Why We Love Moss (III)

Our Fascination with Nature’s Green Carpet

By Debra Knapke

Many of our plant preferences are shaped by early experiences in the landscape or in the gardens of our parents or grandparents. Moss holds a place in my memories of the small woods by my childhood home. Bright green cushions appeared after rains and then disappeared during dry summers.

I seriously doubt that I thought about where moss belonged, but I knew that it was a part of the moist woods of my youth and that I liked it.

jack-in-the-pulpit-cedar-bog-4-17-04-crop

Nature’s design: moss covering the ground under Jack-in-the-pulpit and other woodland native plants, Cedar Bog in Urbana, OH, April 17, 2004

A moss garden works best when it follows nature’s example. In the above picture, this community of plants is situated in a part-shade, moist location. Some mosses will grow in full sun but only in wet sites.

The picture below is a sphagnum peat bog that was designed for the Heritage Garden at the Ohio Governor’s Residence. It represents the kettle lake bogs that were created approximately 11,000 years ago by retreating glaciers. The sandy, acidic soil – which is kept wet – supports the plant community of cranberry, sphagnum moss, pitcher plant and grass pinks (native orchid).

spagnum-bog-garden-close

Sphagnum bog in the Heritage Garden at the Ohio Governor’s Residence, Columbus, OH.

This garden was the inspiration for my own small bog which is in a 30” wide by 12” tall, double-walled plastic bowl. The cranberries have become the dominant plant in my bog, but the live sphagnum moss and pitcher plants are visible in winter when the cranberry leaves turn their deep mahogany color. The “soil” is a combination of rehydrated dried sphagnum and silica sand which has a neutral pH. If you wish to build your own bog, avoid using gray builder’s sand which is fractured from limestone and has a high pH. Golden to orange sand is made from acidic sandstone and would be appropriate for a constructed bog. Last note – live sphagnum moss is difficult to find as suppliers need to have permits to harvest it.

bog-in-crescent-container-6-2-16-resize

The cranberries are usually consumed by my resident squirrels. The few I have harvested are delicious.

From the realistic to the sublime… during a trip to Japan my appreciation of moss became a passion. The beauty of the Japanese garden style is a testament to attention to detail; the placement of plants, rocks and all elements are thought out and expressed in a harmonious creation. My words fall short of the physical, emotional and intellectual effect of what I experienced while viewing these built places. My pictorial vignettes may help.

Below is a moss garden which is kept pristine by many workers. This type of garden is not for the beginning designer or gardener and can only be successful in moist climates. Watering large expanses of moss from a hose is not a noble activity.

img_0924-shugakuin-moss-resize

Moss forest landscape at Shugakuin Rikyu Imperial Villa, Kyoto, Japan.

Time slowed, thoughts expanded as we strolled up these stairs from the Silver Pavilion to the Philosopher’s Walk.

img_0873-noss-garden-ginkaku-ji-kyoto-resize

Moss gardens at Ginkaku-ji (The Silver Pavillion), Kyoto, Japan

The evocative Zen Gardens are minimalistic in nature. Ishidan is an interpretation of a sacred place. The center rock and moss mound represents Mt. Horai. The other two rock/moss elements represent Crane Island and Tortoise Island. The arrangement invites contemplation. Two viewing decks allow visitors to sit, rest, meditate or whatever one does when seeing a garden that asks you to think differently. Moss in this garden gave me a green place to sink into.

img_1003-ishidan-daitoku-ji

Zen Garden, Ishidan, at Daitoku-ji, Kyoto, Japan

I thought about trying to recreate similar gardens, on a much smaller scale, on the long plane ride home. But I realized that those gardens are not my context, not my culture. Instead I have nurtured areas in my garden where moss appears; low areas where water settles and dew collects.

Another Japanese garden style is the centuries-old tradition of bonsai which started in China and was copied by Japanese artisans. This tableau represents and is called “Roan Mountain.” Two Chinese junipers and an azalea (middle) tower over a moss-covered ground. These miniature landscapes are a more reasonable goal for most gardeners for using moss and for capturing a small part of the Japanese garden spirit.

3a-nc-arb-9-14-11-resize-2

Bonsai at the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville, NC.

