Update March 17: We have run out of White Turtlehead, Fringed Gentian, Compass Plant, Prairie Smoke, and Nodding Prairie Onion.
To whet your appetite for wildflowers, I have posted the list of seed species Beaux Arbres will be bringing to Seedy Saturday in March. This year we have over 80 species available in seeds. New species include: Lead Plant, Compass Plant, Purple Clematis, White Camas, Dwarf Mountain Fleabane, and Bottle Gentian (featured image).
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.
Beaux Arbres’ wildflower seeds will be on sale at the $100 and Under Christmas Sale in Carp this weekend — a chance to pick up some little gifts for the gardeners on your list, and an advance look at some special species new for 2020.
For the first time we are have seeds of the lovely native vining Clematis called Purple Clematis (C. occidentalis). This pretty plant with relatively large nodding mauve flowers grows in woods in the Ottawa Valley but it much less well-known than the white-flowered Virgin’s Bower (C. virginiana). Purple Clematis is rather a wispy thing in the wild, and it is in bloom for only a short period in the spring. In your garden, give it a bit more sun, with much less competition than it struggles with in the woods, feature it on an attractive tuteur or trellis, and it wii reward you with an abundance of bloom. You cannot expect Purple Clematis, a wild species, to rebloom throughout the season, the way fancy modern hybrid clematis do, but lovely swirly seed heads will follow the spring blooms.
The seeds of Purple Clematis need a period of warm-moist stratification, to complete their ripening, before they get their cold-moist stratification. If you want grow this species from seed, get seeds now, before Christmas, to allow you the time to condition your seeds for germination next spring.
We are offering seeds of another very special species clematis: Sugar Bowls (Clematis hirsutissima var. scottii) (featured image). This little gem from the American Rocky Mountains, has no claim to be native to eastern Canada, it’s just super cute. Sugar Bowls is a small, non-vining herbaceous clematis with deep blue urn-shaped flowers, perfect for a sunny rock garden. It too needs a period of warm-moist prior to a period of cold-moist to germinate. Sugar Bowls is so slow to mature — mine took five years to get to blooming size — you won’t find it at the local garden centre.
Three very choice species for which we now offer seeds:
- Canada Milk-vetch (Astragalus canadensis)
- Clustered Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe triangulata)
- Bowman’s Root (Gillenia trifoliata)
Clustered Poppy Mallow is another slow-to-mature species that you won’t find at the garden centre. It’s bright purple-pink flowers are a delight in the late summer garden but it you want it in your garden, patience is required. Like many of the choicest prairie flowers, it spends its energies in its early years making a deep, very drought-resistant root system. Once the plants are well-established, they bloom and bloom for weeks in mid- to late summer.
Some new seeds I haven’t yet packaged will be available at Ottawa Seedy Saturday in March. Look out for:
- White Camas (Anticlea elegans, formerly Zigadenus glauca)
- Shooting Star (Dodecatheon meadia)
West Carleton Arts Society’s 5th annual $100 and Under Show and Sale
St. Paul’s United Church, 3760 Carp Rd., Carp, Ontario
Friday December 6: 2:00-8:00 pm
Saturday December 7: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Sunday December 8: 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
In addition to some lovely fall bloomers — Smooth Aster, Tall Sunflower, Obedient Plant, among others –Beaux Arbres will be bringing some spring -bloomers to the Ottawa Westboro Farmers’ Market this Saturday, September 14th. Experienced gardeners know they can get a much better show next spring by planting now, rather than by waiting until next spring to plant.
Wild Columbine, Prairie Smoke, Foxglove Beardtongue are great additions to your flower garden. For the early spring rock garden, add some tiny Common Bluets, Arctic Roseroot, or Early Saxifrage. An especially lovely little plant for rock gardens is the diminutive Dwarf Arctic Iris, a wild iris very much like the Quebec floral emblem Blue Flag Iris, but only about 8″ tall.
