Stories of Native Plants and Their Homeplaces

By Debra Knapke

Most discussions about native plants start with a definition, but not this one. Instead here are my thoughts of where native plants belong in our gardens.

First and foremost, native plants are organisms that have developed affinities for the soil, climate, moisture, and light quality of their homeplace. Plants have co-evolved with animals, fungi, and bacteria in places we call habitats. This is the basis of the oft recommended meme: right plant, right place.

If you know where a plant originates, you know what it needs. Some plants must have the conditions of their homeplace, while others can adapt to a wider range of environments. Consider the Lakeside daisy (Tetraneuris herbacea).

Lakeside daisy in Alvar region garden at Heritage Garden at Ohio Governor’s Residence

Its homeplace is only one location in the world: growing in full sun in the cracks of exposed limestone bedrock on the Marblehead peninsula in northwest Ohio and on Kelley’s Island in Lake Erie. The only way that it can be grown at the Heritage Garden at the Ohio Governor’s Residence is in the crevices of a transplanted limestone slab and in limestone gravel. If you think you will be able to grow a Lakeside daisy in your clay soil, you will be deeply disappointed.

Contrast the narrow tolerance of Lakeside daisy with the exuberant dance of the celandine or wood poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum). I have not attempted to count the number of seeds that one plant can disperse, but my original plant has multiplied into hundreds. While celandine poppy prefers shady conditions and moist, humus-enriched soil, it has seeded into sunny, drier locations in my garden. The trade-off is that the plants in dry, sunnier areas are smaller and seem to make less seed.

Celandine poppy likes to spread, but its cheery yellow flowers are like drops of sunshine.

So… if you have a newly built home, which of the two above plants has a better chance at success?

But even the celandine poppy will have issues with the typical soil that is left when a home is built. Be prepared to spend some time healing damaged soil with compost and recreating the habitat that was.

All plants have developed amazing mechanisms for being pollinated and then getting their seed dispersed.

Our native toadshade or sessile trillium (Trillium sessile) beckons to native beetles and flies who are attracted to what we would consider an off, rotten smell. The reward for the beetles and flies is pollen. The reward for the trillium is pollination.

 Toadshade with ramps in my garden
 The native plant of Ohio is the beautiful large-flowered trillium (Trillium grandiflorum). The pink tinge on the petals indicates that these flowers have been pollinated.

The seed dispersal mechanism – for all trillium – also involves a food enticement. Each seed has a fleshy appendage – an elaisome – that is prime food for ants. The seeds are carried to the community, the elaisome is removed and stored, and the seed is discarded outside the anthill. This is important for two reasons: removing the elaisome also removes a dormancy requirement, and the discarded seed is in new territory, which will have less root competition from the mother plant and may contain more nutrients.

Many of our native plants have cousins who live in similar habitats but in different parts of the world. We may struggle with the idea of whether or not we should plant the native or the possibly more spectacular non-native plant.

Our diminutive Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) may seem to pale in contrast with the showy Japanese native bleeding heart (Lamprocampnos spectabilis), but each has its own charm and have more similarities than differences in their life stories. Both are spring ephemerals and disappear when dry, hot summer approaches. Both are pollinated by long-tongued bees and both offer ants tasty elaisomes in exchange for moving the seeds around.

But there is the question: does a native plant offer better food to native bees and other native pollinators? Research is being conducted to answer this question at Mt. Cuba, Cornell University, and other botanical gardens and universities. Can’t wait for the answers . . .

At 6-8″ tall and wide, Dutchman’s breeches is more effective when planted in groups.
Goldheart bleeding heart is a golden beacon in the garden. Its larger size, two to four feet tall and wide, allows it to stand alone in the garden as a specimen plant.

As we end Native Plant month, we all know that a commitment to the environment and nature is a year-round effort, but it has been a good exercise to focus on these wonderful plants for this time.

I leave you with the beautiful native blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia verna), a plant that I want in my garden, but she is picky about her homeplace. After years of developing an area for shyer native plants, I just might be close.

‘Wishing you good health and love!

So Many Reasons to Plant Trees

By Michael Leach

The mention of Arbor Day brings visions of shovels, holes and little sticks with balls of soil at their bases.

Trees are planted for many reasons. But they do more than provide lumber or counter climate change by reducing atmospheric carbon and the heat island effect. They also offer food and shelter to birds and a host of other animals. Sometimes trees become part of local history, childhood memories, voices in the wind or heirlooms. This is the story of five sugar maples.

Perhaps it was Arbor Day in 1912 when the spindly plants were dug from a woods less than a mile from the front lawn of a small Victorian farm house, which was a mere 22 years old. Four of them were transplanted along the country road, the fifth near the house.