One last expression of moss covered ground comes from Vancouver where moss forms the floor of the garden. It coats the rocks and any structure that will support its growth. Moss also changes the quality of sound in a garden; it absorbs sound and seems to signal that you are in a gentler environment. We soften our voices accordingly.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Moss path at a private garden in Vancouver.

In my early gardens, I loved when moss showed up, not understanding that this often indicated an area that did not drain well either because of compaction or being at a lower elevation where water collects. I protected those areas and watered them when they became dry. I was shocked to discover that some gardeners feel that moss is a problem and needs to be eradicated.

For those of you who do not want moss in your garden, here is one strategy for banishing moss from your garden if you are dealing with compacted soil in a moist, shady site. Dig up the area to loosen the soil; add compost. Plant a tree or shrub that is appropriate for the light quality and soil moisture conditions. Woody plant roots are thirsty and will compete with moss for the moisture in the soil. The addition of herbaceous plants will also help with a high moisture situation. If moss returns, consider it to be a groundcover and learn to like, if not love, it.

moss-in-asphalt-1-19-17-resize

Moss taking advantage of our wet winter.

Michael showed moss lovingly tucked in between the bricks on his pathway. Here, moss is growing in the cracks of our asphalt driveway; a testament to the tenacity of this beautiful plant that seeks moist moments in the garden… and elsewhere.

Wishing you tenacity and joy!

Why We Love Moss (II)

Bring Moss Indoors to Enjoy Close-up

By Teresa Woodard

On my morning dog walks, I often return home with carpets of moss tucked in my pockets. I can’t help gathering the green tufts from rotting logs, boulders or the edges of a shady path. No mater the season, I’m inspired to use the treasures indoors to create — a spring nest centerpiece, a groundcover for potted bulbs, a nativity scene or an enchanting dish garden.img_0405

About Moss

While mosses are the oldest terrestrial plants on earth, they have survived for millions of years without roots.  Found on trees, rocks, river banks and even sidewalk cracks, these fascinating plants rely on leaves to transport moisture and nutrients.  Mosses reproduce by casting spores. The thousands of moss varieties are divided in two basic groups — cushion mosses (“acrocarps”) which grow with the stem upright and form mounded colonies, and carpet mosses (“pleurocarps”) which grow with the stem flat and form more fernlike, creeping colonies.  Lately, mosses are gaining renewed landscape interest as a no-mow lawn alternative especially for shady spots.  While they’re most prolific in misty climates of the Pacific Northwest and Maine, many have adapted well to Midwestern growing conditions, even rebounding from dormancy after droughts.img_6196

Harvesting Mosses

Find moss on your own property or check with local garden centers, floral shops or online sources (www.mossandstonegardens.com, www.mossacres.com or www.mountainmoss.com ).  If gathering moss from private property, remember to ask permission first, and avoid taking moss from public parks where it’s illegal. 

Use a spatula or perennial knife to scoop under the moss, collecting a thin layer of soil along with the plants. Always collect responsibly, taking only small amounts from any single colony, so the slow-growing plants can regenerate.20170117_085517_001-2

Creating a moss container display

Choose a wide, shallow dish with drain holes.  Consider a ceramic dish, a bird bath, a hollowed tree branch, a hypertufa trough, a faux bois (French for “fake wood”) container to mimic a tree trunk, or a simple plastic saucer from a larger pot. Avoid metal containers, since many mosses are sensitive to metals and chemicals.

Assemble moss and accessories. While gathering moss, search the woodland floor for potential accessories.  Possibilities include stones, lichen-covered bark and shelf fungi from the sides of trees. Miniature hostas and ferns and even dwarf trees also make good accent plants.

To assemble the container,  start with a layer of gravel for drainage.  Add a layer of well-draining potting mix and insert accent plant(s) and larger accessories.  Cover remaining exposed potting mix with pieces of moss.  Use a single variety or various combinations of mosses.  Water thoroughly with rain water and gently press mosses in place.

Situate your potted container in a location that best replicates its natural conditions – most likely with bright indirect light and access to rain water. Try placing the containers on shady porch steps, in the garden beneath trees or along the northern shaded side of the house.  Moss containers can also make “visits” indoors to be enjoyed temporarily as a table centerpiece.

