Wild Senna Beats the Heat

This tall yellow wildflower loves the heat and seems to laugh at drought. Five or six feet tall on sturdy stems, Wild Senna (Senna hebecarpa) has typical pinnate Pea Family foliage but the individual flowers are more open than typical in the family. Wild Senna belongs to an early-evolved branch of the Pea family tree. The open flowers are very appealing to large bumble bees. fullsizeoutput_3f0

We have also seen hummingbirds visiting the Wild Senna flowers this year. Our hummers are foraging hard this season because so many of our cardinal flowers, the hummingbird favourite, died in the drought, and the wild Spotted Jewelweed along the seasonal stream is a fraction of its usual self.

Wild Senna does not occur in the wild in the Ottawa Valley — it hails from a little further south and occurs in southern Ontario south of Brantford. A lovely yellow butterfly whose caterpillars rely on Wild Senna — the Cloudless Sulphur — also occurs south of here. Wild Senna is an acceptable host plant for some other butterflies, including the Silver Spotted Skipper, that eat a diversity of native plants in the Pea Family, We have an abundance of Silver Spotted Skippers because we have a lot of their main host plant, Black Locust. I would never recommend planting Black Locust, which is an extremely aggressive suckering tree and thorny as all out. We are trying to beat back our Black Locusts. It is nice to know that if we ever succeed in eradicating the Black Locust (not too likely) we can still provide for the Silver Spotter Skippers with a handsome and well-behaved herbaceous flower, the Wild Senna.

Plant Wild Senna at the back of a sunny border. After the flowers finish. thin black pods remain decorative through the autumn. This plant does not need staking, fertilizing, or dividing. It consorts beautifully with tall ornamental grasses.

 

New Species for the Fletcher Wildlife Garden Sale, June 2

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.IMG_0942

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.

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And speaking of rock gardens, yes, we will have lots of Common Bluets, still happily blooming.IMG_0948

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.

 

New Species for sale Sunday

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.Linnaeus boreale

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.

 

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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Making a wildflower meadow

A talk by Trish Murphy of Beaux Arbres Native Plants

at

Nepean Horticultural Society

City View United Church

Thursday, March 16, 2017, 7:30 pm

All are welcome.

There is great interest in creating pollinator-friendly gardens. Creating a wildflower meadow – a sunny plant community of native grasses and wildflowers — is one of the easiest and fastest ways to create wildlife habitat and promote diversity. I’ll be outlining the methods we used to create three different meadow-like areas at our nursery and showcasing some of the lovely native grasses and wildflowers we planted.

Resources: PDF’s to download

Wildflower Establishment: Organic Site Preparation Methods. The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. www.xerces.org
Delaney et al. 2000. Planting the Seed: A Guide to Establishing Prairie and Meadow Communities in Southern Ontario, www.csu.edu/cerc/researchreports/documents/PlantingTheSeedGuideEstablishingPrairieMeadowCommunities2004.pdf
A Landowner’s Guide to Tallgrass Prairie and Savanna Management in Ontario. Tallgrass Ontario. www.tallgrassontario.org