Monday, February 13, 2017

New Plants for 2017: Just Getting Started

The seed and plant catalogs have been coming since late December and I've made a few selections already.  Here's a run down on seeds and shrubs that I have ordered so far.

The tubular flowers of fireweed mature into long
seed pods, as seen on the lower right.
Fireweed, Chamerion angustifolium (formerly of the genus Epilobium) is a tall perennial that puts out hot pink flowers in mid-summer.  Growing in part to full sunshine and average soil moisture this will be a welcome addition to the small meadow that I am developing.  The tubular flowers are very attractive to a number of native bees as well as hummingbirds.

Fireweed is named for its tendency to appear in great numbers after fire has cleared the competing vegetation.

The tiny seeds, ca. 1 mm long, need to be cold-moist stratified for 60 days for good germination.  The tiny seeds also need to be surface sown, as they need light for germination.  I started the stratification in damp sand last week, so I should be able to get them into trays in early April.

When stratification is done, I'll just smear the damp sand/seed mixture on top of the soil.
Another new species for me will be goat's rue, Tephrosia virginiana.  This member of the legume family likes dryish sandy soils in part to full sun light.  It has feathery foliage and puts out pink and yellow pea-like flowers in early to mid-summer.  Since this plant has a deep taproot, I will use it on an embankment that I want to stabilize.

Relative to fireweed, the seeds of goat's rue are huge, 3-4 mm long and about half as wide.  These seeds have a thick outer coating and will need to be scarified before giving it about 2 weeks of cold-moist stratification.  In addition to this I also got a packet of inoculum that contains the bacteria this plant needs to fix nitrogen from the air. I'll mix this with the seeds prior to starting the stratification process.  I think seeds will germinate with it, but not having the right bacteria can compromise their development.  

I have encountered this with another legume, partridge pea, Chamaecrista fasciculata, where I saw much better growth from seeds that had been treated with inoculum than for those sown without it.

In addition to these I got some additional seeds for rose verbena, Glandularia canadensis, and spotted beebalm, Monarda punctata.  I was pleased with the rose verbena I planted last year.  While it does not call for it, I moist stratified the seed for a month and got excellent germination rates.  It formed a nice ground cover and bloomed well with clusters of deep magenta flowers.  I purchased more seed because it is listed as marginally hardy in zone 6 and I was afraid that there would not be enough seed produced last season to produce another crop for this year.  Since our winter low temperatures this year have not dropped below 15 F, we are having more of a zone 8 winter, this species may make it through until spring.  In any case I'll have more plants to fill in and maybe share a few with others.

Rose verbena as it's looking in mid-February.  It's taken some damage,
but it's looking good close to the ground level.

The spotted beebalm I had a few years back has petered out.  I think it lost out to more competitive plants around the vegetable garden.  It is a short lived perennial and relies on having good places for new seed to germinate to continue in the garden.   For this new crop I will put it in spots with leaner soil and where its seed can germinate without being covered by other plants.

As far as shrubs, I'm just reinforcing some of what I got last year:
Eastern Red Cedar, only one from the three I planted last year was successful.  This year I'll get them in the ground sooner and do a better job of clearing away competitive plants.

Chokecherry, I'm 1 for 2 on this species.  For these I will need to clear a larger space so they can get established.  Once established they should grow quickly on their own.

American hazelnut, these are surviving well in somewhat shady locations.  I have identified several other woodland edge areas where it would be nice to have this native shrub fill in.