Keep the moss container watered exclusively with rain water, since tap water may contain minerals harmful to these sensitive plants.  Thoroughly water weekly, and adjust frequency depending on the weather.  Mist moss between waterings. moss container

Learn More

To learn more, visit Ohio Moss and Lichen Association’s website at www.ohiomosslichen.org or check out these books:   Moss Gardening by George Schenk, New Methods in Moss Gardening by Richard Smith, Gathering Moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer or Mosses of the Great Lakes Forest by Howard Alvin Crum.

 

 

 

 

Why We Love Moss (I)

Low-Profile, High-Impact Moss Enlivens the Backyard in Winter

By Michael Leach

The other evergreens get all the attention. It’s not surprising. From spruces to firs to boxwood most evergreens are big, in-your-face plants. Only in their youngest years might they be overlooked in the winter scene.

Little wonder that moss (and lichens to an extent) are the unsung evergreens. Besides spring green, they add various shades, including rust, ochre and blue-gray, to my landscape.  Seemingly as inconsequential as a pinch of nutmeg, theirs is a welcome dash of piquancy bringing vibrancy to this dreary season.

I’ve always been partial to moss. For one thing, this plant is pet-able. While not quite as inviting as lamb’s ear, the velvety  surface is hard to resist. Moss appeals, too, because it instantly adds a sense of permanence and venerable elegance to whatever it chooses to grow on. This is especially useful in the landscape surrounding the family home place, a small Victorian farmhouse.

Moss grows on many surfaces in my rather shady garden. Besides the damp and dim places in the lawn, where even weeds are reluctant to take hold, moss appears on stones, brick pavements, tree trunks, driveway gravel, old concrete walls and  a section of garage roof.

(Perhaps something should be done about the roof, as the growth no doubt holds dampness against the shingles)

However, it wasn’t until a stroll through my garden on a mild winter day that I began to appreciate moss for its winter interest. Here and there were welcome signs of life. Tufts and miniature “lawns”  of sprightly moss glowed in the sun.

stone-wall

The low stone wall wears a light coat of a gray-blue lichen, nature’s version of the verdigris found on old copper roofs. Such an elegant way to soften the stones and add subtle color.

 

brick-pavement

Moss is a “mortar” that gives the brick walk a vintage look. (Caution is a must when walking on wet bricks and moss).

 

tree-trunk

If there’s sufficient moisture, moss and lichens grow on the south side of trees, too.

 

hitching-ring

A hitching ring on the old concrete horse watering trough rests atop a soft carpet of moss.

horse-trough

A moss “lawn” adds a touch of antiquity to the crumbling concrete walls of a late 19th century watering trough. The greenery took up residence a few years ago.

 

stones

Why moss grows where it does is a mystery to me. Like most other volunteers in the garden, I allow it to live where it likes. (Maybe the stone on the left rolls.)

 

Learn more about mosses:

 

Moss sources:

 

 

Plant Lust: Part 2

 

Professional Conferences and Trade Shows = More Plants, People and Gardens

By Debra Knapke

I have been attending the Annual Symposium of the Perennial Plant Association since 1992. This conference is held in different locations in the United States and Canada. It combines education sessions and tours geared toward designers, growers and retailers for whom herbaceous perennials are a part of their business focus. I have visited many prestigious Botanical Gardens and Arboretums and countless private gardens that are not often open to the public. This year, I travelled to Minneapolis, and this was the best yet (I say this, every year).

Below is a very small sample (out of 110 images) of what I experienced in early August.

Plants, Plants and more Plants

salvia-armistad-lyndley-park-ppa-8-3-16Sages are among my favorite plants: gorgeous flowers, hummingbird and other pollinator attractors, herbal uses, and easy to grow. Above is one of the Brazilian sage species (Salvia guaranitica ‘Amistadt’). Its electric purple blooms call you from across the garden. An older sibling (below) is Black and Blue sage (Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’). When you grow this sage in your garden be prepared to be strafed by hummingbirds if you happen to be weeding when they wish to feed.

salvia-gauranitica-black-and-blue-lyndley-park-ppa-8-3-16isotoma-axillaris-avant-garde-white-laurentia-noerenberg-minneapolis-ppa-8-3-16From time the time, the experts are stumped. This lovely little annual had many of us asking: “What is this?” When we found a docent who had the plant list and learned that we were looking at a large-flowered laurentia (Isotoma axillaris ‘Avant Garde White’), there were more than a few sheepish expressions. The flowers were approximately 1.5” in diameter – they are usually much smaller – and they danced in the breeze. And, another plant goes on the list for next year!

