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.


  1. You are going to love comparing the amount of life you see on the native plants versus the non natives. It constantly amazes me to see the natives so chock full of all sorts of insects, which, as a major part of the food web, brings in so much more interesting wildlife .

  2. Yes, it will be interesting to see if my local wildlife can tell which plants are native. I was thrilled about the hummingbirds attracted to the cardinal flowers, but I don't yet have a sense of what the insects prefer.

  3. Forgive me if you already know this Leah - with few exceptions, the insects only eat native plants. The insects evolved with the natives over 1,000s of years. They don't even recognize non natives as food. 3 examples of 1,000s: a Monarch butterfly caterpillar, a Tiger swallowtail caterpillar, or a Polyphemus moth caterpillar WILL starve to death if you put it on something other than its native host plant. Must read: "Bringing Nature Home" by Doug Tallamy. He ties all that together scientifically. I'm looking forward to reading of your progress. Best - Hal

  4. Ah, got it. We were talking about two different things. I realize that many larvae are specialized to certain host plants. However, my impression is that pollinators/adult forms are a lot less specific about nectar. Thanks for the book recommendation!