Summer Visits and Visitors, 2017

We started the season with plans to take many breaks from the nursery for day trips to nearby natural areas. Shaw Woods beckoned. I have never been to Mer Bleu, an important wetland south of Ottawa. I want to get back to the Burnt Lands Alvar at different seasons. Instead, we spent much of the summer feverishly getting on with our potting and seeding between the rainstorms, repairing flood damage, or staying inside watching the downpours through the windows.

The one day trip we did manage was a glorious exploration of Purdun Conservation Area, timed to see the renowned display of Showy Lady Slipper Orchids. Purdun has the largest colony of these orchids in Canada and they are easily viewed from an accessible boardwalk. This conservation area is a treasure.

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The summer saw a modest uptick in adult monarchs and monarch caterpillars.  We had seen no monarch caterpillars in the garden for a couple of years. It was so nice to have them back.

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Monarch caterpillars were not the only inhabitants of the swamp milkweed. A very tiny green grey tree frog spent some time among the milkweeds.

Grey tree frog

Another grey tree frog (or possibly the same individual) on the patio stones.

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In 2016’s dry summer, our tiny formed pool in the rock garden hosted three green frogs. This past summer, there were so many pools and puddles everywhere, the green frogs made other choices. It was a good summer for spotting leopard frogs among the mosses, though.

green frog

 

 

2017: A Year in Native Plant Gardening

It was wet. We expect the swale garden and the lawn below it to be wet in April and well into May, from snow melt running down from the hills which surround us. This year it was continuously and unrelentingly wet until late July. The swale was continuously full of water, which would be lovely if that is what we had planned, or if that is what we could count on. Some of our wildflowers, selected to be able to cope with a few weeks of standing water in the spring, drowned when subjected to several months of standing water. Even the rock garden (featured photo), planned as a summer-dry garden, was under water for several hours after some of the heaviest downpours.

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We had hoped to burn part of our tall-grass prairie bank in early spring but it was too continuously rainy. Even without the benefits of a spring burn, the bank was showing a nice amount of colour by the beginning of August, in time for the Pontiac Gardens and Gifts Tour.

Some of the swale plants flourished:

 

With all the rain, the tall yellow daisies of late summer were HUGE.

My proudest moment was when the seed-grown Wood Lilies in the rock garden flowered for the first time. They were grown from seed collected in Bristol Township.

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New endeavour: hypertufa troughs to show off tiny alvar and arctic gems.

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Early Saxifrage, Dwarf Hairy Beardtongue and other small Penstemons in a newly planted hypertufa trough.

I have started propagating some fen and alvar species such as this lovely Grass-of-Parnassus. Their seedlings are tiny – it may be a few seasons before i can offer them for sale.

Parnassus

New in the nursery for 2018: forest floor plants, started from cuttings. I know city gardeners want more native options for shade.

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Wintergreen.

Other new species:

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Rough Blazing Star (Liatris aspera)

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Large-flowered Beardtongue (Penstemon grandiflorus).

We added a hoop house, so we can have more plants in bud for the Rare and Unusual Plant Sale in May. This isn’t intended to be an all-season nor a heated green house. We just want to be about 7 – 10 days ahead of the season for Mothers’ Day.

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I potted up well over than two thousand plants during the summer and tucked them all in for the winter, so we are in good shape to bring lots of native diversity to the spring sales.

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September is a good time to plant

September is a good time to plant native wildflowers in your garden. It is an especially good time to add spring-blooming natives such as pussy-toes, columbines, and violets, if you want to increase wild-life attractiveness and spring colour for next year. These early bloomers grow well in cool soil so even with cooling night temperatures, they have plenty of time to root in well and prepare for lots of bloom for next year.

Pussytoes, both the low, creeping field pussytoes (Antennaria neglecta) and the slightly larger plantain-leaved pussytoes (A. plantaginifolia) are host (food) plants for the caterpillars of American Lady butterflies. American Ladies are strong fliers and mama American Ladies are well able to find new patches of pussytoes, even in seemingly inhospitable city gardens.

Violets are also key butterfly food plants. The diverse native species of violets are the hosts for the caterpillars of the several species of Fritillary butterflies. We often see the small Meadow Fritillaries checking out the Canada violets which are growing in lower dampish bits of lawn at the bottom of our garden. And, yes, Canada violets are the aggressively spreading violets which will seed themselves in lawns. We have them in both purple and white form and we like the way they create a floral carpet in that part of the lawn. However, I can quite understand that not everyone wants this effect and why some people are wary of adding Canada violets to their gardens.

We also offer other species of violets, some of which are anything but aggressive spreaders. We have two species of violets for open, sunny, dry places: Bird’s Foot Violet (Viola pedata) and Hooked-spur Violet (V. adunca). They may be especially attractive to the large and glamorous butterfly called the Great Spangled Fritillary, a creature which likes warm, sunny places. Hooked-spur Violet is also called Early Violet and it is a lovely low, early bloomer for rock gardens. Bird’s Foot Violet is a very special species from Carolinian Ontario which has relatively large flowers and which will rebloom in summer. It is an exceptionally nice flower for sunny rock gardens.

September is a good time to plant shrubs. Beaux Arbres carries some of the smaller, decorative native shrubs and this year we are well supplied with Pasture Rose (Rosa virginiana), Sweet Fern (Comptonia peregrina), Purple Chokeberry (Aronia prunifolia), and Kalm’s St. John’swort (Hypericum kalmianum). The last one, Kalm’s St. John’swort, is a Great Lakes indigene which also occurs in the Ottawa Valley. We are proud to be able to say our Kalm’s St. John’swort is grown from seed collected here in Bristol Township, Quebec.

