Friday, April 3, 2015

Link roundup - coming out of winter

I went a few months without looking at this or any other plant blogs.  Here are some links of interest that I found when catching up.

Gardening info:
  • EPA says native plants save time and money (Although I would argue that I can still manage to turn it into a time consuming hobby!)
  • Spring garden care - I'm pleased to read that someone other than me is cutting back perennials this spring, since we did the environmentally responsible thing and didn't cut them in the fall when wildlife would benefit from their seeds.  It seems as though one must cut them eventually, if the garden is to avoid looking completely overgrown.
  • Connecting small beds into a larger bed for a more natural landscape - Ellen explains how this is more natural, beneficial for organisms, and easier to mow.
  • Winter annuals - Although the specific plants listed here mostly don't grow in Virginia, this is a nice reminder to watch for plants that sprout new, green growth in the winter.  That's a form of "visual interest" in the winter garden that isn't discussed in most articles.
Plant recommendations:
  • Native alternatives for spring flowering trees - There is a wide variety of beautiful trees on this list.  (Although it's written for Georgia, many are Virginia natives.)  Seriously, this gorgeous list is making me regret the space I've devoted to ornamental cherry trees.  I need to find room for more trees.
  • Red maples have a variety of wildlife benefits, and other maple species can be used for a wider range of fall colors.
  • Wild poinsettia - An attractive annual that's native to parts of Virginia, although I've never encountered it other than reading about it here
  • Spicebush - A versatile spring-flowering tree that makes red berries in the fall and serves as host plant for the spicebush swallowtail butterfly
  • Coral honeysuckle - This native vine has very striking red flowers.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Great plant recommendations

I have a huge pile of plant recommendations today.  (Do links come in piles?  Since these are all open in consecutive tabs in my browser, maybe it's more of a train.  Anyway...)  All these are Virginia natives except where noted.  Some are unusual and interesting looking.  Other than the partridge pea, they're all perennials, which can be handy for low maintenance landscaping.

  • Rattlesnake master - Despite having leaves like a yucca, rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium) is actually in the carrot family.  It has spherical flowers that turn into long lasting seed heads, so it provides visual interest for months.  I've found this at plant sales a couple times.  It will show up in the faux desert garden that I'm putting together.
  • Mountain mint - I knew mountain mints (genus Pycanthemum) were good plants, but here you can read about how attractive they are to pollinators.  To humans, they smell nice and minty, and they have long lasting silvery bracts--a color reminiscent of sage or lavender leaves.  Since half the plants I tried in the rose bed have died, I'm going to try mountain mint there as a ground cover.  They're supposed to spread readily (some say too readily).  I don't really believe the lore about strongly scented herbs repelling pests from roses, but we'll give it a try anyway.
  • Partridge pea - I don't know if anyone deliberately plants partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciculate, also called sensitive plant), but it's a fun native weed.  This is another plant that turns out to be more attractive to pollinators than I realized.  It grows well in abominable clay soil, such as the unamended soil in my yard.  If you run across it, try petting the leaves and watch them close up.
  • Rose mallow - This is our native hibiscus, Hibiscus moscheutos.  It has huge, showy flowers.  I've successfully grown it in a rain garden and in a standard flower bed that was well mulched to keep it moist.  In ideal conditions it can grow so tall that it falls over, so it might benefit from being staked or grown next to a fence.
  • St. John's wort - There are many species of St. John's wort (Hypericum genus), with over a dozen of them occurring in Virginia.  They have vivid yellow flowers.  The species discussed here, shrubby St. John's wort, is a small bush that grows well in rain gardens but can handle other conditions.  While we're talking about this genus, I'll mention St. Andrew's cross (Hypericum hypericoides), another nice weed that grows well in my abominable clay soil.
  • Finally, this post on Clay and Limestone lists several wildflowers that spread readily.  It's a Tennessee blog, but all except the Helianthus are also Virginia natives.  The Verbesina is biennial, but I think the others are perennial.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Corporate style planting

This bed reminds me of boring, corporate plantings that one sees in grocery store parking lots, but at least it's all native and is meant to be low maintenance.  See, I wasn't planning to have a bed here at all.  When we someday have the funds to build a garage, this patch will be run over in the construction process.  However, in the meantime we had problems with erosion because a gutter was overflowing here.  My husband requested bushes to help retain the soil.
Heuchera, heucherella, and inkberry hollies.
I didn't want to mess with anything complicated, so I did some research and settled on the Shamrock cultivar of inkberry holly (Ilex glabra).  Inkberry is a native holly.  The female plants make black colored berries in the fall.  Shamrock is a smaller cultivar, growing up to 4 feet tall, which I thought worked better with the size of my porch than the species would.  You can read more about it here.
Heucheras, inkberry hollies, and lyreleaf sage.
This was fine until my husband hit the new inkberries with the edger.  Then he requested mulch to delineate this area as a bed so he wouldn't kill the bushes.  Someday the bushes will grow to fill the bed, or, as I mentioned, the whole thing will be leveled by construction.  However, it looked too empty for now.  This was at the peak of summer heat, but I added some heucheras and a heucherella (a Heuchera/Tiarella hybrid--these and heucheras are trendy lately and easy to find in stores).  I also transplanted in some lyreleaf sage plants from the front bed, aka the lyreleaf sage nursery.  As you can see, I also did a border of concrete chunks.

