June 27, 2018

Plant of the Month: Prairie Sundrops

Oenothera 1

Most of the wildflowers in this garden lived here before we moved in, nearly 19 years ago. Prairie Sundrops (Oenothera pilosella) were among them. Also known as Meadow Evening Primrose, this plant has flowers that open during the day, unlike other species of the Evening Primrose family that close by midday.

Oenothera 2

Prairie Sundrop spreads and can form dense mats. It also can be propagated with seeds.

In my garden, Prairie Sundrop is not aggressive; in fact, it's pretty much stayed in the same general area in the garden for all the years we've been here--in a small patch at the base of one of our old Oaks. It tends to bloom in mid-June through mid-July, and adds a burst of bright yellow just as some of the late spring flowers are fading. My patch is in dappled shade, although most sources recommend full sun to partial shade.

Oenothera 3

The 2" flowers are attractive in all their stages--from bud to bloom to closed flower. Each flower lasts only a few days, but the flower clusters bring new blooms for a couple of weeks.

Oenothera 4

Other than its daytime blooms, this species is similar to Common Evening Primrose (O. biennis) and Narrowleaf Evening Primrose (O. fruticosa), but it's shorter (about 1' to 2' tall), and has hairy stems and fuzzy leaves. In addition, its fruit/seedpod tapers toward the base. Like the other species, each flower has a distinctive cross-shaped stigma. The pollen on the anthers turns reddish as the flower matures.

Prairie Sundrops are native from Eastern Canada through the Midwest and south through Louisiana and Texas. Some sources say they aren't native to Wisconsin, but USDA updated maps say they are (perhaps originally more in the southern part of the state). In any case, they prefer rich, wet mesic to dry mesic soils, according to the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden Plant Identification Guide. The flowers are visited by bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. Like other Evening Primose species, this one is a host plant to several moth species.

Oenothera 5

I like it. I take it for granted--of course, I shouldn't and I think I need to plant more or spread some seed.

I'm linking this post to Gail's Wildflower Wednesday meme at Clay and Limestone. Head on over to learn about wildflowers blooming around the world.

June 16, 2018

The Flowers Are Nice, But the Foliage Is Fun

mixed foliage 2

With the tropical conditions we're experiencing lately (80s and 90s for highs and about four inches of rain during the past couple of days), the plants are plump and healthy. Quite a few are blooming, but it's the foliage that's really standing out right now in my dappled- to partial-shade garden.

I always plant quite a few Coleus in pots--plants that like shade and offer dramatic swatches of color.  What's not to love?

coleus 1

coleus 2

coleus 4

coleus 3

coleus 5

And several dramatic foliage combinations weren't entirely planned, but I'm enjoying them:

coleus and calla
Looking across colorful Coleus to the underside of speckled Calla leaves.

shamrock and ivy
OK, this one was planned because I do it almost ever year: Purple Shamrocks (Oxalis triangularis) with variegated English Ivy (Hedera helix). I overwinter these guys in pots in my sunroom.

alternanthera 1
Also in pots with English Ivy--Alternanthera (A. ficoidea 'Red Threads'), from the top. I've grown Alternanthera before, but never in a "foliage only" pot. I like it, and I'll probably do it again.

alternanthera 2
The same Alternanthera, looking up through the foliage with dappled sun shining through it. Talk about drama!

Here are a few more subtle, but nifty, combinations of plant forms and structures:

sedums and petunias
Severely clipped Petunias (to encourage heft and more flowers), with Sedums in a hanging basket.

mixed foliage 1
Here's an unnamed variegated Hosta surrounded by several friends. Can you name the friends?

This arrangement of ferns in front of a large rock was placed by the previous owners. It's lovely, but it's in an out-of-the-way place that's barely noticeable: kind of a mini secret garden.

columbine and sedums
Sedums and Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) planted in a tipped whiskey barrel. I use lava rocks for mulch in most of my pots to discourage chipmunks and squirrels from digging.

A new plant for me this year: 'Sugar and Spice' Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia). This one is a nativar. With the exception of my potted plants, I'm trying to add mainly straight species native plants, but I made an exception for this one. The flowers are nice, but the foliage is really nifty.