Beaux Arbres Native Plants has these and many other species of wildflower in stock. We are open until the end of September. Come and visit us soon.

Bringing some Standing Cypress to market

I planted some biennial standing cypress (Ipomopsis rubra) last summer just where they would catch the eye as one drove up our driveway. And these scarlet towers of bloom certainly do catch the eye. Like other vivid red flowers, they are hummingbird pollinated. From the U.S. Rockies, they are well north and east of their native range in western Quebec, but they will overwinter most winters if given excellent drainage, and they volunteer gently.

This spring, knowing we would be on a garden tour in early August, I potted up a flat of standing cypress seedlings, figuring they would walk off the benches if the plants by the driveway were even starting to bloom in time for the tour. Well, you can guess that didn’t happen in this wettest of summers. I sold exactly one pot of standing cypress. The tardy plants are just starting into their splendid eye-catching bloom now.

We will be bringing a flat (minus one) of pots of standing cypress to the Old Chelsea Farmers’ Market on Thursday afternoon. Plant them now for hummingbird-attracting bloom next August. Full sun and well-drained soil.

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We will also have pots of this year’s seeding of Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum) and Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa).

Prairie Smoke is a popular items at the spring sales and I have been sold out of older plants for some time. This years seedlings were very slow to get going; they were waiting for some sun and warmth which didn’t come. The largest among them are now up to salable size.

Butterfly milkweed is always in demand. It is the bright orange, knee-height milkweed which is such a splendid garden flower and butterfly nectar flower AND a host plant for Monarch Butterfly caterpillars. August is the best time to plant butterfly milkweeds. The seedlings wait until the soil warms up and they cannot be rushed to be ready for spring sales. They also hate being pot-bound and I always lose a high percentage of them trying to overwinter them in pots. Even though they are still small, put them in now. They will bloom next year, a little bit and a little later than established plants, and will come into their own the following year. Butterfly milkweed, even well-established plants, are very late to emerge in spring, waiting until the soil is warm, so do not give up on your plants next spring. They want full sun, although a little afternoon shade is acceptable, and well-drained soil.

Butterfly milkweed is native to the Ottawa Valley although it is quite uncommon and restricted to undisturbed areas. The seed for my plants this year came from Northumberland County, east of Rice Lake.

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Relentless rain a week before the Ottawa sale

The Rare and Unusual Plant Sale on Sunday, May 14th, at the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa is less than a week away and I am past hoping for a spell of warm, sunny weather to bring on some flowers. At this point, I am reduced to hoping fervently that our local ferry service will be resumed so that we can get across the Ottawa River! The 7-day forecast for next Sunday predicts “Rain” — what a surprise! Today it is cold and actually snowing.

We do not have heated greenhouses so what we can bring to the sale is what the season brings and that means this year we will not have any warmth-loving plants. All the summer-flowering prairie species are still below ground. (We will be back in Ottawa for the Fletcher Wildlife Garden Sale, Saturday, June 3rd, so you will have another opportunity to pick up Swamp Milkweed, Compass Plant, Pale Purple Coneflower and many other summer flowers and native grasses.)

Tiarella cordifolia

Foamflower

Some of the native spring flowers, long adapted to the vagaries of Canadian springs, are looking surprisingly good. Diverse pussytoes (Antennaria spp.) and Early Saxifrage (Micranthes virginiensis) are sending up flower buds on schedule, despite the inclement weather. Boreal Jacob’s Ladder, from the far north, doesn’t mind this weather at all. The wanna-be evergreen Foamflower and heucheras are very slowly replacing their battered last year leaves with new growth; the new leaves are visible, if still small and curled.

Lovely Wood Poppies (Stylophorum diphyllum), picture above, are looking good — maybe even a flower or two by Sunday. This is the first year I can offer this charming flower for shade. It is not locally native, being represented in Canada only by two small populations near London, Ontario. However, it is an easy, hardy plant for gardens in our area and will even rebloom in late summer if happy.

Also new this year will be Broad-leaved Sedge (Carex platyphylla), which I have grown from seed collected locally on the Eardly Escarpment. Now, sedges are never wildly flamboyant in flower, and this one is not even showy in flower by sedge standards. Broad-leaved sedge has broad (for a sedge), evergreen leaves that are distinctively blue-grey and banded. Think of it as a miniature evergreen hosta, and you may begin to appreciate its possibilities. Full disclosure: I like native evergreen woodland sedges, I just do.

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We will be bringing in a diversity of native wildflowers to the sale, even though some will be smaller and less developed than I had hoped: Cardinal Flower, Common Bluets, Wild Columbine, Dwarf Hairy Beardtongue, Golden Ragwort, Sweet Grass,Bottlebrush Grass, Purple Chokeberry, and CarolinaLupin, to name just a few.

See you there, umbrellas and all!

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Carolina Lupin (Thermopsis villosa)

Beaux Arbres Native Plants: New website

Beaux Arbres Plantes Indigènes / Native Plants now has its own brand-new website with its own domain name. And if you are here, reading this, you have found it.

Trish will still be blogging about favourite native plants and other botanical related subjects at botanicalartstalk.wordpress.com.

Check in here, at beauxarbres.ca for plant lists, nursery events, nursery hours of operation and other info.