Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wildflower Wednesday

On Wildflower Wednesday, the fourth Wednesday of each month, we join with Gail to celebrate and share the love of native plants and wildflowers across the blogosphere. Wildflowers are beautiful, easy-care additions to any garden, and there are wildflowers suited to any challenging combination of climate, soil, moisture, critter, and sun conditions you might have.

We have a little sunny space in our front yard, but most of our garden space is in back in beautiful, loamy soil. While the soil is great, we're challenged by gardening in the shallow roots of three mature silver maples, where there's little sun, the soil tends to dry out very quickly, and it can take years for new plants to become established. Many native plants and wildflowers have been equal to the challenge. These are the ones we find blooming here this month:

Allium cernuum, or nodding onions, came to live here last year, divisions shared with us by Monica. Tough, easy-care, and seldom bothered by animal or insect pests, their delicate blooms are a welcome addition. Nodding onions are attractive to pollinators and will thrive in full to part sun.

Eupatorium purpureum - Joe Pye weed is a tall plant excellent for the back of the border, with showy flower heads that last a long time. After the flowers fade, the seed heads can remain attractive well into the winter. Joe Pye weed is equal to the challenge of growing in a very dry area of our garden where the roots of the maples mingle with the roots of an old, mature arborvitae hedge.

Monarda fistulosa, a native bee balm, is doing well in its third year here. Although monardas are often plagued with powdery mildew, this one has shown no sign of it so far. Bee balm is a good name for it, considering how many bees visit this plant every day. We have lots of bunnies here, but bee balm is equal to the challenge they present, since our bunnies don't seem to like the taste of it's wonderfully fragrant foliage.

Phlox paniculata cultivars are abundant here. This seedling of unknown parentage turned up last year. Hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees don't care about its pedigree, and enjoy it just as much, if not more, than the cultivars. Phlox blooms well even in some of the challenging shadier spots in our garden.

Now that the main garden area in back is fully planted, in the last three years, we've expanded into the swale way in back. It's a mostly shady area where moisture conditions vary from a shallow area that never dries out to the deep end that goes from constantly flooded in winter and spring to bone dry in summer. We're still working out what, if anything we can plant in the deep end. The shallow area is perfect for moisture-loving, beautiful natives that don't mind the challenge of wet feet, like Lobelia cardinalis, or cardinal flower. Hummingbird magnets, cardinal flowers are hands-down their favorite blooms here.

Helenium autumnale, also called sneezeweed, was started from seeds last year. They bloomed their first year, and are budding again now. They're thriving in the shallow end of the swale too. They too like moist soil and don't mind wet feet. This one was pinched in early July as an experiment, while the others were left to grow as tall as they wanted. Next year they'll all be pinched. All but this one flopped, and it has more buds than the ones that weren't pinched.

Late last winter I ordered seeds for Lobelia siphilitica. Blue lobelia, cardinal flower's cousin, seemed a nice addition to the shallow end of the swale. From an entire packet of seeds, only two germinated, and only one survived the seedling stage. The little lobelia was carefully nurtured until, during it's first week outdoors, in a pot on the edge of the west veggie bed, some critter bit off its little crown. In the bed, wilted but intact, the severed section was found. After re-hydrating it in a cup of water, it was planted in fresh potting soil in a small nursery pot in hopes it might root itself in case the original plant didn't re-grow.

The original plant grew new leaves and survived, and the decapitated portion grew roots, so now we have two! Both are budding in their first season, despite their early trauma. Now they live in the shallow end of the swale, where they were transplanted back in June. I expect they'll be equal to the challenge of wet feet. Hopefully they'll survive the challenge of the bunnies. Maybe in September we'll see some blooms.

We added two little prairie smoke (Geum triflorum) plants three springs ago. One disappeared last fall, and the remaining one bloomed for the first time this spring. One of the blooms set seeds. A few seeds were collected, and started under the light in the basement. In the next few weeks they'll find homes in the garden near their parent that has so far proven itself equal to the challenges of dry soil and and not much sun.

Every garden presents challenges. Through research, trial and error, and experience, native plants can be found which will not only survive, but thrive in nearly any challenging garden conditions we may have.

For more Wildflower Wednesday posts, please visit sweet Gail at Clay and Limestone.


  1. Hi Linda, My Geum triflorum, of the same age, bloomed last year but SMOKED for the first time this year. So exciting! Helenium are one of my favorite flowers; I love the yellow native kind and all the orange cultivars, too. And you know the funniest thing about the nodding wild onions? I have NO IDEA where I planted mine because it's not blooming. HA! At least I know where to get more... Maybe next month I'll remember to participate in WW! :)

  2. Hi Monica, only one Geum bloom 'smoked' here this year, but that was enough to start some new ones. The seeds for the heleniums came from you during your seed swap a couple of years ago. I'm so happy to have them here!

