Monday, January 24, 2011

Native Seeds for 2011

After assessing what did and did not do well last year, I placed my seed orders for native seeds. Here’s a run down on what I’ll be trying this year.

New Plants
Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea) A perennial with white, long lasting flowers. I’ve been frustrated growing the related annual Sweet Everlasting (see below), so I thought I would try a perennial version.

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) This perennial that does well in dryer sunny locations and attracts many pollinators. I’ve seen a few plants commercially available but I wanted to make sure I had some growing this year.

Rosey Sedge (Carex rosea) I was given a small clump of this foot-tall perennial grass for nearly 5 years ago. I thought I should test it out in some different locations. This sedge prefers part to full shade.

Flowering Spurge (Euphorbia corollata) This perennial is also known as Prairie Baby’s Breath. I thought this could be good for general landscape use, with white flowers through mid-summer.

Woodland Sunflower (Helianthus divaricatus) This perennial sunflower grows well in dry shade. It can be weedy in the garden, but I really want to test it out under the Norway Maple. I’ve seen this brightening up shady oak woodlands in the middle of summer.  This is the first year that I have been able to find seed.

Alleghany vine (Adlumia fungosa) I’ve written a lot about this biennial vine. I just can’t get enough. Note that these seeds need 90 days of cold stratification, so don’t wait if you want to try this one!

Orange Hummingbird Mint (Agastache aurantica ‘Navaho Sunset’) grew quite well last year and now I need more to try with clients. I really like the scent of the gray-green foliage and the flowers are pretty nice, too.

Rock Harlequin (Corydalis sempervirens) This another plant that I love.  I just need more rocky places to put it.

Sulfur Cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus) This native of Mexico (a part of North America) grows as an annual in the Northeast.  I had a crop that returned for 4-5 years until it got crowded out by some Bidens. I thought I would try to start it up again. While the bloom is similar to that of the swamp marigold (B. aristosa), this Cosmos starts blooming earlier and for a longer time.  Also, the foliage is not as dense.

American Pennyroyal (Hedeoma pulegioides) has been getting established from a planting 2 years ago, but I’d like to try more in some different locations. This will do well along a path.

Spotted Beebalm (Monarda punctata) was pretty successful last year and I need more to try with some clients.

Sweet Everlasting (Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium) has given me trouble on transplanting in the past two years. I’ll try this again, this time seeding directly in the garden in prepared soil (not in compacted turf).

One last try...
These three plants did not germinate for me last year, but I’ll try one more time with a lengthy stratification in moist starter mix.

Fern-leaf False Foxglove (Aureolaria peduculata) This biennial is parasitic on oaks, but, reportedly, does not need them for germination. I also have some of these scattered around a nearby oak. Stay tuned…

Tall Swamp Marigold (Bidens coronata) is an annual, with good-sized yellow flowers. I'm curious to see how if differs from the other Bidens I have around.

Brown-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba) is a short-lived perennial, that while taller, has a more delicate appearance than the typical Black-eyed Susan (R. hirta).  I've posted a number of photos of this species over the past year.

Returning on their own:
I'm sure the Swamp Marigold (Bidens aristosa) will be back, but I will be pulling these up to make room for new plants.  I will have a lot of the biennial American Bellflower (Campanulastrum americanum) in 2011, judging by the large number of rosettes in the 2010 garden.  Also, I will keep an eye out for the return of any of the Texas native annuals: Indian Blanket (Gallardia pulchella), Drummond Phlox (Phlox dummondii) and Scarlet Sage (Salvia coccinea), that bloomed so nicely last year.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Upcoming Conferences in the New England Area

'Tis the season for landscaping conferences and meetings.  Before we get too busy with the physical work, the wintertime is a time to do some learning and meet others who are doing similar work, as well as seeing what new plants and products are out there. 

The following is a listing of some of the conferences happening in the New England area over the next 3 months.  There may be others, but these are the ones that have crossed my desk recently. 

22nd Annual Landscape Design Symposium on January 20th and 21st, 2011, titled: Uncharted Territory: An Expansive Approach to Environmental Landscape Design.  This series of symposia was developed by Larry Weaner, one of the top people in the area of naturalistic design and the use of native species in the landscape.  This 2-day event features 11 speakers covering a range of topics including history, plant selection, sustainable practices and natural landscape design.  The conference is held at Connecticut College in New London, CT.

For the landscape professional you can't beat the 3-day long New England Grows, from Feb 2-4, 2011 at the new Boston Convention and Exposition Center.  This is a huge show featuring both landscape equipment and supplies, plant materials, and consulting services.  In addition there are a series of talks covering a wide range of landscape industry topics.

Natural Landscape Design: Meadows & Woods, Feb 16-18th, at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, MA, is another Larry Weaner sponsored course.  This is focused on the landscape design professional who wants to learn more about the natural design process and management of a naturalistic design, especially in the context of Meadows and/or Woods. 

The ELA  (Ecological Landscaping Association) conference is March 3, 2011.  This one day conference is focused on using ecological methods in the landscape and is accessible to anyone interested in improving the ecological functioning of their landscape.  In addition to a very good line up of speakers, there is a marketplace where you can see many new products and speak with the vendors.  This conference is in Springfield, MA, so you can connect with people outside the Boston area.  This was the very first landscaping conference I attended 6 years ago, and I have been there every year since.

2010 Flower Show
And finally there is the New England Spring Flower Show, March 16-20, 2011, at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston.  This event is sponsored in part by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society.  This year the theme is "A Burst of Color: Celebrating the Container Garden".  Program detail do not appear to be available yet, but the topic of container gardening should be well suited to the Flower Show format.  Last year I saw some crazy items and got some good ideas. 

Check out the links for more information about each of these meetings.  Except for the Tower Hill course, I am planning to attend all of these events.  People ask me 'what do you do in the off-season', I tell them I attend conferences and get juiced-up for the spring.  What are some other meetings that should not be missed this winter?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Native Annual Seeds that I tested in 2010

As I get ready to order seeds for 2011, I’m looking back on the native annuals and biennials that I tried out last year.  Some were successful and bear repeating while others went nowhere.  Some of the failures were not surprising while others just wouldn’t germinate and I’m not sure why.  So here’s a review of last years seeds.

Native to Massachusetts:

Adlumia fungosa (Allegheny vine, biennial) I got a few more plants from seed I collected in 2009.  Even better, I saw several plants coming up on their own from the previous season’s plants! 

Aureolaria pedicularia (Fernleaf yellow false foxglove, annual)  None of these germinated.  Since these plants are partially parasitic on oaks, my seed starting mix may not have been right, or they may not have been conditioned properly.

Bidens coronata (Crowned beggar’s ticks, annual)  Very few of these seeds germinated and those few that did failed to mature.  This was a surprise to me since other Bidens species tend to run wild in the garden.  I’ll give this one another try, directly in the garden.

Corydalis sempervirens (Rock harlequin, short-lived perennial)  These had good germination and transplanted well. I really love this plant.  I’ll need to find more places with thin rocky soil for this plant.

Hedeoma pulegiodes (American pennyroyal, annual) sprouted freely in the garden near where I had planted seedlings in 2009 – even under the Norway Maple.  While I couldn’t see them all, I could detect their aromatic aroma whenever I stepped on or mowed over them in the lawn.  It is reported that these plants act as an insect repellant when rubbed on the skin.  I hope to give that a try this year. 

Neither the Hypoxis hirsuta (Eastern yellow star grass, perennial) nor the Polygala sanguinia (Purple milkwort, annual) seeds germinated for me this year.  I will give up on these two for now, also I have run out of seed. 

Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium (Sweet everlasting, annual)  These seeds germinate well, but the transplants do not mature well in the yard or in pots.  Its native habitat is in depleted soils with little competition from other plants. However, I was surprised to find one out of the lawn, near the one successful plant from 2009.  I’ll try these again with direct seeding in a prepared area. 

Native to New England:

Monarda punctata (Spotted bee balm, biennial) germinated and transplanted well.  It also bloomed quickly and was a big hit with the bees and some very interesting wasps in the garden.  Since this Monarda prefers drier conditions, I have a roadside spot that would benefit from this plant that I would like to try it in this year.

Rudbeckia triloba (Brown-eyed Susan, biennial) failed to germinate for me.  The germination conditions on the packet were fairly complex, especially when compared to relative Rubeckia hirta (Black-eyed Susan) which germinates freely after a month of cold moist stratification.  A small population of R. triloba is getting established at the Wildflower Meadow at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA.

For plants Native to other parts of North America I found the following:

Salvia, Spotted Beebalm, Agastache and Gallardia
all mixed together in my South-facing bed.
Agastache aurantiaca ‘Navaho Sunset’ (Golden hyssop, perennial)  This cultivar germinated reasonably well and while it was a little slow to get started growing in the garden, it was up to full size and blooming by mid-July, producing a cloud of orangy-pink flowers.  The foliage also smells really good when disturbed. We’ll see how well these overwinter/reseed.  I’ll be growing more of these this year!

Cleome serrulata (Rocky Mountain Bee Plant, annual) again failed to sprout for me, either indoors or out. I can get the seeds to germinate, but not develop into seedlings.  Again, there may be something wrong with my starter mix or the newly germinated seed may be too delicate to sow into the growing mix.  In either case, I think I need to move on. 

Eschscholzia californica (California poppy, annual/tender perennial) germinates well in the garden, but my site is a bit too cool to allow many of them to reach maturity.  I usually get only a handful of blooms each year. This plant also shuts down when it gets too hot.  While I loved this plant in my native California, I think it is time to move on from this one too.

Euphorbia marginata ‘Summer Icicle’ (Snow-on-the-Mountain, annual) is a tap rotted annual and is reported not to transplant well.  So after soaking the seeds in warm water for a few hours these were planted directly in the ground in early June.  When mature they provided foot-tall mounds of white foliage and flowers.  This cultivar is shorter than the species (1-3’). 

Gallardia pulchella (Annual blanket flower, annual)  These seeds came from the Wildflower Center in Austin, TX.  These germinated and transplanted well after 30 days of cold stratification (may not have been necessary).  This species has a laxer form than the commercial cultivars, but it bloomed well both in pots and in the garden where it intermingled with the Spotted Beebalm and the Agastache.  This plant was very popular with the bees. I allowed the flowers to go to seed so we’ll see if they are still viable in the spring. 

Helianthus debilis ‘Pan’ (Beach sunflower, annual) reseeded itself into the same pot from last year.  This is not too surprising since there are naturalized populations of this Texas native scattered along the Eastern seaboard up to the Northeast.  This second generation had the same upright branching form of its parent.

Phacelia tanacetifolia (Lacy phacelia, annual) germinated very well and grew well in potting soil, but did not take well to being transplanted.  It has been recommended as a cover crop, with the warning not to let it go to seed in agricultural fields.  I may try this again as a direct sow plant.

Phlox drummundii (Drummond phlox – straight species, annual) also came from the Wildflower Center. These seeds germinated and transplanted well.  The flowers were true to the species scarlet red, but there was some variation in flower shape.  While I am not too hopeful that about the seeds overwintering outside, I did get a second generation late in the summer.  Relative to other flowers in my Massachusetts garden, these flowers were not very attractive to the pollinating insects.

This petal shape, with the white edging,
was unique from the other plants I had this year

Salvia coccinea (Texas sage, annual/tender perennial) is another Texas native.  Seeds for this plant germinated and transplanted well.  It grew equally well in a pots and in the garden bed and was very attractive to the bees.  Based on the native range of this species I don’t expect that any of the seeds would overwinter in my garden.

If you have any advice for growing the plants I listed here, I love to hear it.  What new native plants are you thinking about trying for next year?