Friday, July 29, 2011

A Rainbow of Colors

As I was trying to think of some deep topics to discuss on my blog in late July, I was working in the garden and realized that just about everything was in bloom. In fact there are North American natives blooming in all the colors of the rainbow right now. So I thought I would share examples of each color from my garden.

Mixed border with Cosmos, Agastache and Spotted Beebalm

I’ll start with some of the warmer shades. I reintroduced the annual Sulfur Cosmos, Cosmos sulphureus, this year (it had been pushed out by the overly vigorous Bearded Beggarticks). These along with Orange Hummingbird Mint, Agastache aurantiaca ‘Navaho Sunset’, and the Spotted Beebalm, Monarda punctata, form a rather dense border on the south side of the house. 

A self-seeded Blood Sage

 Mixed in with these are a few Blood Sage, Salvia coccinea, a Texas native that reseeded from last year. Overall the red shades are underrepresented, the only other red is some Drummond Phlox, Phlox drummondii, also from Texas.

A native bee is sampling from a Wine Cup

For a really hot magenta I have Wine Cups, Callirhoe involucrata, native to the central U.S. This viney perennial has been doing well on it’s own for 5-6 years on the east side of the house. 

Cooling down to the pinks, I have been really surprised with the Pink Tickseed, Coreopsis rosea; a Massachusetts native. It prefers moist soils and this one seems very happy growing in a crack in the driveway. There must be runoff collecting under the pavement. Another pink flowering native I have is Butterfly Gaura, Gaura lindheimeri. While native to Texas and Louisiana, it can be found growing in many gardens in the Northeast.

This Pink Tickseed has been growing in the driveway for more than 5 years.

Butterfly Weed

A new addition for me is the orange Butterfly Weed, Asclepias tuberosa. As it is quite drought tolerant, I’m trying it out in the ‘Hell Strip’ along the road.  This area is exposed to a lot of sun and it is difficult to get water to soak in.  Hopefully this tap-rooted plant can get established here.

Yellow seems to be the most commonly seen color for native plants. You see Black-eyed Susans and Yellow Coneflowers everywhere. I have them too. A couple of less commonly used species are the Prairie Coneflower, Rabitida pinnata, with its paler, more lax petals, and Whorled Rosinweed, Silphium trifoliatum. The coneflower has been just getting by, popping out from a dense border of Purple Coneflowers and a variety of native asters. On the other hand the Rosinweed stands tall (actually it leans forward) in the dry shade under a Norway Maple.

Whorled Rosinweed, leaves in whorls of three.

Prairie Coneflower


Inland Sea Oats turn golden in fall.
There is lots of green in the garden from all the leaves, but there are also some other green features. The green flowers of my Strawberry Blite, Chenopodium capitatum, are forming now, to be followed by bright red berries. Also there are grasses, such as the Inland Sea Oats, Chasmantheum latifolium, shown here.

Moving on to blue, may last post was about the American Bellflower that is all over my garden. Instead I’ll show you the Mealycup Sage, Salvia farinacea ‘Victoria’, that I have in my flower boxes. This tender perennial native to the south-central U.S. it a common garden annual available at many nurseries in the Northeast. While not native up here it does get a fair amount of traffic from both native and honey bees.

For lavender I’ll show you my Wild Petunias, Ruellia humilis. This plant is native to the Eastern U.S., but not New England. I started this one from seed in 2007 and it slowly spreading into some of the sunnier and drier spots around the house.

Wild Petunia, late to emerge,
but in full bloom in early July.

Of course there is the ever popular Purple Cone Flower, Echinacea purpurea. Mine are from seed and I am seeing a lot of variation in size and color. Instead I’ll show the less popular Swamp Verbena, Verbena hastata. This somewhat weedy plant is found all over North America. It reseeds vigorously and will grow under a wide variety of conditions. I have been cutting mine back by half in mid-June to control their size and get a few more blooms. I started seeds for both the species (violet) and a naturally occurring pink form, ‘Rosea’, in 2008. As you can see I am still seeing examples of each, though the violet is much more prevalent.
A pink form of Swamp Verbena along with the more common Violet form.

Philadelphia Fleabane is found throughout North America

I have no black native flowers, but I do have a lot of white ones. There’s the long-blooming shrub Meadowsweet, Spiraea latifolia, the Bigleaf Asters, now known as Eurybia macrophylla, and purple-leaved Heuchera villosa. All of which I grew from seed from the New England Wildflower Society. Here I have Philadelphia Fleabane, Erigeron philadelphicus, that just blew in on its own.

Blooming is not over, there are still more plants to come, but it nice to see everything that is going on despite the heat of summer.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

American Bellflower Update

American Bellflower, in bloom from
late June through August

Over a year ago I posted some information on the American Bellflower, Campanulastrum americanum.  This plant, or it's progeny anyway (it's a biennial) have been growing in my yard since 2008.  It spends its first year as a rather innocuous rosette of leaves, but in its second year it shoots up to form a flower stalk between 2 and 6 feet in height, depending on location.  This spring I had an over abundance of second year plants within about 5 feet of the 2009 plants that I let go to seed. This spread is consistent with the smooth round seed just falling to the ground from the tall flower stalks.  Not wanting to throw any of these seedlings out, I redistributed them to a variety of areas in my yard that are normally difficult for growing flowering plants. 

A spontaneous composition on
the edge of the driveway with
Spiarea latifolia, the blue
Campanulastrum and
Rudbecia hirta.
The Campanulstrum growing in
dry shade under a Crabapplealong a foundation.

Along the North side, here the Hostas
hide the legginess of the Bellflower

Growing in rocky soil from under the
deck - plants forming a screen.

It seems that the plant looks better in some of the more challenging locations, where its vigor is moderated.  In rich soil with lots of sun it can become a floppy 6 foot monster.  Some places where it is doing nicely are : cracks in the driveway, a sterile rocky area under a deck, north side of the house, under a Norway Maple and in the deep shade of a Crab Apple along a dry foundation.  I think this latter location shows the American Bellflower at its best.

As far as pollinators, it seems that there is one particular bee, probably a type of Mason or Miner Bee (can anyone ID this for me?), that really loves this plant.  The first couple of years I didn't see much action with bees, but this year the bee activity has taken off!  A few larger bumblebees drop in, but they prefer the Meadowsweet (Spiarea latifolia var. alba) for the most part.

The meadowsweet is preferred by the bumblebees
I have been a little concerned with how vigorously this plant reproduces, however it is fairly easy to pull up so it can be controlled in the garden fairly easily.  It is not as aggressive a reseeder as my Bearded Beggarticks (Bidens aristosa), which I am glad to say is easily edited out by selective pulling.  The question of persistance of the seed remains.  How many years will it lie dormant in the soil? 

Also, since this bellflower is not a Massachusetts native, I wouldn't recommend its use near wild areas in this state.  But I do think it works well as a North American native that is well adapted to the conditions of the modern residential landscape, particularly under trees and along shady foundations.