September 27, 2016

Plant of the Month: Zigzag Goldenrod


Goldenrods (Solidago spp.) are among the best nectar sources for supporting late-season native bees and migrating butterflies like the Monarch, according to The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.


If you have a shady garden as I do, the choices within this genus are somewhat limited. But one of the Goldenrods that performs well in partial shade, and even in heavy shade, is Zigzag Goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis), also known by the nickname Broadleaf Goldenrod. It also tolerates sunny locations. It's a sweet little bloomer in addition to helping the pollinators.

trellis 2

Just as the Coneflowers, Joe Pyes, and other summer bloomers fade, Zigzag Goldenrod shares its bright, yellow flowers. My patch is blooming against a trellis, filling in an area where Foxglove was the focal point during the early summer.

blooms & foliage

Zigzag Goldenrod is native to most of Eastern North America, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. It prefers moist, woodland soils, but when established will tolerate some drought. Other plant characteristics include:

  • Height and spread: 1 ft. to 4 ft.;
  • USDA hardiness zones 3 to 8;
  • Propagates by self-seeding and rhizomes;
  • Prefers medium moisture and soil, but tolerates a range of soils and precipitation; and
  • Distinguished by zigzag stems and toothed, broad leaves.


On the day I took most of these photos the wind was strong, so the bees weren't landing much. But I did see quite a few insects on the plants--spiders, ants, and beetles of various types.

cucumber beetle

I think this is a Striped Cucumber Beetle--not a friend of the vegetable gardener. Fortunately, no veggies are located in this part of the garden, and the beetles didn't appear to be damaging the flowers. Maybe that's a good technique--plant the Goldenrod outside the vegetable garden to attract the beetles away from your edibles. Just a thought?


I also like the appearance when the flowers begin to fade--the seedheads are fluffy and attractive.

flower stem

Zigzag Goldenrod has been in my garden for only a few years, but it's earned my admiration and respect for its beauty and functionality in the autumn landscape.

(I'm linking this post to Wildflower Wednesday.)

September 14, 2016

Plant Combinations on the Cusp

coleus pot

There's a definite essence of "transition" in the air this week. It's apparent in the shorter day length, the animal behaviors, the cooler weather here in the Upper Midwest.

Despite unusually plentiful rainfall for this time of year, many plants are senescing--deteriorating, browning, going dormant. It's happening to Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), Ostrich Ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris), Spotted Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis), and many others.

Most of the area's common deciduous trees--Maples, Oaks, Hickories--are still green, but one senses they're on the cusp of tumbling into their colorful autumn display.

Today is Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day and tomorrow is Foliage Follow-Up: I'm participating in both memes with observations about a few pleasant plant combinations on the cusp of two seasons. Some combos were planned; others were pleasant surprises.

oxalis mix
Purple Shamrock (Oxalis triangularis), 'Wizard Pineapple' Coleus (Solenostemon scutellariodes), Variegated English Ivy (Hedera helix), 'Cathedral Sky Blue' Salvia (S. farinacea

Zigzag Goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis) framed by Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum)

Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum) with Zigzag Goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis) along the trellis

sedum & mistflower
'Autumn Joy' Sedum (S. spectabile) framed by Blue and White 'Alba' Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum)

zinnia & cosmos
'Zowie! Yellow Flame' Zinnia (Z. elegans) with 'Sensation Mix' Cosmos (C. bipinnatus) and Lantanas

scarlet runner bean & wisteria
Scarlet Runner Bean (Phaseolus coccineus) meeting American Wisteria (W. frutescens) on the arbor, even though neither is blooming

hosta & epimedium
Unknown Hosta with gold-green margins paired with Epimedium x warleyense

hosta flower & ferns
Hosta of the Equinox (H. aequinoctiiantha) framed by golden, fading ferns

How about you? What's blooming in your garden? What foliage combinations are you liking?

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day
Foliage Follow-Up

* * * * * * * * * * * *

It's not too late to join in the "Garden Lessons Learned" meme. Simply write a post or share one you've already written about lessons you've learned during the past season. Then share your links or observations to the comments at this previous post or through the "Lessons Learned" tab at the top of this blog. I'll share "lessons learned" posts on the PlantPostings Facebook Page closer to the equinox.

