November 24, 2015

Plant of the Month: The Cup Plant


What a difference a week makes! In my last post, we still hadn't had a killing frost. Then this past Friday, Nov. 20, we had a snowstorm that brought us about five inches of fresh white stuff.


The Marigolds are history now. It's weird to have a late frost and an early snow in the same season. But it is what it is.

So ... no more outdoor blooming plants around here until spring. There will be several months ahead to talk about winter, so I'm stepping back in time. My plant of the month for November is one that blooms in mid- to late summer.


The Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum) has a pretty, yellow Daisy-like flower. It's not a huge flower (about 3" in diameter).

silphium in landscape

But the plant itself is very large and tall (4 ft. to 10 ft.), towering over other plants in its native prairie habitat: from Ontario south to Georgia and west to the Dakotas and Oklahoma. Cup Plant is hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9.

silphium with grass

In fact, like the other Silphiums, including Prairie Dock (S. terebinthinaceum) and Compass Plant (S. laciniatum), Cup Plant even towers over the tall prairie grasses. Wholeleaf Rosinweed (S. integrifolium) is a bit shorter, at 2 ft. to 6 ft.

I've never tried this, but I'm thinking Cup Plant would work well along a tall wall, at the back of a garden bed. Cup Plant thrives in normal to wet garden soils, and will tolerate clay soil, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Once established, however, it has a high tolerance for drought, due to its long tap root, which can extend 12 ft. to 14 ft deep.

with woods

Being a prairie plant, it prefers full sun. But I've also often seen it growing at the edges of woodlands, in partial sun. This is one of the fishman's favorite plants. We frequently see Cup Plants along our hiking trails.


The fishman gets a kick out of the structure of the leaves, where they come together at the stem.

connate leaf bases that collect water
Photo by Vilseskogen via Creative Commons

They form cups that collect rain water, which attracts birds and pollinators.


Cup Plant provides special value to native bees and honey bees, and provides nesting materials/structure for native bees, according to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.


It has an "unstoppable urge to reproduce," describes The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. "They will pop up everywhere; very little care needed."

I know butterflies are attracted to Cup Plant--during one hike this past summer, we noticed Tiger Swallowtails all over it.











I'm linking this post to Gail's Wildflower Wednesday meme at Clay and Limestone and Diana's Dozens for Diana at Elephant's Eye on False Bay. Head on over to their blogs to learn more about wildflowers and unique plants from around the world.

Next up: the quarterly Garden Lessons Learned meme! What have you learned in your garden during the past few months? Donna at Gardens Eye View also hosts her companion Seasonal Celebrations meme. I hope you'll join us. You can share posts for both memes, or one post that covers both lessons and celebrations.

Happy Thanksgiving! Season's Greetings!

November 15, 2015

Notable November Blooms and Foliage

marigolds 2

For this month's Garden Bloggers Bloom Day and Foliage Follow-Up, it seems more important than ever to appreciate the small things--the little moments of beauty; the tiny, fighting plants blooming for the last time this season; the fascinating shades of foliage that will soon fade away.*

Believe it or not, a few plants are still blooming in my USDA zone 5 garden:

marigolds 1

Marigolds in a south-facing pot near the house.

lamium 2

Little purple/pink Lamiums snuggling under the mulch of Oak leaves.

lamium 1

And more Lamiums warming in the crevices of the rock wall.


A few double Impatiens in pots on the front porch.


And Fuchsias in hanging baskets.

I used no heroic measures to save these blooming plants, other than to water them. I figure when it's there time to go, I must accept it.


The arrangement I shared in my last post is slowly shriveling, but it's still a pleasant greeting by the back door.

While the stunning Maples, Ashes, Oaks, and other dramatic fall foliage trees have lost most of their leaves, bits of green, yellow, and other vibrant foliage remain.


I rescued most of the English Ivy and put it in pots in the sunroom for the winter. But a few of the outdoor sprigs still survive.


Wisteria leaves, though tattered and nibbled by insects, capture the afternoon light on the arbor.

viburnum berries

I realize this is a bloom day and foliage post, but the Cranberrybush Viburnum berries (V. opulus var. americanum) are so cheery this time of year.

viburnum leaf

As are the shrub's variegated leaves. It's hard to describe the color of the Viburnum's foliage as it captures the morning and the late-afternoon sunlight.


