Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fall fruits and berries

The blog "Using Georgia Native Plants" has a recent post on plants with fall fruits and berries.  Most of these are also native to Virginia.  I have a post coming up with more information about beautyberry, just as soon as I download the photos from my camera.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A native shade garden

Adams Garden native plant blog has a new entry on replacing English ivy with natives in a shady corner.  They've included a couple goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus) for early summer flowers, but this corner will be most interesting in the fall.  As a ground cover they planted jumpseed (Polygonum virginianum), an annual that flowers in late summer and fall.  The focal point is a strawberry bush (Euonymus americanus), which has showy fruits in the fall.  I don't own a picture of this, so if you've never seen it, click through and take a look.  There's nothing else like it.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Filling in the gaps

I noticed last month that nothing was flowering in my front flower bed, so that had to change.  The eventual goal for this bed is to create a cottage style garden with year round interest using a mix of native and non-invasive introduced species.  You'll see in the before and after pictures that there's not a huge difference, but it's a step in the right direction.  Please excuse my unmown grass.  Anyway, the purple heucheras have been joined by native green heucheras (supposedly Heuchera americana and Heuchera villosa, though I'm not sure if they were labeled correctly at the plant sale).  One of them is currently flowering, which is nice.  I look forward to seeing whether the foliage turns color this fall or whether they stay green through the winter.
Front flower bed before adding new plants.

Front flower bed after adding new plants.

I also added a couple native goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus) in the back, but you can't see them.  They will be joined by some non-native astilbe with a similar growth pattern and flowering season.  The tallest of the new plants is an ironweed, which is done flowering for now but next year will be good for late summer flowers.

The low green rosettes are lobelias, both cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) and great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica).  My previous lone cardinal flower did very well this year, attracting hummingbirds and making a long stalk of seedpods, so I planted some more of them.

Now with more lobelias.
The most striking of the new plants is blue mistflower or wild ageratum (Conoclinium coelestinum).  Although this picture was taken a couple weeks ago, it's still flowering in mid-October.
Blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum)
Blue mistflower is a native perennial that has a showy blue-purple flower in the fall.  I've seen a lot of them by the roadsides, contrasting nicely with the yellows of the goldenrods and asters.  It's supposed to spread quickly, so I hope I'm justified in planting only one for now.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Asters versus mums

Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens has a nice post on asters versus mums.  Asters can be tall and leggy, but the post has suggestions for smaller species and cultivars.  All the species mentioned are native to Virginia.

Personally, I find the high density of blooms and fall toned colors of mums unnatural and off-putting, though they do have a more natural growth pattern in subsequent years if you grow them as perennials.  Since I seem to be aiming for a natural aesthetic, it sounds like I should switch to asters.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Plant sales are the way to go

Last week I attended my first plant sale, held at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond.  They hold these every spring and fall.  I was impressed by how easy it was to purchase native plants.  For convenience, this certainly beats growing everything myself from seeds that I've scavenged.  There were a couple dozen vendors, about two of which specialized in native plants, but many of which carried a mix of natives and non-natives.

The haul:  Plants from the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden fall plant sale.
For about $120, I purchased the plants pictured here (no, not the holly or pine tree), plus a packet of daffodil bulbs.  The majority are native perennials.  I wouldn't outfit an entire large garden this way, but since I could spend this amount on a similar number of non-native perennials from Lowe's, it was a reasonably economical choice.

Here are a few tips based on my experience:
  • Know what you want.  The time I spent on the internet planning and drooling over interesting plants was not actually wasted, since I found most of the things I wanted.  Without a plan for my garden's next steps, I would have been overwhelmed by the selection and had difficulty deciding which were worthwhile purchases.
  • Arrive early in the sale.  A passerby told me that all the "good stuff" would be gone by the end of the day.
  • Realize that plants can be mislabeled.  This goes back to knowing what you want.  A few things were being sold as natives even though they weren't, and a couple of the plants I bought were labeled with the correct genus but incorrect species.  I knew ahead of time that I wanted a solid green Heuchera and didn't have a strong preference for which variety, so I'm not too upset that the Heuchera americana I bought turns out to be probably Heuchera villosa.
Now that I've seen how convenient plant sales are, I'll keep an eye out for them.  Tomorrow I'm going to the Williamsburg Botanical Garden plant sale, which I think should have some native plants.  This page lists several other fall plant sales around the state.