The Titanic sank in 1912. It was two years before the start of the butchery of World War I,  and a decade prior to the publishing of  F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book, Tales of the Jazz Age that helped define the 1920s.

Frivolity and bathtub gin gave way to the Great Depression decade. In 1939 The Wizard of Oz was released to sing and dance its way into the fabric of American life. Then came the horrors of World War II. 

By late1952 the first  hydrogen bomb was tested, prosperity raged in America. Tiny-screen televisions mesmerized millions with their  black-and-white images. The road in front the now dilapidated frame house was no longer rutted dirt, but shiny black asphalt. The maples, meanwhile, had grown and thrived. 

Their tops were well above the story-and-a-half house, when two small children, a girl and boy, moved there in 1952. With their mother’s help, they quickly learned to climb a fat-branched apple tree. After a year or so, they were tall enough to scale the nearby sugar maple. It was the tallest and closest to the house. Their mother was ok with them climbing trees, but not playing near the road, which carried more cars every year.

Fast forward another half century. Space travel was ho-hum, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan underway and the little girl’s children were graduating from college. They had grown up far away and had few chances to climb trees, certainly none like the maples. The traffic on the road was almost constant. Semi trucks increasingly rumbled by, hundreds of motorcycles growled on balmy weekends of spring and autumn. The woods where the trees sprouted became a housing tract and only a few gnarly giants remained. 

It was about this time the maples began receiving regular visits from an arborist, because they are not good street trees. Corrective pruning, cabling to help them weather storms, and regular fertilizing became standard care. Despite the remnant of a hurricane, ice storms, droughts and deluges, the trees continued to grow, but less vigorously. Yet their autumn show of golden leaves rivaled the effects of peacocks when it came to  dropping jaws. 

The trees continued filling their various roles, plus they shaded pedestrians and a swath of pavement. They were a source of free mulch when those glorious leaves fell.

About five years ago the tallest and most beloved maple was diagnosed with a rotten center. It  was a threat to the nearby house and the front porch, where the children’s mother had come out to look up into the dense, green cloud and shout, “Kids, supper’s ready. Come on in.”

All that remains from of a beloved sugar maple.

All those years disappeared in three hours. Only scattered sawdust and a smooth, flat shelf of wood at ground level remained. Last fall, the second of the “hospice” maples, as the arborist described them, was cut down. During its last three or four years, this tree displayed ominous signs: little if any new growth, early coloration and leaf loss in fall, and a shower of dead branches and twigs after every wind storm.

Sugar maple blossoms add beauty to the spring scene.

Because the maples are profligates when it comes to seeds, a few sprouted and quickly grew in the landscape beds. The next generation was well underway when the boy, following in the footsteps of his great uncles, transplanted a spindly maple to mark his college graduation in 1970.  Every autumn it puts on a show and then carpets the ground with brilliant leaves.

No wonder some wise people created Arbor Day to celebrate and plant trees. 

Natives and Beyond

Discover Nativar Plants to Bring Beauty and Eco-Benefits to Your Backyard

By Teresa Woodard

Flopping grasses, no-show flowers and unruly plants. Many home gardeners say “no thanks” to such “wild” native plants for these reasons and others.  But, thanks to the flourishing native plant movement, the market has responded with a new and improved plant palette of “nativars.” It’s an industry buzzword for selected, hybridized, or crossbred varieties of native plants that offer more compact sizes, cleaner foliage, better color, or tidier appearance especially for home landscapes.

‘Standing Ovation’ little bluestem and ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ coneflowers at Kingwood Center in Mansfield, Ohio.

Nativars like ‘Standing Ovation’ little bluestem or ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ coneflower offer many of the eco-benefits of their straight-species cousins but also behave and show better in the home landscape.

A bonus is these nativars are more widely available through garden centers and big box stores, unlike native plants that are often exclusively sold through specialty growers or occasional native plant sales.

Planting more nativars would seem to be a plus for pollinators, but some purists challenge nativars don’t equally benefit insects and birds like straight-species natives. Research shows not all nativars are equally beneficial when it comes to pollinator appeal. For example, a change in leaf color or flower shape may dissuade pollinators. Several trial gardens across the country are taking a closer look.