In fact, all the remaining foliage, like this Bugbane (Actaea racemosa), has a special glow in the waning hours.

I thought I'd share a series of three photos showing the backyard before, during, and after raking. The photo quality isn't great because I snapped them quickly as I was working, but it's interesting to see the progress.

leaf piles collage

Note: We don't discard our leaves. Many of them remain on the garden beds. But we do rake most of the leaves off the grass so we can push a mower through. We use some of the leaves for compost and transport some to the woods shown in the background, which is an extension of our property. Check out this article and this one on the merits of mowing, retaining, and using the leaves on your property.

How about you? What's blooming in your garden? Is the foliage still colorful? Check out Carol's Garden Bloggers Bloom Day and Pam's Foliage Follow-Up to learn more about what's happening in gardens around the world.

*Our thoughts and prayers are with recent victims of violence in various parts of the world.

November 09, 2015

Still Blooming and Filling Vases


I'm amazed I still have tropical flowers blooming in my USDA zone 5 garden. It appears predictions for this year's El NiƱo weather pattern are coming true for us here in the northern Midwest--a much warmer than normal autumn, a trend that could spill over into the winter.

We've flirted with frost again for the past few days, so before it happened, I clipped some flowers and foliage for a bouquet.

I tried something a little different for the vase this time.


I used potpourri that mirrors the colors of the flowers. The combination is a little bright and loud for an indoor arrangement, but I like the way it looks out on the porch.

Of course, I didn't want the potpourri to get wet, so I inserted a narrower glass inside an octagonal candy jar.


You can't see the glass pattern in the finished arrangement because it's mostly covered with potpourri and flowers. (Any glass, would do, this is just one I had available.)

I used wet floral foam at the bottom to help the flowers stand up a little more reliably. After filling the space between the glass and the jar with potpourri, and adding water to the glass, I added the cut flowers and foliage.

And then I simply used flowers and foliage still standing in my garden.


Zinnia elegans 'Cut and Come Again'


Various Marigolds (Tagetes spp.) that complement the Zinnias


Sedum spectabile 'Autumn Joy'

cosmos 2

Cosmos bipinnatus 'Versailles Mix'


and Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium).

I also included some elements I'd never used for cut arrangements in the past.


Lantana camara 'Blaze'


Fuchsia 'Marinka'

better boy

and a few stems from the remaining 'Better Boy' Tomatoes, which are much too small to eat and don't stand a chance of ripening. All three new elements seem to be holding up pretty well.


This image is a little harsh, with shadows. I snapped it right after preparing the arrangement, whereas the outdoor image (at the top) shows it a day later. Not much difference. The back porch this time of year is like a refrigerator--the perfect temperatures to keep flowers bright and fresh.

Today, I noticed a few more plants in the garden succumbed to the cold and the birdbath finally had a layer of ice on top. It appears the growing season in my garden is at an end. But this killing frost came about a month later than "normal."

Thanks to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for hosting the "In a Vase on Monday" meme. Check it out for more floral arranging inspiration.

cosmos 1

October 28, 2015

The Magic of Autumn Sunlight


Isn't it great to find a new "secret" place close to home? Last week, I discovered a lovely spot of earth, drenched in the oblique light of a mild autumn afternoon.

The temperature was pleasant (~74F/23C), the wind was calm ... and there it was--a beautiful wildflower garden by the lake. A bench encouraged me to contemplate the scene.

Most of the wildflowers had gone to seed, though some--"Asters," Susans, and Coneflowers--were still blooming. (We've flirted with frost around here, but many flowers remain even today.)

The light, sparkling on the lake and the fluffy seed heads, was stunning. I wish you could have been there.

solidago 2

symphyotricum 1


mix 4

solidago 1

mix 2


mix 3


symphyotricum 2

mix 1

I will return to this secret spot next season. I'd tell you where it is, but then it wouldn't be a secret anymore. ;)

Linking this post to Gail's Wildflower Wednesday over at Clay and Limestone. (Have I mentioned how much I admire this meme? Thanks, Gail.)

And I'll leave you with a Wednesday Vignette (thanks, Anna, for hosting). It's a view outside my front window yesterday, stylized because the photo quality wasn't great. (The colors are true to reality, but they're fading fast.)

autumn window