Monday, July 26, 2010

Wildflower Meadow at Mount Auburn Cemetery

If you are in the Boston area and would like to see one of the area’s botanical treasures you should make a visit to the Mount Auburn Cemetery. The collection of trees dates from the early 19th century. Since many of the plants are labeled, it is a great resource for learning about trees and shrubs.  Also, if you are planning a landscape and would like to see some full grown specimens.

One of the newer plantings at the cemetery is a native wildflower meadow located around the Washington Tower, at the highest point on the grounds. The plantings were put in 4-5 years ago using a mixture of grasses and perennial wildflowers native to eastern North America, as well as some common weeds that were already present on the site. Once established, the plan is to allow these plants to spread and intermix naturally with a minimum of human intervention.

The east-facing slope of the meadow (shown here) was planted with a variety of native grasses. This photo shows a concentration of Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium). Other grasses planted in this meadow include Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis), Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum), Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) and Indian Grass (Sorgastrum nutans).

From this view from the top of the tower looking west, you can see how some of the plantings were laid out and are beginning to intermix. In the opposite direction there is a great view of the city of Boston, but that wasn’t where I my mind was focused on this day.

Closer up you can better recognize many of the plants, such as Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida), Nodding Onion (Allium cernuum), Beebalm (Monarda fistulosa, center back) and Shrubby cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa, at the very front). Some of the many other species that can be found in this meadow are Wild Petunia, Golden Alexanders, Butterfly Weed, Coreopsis and several Northeastern native asters.

Since my particular interest is in short-lived native species, I quickly focused in on a couple of my favorites like Brown-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba) and Spotted Beebalm (Monarda punctata). These species reproduce by seed and, by nature, more around the meadow. I need to keep a watch for them as they do not stay exactly in the same location every year.

If you would like to visit all 176 acres of Mount Auburn Cemetery, they are located at 580 Mount Auburn St. in Cambridge (and Watertown) Massachusetts and are open every day. Here’s a link to their website where you can find directions and listings of upcoming events. You can also visit the Facebook Page of the Friends of Mount Auburn Cemetery site to see many recent photos.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Some Surprises in July

Redwhisker Clammyweed, Polanisia dodecandra, is a name I didn’t think I would be saying this year (who does?), but a few remaining seeds that I harvested from a lone plant germinated to give me a couple of strong seedlings. This annual is native to most of the U.S. and is often found in gullies and streambeds. It likes really well drained soils. With that in mind, when I transplanted these guys up I added sand and Perlite to my regular potting mix along with a layer of pea stones to the bottom of the pot to improve drainage.

This plant bears some resemblance to cleome, but is smaller and bushier. The white, cleome-like flowers have very long stamen.  Some reports refer to it being a stinky plant, but, to me, it does not smell as bad as a cleome. Check out the NPIN website for more information and photos of larger, more mature plants.

As a result of not mowing my lawn for nearly a month, due to droughty conditions, I got another surprise. Some seeds for a Philadelphia Fleabane, Erigeron philadelphicus, germinated and went into bloom without my noticing. The seeds came from a plant that I rescued during a weeding job and left in a pot next to my house. This species is a little less common than the Annual Fleabane, E. annuus, which occasionally shows up on the edges of my property. I wouldn’t mind having more of these, but that would make quite an obstacle course if I insisted on continuing to mown my lawn as well.

I was also pleased to see the American Bellflower, Campanulastrum americanum, growing in some difficult locations. In rich soil these plants get very tall and lanky. This one, growing in the shade of a Norway Maple is more compact. I’ll keep a watch to see if it continues to look nice through the season. As a biennial, it sends its first year as a rosette of leaves only a few inches tall. I have a bumper crop of these from last years flowering crop. I think I will be moving more of these under this dreaded maple.

Lastly, here’s a recent photo of one of the Rock Harlequins that I planted in a rock wall. This is more akin to its natural environment. This has taken some extra irrigation to keep it going, since my wall is quite dry and does not collect moisture the way a real rocky cliffside would.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What comes after June? Native Blooms for the 4th of July

When I changed the calendar over from June to July I felt a little sad because it is really too late to put in any new plants in the ground for the season. Of course, I really should have finished all that at the beginning of June. But then I started to look around the garden and found that many of the native plants I have were just starting to bloom. For some, I think they are 2-3 weeks ahead of time due to the warm and sunny spring we had this year in the Boston area. Here is a round-up of my native plants that are in bloom at the beginning of July.

Winecups, Callirhoe involucrata, was one my first North American natives that I put in. The first time I saw it was during a wildflower photography class I took in the Ft. Worth area. This native to the west-central US, has settled nicely into a sunny spot in front of my house. In this photo it is backed up by a clump of Northern Sea Oats, with their newly formed seed stalks.

The Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea, shown here was grown from wild seed that I got from NEWFS. These plants show quite a bit of variation in the blossoms and sizes of the plants. For me, I like the surprise of finding an unexpected flower, or plant, in the garden.

Whorled Rosinweed, Silphium trifoliatum, is a very unfortunate name for this tough native perennial. It is slightly smaller than the more familiar and more fortunately named Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum). I have had these plants growing within the dripline of a Norway Maple for 3-4 years and they are multiplying, that’s a tough plant!

Big-Leafed Aster, Aster macrophyllus (now Euribia macrophylla) grows well in dry shade and will spread by seed and underground runners. My colony started as a single plant and is now beginning to dominate the space. I think this one is blooming several weeks early this year. It provides some interest in what can sometimes be a very drab location. Another similar native plant for dry shade is the White Wood Aster, but that doesn’t bloom until fall.

Pink Tickseed, Coreopsis rosea, can be tricky to grow. This colony moved from the border to some cracks in the driveway and has been going strong for over 5 years. I tried moving some back into ‘good’ soil but the plants couldn’t handle the competition. I likes moist soil, so maybe there is runoff being channeled under the asphalt.

Wild Petunia, Ruellia humilis, will bloom for at least 2 months starting in late-June. It can survive dry conditions in poor soil, but it is not a strong competitor when mixed with other plants in good soil.

The next three plants are from my Native Annuals Experiment.  One is a return from seed and the other two are new for me. 

Beach Sunflower, Helianthus debilis, has retuned from seed from last year’s plants. This annual sunflower is a cultivar called ‘Pan’. 

Lacy Phacelia, Phacelia tanacetifolia, is an annual from the southwestern deserts. While it is reported to tolerate hot dry conditions, our recent heat wave has cooked at least one plant (3 weeks with no rain can be tough). These plants are recommended as an agricultural cover crop and as a great nectar source.  This one is only 6" tall, but it normally grows to 3' tall.  There are precautions about not letting it go to seed, as this species can get weedy.

 Annual Indian blanket, Gaillardia pulchella, is from one of the seed packets I got at the Wildflower Center in Austin. Compared to the hybrid and perennial Blanket Flowers this one appears to have a more relaxed habit.