpa), or the great flower masses of citrine yellow of Common Sundrops (Oenothera fruticosa), the flowers of Small-flowered Sundrops are indeed small. However, in a wildflower setting, where its companions might be Hairy Beardtongue or Long-leaved Bluets, the Pointillism-like effect of small dots of brilliant yellow is exactly right.
Beaux Arbres’s stock of Small-flowered Sundrops is from locally-sourced seeds. The plant makes small mound as wide as it tall, studded with brilliant yellow flowers in early summer. The fall foliage is a vivid red. The plant is more tolerant of light shade than you might expect from an Oenothera, sometimes found in open glades in woods.
Small-flowered Sundrops placed beside Ozark Sundrops in the nursery, to contrast the flower sizes.
Another successful sale at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden! Thanks to all the FWG volunteers who put on this wonderful event and thanks to all our customers, some new, some familiar faces.
If you were not able to get to the FWG on Saturday morning, Beaux Arbres has an even greater selection of native plants available at the nursery. Please phone (819-647-2404) or message, to confirm we are open. We are open any time we are there.
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..
Closed GentianGentiana 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 GoldenrodSolidago 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 SedgeCarex albursina – an evergreen forest-floor sedge with relatively broad, deep green leaves. Limited supply.
TwinflowerLinnaea borealis var. americana – beautifully fragrant pink bells in pairs above a low, evergreen carpet in cool, moist, acidic organic soil. From cuttings.