allium-pink-planet-kelly-garden-minneapolis-ppa-8-3-16Alliums are another useful plant in the garden. One downside is their excessive seeding. After three to four years, you may have only alliums in your garden. Enter some of the new hybrids that make few to no fertile seeds. Pink Planet allium (above) is one of those new hybrids; Millennium is another – Millennium allium is now in my garden. I will let you know about its fecundity.

ginkgo-espalier-kelly-and-kelly-minneapolis-ppa-8-3-16At Kelly and Kelly Nursery, we saw what patience and vision can achieve. Need a fence? Create a ginkgo espalier. If you start this project now, you can have this in 10 to 15 years, or so.

 

malus-dolgo-mn-landscape-arb-8-3-16I would be remiss if I didn’t include a picture from the edible garden at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. If you are looking for the tastiest crabapple for jams and jellies then Dolgo crabapple (Malus ‘Dolgo’) is your tree. What is the only difference between a crabapple and an apple? The diameter of a crabapple is two inches or less; an apple is larger than two inches.

lily-de-historia-stirpium-leonhart-fuchs-1542-minn-landscape-arb-ppa-8-3-16Not all of the plants we see are in pots or gardens. The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum has an extensive collection of rare books in its library. This gorgeous lily was hand-colored and sold in limited folios to those who could afford books back in 1542 — 50 years after Columbus sailed the ocean blue.  (De Historia Stirpium, Leonhart Fuchs, 1542)

 

 

Design!

design-border-noerneberg-memorial-gardens-ppa-8-3-16Plants are the designer’s medium. We use the tools of line, form, texture and color to create borders, beds and vignettes. We make places of order, activity, privacy and repose. Here is a border that is peaceful and textural in nature.annual-garden-mn-landscape-arb-ppa-8-3-16

 

… while this border is a riot of hot colors. It also happens to be complimented by a “Big Bug” assassin bug.

 

 

 

Speaking of insects: bee hotels have been making appearances in all the best gardens. I’ve seen recommendations for creating tubes from paper or thin cardboard. If you look closely, you can see that all of the materials in the houses are from the garden: small drilled branches and herbaceous plant stems that are usually relegated to the compost pile. Here are two versions — a multi-level hotel and a simple bee hostal.

 

Coda

 

tree-frog-on-ligularia-minneapolis-ppa-8-3-16Being a plant addict is not a hopeless condition. There are times when something other than a plant grabs my attention. This green tree frog nestled in a ligularia leaf may have been one of the most photographed garden visitors on the garden tour. Of course we were discussing the perfect color harmony of the reddish-brown markings on the frog with the veins on the leaf. Get a bunch of designers together and what do you get? Endless discussions of color, form and texture in the garden!

 

Wishing you a beautiful fall!

Plant Lust (Part 1)

Professional Conferences and Trade Shows = Plants, People and Gardens

By Debra Knapke
One of the joys of my profession is being surrounded by plants. Discovery of “new” plants is a main occupation at the professional meetings and tradeshows that I attend throughout the year. These meetings are filled with anticipation, excitement, revelation, and, for lack of a better word: plant lust.
Two recent conferences re-affirmed my third choice of career in horticulture. In July, Columbus, Ohio hosts Cultivate. This four-day event, organized by AmericanHort, is the largest Horticulture-Greenhouse-Landscape Trade Show and Educational Short Course in the United States. It offers an international assemblage of companies and an amazing array of plants and products. I take lots of pictures and notes to remind myself of what I want to use in my courses and design work, and what must be tried this year or next.
Below is a very small sample (out of 89 images) of the variety of what I saw in June.
Strange Plants for Special Situations;
 Imagine rows and rows of tables holding new plants for 2016. There is something for everyone! Many were snapping pictures of the above spiny specimen. Dyckias (Dyckia brevifolia) look like they are either from outer space or from the deep ocean. They require lean and dry soils and will “melt” during an extended wet spell.  Last year and this year my plants had to return to the greenhouse during our rainy spells.
Celosia Dracula Cultivate 7-11-16 crop
All I could think was –The bold puckered leaves and deep maroon inflorescences of Dracula celosia are just begging to be combined with a fine to medium silver foliaged plant. Not usually an admirer of celosia, I realized that I was feeling a bit of plant lust for this audacious annual. Dracula will be in one of my containers next year; possibly with dusty miller or one of the silvery helichrysums (Helichysum petiolare).
A Beautiful Blender
Begoniz Mistral Yellow Cultivate 7-11-16
Soft yellow flowers combined with dark green to maroon foliage placed in part to medium shade is like a breath of cool air similar to the winter wind that this plant was named for: Mistral Yellow begonia. I am currently growing the orange selection in my garden; next year I will grow yellow.
Plants in Combination

