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.

 

Rare and Unusual Plant Sale, 2018

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.

Sun-loving Violets

by Trish Murphy

This article was originally published in OHS News, April, 2018, the newsletter of the Ottawa Horticultural Society.

One of the things we think we know about violets is that they grow in shade, shyly, among mossy rocks. The other thing we think we know about violets is that they invade lawns.

Many species of native violets do grow in moist shady places A couple of species of native violets, notable the Common Violet, will invade lawns, a tendency which you might think charming or a nuisance. What is less well known is that there are violets for dry sunny places, charming little plants that are ideal candidates for sunny rock gardens.

We grow two of the sun-loving violets in the rock garden at Beaux Arbres. The locally native Hooked-spur or Early Violet (Viola adunca) is one of the earliest native flowers to bloom. It is a small plant, only about 2” tall, covered in small violet blooms in early May. The plant is very well behaved – the stem emerge from a central crown each year. It might seed gently in the rock garden – and volunteers are always welcome with us – but the plant is too small to compete with lawn grass.

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Hooked-spur or Early Violet (Viola adunca).

The second sun-loving violet we grow, Bird’s Foot Violet (Viola pedata) (featured image) is a very special flower from Carolinian Ontario, where it grows in Turkey Point Provincial Park and a very few other locations. It is more widely distributed in the US but it is threatened by habitat loss throughout its range. Bird’s Foot Violet has finely divided foliage, quite unlike that of a typical violet. The flowers, with a prominent yellow central boss, are relatively large for a wild violet. The plant is in bloom for a long period in the spring and will often re-bloom in late summer. Last year, the cool wet weather encouraged Bird’s Foot Violet to be in bloom almost continuously, which is an amazing feat for a native wildflower. This lovely little flower will certainly not invade lawns and is quite shy about offering volunteer seedlings even when we encourage it to do so.

Both of these these violets like full sun in the spring and lean, sandy soil. They can tolerate a bit of shade as the summer progresses, but not too much.

One of the best reasons for growing sun-loving violets, apart from their charming bloom, is to attract and provide food for Fritillary Butterflies. There are several species of fritillary in the Ottawa area and, as caterpillars, they all eat violets, diverse violets but only violets. The smallest species, the Meadow Fritillary seems to seek out violets wherever they are. We often see them laying eggs on or near the Common Violets in the damp end of our lawn. I have had to stop the mower, sometimes giving up on the idea of mowing that day, while the Meadow Fritillaries are intent on egg-laying.
The largest and most glamorous fritillary is called the Great Spangled Fritillary, a very beautiful butterfly, almost as large as a Monarch. Great Spangle Fritillaries are creatures of warm, sun-lit spaces and they don’t seem willing to venture into the shade to find violets. They are so well adapted to dry, sunny environment that they have the ability to discern violets, even if the violet foliage has shrivelled in a dry summer and all that remains are the roots below ground. The mama butterfly will lay her eggs on the ground, in anticipation of the violet’s leaves emerging with damper fall weather.
Great Spangled Fritillaries are quite common at Beaux Arbres, probably because we have so many Hooked-spur Violets growing, not just in the rock garden but abundantly on the dry hills behind the barn.
If you are interested in providing host plants for butterflies, be sure to include some of the lovely little sun-loving violets in your garden plans.

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A Great Spangled Fritillary nectaring on Swamp Milkweed in garden at Beaux Arbres. The caterpillars of this butterfly feed on violets.

Not too early to be planning for wildlife-enhancing gardens

In January, the gardener’s thoughts turn to seeds: browsing seed catalogues, preparing seed orders, and receiving parcels of seeds in the mail. When we are not obsessing about seed, we are reading nurseries’s lists. It gets us through the winter – dreams and plans  and anticipation that next season will be the best yet.  With a little attention, we can make choices which enhance our gardens’s ability to attract and sustain beautiful wildlife. Let’s look at three ways to increase wildlife benefits: planting for pollinators, butterfly gardens, and planting to feed wild birds.

Pollinator gardens: As the plight of pollinating insects becomes more known, pollinator gardens have become very popular projects with horticultural societies and clubs and private gardeners. The first stage in a pollinator garden usually focusses, for good reasons, on easy native mid- to late summer flowers for sunny sites: Anise-hyssop, Virginia Mountain Mint, Wild Bergamot, Black-eyed Susans, diverse Asters and Goldenrods. These plants have easy-to-access flowers with abundant nectar or pollen, and are able to feed many species of pollinators.

Share your garden with more wildlife and make  your pollinator garden even more interesting by continuing to increase the diversity of native plants. Consider adding some flowers with distinctive flower shapes to provide food sources for specialized pollinators. For example, add Bottle Gentian (for a damp spot), Prairie Smoke, and flowers in the pea family, such as Purple Prairie Clover and Wild Lupin.