Silverrod (Solidago bicolor) has delighted me this year with its abundance of cream-coloured bloom. Like many wildflowers, Silverrod is often a wispy little thing in the wild, struggling to compete. Give it its own place in a garden, and the picture above shows what it can do. The blooms are constantly abuzz with native pollinators.
Some other nice flowers from the past week:
I love Spikenard (Aralia racemosa), a big shrub sized perennial. The flowers are not much, small and greenish white, but the bold leaves and dark purple stems are handsome enough throughout the summer. It is in the autumn that the plant shines. The little white flowers develop into red berries that turn black when fully ripe. The little fruits grow in large showy clusters.
We grow this shade-loving forest plant on the north side of our barn, where we need something large to be in scale with the wall but where any woody shrub would get crushed in the winter by snow and ice crashing off the barn roof. The herbaceous perennial Spikenard is safely underground for the winter.
Spikenard fruit is appreciated by birds. Spikenard is fast-growing for a shade plant, and it will bear fruit in its third year from seed. If you have a shady spot and want to provide for birds, a planting of Spikenard will reward you and the birds sooner than most shade-tolerant shrubs.
Very few wildflowers for shade have large showy flowers. Producing big flowers is just not in the energy budget for a plant that survives on the scraps of sunlight that the canopy trees miss. What they lack in size, forest wildflowers make up in charm. The bright pink flowers of Panicled Tick-trefoil (Desmodium paniculatum) are a fraction of the size of those of its meadow-growing relative, Showy Tick-trefoil (D. canadense). They are, however, held upright in dainty, airy sprays, which maximizes their effect. Both of these wildflowers from the Pea family are attractive to native bees. Both also have sticky seeds, the tick-trefoils, so its is wise to site the plants carefully, away from paths where the family pooch walks.
New to me this season is American Ipecac (Gillenia stipulata). This plant of oak savannahs and rocky glades does not occur in the wild in Canada; native to Michigan and New York State down to Texas, it is adapted to drier conditions than its close relative Bowman’s Root (G. trifoliata). It has more finely divided leaves and very similar starry white flowers. Not for deep shade, but it will likely prove to be a useful addition to the roster of plants for dry, dappled or part-day shade.
It is not only possible to add perennials to your garden in August, some great native plants are going to be available as potted plants only in late summer.
Case in point: Poke or American Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana). This tall purple-stemmed perennial is a warm-season plant that doesn’t get going until the soil warms. It is impossible to start it from seed and have it up to any size for sale in the spring. With an enormous fleshy root, it also hates overwintering in a pot. Now, Poke is not difficult from seed and it grows quickly. Because it is at the very northern edge of its range here, Poke may be fussy to site. It needs a relatively warm, well-drained site to survive the winter. You may need several tries to get it in a favourable site. So, it makes sense to get a packet of seeds from us at Seedy Saturday and raise your own, to have some spares to experiment with – if you are handy at raising perennials from seed. If you are not experienced with perennial seeds and you would like to acquire a Poke plant growing in a pot, August is your best, or, indeed, only time to do so.
Get your Poke plant into the ground while the soil is still warm. Once you have a well-grown specimen, birds will eat the fruits and spread the seeds about and you will see volunteers from time to time. This is a good thing because you may well lose your original Poke in a harsh winter. In the mid-Atlantic states, Poke is a prodigious seeder and it is considered a weed. This far north, the volunteers are nothing to be feared.
Wild Lupin (Lupinus perennis) is another native plant that is really best raised from seed, direct sown where you want it. Wild Lupins are deeply tap-rooted and I find I cannot hold them in pots for very long. If the plants do not get into the ground at a fairly young age, they wither and die. This species only thrives in very well-drained, sandy soil; it will not succeed in tight clays. I will be bringing some young Wild Lupins in pots to the Westboro Market this coming Saturday (August 10). They can be transferred to the garden with care – note the extraordinary length of the taproot as you remove the still small plants.