Helianthus Vincent's Choice Cultivate 7-11-16 cropSunflowers (Helianthus Vincent Choice) in combination with lisianthus (Eustoma grandifloruim ‘Black Pearl’ and ‘Rosanne’) make a luscious combination in a vase. Plant lust hit again…


Talented designers compete in several categories. One category is: here is your plant, create an arrangement around it for a center piece, a mantlepiece or a bridal bouquet. The plant this year was one of the tender hen and chicks (Echeveria hybrid). This is not your grandmother’s bridal bouquet.
succulents framed Cultivate 7-11-16Carrying on our current love affair with succulents in the home and garden, many framed displays of succulents were scattered around the trade show. This “picture” was one of three set up along one of the primary cross-paths in the show. I was trying to think where a four by four foot display would fit in my living room.
succulents 3 frames Cultivate 7-11-16The other two easels were mixes of succulents, grasses and ferns. Note the potted plants close to the center of the picture. These turmeric plants (Curcuma hybrid) were selected for their gorgeous flowers. I grew turmeric years ago thinking that I would harvest and dry the rhizome for use in the kitchen. The flowers were beautiful, but not as free-flowering as the new hybrids. Note to self: another plant that will be grown next season.

Proven Winners sets up booths that showed how their plants could be used on decks and porches. While you might not want as many plants in the above two “idea rooms”, it definitely makes you think of fall display possibilities; and then, there is next year…

perfect garden Hieft Seed Cultivate 7-11-16
Lastly, here is the perfect garden: buy everything in bloom, arrange, plant, add water, and sit back and enjoy with a glass of wine in hand.
Stay tuned for Part 2.

Asters, Sages and Milkweeds, Oh, My II

Pollinators and Plants for Pollinator-Friendly Gardens – Part 2

By Debra Knapke 

Last week, I introduced you to the pollinators in Part 1. Now, it’s time for the pollinator plants . . .

Let’s start with general plant groups and work toward some specific choices in each group. This is a start. Any plant that is not wind-pollinated has an associated pollinator. Once you start exploring your plant options, the sky is the limit.

Aster family

Most members of this family provide a perfect perch for many insects. You will see an array of bugs, beetles, flies, bees, wasps and spiders  crawling on the composite daisy flowers (Note: spiders are actually looking for their next meal; it’s a bug-eat-bug world out there!).

Echinacea purpurea skipper

Echinacea purpurea — purple coneflower, plus a skipper

Achillea filipendulina

Achillea filipendulina – yarrow; a full sun plant!

 

Silphium laciniatum flw Heritage Garden 7-20-07 resize

Silphium laciniatum – compass plant, a stately native

 

Aster Symphyotrichum purple Dome plant crop resize 2

Symphyotrichum novae-angliae ‘Purple Dome’ – one of the last flowers for butterflies & other pollinators

honey bee on aster pollen sacs 10-3-05 crop 2

In October, a honeybee sips a late drink from a ‘Purple Dome.’

IMG_2027 Cheekwood Gardens 9-12-208 resize

Zinnia angustifolia ‘Orange Profusion’– narrowleaf zinnia is an annual that is a pollinator magnet.

Bean/Pea family

Not only do the bumbles and other bees like the pea and bean family, but this group of plants has a lovely relationship with several species of bacteria that can fix gaseous nitrogen into a form that can be used by plants. Nitrogen is often the most limiting nutrient in built landscapes. This plant offers a way to fix the problem.

Baptisia australis staked resize

Baptisia australis – false indigo – is one of the most enduring plants in the garden.

Milkweed family

We have many species of milkweeds and butterflyweeds that are native to the Midwest. A recent study found that swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) is the most likely to be chosen by the monarch butterfly as a larval host in the Midwest.  The Mexican tropical milkweed – Asclepias curassavica – is the host plant for the monarch when it travels south for the winter.