Another great way to make a pollinator planting even more useful is to include flowers for very early and very late. Many of the earliest blooms are on shrubs: willows, American fly honeysuckle, serviceberries, among others.  If you can find room for native shrubs (or, ideally, more native shrubs), they offer many wildlife benefits. Even the smallest gardens can find room for some ground-hugging early perennials. The spring ephemerals of deciduous forest make use of early spring sunshine reaching the forest floor. For open sunny places we like Early Saxifrage and Hooked-spur (or Early) Violet to start the season.

The last native flower to bloom in our garden is Silky Aster, which is still blooming at the end of October.

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Butterfly bliss: Prairie Blazing Star (Liatris pycnostachya) with Sweet Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia subtomentosa) in the back. and seeds and leaves of Wild Senna (Cassia hebecarpa) in the foreground.

Butterfly Gardens: Adult butterflies are among the pollinators we are aiming to provide for with our flower-filled pollinator garden. To truly be a butterfly gardener, however, we need to provide the native plants, often highly specific, upon which the young of butterflies, the caterpillars, live and dine. Caterpillar host plants will draw adult butterflies to our gardens, because mama butterflies are seeking good places to lay eggs.

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American Painted Lady caterpillar on Plantain-leaved Pussytoes.

Caterpillar host plants are a diverse lot and include big canopy trees like Hackberries. At Beaux Arbres, we concentrate on Pussytoes and Pearly Everlasting for American Ladies, Golden Alexanders for Black Swallowtails, Showy Tick-trefoil for Eastern Tailed Blues, Bird’s Foot and Hooked Spur Violets for Great Spangled Fritillaries, Swamp Milkweed and Butterfly Milkweed for Monarchs, and Turtlehead for Baltimore Checkerspots. We also offer a number of native grasses, which are hosts for tiny green caterpillars which will become diverse Skippers. New for Spring 2018, we will have some young Hop-trees, for caterpillars of Giant Swallowtails which have been moving north into the Ottawa area in the past decade.

Wild Bird Gardens. Songbirds of all kinds raise their nestlings on a diet of caterpillars and sawfly larvae. Very few of the many thousands of caterpillars needed will be the monarchs and swallowtails you and I are eager to help – most will be caterpillars of moths. Now, moths can be lovely creatures, too, but predation is key to keeping them in balance. You may never see, let alone identify, the many kinds of caterpillars that are feeding the baby sparrows and warblers in your neighbourhood, but it is NATIVE vegetation which is feeding the caterpillars. The more we incorporate natives of all kinds, the more our yards will provide food for nestlings.

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Pokeweed

Planting shrubs and perennials with berries to attract adult birds is also rewarding. There are many lovely herbaceous plants for woods and woodland edges which have berries in early autumn. We especially like the shrub-sized Pokeweed and American Spikenard, and the more moderately proportioned Blue Cohosh, False Solomon’s Seal, and Starry False Solomon’s Seal. Last fall, we had a flock of grey catbirds descend on our ripening Pokeweed fruit. Other fruit disappeared more quietly but disappear it did, as migrating birds fuelled themselves for their journey.

Using native vines on existing fences and trellises is way to bring more bird-attracting native fruit to a backyard: American Bittersweet (NOT the invasive look-alike Oriental Bittersweet), Glaucous Honeysuckle, and Canada Moonseed are some to consider.

Nannyberry, Grey Dogwood, and Alternate-leaved Dogwood are large shrubs that can be used in the urban landscape as small trees. We love these handsome native shrubs and have made sure to add them to our garden. In our nursery, we concentrate on smaller shrubs. Our favourite mid-sized shrub, for spring flowers and late season fruits and flaming fall foliage, is Purple Chokecherry, a splendid and under-utilized landscaping choice.

Wild roses are in bloom relatively briefly (compared to garden roses) but offer wonderful fall colour and small red hips (fruit) which last into the winter to feed hungry birds. Last fall, I started a shrub and native grasses border featuring grey dogwood, Virginia pasture rose, switch grass, and little bluestem grass. I am hoping that there will be spectacular fall colour and abundant food for wild birds where there used to be a problem too-dry and hard-to-mow bit of lawn. Now my winter garden planning needs to focus on how I can make this shrubby beginning into an even more diverse and bountiful space for me to enjoy and to share with birds and bees. I need to add some early season flowers and maybe some fruiting ground-covers and …

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Autumn leaf colour of Purple Chokeberry.

Rosa nitida

Shining Rose (Rosa nitida)

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.

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)