Phlox paniculata ‘Jeana’ (Photo by Mt. Cuba Center)

At Mount Cuba Center in Hockessin, Delaware, the botanical garden’s team trialed 66 varieties of garden phlox (Phlox paniculata which is native to much of eastern United States) and found  the mildew-resistant nativar Phlox paniculata ‘Jeana’ was a winner with 530 butterfly visits. They also trialed 40 monarda selections and named two nativar winners — Monarda fistulosa ‘Claire Grace’ and Monarda didyma ‘Jacob Cline.’ For a complete list, see https://mtcubacenter.org/research/trial-garden/ Other nativar pollinator plant trials include Penn State, Chicago Botanic Gardens and Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens.

The bottom line for me is nativars are making a positive impact for their beauty, ease of care, accessibility and ecological integrity. And, the more variety of natives and nativars we can bring to our backyards, the better. So, when shopping for new plants this spring, give nativars a try. Plant a few (see 10 perennial favorites below), run your own experiments and watch to see if pollinators show up. Even consider sharing your results with the Chicago Botanic Garden’s BudBurst citizen science research project.

  • Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium ‘Standing Ovation’)
  • Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’, Cheyenne Spirit’ and ‘Ruby Star’)
  • Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium dubium ‘Baby Joe’)
  • Giant hyssop (Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’)
  • Aster (Symphyotrichum ‘October Skies’)  
  • Garden phlox (Phlox paniculata ‘Jeana’)
  • Beebalm (Monarda ‘Jacob Cline’)
  • Goldenrod (Solidago rugosa `Fireworks’)
  • False indigo (Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’)
  • Penstemon (Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’)

For more ideas, see “All About Our Native Plants” at Proven Winners.

Green And Beyond

Bloggers share favorite colors in the garden

By Debra Knapke, Michael Leach and Teresa Woodard

Green for Debra:

What do my car, the accent walls in my house, the wallpaper in the dining area, and most of my clothes have in common? The tints, tones and shades of green. 

A harmonious vignette in green

Pre-mid-80s, my favorite color flipped between blue (main high school color) and red (OH-IO!).  But as gardening became the way for me to find that calm place in a busy life filled with young children and my job, I found myself drawn to green. I didn’t notice it at first, but I remember the day I looked at my closet and realized that red and blue had given way to green accessorized with brown and purple.

In April, these native plants begin to cover the ground in my small wooded area; wild ginger, goldenseal, and waterleaf.

Green is the color of life: renewal, growth, nature, and energy. For many, it symbolizes harmony, fertility and the environment. Traditionally, green is the color of money – in the US – and envy!

Wishing you harmony and growth.

Yellow for Michael:

Children’s drawings almost always show the sun as a yellow circle, usually with straight lines for rays shining in all directions. As a child this was my go-to symbol for sunshine, which somehow connoted happiness, too.

Maybe that’s because one of the earliest memories in the garden involves yellow crocus. Mother’s plump yellow crocus flowers were a symbol that the stifling house arrest of dreary, winter and the endless weeks of too-cold-to-play-outside were ending. The bees sought  the crocus blossoms, too. They clambered inside the flowers until it looked as if they wore bulging bloomers of orange pollen.

No wonder Mother, my sister and I looked so intently for those first signs of the needle-like green tips of crocus. Only Ponce de Leon’s passion for the mythical fountain of youth excelled ours. Next came frequent checks for signs of buds. At last the flowers, always gone too quickly. Eventually daffodils, iris, sunflowers and mums were added to Mother’s flower beds. Sunshine bloomed almost everyday from spring into autumn.

Yellow holds the top spot on my color popularity chart, but just a fraction below is lavender and then pink. My garden color scheme is the three primary colors, but in pastels. (Even yellow is best as butter, not taxi cab.) 

The solar connection to yellow is probably why I had the house painted “jonquil” a few years ago. No matter how gloomy the Midwest weather, there’s always sunshine and spring’s promise waiting outside.

Red for Teresa

Yes, red is my favorite color. I first embraced its boldness as a rebellious teenager trying to make a statement.  I regularly sported crimson shoes and chose ‘Laser Red’ for my first car. I accumulated a closet of all things red, and slowly learned too much of this intense color can overwhelm. Could ‘less is more’ apply to my favorite color?

Later as I began gardening, I discovered the power of red in small doses – a pot of red begonias on the front porch, red tulips planted along a walkway with grape hyacinth, and ‘Lucifer’ crocosmia tucked in a perennial border. For winter interest, I added red-twig dogwoods and red-fruited hollies.  For Mother’s Day, I was thoughtfully gifted with various red roses but never became a fan for their high maintenance and nasty thorns. Tucked away in my cutting garden, I finally realized I could defiantly break the ‘less is more’ rule and plant with abandon red zinnias, gladiolas and cockscomb.

More Colors

What are your favorite colors in the garden? For more inspiration, check out these books on garden color.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

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