Somewhere along the way, I missed the memo that Pam at Digging is no longer hosting the 'Foliage Follow-Up' meme, but I thank her for the inspiration and her years of encouraging us to look beyond the blooms.

June 12, 2018

Here's to the Survivors!

the survivors

I'm not exaggerating when I say that this year, so far, has been the weirdest weather year I've experienced here in the Madison area. Not the worst weather year, but the weirdest. I know others in North American and other locations are having a weird weather year, too.

In addition to being weird, it was brutal on plants. Some gardeners here in Southern Wisconsin lost many plants over the winter. I lost some, too, although the casualties weren't as bad as I originally thought. Most of the established perennials returned on schedule, in good condition.

But I did have some losses. You see, we had a mildish winter--temperature-wise--but almost no snow until February. That meant dormant plants were particularly vulnerable to deep soil freezing and frost heaving. I hope this will mean fewer Japanese beetles this growing season, but time will tell.

In any case, most of the plants I lost were experiments--plants in pots that I placed near the house with heavy mulch. I probably won't do that again and expect good results. I also thought I'd lost quite a few new in-ground plants, but the toll wasn't too bad.


The only one I'm not finding any sight of is Great Blue Lobelia (L. siphilitica), which I planted at the base of a trellis frequented by busy chipmunks. I can't seem to get anything to grow in that spot, long-term.

Oh, and two new sedges sadly expired.

Most of the others survived, although they emerged much later than I would have expected--deep into May. Included here are pictures of the new growth, along with what they look like at their prime--either in my garden or elsewhere. (Apologies for the Cottonwood fluff and various detritus on the "new growth" photos--seeds are falling and it's kind of a messy time in the garden right now.)

beautyberry survivor
Beautyberry 'Pearl Glam' (Callicarpa hybrid)

'Pearl Glam' in bloom last summer

be grass survivor
Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium)

be grass
Blue-Eyed Grass in bloom

sweetspire survivor
'Little Henry' Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica)

'Little Henry' blooming in the first year

baptisia survivor
Blue Wild Indigo (Baptisia australis)

This is a hybrid Baptisia, because I don't have a photo of the straight species.
Mine didn't bloom in its first year.

spigelia survivor
Woodland Pinkroot or Indian Pink (Spigelia marilandica)--caged, so the rabbits won't eat it

Spigelia in bloom last summer

So, all in all, the losses weren't too bad. These survivors amaze me! How about you? Are you having a weird weather year? Did you lose many plants over the winter?

June 04, 2018

Bees on TV

Roses 2

Recently a local television program filmed a segment on bee monitoring at the UW-Madison Arboretum. The filming occurred during our regular Friday volunteering session, since our group of volunteers includes several trained bee monitors. The rest of us got to tag along.

I served as a spotter and a photographer, and helped search for bees of various species among the blooming plants. Tough gig, eh?

While we were waiting, I took stock of the beautiful blooming native plants.

plant hut
Baptisia alba near the plant hut

Tradescantia ohiensis
Tradescantia ohiensis

Zizia aurea
Zizia aurea

Aquilegia canadensis
Aquilegia canadensis

Asclepias syriaca
Asclepias syriaca (not blooming yet, but close and distracting with its fluffy, soft buds)

Geranium maculatum
Geranium maculatum

Anemone canadensis
Anemone canadensis

We also checked the plants in the horticultural garden.

horticultural garden

The Azaleas were bright and colorful.

Kolkwitzia amabilis
Kolkwitzia amabilis

A giant Beauty Bush was covered in a profusion of pink.

The most popular blooms for all the bees and pollinators we found were the roses--both the native Prairie Rose (Rosa arkansana), and the cultivated varieties. Most of the roses had one, two, three, and sometimes more pollinators, insects, and spiders visiting them at the same time. It was a party among the roses!

Rosa arkansana

Roses 8

Roses 4

Roses 9

Roses 11

Roses 3

Roses 10

Roses 7

Roses 6

Roses 5

Roses 1

Bee monitoring is such an important citizen science activity. To find out how to get involved in your area or online, contact The Xerces Society or Bumble Bee Watch.

I'll let you know when the television program airs.