Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Native Annuals Wrap Up for 2014

For the past 6 or 7 years I have been interested in using native annuals in my landscapes.  By working with species that are adapted to local climate and growing conditions they can behave essentially as highly mobile perennials, moving around the garden by reseeding to find their optimal spots.  In some gardens this could be a problem with too many randomized plants.  Personally, I like the spontaneity of getting something growing unexpectedly.  (If they do get out of hand I can just pull them up or transplant them to a more desirable location.)
This Partridge Pea reached about 3' in height.  They can look gangly
in a manicured garden, but fit well into a naturalistic setting.

This year I started a number of new native annuals from seed.  In addition, I had some reseed from last year.  Here's a rundown on their performance in 2014.  I'll start with the best.

In early to mid summer the best performers were actually plants that had reseeded themselves from 2013:  Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata) and American Pennyroyal (Hedeoma pulegioides).  Also the biennial, American Bellflower (Campanulastrum americanum) put on a big show.

The Partridge Pea has spread a little from it original planting.  This is an early transitional species, looking for gaps in the in the ground layer to germinate.  It can be pushed out of a densely planted area if there are no gaps.  
The seedpods of Partridge Pea curl up when they release the seeds.  These could look nice in a flower arrangement.
The American Pennyroyal forms dense low border 9-12" tall.
There is a little Selfheal (Prunella vulgaris) mixed in.
The Pennyroyal grew from a mixture of seed originally planted in spring 2013 and reseeding from plants in that fall.  The main feature of this plant is the strong minty scent that persists in the dried leaves and stems.  The blue flowers are tiny and grow from the leaf axils in late summer.  

These Amercan Bellflowers are at the back of a garden, an appropriate location.
They can get 5-6' tall in a sunny site.
In full sun the American Bellflower can get quite tall and unwieldy.  It grows well in shady spots reaching a more manageable height of only about 3'.  The blue flowers are very attractive to bees. Unfortunately deer seem to like it as well.  Although they left it alone after applying a repellent.  Pruned plants will produce a second flush of flowers.  

The narrow foliage of Plains Coreopsis allows to mix well
with other plantings without blocking the view.

In mid-summer and still continuing was Plains Coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria).  I transplanted some spindly seedlings in late June and by mid July they were taking off and blooming.  There was a little deer browsing early on, but this seemed to taper off after a treatment with Bobbex.  The native range of this Coreopsis includes Maryland so I am hoping that these will successfully reseed in the garden.

The two annuals that are still going strong into mid-fall are Yellow Sneezeweed (Helenium amarum) and Scarlet a.k.a. Hummingbird Sage (Salvia coccinea).  

I only got a couple of the sneezeweed to germinate, but once in the ground it took hold and has been blooming strongly since mid-August.  One trick with these is that the tiny seeds that I brought come massed together in few 1/16" spheres.  These need to be broken up and spread over the soil surface to germinate.  I mistakenly treated most of these spheres as seeds and planted them too deep resulting in no germination.  

The bright yellow flowers of this Yellow Sneezeweed do not need to be deadheaded.
Just as well, I hope to get some reseeding from these.
The Salvia germinated easily and after growing in trays for a few weeks were transferred to the garden or into pots.  These plants spent 6-8 weeks growing before they were ready to bloom.  Despite the wait, the blooming has been strong since early August.  This species also does well in pots. but it is kind of tall and you may want some other plants to fill in around the lower leaves.

The tubular flowers of this Salvia did attract our hummingbirds earlier in the season.
At 24-30" it shows up well among other garden plants.

Some other annuals I tried that grew but did not excel this season were Sulfur Cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus), Beach Sunflower (Helianthus debilis 'Pan') and Spanish Flag (Ipomoea lobata). The Cosmos suffered from too much competition from other plants and from being nibbled on by the local fauna.  I expect it would have done better in a more protected location.  The Sunflower germinated well in the garden but was overshadowed by the Annual Sunflower I paired it with.  The Spanish flag matured very late in the season with significant blooming starting in September.  It's blooming well now in late October, but all the supporting plants are fading away.  Spanish Flag is native to Mexico (part of North America); I don't expect to see this one reseed.

The fact that we have not had a real frost yet in our area has really extended the blooming season for these plants.  Some I expect to survive a light frost, while others will be killed immediately.  

I did plant a couple of winter annuals, Texas Bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis) and Miami Mist (Phacelia purshii), out in the garden in late summer.  I'm keeping an eye on them, but have not seen any definitive germination yet.

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