Our plants have been tucked into the ground with a covering of insulating pine needles waiting for the snowfall. Especially vulnerable plants have been barricaded against hungry voles. Looking forward to spring.
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.
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.)
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.
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!