September 09, 2016

A Twin Cities Fling: Part III

1 conservatory

At this summer's Garden Bloggers' Fling, each day built on the last, with surprises around every corner and at every destination. (See day one summary here and day two summary here.) We spent day three primarily in St. Paul, ending with our final garden in the "wilds of Wisconsin."

Our first stop was the Como Park Japanese Garden and Conservatory, described by Fling organizers as the "go-to refuge from the winter cold" for Twin Cities residents.

2 bonsai

An impressive bonsai collection greeted us near the entrance. While I don't practice bonsai, the displays always capture my curiosity. How do they do this so well?

3 sign

Como Park also has an impressive Japanese garden. The City of Nagasaki presented St. Paul with plans for the garden in 1977, to honor the bond the two cities forged in 1955, becoming the first sister-city partnership established between an Asian and an American city. (Click on the photo to read more about it.)

4 conservatory

Quite an impressive conservatory: The 64-foot crystal dome houses more than 150 tropical palms and cycad species.

5 reflecting ponds

On our way in and out of Como Park, we were captivated by the water plants and magic of the reflecting pond. Every angle provided a new view.

Next, we headed to the home of garden writer Marge Hols, which is about two blocks from Minnesota's Governor's Mansion.

6 hols garden

The fencing and gardens at the entrance complemented the architecture of this stately home.

7 obelisk

Marge's was a comfortable garden, with artfully placed obelisks, trellises, and plantings. Bee Balms (Monarda spp.) were in full bloom during the Fling, adding color and character.

8 path

I enjoyed this path that combined attractive flagstones with mixed plantings of low-growing ground covers.

9 fence line

Plantings along a metal fence spilled through on both sides--a simple but beautiful effect.

Next, we headed for Lee and Jerry Shannon's garden, named one of the five best gardens in the Twin Cities.

10 shannon garden

An urban garden that looked like a typical bungalow from the front, the Shannon's garden featured countless little treasures in a "secret" garden in the back--two-thirds of an acre filled with whimsical decorations, amazing plants, and creative touches.

11 lilies

It was impossible to ignore this orange Oriental Lily and purple Penstemon pairing.

12 alliums

As always, the 'Summer Beauty' Alliums were a hit with gardeners and pollinators, alike.

13 peppers

It was nice to see colorful peppers used as ornamentals and edibles.

14 hypertufa

The Shannons shared their unique recipe for their hypertufa containers, filled with miniature plants, herbs, succulents, and semi-succulents.

The herbs whetted our appetites--good timing, because our next activity was lunch, hosted by Bailey Nurseries.

15 bailey

After lunch, we toured their impressive Display and Collection Gardens.

16 path

We saw great examples of how to design pathways, sitting areas, and planting arrangements.

17 alliums monarda

More masses of Alliums and Monardas ... gorgeous.

18 smokebush sumac

'Tiger Eyes' Sumac paired well with 'Royal Purple' Smokebush.

Our final Minnesota garden tour was at Squire House Gardens in Afton. The independently owned garden shop, located in an old historic house, is surrounded by formal and casual gardens.

19 squirehouse pond

This pond, surrounded by potted plants and statuaries, offered inspiration.

20 sea holly

I was mesmerized by the Great Black Wasps picnicking on the Sea Holly (Eryngium).

Then we headed across the border to Wouterina "Riana" de Raad's Concrete Mosaic Sculpture Garden, near Beldenville, Wis.

21 Wouterina mosaic

Words and a few photos really can't do this garden justice. Riana, herself, along with a friend gave us a tour of her whimsical property filled with one-of-a kind mosaics and an amazing collection of plants.

22 seat

She used pebbles as mosaics for some pieces, such as this garden chair.

23 nest

Others incorporated ceramics, glass, shells, and other fascinating shards of spent objects. I particularly enjoyed the mosaic planters like this one, welcoming a wee bird's nest.

24 planter

This large planter looked fabulous stuffed with foliage of various colors, shapes, and forms.

28 frames

It was nifty to see some of Riana's future projects in wire mesh form.

25 heart

Even the simple touches, like the heart on this bench, were strikingly lovely.

