Plant Now for Spring Flowers

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.

Common Bluets or Quaker Ladies
Prairie Smoke in the garden at Beaux Arbres.

Some Wildflowers of Late Summer

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:

Bottle Gentian (Gentiana andrewsii)
Clustered Prairie Mallow (Callirhoe)
Standing Cypress (Ipomopsis rubra)
Kankakee Mallow (Iliamna remota)
Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)

Great Plants for Shade

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.

Plants To Buy In August

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.

lupin vivace
Wild Lupin growing in the wild.

Species List for Seedy Saturday, 2019

Getting excited about spring? Looking forward to getting into your garden? Seedy Saturday is a great boost to the spirits — all those little packets of potential: heritage vegetable seeds, garlic bulbs, seed potatoes, and wildflower seed galore. I have put up the list of species Beaux Arbres will be bringing to Seedy Saturday on March 2nd. Download the PDF here: Seedy Saturdy 2019

If you preview the list on your laptop or phone, you can link to pictures and descriptions.

Some of the seeds are available in very limited quantities, and once they are gone, they are gone. The list is what I will be bringing to the sale for 10 am Saturday morning.

Beaux Arbres will be at Ottawa Seedy Saturday on March 2nd and Ottawa Valley (i.e Pembroke) Seedy Sunday on March 3rd.

chèvrefeuille dioïque

May I Introduce: Glaucous Honeysuckle

Although it is quite common in woods and hedgerows, this native honeysuckle is known to few gardeners.

Glaucous Honeysuckle’s red tubular flowers with yellow anthers, in mid-spring, have the same colour scheme as the much better known Wild Columbine, and it should come as no surprise that ruby-throated hummingbirds are the pollinators it has evolved to attract. The buds are a deep, dark red. This seems like it should be an exciting colour but, in fact, dark red is quiet and hard to spot in the landscape. This may be part of the reason why this vine is so little known. As well, the flower clusters, and the berry clusters which follow, are often partially hidden in a cup formed by the uppermost pair of leaves. The bright red fruits, which ripen in early summer, are, like most soft summer fruits, taken very quickly by birds.

I am amused by the joined, or perfoliate, pairs of leaves, around the flower clusters — they remind me of the Tin Man’s hat. This is a nice vine to plant to by a sitting area, to enjoy the intricate flowers, and their hummingbird pollinators, close-up.

The botanical name for Glaucous Honeysuckle is Lonicera dioica. Dioica as a specific name, should mean that the plant is dioecious, i.e with male flowers and female flowers on separate plants. However, Glaucous Honeysuckle is NOT dioecious. Botanical names are assigned by whomever describes the species first, not necessarily by accuracy.

Glaucous Honeysuckle is a twining vine. It does not have tendrils or other clinging mechanisms. In the wild, it is often found growing as a shrub-like sprawling jumble. Give it a trellis or other support and a tiny push in the right direction, and it shows off its limber and obliging nature. (Limber Honeysuckle is an alternative common name in the U.S.) It is not a tall vine, topping out at about 2 m.

hélianthe de Maximilien

A Portrait of Sunflowers

We went to hear Kerri Weller, of the Ottawa Society of Botanical Artists, at the Nepean Horticultural Society, last Thursday evening, Ms Weller gave a quick overview of the history of botanical art and illustration in Western art. She pointed out a lovely feature of the classic plant portraits by Maria Sybila Merian from the 1700’s: the flowers were painted accompanied by their appropriate pollinators.

After a break, Kerri showed some slides of her own work, briefly illustrating how her style has developed from a more English-modern style – watercolour against a pale, unpainted background — to her current work in oil paint. She, too, likes to position, among her flowers, appropriate pollinators, of which the arbiters of botanical art correctness do not always approve. Kerri brought a few of her absolutely gorgeous canvases to the talk, including one of some yellow daisy-style flowers. Eying the yellow daisies picture, propped on an easel, for the duration of Kerri’s talk, I kept thinking, “That looks a lot like Maximilian’s Sunflower.” Sure enough, when she came to talk about that canvas, Maximilian’s Sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani) was the species she had so beautifully and realistically painted. Kerri kindly gave a word of appreciation to Beaux Arbres, for supplying the plant she painted, and praised the October-blooming Maximilian’s Sunflower for attracting a host of pollinators.