September 21, 2022

A Passion for Experiments

first view

It's fun to grow new plants, and it's especially fun to compare different methods, settings, and conditions for the same plant. Last year, I started several Purple Passion Flower plants (Passiflora incarnata) from seed. This plant is native just to the south of us in Central Illinois and throughout the Southeast U.S.

The seeds grew well last year, and they came back this past spring. But I didn't see any flowers...

Until a couple of weeks ago! I was adjusting something above the potted plant when I saw the first flower. What a sweet surprise!


Next, I realized there were several additional buds, and it's been a joy to see them all bloom in succession.

potted plant

Here are the pot and the trellis the flowering plants are growing on. They spent the winter indoors in the sunroom, going nearly dormant and then popping back in the spring. They really took off when I put them out on the front porch facing the afternoon sun.

trellis vines

I also planted some vines in the soil on the west side of the house. They came back even stronger, but they haven't flowered. Maybe next summer? I covered these plants in the soil with heavy mulch for winter, since we're USDA zone 5--borderline for winter survival of this plant. This is probably the warmest spot in my garden, getting sun and heat from the house throughout the entire year.

It's been a fun experiment to compare the potted plants with the outdoor garden plants. I hope they'll all survive and thrive next year, too. Will they fruit?

pollinator 1

I've noticed a few pollinators on them, and apparently P. incarnata plants are self-fertile, meaning they don't need a partner plant to be pollinated and bear fruit.

pollinator 3

It's so entertaining to watch the pollinators move among the dramatic stigmas and anthers and other flower parts.

pollinator 2

Passion Flowers are so beautiful and so unique.


Every part of this plant is beautiful--from the foliage to the flowers to the sweet tendrils that wrap around the supports and curl around each other. New adventures with plants are so gratifying!

September 12, 2022

A Little Blue Magic


There's something about the cornflower/periwinkle blue of Prairie Gentian (Gentiana puberulenta) that pleases my eye. It's particularly pleasant in late summer and early autumn when the natural landscape is more dominated by the deep yellows of the various goldenrods and sunflowers (which I also love). It provides a little complementary pop of color.

buds and blooms

Lately, when hiking at my favorite prairie areas, I've noticed quite a few clumps of this magical little plant. Whether budding or blooming, it adds a touch of surprise and grace to the understory of the tall grasses and prairie plants.

Another common name is Downy Gentian, which is an apt description of this gentle plant, too. It's native to most of northern and central U.S., and a rarer find in parts of the east and south. I'm so thankful it's common here this time of year, although it takes a bit of hunting sometimes to find and notice the foot-tall plant among the much taller prairie plants.

For those who want to add it to their gardens, it grows well in sun and part shade, which makes sense based on its native habitat. I haven't had success trying to start it from seed in my garden, but I think I have too much shade.


In the budding stage, the flowers are so graceful and inviting. Curly and enveloping, they elicit the feeling of a light summer blanket.


And when the buds open, the stripes inside the petals offer added vibrance. It's fun to find pollinators inside, as with this photo I captured a couple of years ago.

flower details

Such a beautiful flower, both inside and out, and I'm happy it blooms around here for a few weeks this time of year.

August 31, 2022

Wordless Wednesday: Late August Fen

late summer with insets
Late August Fen
[Insets, L to R: Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum),
Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica), Sweet Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia subtomentosa)]

midsummer insets
July Fen
[Insets, L to R: Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), Sawtooth Sunflower (Helianthus grosseserratus),
Virginia Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum), Prairie Blazing Star (Liatris pycnostachya)]

spring insets
May Fen
[Insets, L to R: Wood Betony (Pedicularis canadensis), Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana), Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea)]

January Fen

August 24, 2022

Wild Senna for Wildflower Wednesday


It's Wildflower Wednesday--the fourth Wednesday of the month--when gardeners around the world share information about some of their favorite wildflowers. This month, my pick is Wild Senna (S. hebecarpa).

As the ferns begin to senesce, and the brown and mustard shades of foliage begin to settle into the back garden, the Wild Senna brightens the landscape. This plant is definitely the focal point this time of year, under the central Oak and framed by the ferns, the Pachysandra, and the potted Oxalis 'Zinfandel' (O. vulcanicola), and Fuchsia 'Autumnale.'

flowers and buds

The buds are bright (this photo was taken about a week ago), and the flowers of Wild Senna are buttery yellow, open, and inviting to pollinators. Later in the season, the seedpods form, which I'll try to remember to highlight in a future post.


Some of the benefits of this plant, in addition to its beauty:
  • I almost always find bumblebees enjoying its pollen and nectar;
  • It seems to be rabbit-resistant, unlike so many native plants I've tried to establish in this shady garden;
  • It's hardy in USDA garden zones 4 to 8.
  • Some sources say it needs full sun, but it's thriving here in dappled shade, with late afternoon sun;
  • It stands tall, providing an anchor to the plants around it;
  • A horizontal root system protects it from heavy wind damage;
  • It's a host plant for various sulphur butterflies and other species; and
  • It attracts hummingbirds.

I could go on; I really enjoy and appreciate this plant, especially this time of year.


Actually, I enjoy it for most of the mid to late growing season, as the foliage of Wild Senna is nearly as fun as the flowers.


It's a great native plant to add to just about any Eastern North American garden. Its range extends from Ontario east to Maine, and south from Alabama through Georgia and the Carolinas. It's a bright spot, even in partial shade, in the late-summer landscape.

Thanks to Gail at Clay and Limestone for hosting Wildflower Wednesday. Head on over to her blog to learn about wildflowers from around the world.