26 mother

My favorite pieces were Riana's deeply personal creations, like this sculpture depicting a loving mother and child, which she created during a trying time.

27 declaration

And this depiction of Riana pledging her dedication as caretaker of her magical garden.

If you live anywhere near Beldenville, Wis., a visit to Riana's sculpture garden is definitely worth the trip!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Thanks to all the organizers, sponsors, gardeners, and homeowners for a wonderful day three at the Garden Bloggers' Fling! For more excellent posts from the 2016 event, visit the Fling website.

28 flingers
Photo by Diane McGann

Most of all, thanks to my fellow bloggers and Fling attendees for your smiles, support, and friendship. Until we meet again ...

Next year's Fling will be held in the Capital Region--Washington DC, Northern Virginia, and suburban Maryland. Tammy of Casa Mariposa will be the host. For more information, visit the Fling website.

September 01, 2016

OK, So It's September...
(Lessons Learned While Speeding Through Space)

speeding through time

How did this happen? How did the summer pass so quickly?

I have a friend who uses the term "full disclosure" to communicate, in all honesty, that she's not quite operating at full energy level ... or that she's stressed or tired or not feeling quite right. (If you're reading this, you know who you are.)

I'm borrowing my friend's excellent term to convey where "I'm at" right now, at the beginning of September, after a crazy, busy summer ... as I contemplate the "garden lessons" I learned this summer. The biggest lesson I learned is that I didn't spend enough quality time in my own garden. I wasn't present and mindful enough. And I don't want that to happen again.

It doesn't matter that most of the reasons I was too busy this season were my own choices (and they were all fabulous). It doesn't matter that this is not a huge problem in the grand scheme of the world.

So, full disclosure: I'm tired, I'm feeling overbooked, my garden is a mess, and the summer is almost over.

I hope to get back into the full swing of things with posting and visiting my favorite blogs during the next few weeks. In the meantime, I decided to spend a little contemplative time in the garden on one of the last days of this beautiful, wonderful summer in Southern Wisconsin ... and take it all in.


I'm captive-raising a few monarchs again this summer (more on that later). When I released this little beauty and she flew up into the trees, I wished her Godspeed.


She didn't stop to rest or nectar on the fresh flowers I offered her, but that's OK. Maybe she'll hang out in the garden for a few days before she heads toward Mexico.


One of the resident chipmunks found the sunflower seeds I accidentally spilled when I was refilling the bird feeders. Cutie pie.


The planter pots looked decent despite my neglect.


pond corners

The fish didn't cooperate for a blur-free candid. But in the process of trying to capture them all in one "perfect" shot, I noticed the beauty of the trees reflected in the pond.


I noticed the late afternoon sun back-lighting the Fuchsias. Sigh.

gr soldier beetle

Fewer Goldenrod Soldier Beetles have visited the garden this year, but this little guy was hanging out on the Zinnias.

house wrens

Looking at this scene, I remembered the House Wrens who occupied the birdhouse early in the summer. Sweet memories.


Though photographed through a screen, this photo captured what I see out the dining-room window frequently throughout the day.


The Jewelweeds were blooming and seeding prolifically--it's easy to see why they attract hummingbirds.


I saw some new growth on the Lemon tree, which lived outside all summer and will go into the sun room again before the first frost. Maybe we'll have more fruits this year.

mistflower & ferns

Blue Mistflowers and Ferns glowed as great companions--with a bumble bee hovering nearby.

yellow jacket

Yellow Jackets don't belong here and they're mean. But something about this little guy on the Hydrangea leaves struck me as beautiful.

Simple things like these happen every day, whether I notice them or not. But when I do, it's a joyful, blessed day. I need to slow down and observe more.

How about you? What garden lessons did you learn this season?

To join in the "garden lessons learned" meme, simply write a post or share one you've already written about lessons you've learned during the past season. Then share your links or simple observations in the comments. I'll keep this post up for a few days, and it will be available always under the Lessons Learned tab at the top of this blog.

I'll share your "lessons" posts on the PlantPostings Facebook Page closer to the equinox. Happy autumn to friends in the Northern Hemisphere, and happy spring to those in the Southern Hemisphere!