Asclepias tuberosa 6-24-10 resize

Asclepias tuberosa – butterflyweed for butterflies and bees

Mint family

Species in this herbal family should be in every garden.  Many of the species are our favorite culinary herbs (basil, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme…) and many have anti-fungal, anti-bacterial attributes. The bilabiate flowers have long throats that lead to the nectaries. I have watched bumbles chew into the base of the flower because they could not enter the flower through the “front door.”

IMG_0965 crop

Lavandula angustifolia – English lavender with skipper

 

salvia elegans Innis 10-09-09 crop

Salvia elegans (red, pineapple sage) and Salvia leucantha (blue, Mexican bush sage) are hummingbird dream-plants. I have been “strafed” in the garden by hummingbirds when I have stood in the flight path to the flowers.

Salvia officinalis flowers 5-24-06 crop

Salvia officinalis – common sage which is tasty and beautiful.

Parsley/Celery family

Another family that contains many herbal plants and some of our most potent poisons, not only feeds pollinators but also attracts the “good” bugs that eat the “bad” bugs – at least from the human perspective.

bronze fennel aster laevis10-2-07 resize

Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’ – bronze fennel is another multi-tasker in the garden. It is a culinary and medicinal plant. It hosts a variety of butterfly larvae while offering pollen and nectar to many insects.

 

Eryngium yuccifolium lvs Knapke 8-10-09 resize

Eryngium yuccifolium – rattlesnake master – a tea made from its roots is reputed to be an antidote for snake venom; not sure I would trust that. Its flowers attract a myriad of insects.

 

All of the above are herbaceous perennials, but many trees and shrubs provide food for pollinators, too. Below is a bumble on her way to becoming drunk from the flowers of a littleleaf linden tree – Tilia cordata.

bee on Tilia flower Holden 6-25-09 resize

Wishing you awe in the garden!!!

Eryngium yuccifolium Knapke 8-10-09 resize 2

 

 

Asters, Sages & Milkweeds, Oh, My (I)

Pollinators and Plants for Pollinator-Friendly Gardens – Part 1

By Debra Knapke
Pollinators and plants: a beautiful symbiotic relationship that is usually mutually beneficial.  A plant gets to propagate itself, while the pollinator gets food. We’ve always known that these relationships exist, but there are threats that are interfering with plant and pollinator interactions. Global Climate Change, habitat reduction, and pesticide use are just a few.
We can be part of the solution. Resist using pesticides in the garden and let the “good” bugs have a chance to eat the “bad” bugs. Buy more plants and create pollinator habitats in your garden.
In order to choose which plants, you need to know who you are inviting in.
Meet the pollinators:
Bees
In the June/July 2016 National Wildlife magazine it was reported that bees contribute $300 billion toward global agricultural systems.  We are fortunate to have a diverse group of native bees in the Midwest. If you are interested in learning more about identification and good landscape practices for supporting our native bees, check out the resources at the Ohio State University Bee Lab website.
The non-native, but very important honeybee will benefit from the same plants and practices that you would use for our native bees.  This is a case where native/non-native is a non-issue. Both native and non-native bees are essential to our well-being.
bumble on Consolida ambigua 6-25-06

Bumblebee on annual larkspur

Flies
Some of the bees you see are actually flies; often called Hover flies or Syrphid flies. A bonus of this pollinator group is that the larval stage is a voracious eater of aphids.

How can you tell bees and flies apart? A quick way is to note the number of wings: bees have two pairs; flies have one pair.

20160222_141610

Fly on witch hazel

Sometimes we do not give flies their due in the insect world. I would like to offer this thought: without a small tropical fly, we would not have chocolate.
Hummingbirds
This flying jewel is particularly fond of deep-throated flowers. They typically live in the Midwest from the beginning of April to the beginning of October. On their quest for nectar, they also transfer pollen between flowers.61006 050
Butterflies, Skippers and Moths
Monarchs have been the poster child for creating habitat for pollinators, but there are so many other butterflies, skippers and moths that benefit from a ready source of nectar and their required larval plants. Some pollinators are night visitors. A moon garden filled with night-blooming white and pale yellow flowered species offers food to night-flying moths.
IMG_0605
Asclepias curassavica with monarch larva 8-9-15

Asclepias curassavica — tropical milkweed — with monarch larvae

 

There are other pollinators, but this is not meant to be an exhaustive treatise. It is an introduction. Hopefully you will be intrigued enough to do some research of your own.
On Friday, look for my follow-up post on pollinators’ favorite plants.

