Monday, April 21, 2014

Aftermath of winter

Now that spring has come, I'm resurrecting the plant blog.  Here's how my front bed, which is supposed to be a mix of natives and nonnatives, looked about a week ago.  I'd say it's a strong argument in favor of native plants.
Front bed after the winter.  The gardenias were hard hit by the cold temperatures.
The dead bushes are special varieties of gardenias that were supposed to be hardy in this zone, but they were badly damaged by the winter.  (Well, first they were gnawed on by deer.)  I'll give them a growing season to recover, but I expect they'll need to be replaced.  At this point I'm leaning toward natives that are toxic and/or thorny to deter deer.  My little tea olive tree (Osmanthus sp., not shown) also looks dead.  This felt like the coldest winter in Virginia in at least 20 years, so probably I shouldn't be surprised to lose plants that are just barely hardy in this zone.  Native plants, on the other hand, have survived here for hundreds or thousands of years, so they can handle the cold.
Nonnative bleedingheart starting to flower, and native lyreleaf sage spreading like crazy.
The Dicentra, I regret to admit, was a nonnative impulse buy from Lowe's.  In retrospect, I wish I'd waited for one of the eastern native species, D. canadensis (squirrel corn), D. cucullaria (Dutchman's breeches), or D. eximia (fringed bleedinghearts), which probably would have done fine in this location.

The low, green rosettes are lyreleaf sage, a native Salvia.  They have spread like crazy via seeds.  I had just two plants a year ago, believe it or not, and this picture is after I've already dug up some of the babies!  They're too aggressive and weedy for this location, so I will soon transplant them all to a location that needs some help with erosion control.  What shall I replace them with?

I'm pleased that my Heucheras (the purple varieties and the native green ones) are sending up new growth.  They were also eaten by deer, but you can hardly tell now.
Bluebells and heucheras.
I'm thrilled with the bluebells (Mertensia virginica).  They're so pretty, and even the one I accidentally dug up has returned this year.  Also, they must have gone to seed last spring, since in the past couple days I'm finding tiny bluebell sprouts.
Bluebells:  Delicate, ephemeral, and absolutely perfect.
I'll leave you with some pictures of other plants that are sending up leaves, a promise of good things to come.
Lobelias (L. cardinalis and L. siphilitica).  These keep their leaves and photosynthesize throughout winter, so it's important not to let them get buried by fallen leaves.  Now they have new spring growth and will soon send up flowering stalks.  [Edited to add:  The topmost and rightmost plants turn out not to be L. siphilitica, even though they were sold to me as such at a plant sale.  When they started sending out runners and then flowered, I IDed them as bugleweed (Ajuga reptans), which the VA Dept. of Conservation and Recreation lists as "occasionally invasive."  I have since removed them and replaced them with actual lobelias from yet another plant sale.]

Blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinium)--the little shoots, not the nonnative bulb plant.  This seems to have spread slightly via roots since last year, or else it dropped its seeds in a very localized patch.

I think that two of these are native Aruncus dioicus (goat's beard) and two are nonnative astilbe.  However, I don't recall which is which.

Spiderworts (Tradescantia sp.)
Soon to come:  I will build a border around this bed so I know how much space I have to work with.  I think that will help a lot with finalizing the design.  Maybe I'll actually finish mulching it, too.

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