The whole thing will be easy to maintain and easy to get rid of.  I'll need to deadhead the lyreleaf sage plants when they flower so the bed isn't overrun, and I'll pull weeds occasionally.  When we no longer need the bed, the heucheras will probably transplant readily.  I assume this because they're supposed to need dividing every few years anyhow.  I don't mind losing the lyreleaf sages because I can easily grow a million more.  I might lose the inkberries, but that will be it.

Yes, it's boring.  I suppose it demonstrates that one can do any landscaping style with native plants, including boring corporate plantings.  (Please keep in mind that this was an unplanned project that I had to do concurrently with building the rain garden, something that I did put a lot of time and design effort into.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Fall plant sales (and a few links)

We're heading into the season for fall plant sales.  There seem to be more native plant sales in the spring than the fall, but fall is a great time for planting, so it's worth seeking out a sale in your area.  I haven't done an exhaustive search, but here are some of the upcoming sales in Virginia.
In other news, here are a few links of interest.
  • Simply the best natives - Golden Alexander - This is a VA native plant that's supposed to be easy to grow.
  • More love for native vines - Includes recommendations for ornamental vines with various desirable properties.
  • OdonataCentral - Not plants, but you can find a list of Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) species occurring in your county.  Pretty cool!  There are supposed to be 20 species of them in my county.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Reduce, reuse, recycle

This isn't about native plants per se, but I've been posting about my front flower bed here, so I'll update you on one of the recent changes.

When preparing for the rain garden project, I wanted to start remedying storm water runoff as far uphill as possible.  On the shoulder of our driveway were several large patches of spilled concrete from when our house was built.  Concrete is presumably even less permeable to water than our native clay soil is, so the concrete had to go.  A sledgehammer and several hours of labor later, I had a large collection of concrete chunks.  I refused to pay to dispose of them, but the stack looked kind of like a rock wall, so that gave me an idea.
Spilled concrete--now broken into chunks and pulled up from the shoulder of my driveway.

I stacked some of the more uniformly sized concrete chunks two high, forming a small wall or border around my flower bed.  I made it undulate artistically.
Faux rock wall (made from recycled concrete chunks) as a flower bed border.

From a distance, one could easily mistake the concrete for rock.  Up close, it definitely looks like concrete.  So it's kind of redneck, but at least I'm not using old tires as planters.  The pieces aren't mortared together, so the top layer can get knocked off by the edger, but thus far it's been quick and easy to re-stack the few pieces that fall off.
Close-up of faux rock wall (recycled concrete chunks) around flower bed.

I've actually found the border helpful in garden design.  Now that I know the exact size and shape of the bed, I can better plan how to fill it.  My initial vision for the bed had straight edges, but adding the wiggles gives me some nice pockets of new space that can be filled with small plants.  I was able to rip out a lot of grass that turned out to be inside the bed.  Now when my husband mows the lawn, it's very clear which areas he's not supposed to cut.  (I'll say more about our mowing issues in a future post.)  The concrete isn't the most attractive border ever, but it was free and is useful in delineating the bed.  I can always spring for fancy stones later if I want.  Meanwhile, the concrete chunks can be easily moved if I decide the bed should be a different size or shape.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Link roundup - Small shrubs, small trees, and wood poppies

"Small" is the theme of recent blog posts I've encountered.  Are you looking for a small native shrub or tree, perhaps to encourage wildlife in a suburban garden?
  • Native shrubs for small gardens - This lists some smaller cultivars of US native shrubs.  Winterberry holly, ninebark, and Leucothoe are VA natives, and we also have various VA native blueberry and St. John's wort species.
  • 10 petite trees for your landscape:  Under 25 feet - Not cultivars, this time, but small tree species.  Red buckeye, painted buckeye, Canadian serviceberry, Eastern redbud, alternateleaf dogwood, silky dogwood, Carolina buckthorn, and American plum are all VA natives.  (Is anyone else amused that we are given the complete taxonomy for these species, starting with the fact that they are in the plant kingdom?)
  • Wood poppy - What a beautiful native woodland flower.  Brenda Clements Jones has successfully cultivated them.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Link roundup - Privacy screens and devil's walkingstick

Here are a couple more links of interest:
  • Privacy screening in your native plant garden - This post suggests some native evergreens that don't grow excessively large.
  • Giant flower, at last - I never thought of using devil's walkingstick as an ornamental near the house because it has some wicked thorns, but this person did.  As she points out, it does have an attractive flower.  Devil's walkingstick is blooming in my part of Virginia right now.  You'll see more from me about it in the future, including some pictures of the thorns.