Hello, Fall!

20140927_092612_AndroidLooking for some fall gardening inspiration?  Well, check out some of the season’s best posts on Heartland Gardening:

 

 

What is the last flower of spring?

lemon lilyBy Michael Leach

Poets and gardeners lament the last rose of summer. Even the horticulturally oblivious recognize the wistful symbolism of that flower.

But what of the last flower of spring? Who weeps for it?

Probably no one. But this lack of concern has nothing to do with callousness.

When spring finally becomes summer’s kaleidoscope of color, who cares about a single flower? For that matter, who can define the last flower of spring? Each garden has a unique plant population.

Then there’s the matter of defining the end of spring, a season that pays no attention to the grid of dates on the calendar we use to conveniently, if inaccurately, pinpoint its coming and going. People also “date” spring differently. Memorial Day marks spring’s passing for me, but the start of the school system’s summer vacation or an annual fishing trip marks the end of spring for others.

The last flower of spring could be a rose. Heritage roses, those flowers of legend, romance and centuries of garden use, tend to bloom with late spring flowers.

For me, the last flower of spring is a venerable  lemon lily. Perhaps the lemon-colored blooms or the citrus-like fragrance, that evokes spring in Florida’s orange country, inspired the common name.

This small day lily came from some ancestor’s garden ages past, along with peonies and garden phlox. My childhood memories have it blooming about the time of the late peonies, but memory is apparently faulty. The last peony had faded when the lemon lily began to perfume the air.

While I can’t give proper credit to its family source or common name (much less its botanical moniker), I can thank garden writer Diana Lockwood for keeping this charmer going.

 

She received hers as a passalong plant from my garden a few years ago. Eventually the mother plant vanished, as sometimes happens to the demure in my rather too effusive planting  style. When she learned of my loss, a start was provided. This spring it produced several flowers.

 

Lemon lily grows in substantial shade, receiving only four hours or so of direct sun daily. Once my plant grows a bit larger, a division will be placed in a brighter spot.

 

Meanwhile, another year must pass before the air is perfumed with little lemon lily blooms. Fortunately, an abundance of summer and fall flowers lies ahead making this symbolic end of spring easier to bear than that of summer.

 

Memorial Day bouquets

patriotic peony

For Memorial Day weekend, we’re reposting this 2013 essay by Michael Leach. We thank those who serve and continue to serve our country.  

I wonder how many people take family heirlooms to the cemetery on Memorial Day? These are blossoms from plants handed down from one generation to the next. Most gardens have such plants. Felder Rushing, a Mississippi gardener and writer, calls them pass-alongs.

Weather permitting, peonies were always among the Memorial Day bouquets for my family. At the family home place where I live, all of them came from my grandparents or great-grandparents. They readily shared these cast-iron standards along with garden phlox and iris, plants growing in my garden today.

Maybe that’s why I never feel lonely as I garden in blessed solitude. Memories return with the fragrance of the masses of sweet violets that grew so thickly around Auntie’s back door they perfumed the air and took away my breath. Dreams of tropical places enchanted me as a child, and so I was attracted to Grandpa’s yucca. I suppose the spiky leaves resembled some type of palm to a 10-year-old boy. I had to grow much taller before I could smell the sweetness of their satin white flowers, a much-anticipated annual event.

Unlike the yuccas, the peonies are slowly declining. Ever-increasing shade, a boon and bane, has nearly eliminated most of the 60 or so plants of perhaps a half-dozen varieties that graced beds and borders. I suppose no one needs that many reminders of long-gone contributors.

Besides these family treasures, my garden grows memories of other gardeners who shared columbines, brunneras, roses, wildflowers and day lilies. Even indoors heirlooms whisper old tales. My great-grandmother’s sprawling Christmas cactus blooms every year, usually starting in January. Such a lapse can be forgiven a grand dame who may be 100 or so.

Unlike funeral flowers, such plants make me smile. Perhaps because I remember the donors in their gardening years, active, yet at peace, working in their little Edens.

Garden Topics

%d bloggers like this: