Friday, June 24, 2011

Update: Native Seeds for 2011

Following up on the Native Seeds for 2011 post, here’s a status report on what has and has not worked so far…

Did not germinate:

Allegheny vine (Adlumia fungosa) I’ve written a lot about this biennial vine. I just can’t get enough of it. I was surprised that the new seeds I bought this year did not germinate; however, I do have one self sown plant that is doing great and should be blooming soon. I also have overwintered and planted out some from last year. I’ll need to make a point of harvesting my own seeds this year.

Fern-leaf False Foxglove (Aureolaria peduculata) This biennial is parasitic on oaks, but, reportedly, does not need them for germination. None of these have germinated, despite trying several different germination conditions. 

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) This is the first year I’ve tried these and alas, none had germinated. Fortunately I did get some bare root plants from Prairie Moon Nursery, and these are developing nicely.

Rosey Sedge (Carex rosea) I’ve had a small clump of this perennial grass for nearly 5 years. I was not able to get the seeds I bought this year to germinate. I understand that Carex is generally a difficult plant to grow from seed.

Good germination:

Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea) This is a perennial with white, long lasting flowers similar to the annual Sweet Everlasting (Pseudognaphalium obtussifolium) that I’ve tried several times before. These germinated really well, but have grown on very slowly and so far have not transplanted well. I just may not have the right touch, or location, for these plants.

Tall Swamp Marigold or Crowned Beggarticks (Bidens coronata) is an annual, with good-sized yellow flowers. These did not germinate last year when I cold stratified them in moist sand for 60 days, so this year I got a new batch of seed and conditioned them in moist soil for 60 days in the refrigerator. I was thrilled to see that they were sprouting within 5 days of coming to room temperature. I’ve got these blooming in the garden already! So far I would rate these better than the Bidens aristosa, for early bloom and a manageable size; however it’s still early so we’ll see how long the bloom continues and how vigorously they reseed themselves (a little, a lot or none at all?).

Browneyed Susan and American Pennyroyal in a pot.

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). Last year when I conditioned these in damp sand I got no germination. This year moist stratification in the soilless mix resulted in good and rapid germination after just 4 days of coming out of the refrigerator. I’ve moved some of these to pots and some into the garden. I don’t know if these will grow on to bloom this year, or if they need a season to get established.

Some germination:

Flowering Spurge (Euphorbia corollata) Perennial also known as Wild Baby’s Breath. I thought this could be good for general landscape use, with white flowers through mid-summer. I got a low rate of germination and the plants seem slow to develop. Once the temperatures got over 90, the seedlings began to take off. I’m trying this in several locations and have this one in a pot. So I’m hopeful that at least one of these will mature.

Woodland Sunflower (Helianthus divaricatus) Perennial for dry shade. This plant can be weedy in the garden, but I really want to test it out under the Norway Maple where its vigor may be tempered by this challenging environment. Only 4 of these germinated, but these are developing nicely. I’ve already moved a couple under the 'nasty' Maple and they are continuing to grow.

Repeats, with good results:

Orange Hummingbird Mint (Agastache aurantica ‘Navaho Sunset’) grew quite well last year and I got good germination from the same crop of seeds as last year. Last year’s plants are a dense mass about 18” tall, not ready to bloom yet, but the foliage smells really great, even as tiny plants.

Native to rocky slopes, these transplants
are doing well among some Bearded Iris.
Rock Harlequin (Corydalis sempervirens) Even though the seed was for 2010, still gave a very good rate of germination. Some seedlings that I transplanted into rich humusy soil died immediately, while those interplanted with the Bearded Iris, in unimproved soil, are doing quite well.

Sulfur Cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus) these germinated well both indoors under lights and direct sown in the garden. I was concerned that I would confuse the seedlings with those from the Bidens aristosa that has reseeded itself all over the garden beds. There are a couple of features that distinguish the seedlings. The first pair of leaflets from the Cosmos are each nearly an inch long, compared to about ¼” for the Bidens, the Cosmos germinate about 2 weeks later than the Bidens (although the Bidens continue to germinate from late April to the middle of June) and while the leaves of both species are deeply divided, the Cosmos have broader rounder tips than those of the Bidens. I am pulling up and discarding the Bidens seedlings, this will be a test of whether I can eliminate this species from the garden so that I can test other plants.

Note the long cotyledon leaves and rounded leaf tips
Compare the first pair of leaves with
those of the Cosmos.

The annual American Pennyroyal (Hedeoma pulegioides) has been getting established from a planting 2 years ago. I’ve found that these reseed themselves rather well and grow well under lights (after 30 days cold stratification), but did not come up where I seeded them directly in the garden. I guess these do better when they find their own home. I’ve planted out a few of these and am growing some in pots. I plan to snag a few leaves to rub on my arms to test their mosquito repellent properties.

Spotted Beebalm (Monarda punctata) had germinated within 6 weeks in damp sand, while still in the dark in the refrigerator. I moved the germinated seedlings to starter mix and still ended up with a healthy crop of little plants.

Sweet Everlasting (Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium) has given me trouble on transplanting in the past two years. An this year is no exception – lots of seedlings that do not transplant well. The directly sown seeds did not germinate. I think need to be put into really well drained coarse soil and are not appropriate to my garden conditions.

This seedling is developing faster than ones transplanted from
indoors.  Monarda and Agastache are also cropping up.

Some other seedlings that are showing up on there own in the garden are from the Scarlet Sage (Salvia coccinea), Biennial Gaura (Gaura biennis), Strawberry Blite (Chenopodium capitatum) and of course the Swamp Marigold (Bidens aristosa). I was not certain if the seeds of the Salvia could overwinter here in the Northeast.  Seeing these appear in new locations points out the importance of knowing what the seedlings for these annuals and biennials look like, otherwise I would have weeded them out as I was preparing the beds for other plants.

The reseeded catnip has deeper teeth on the leaf margin than for the Salvia coccinea,
the catnip leaf is also has a fleshier texture.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

American Smoke Tree

As I was driving through Mount Auburn Cemetery yesterday, the ‘blooms’ of a cluster of American Smoke Tree, Cotinus obovatus, caught my eye. Actually, the true fertile flowers are past, but it’s the fuzzy remains of the infertile flowers that line the flower panicle that are providing the show. This tree is dioecous, meaning that there are separate male and female plants. All of the trees in this cluster appeared to be female, judging by the seeds that were forming at the ends of the panicles. I have not, to my knowledge, seen a male tree in bloom; however, at they say that the male is actually showier. So although you can be sure whether you are getting a male or female plant, either way the smoke effect will be striking.

A few seeds from fertile flowers are at the tips of the panicle.

Close up of the 'smoke'

The species name, obovatus, refers to the distinctive oval shape of the blue-green leaves. It grows as a small tree or upright shrub , 20-30 feet tall. Young tree have a fairly ungainly appearance. These trees are probably about 8 years old. When they were planted here about 3 years ago, they were gangly stems without too many branches. So they have developed very nicely in just a few years.

Buds forming on a younger plant in early May

The native distribution of C. obovatus is scattered across the south central U.S. It is found in neutral to alkaline well drained soils, but will tolerate the more acidic soils in New England, as well. This preference of alkalinity may make it a good choice for planting on residential sites, with their limed lawns and cement foundations.

More commonly seen is the Purple Smokebush, Cotinus coggygria, which mostly grows as a multistem shrub with broad purple tinged leaves. The American Smoke Tree is harder to find, I purchased mine last year from New England Wildflower Society, but I have also found it at commercial nurseries.

Cotinus obovatus at the end of October

While the smoke-like inflorescence is an attractive feature, the fall color of these trees is really the feature that will knock your socks off. This photo was taken of the same tree in late October last year.

So far I’ve planted two of these (one for me, one for a client) and I am looking forward to watching them mature.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Celandine Poppy

Note the single yellow flowers and the fuzzy, drooping seed pod.

The newest native addition to my garden is the Celandine Poppy, Stylophorum diphyllum. It is a Midwestern native, but I have seen it growing in gardens here in the northeast where its large, clear yellow flowers and light blue-green foliage brighten up a shady spot. It is a mid-spring bloomer. Another reason I was interested in knowing this plant is its similarity to the introduced and quite weedy Greater Celandine, Chelidonium majus, a Eurasian native.

I had gotten into the habit of weeding out any plant with divided leaves, yellow flowers and light green foliage, assuming it was always Greater Celandine. One day I started to rip some out in a client’s garden and was told that this was not a weed and was in fact the native Celendine. So I figured I should learn to tell these plants apart.
Anyone who has pulled up either of these plants has seen the bright yellow or orange juice that can stain clothes. So that does not help distinguish the plants. The leaves are different, but both are deeply lobed and of the same general color. The easiest way I see to distinguish these plants is with the flowers and seed pods. The native Celandine poppy has large (nearly 2 inches) yellow flowers, borne singly, which matures to a single fuzzy pod that droops toward the ground.

Note the upright seedpods
of Greater Celandine
Greater Celandine has much smaller yellow flowers (1/2 inch) borne in small umbels. The seed pods are bean-like and project upwards. Also the leaves are arranged alternately on the stem, while for the Celandine Poppy all of the leaves occurs opposite one another; however this can be tricky to spot in a mass of foliage.

The plants have only been in for a week in a shady area that maintains slightly moist soil. Now we’ll see how it performs over the rest of the summer and how it looks when it comes back next year.

Since there are no natural populations of Celandine Poppy in Massachusetts, I’m sure I did not damage any native plants, but still it’s good to know how to tell these plants apart, especially now that I have some in the ground.