    Sorry your nodding onions are MIA - maybe they're hiding behind something like the Culver's root is here.

  3. Linda it appears we have similar tastes in Wildflowers. Very lovely. My nodding onion is moving all over the place. It is a cool plant. Happy WW!!

  4. My dear that is some determined lobelia! That's what I love about native plants they want to grow! Please send us your cool rainy weather and I'll share our warm sunshine with you! gail

  5. A nice collection of natives, Linda! I wish I had a wet spot to grow a cardinal flower--everything I read tells me that this is one of hummingbirds' favorites, not to mention the striking red blooms.

  6. I thought the same thing when I read your WW post this morning Donna!

    I love those nodding onions - foliage isn't anything special, but the blooms are so pretty. I put ours close to the asters the bunnies love to eat after reading they may help repel critters. This year (so far) is the first time they haven't munched on the asters - yay!

    Gail, I was thrilled when the original blue lobelia grew back and when the crown portion grew roots! I hadn't thought about growing new natives from cuttings although I'd done that often with cultivars and annuals.

    After the success with the lobelia, I've started other natives from cuttings this summer including purple milkweed, Indian pinks, and Culver's root.

    Thank you Rose! I wasn't fond of the swale when I first came here, but after realizing I could grow thirsty natives like the lobelias, I'm seeing it in a whole new light.

    Ramble on Rose has had good success with lobelias in her rain garden. Maybe one day you'd be able to grow them if you can find a good spot and the energy to install one somewhere on your property. We have lots of stuff the hummingbirds love here, and cardinal flowers top the list!

  7. p.s. Gail - I hope you get some cool, refreshing rain soon.

    August's weather has been so delightful here - just enough rain, cool nights and warm days - such a blessed relief following our hot, dry July, and after last August's dry, sweltering weather. Today it's expected to be relatively hot - around 90 degrees, and tomorrow, back to the low 80s. Wish I could send some rain and cooler temps to you all in the south!

  8. A lovely offering for Wildflower Wednesday, Linda. Though I have none growing either at home or at the lake, I love Lobelia cardinalis (cardinal flower). I see their brilliant scarlet flowers when walking up north but they are a 'Please do not pick' MIchigan wildflower. Enjoy!

  9. lovely and sensitive images and great ideas too! Even better that you work with native plants, which our animal and insect friends I'm sure thank you for.

  10. Wow, great shot of the Joe Pye weed!

  11. I hope your blue lobelias bloom! They are such wonderful plants!

  12. Thank you Joey! You're lucky to see them on your walks. I've never seen cardinal flowers anywhere except in a few gardens.

    Thank you Pat! Our pollinators need all the help we gardeners can give them. Planting natives and avoiding pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides are good strategies for their benefit and ours!

    Thanks Katie! Great to see you here girl!

    Me too Rose! I'm really surprised to see them budding their first year, especially considering their rocky start. It's encouraging that whatever bit the top off didn't eat it - must have looked like breakfast, but apparently didn't taste so good - yay!

  13. Your wildflowers are lovely. I tried to grow nodding onions from seed but am still waiting to see if they will bloom. For your wet/dry area, you might find the information you need on the Prairie Moon site,

    They tell about wetland affinity and call the ones wet in winter and dry in summer Wet Mesic, so it makes it easier to select plants.

  14. Hi garden girl
    I especially like your rose bee balm. I've got bee balm too in the garden, but the red one. And I use it's flower petals for a delicious tea.
    Have a great weekend!

  15. What a great selection of native plants you have. That allium photo is very nice. I should let some of my phlox go and see what I get......

  16. Thank you Hannah (I love your name!) Hope your nodding onions will bloom yet this season. If not this year, maybe next. I've found natives started from seeds often wait a couple of years (sometimes more) to bloom. Thanks for the tip on Prairie Moon. I love them for natives - have gotten a lot of seeds from them.

    Hi Alex, I love bee balm. I keep saying I'll try making some tea with the leaves, but never have yet. I do love Earl Gray tea, and I think it's similar.

    Thank you Victoria! Phlox will seed pretty readily. I suspect this seedling might be part 'David,' since there are a couple nearby. Most of the seedlings seem to be more of a magenta color, which I also like.

  17. I would grow Nodding Onion for its name alone!

    Sneezeweed is a good name too . . . !

  18. Me too Esther! It's good to know the Latin names, but I relate to and enjoy the common names so much more.


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