Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Going Native: Plants of the Prairie

There is so much talk about growing native plants these days: what is native, what isn't, what are weeds, what can be called "wildflowers", what natives belong in a home garden and what should best be left in the wild, on and on. In my opinion (which I don't think you asked for, but I'm gonna give it to you anyway, I'm shameless) there are many native wildflowers which can be grown in a garden. But! and here's the caveat: some just aren't suitable or even manageable in a small space. Some of them need room, lots of it! Many need the kind of environment most backyard gardeners can't give them, and may just turn up their toes and die in our nice rich garden soil with all the water they could ever possibly want.....or else, on such a rich diet, go absolutely kick-up-their-heels rampant and try to fill every available corner with their offspring or their greedy roots. A firm hand is needed with these characters. They are native plants because they have adapted to survive under specialized, and sometimes harsh conditions that exist in the local environment. A few  actually need fire to germinate!

Prairie wildflowers are among those that survive on neglect, producing zillions of seeds, only a small percentage of which will actually find the right conditions to germinate. In spite of being found in full, intense sun on open prairies, a lot of them are actually shade plants, growing in the shade of tall grasses that tower over them as they complete their life cycles.

 Those pictured below are all plants of the midwest. Many of them can be found all over the United States, wherever prairie-like accomodations for these hardy plants can be found: in pastures, on roadsides, empty lots, in sidewalk cracks where you would thnk they couldn't get a root-hold.
. They ask for little more than a bit of soil, sun,
and that it rains once in a while.

The last time we went to Roaring River State Park, here in SW Missouri, we went hiking on the Firetower Trail (between trout fishing). It's a beautiful trail, through richly diverse woods, that eventually winds through a restored dolomite glade area with wonderful native wildflowers blooming in glorious abundance. It is a harsh, rocky area in full, blazing sun with competition from grasses, trees and predators to eat them, but somehow, they survive and are beautiful!

A few, like the puffy pink sensitive briar below, have their own defenses--the stems are thorny and hurtful to touch! Prickly pear cactus, also often found on certain types of glades, is very well armed. Some taste terrible, but all are host plants for some form of insect life or provide habitat for Mother Nature's pets, which feed on the insects that feed on the plants.....in the interconnectedness that is life.

Mimosa nuttallii (sensitive briar, cat's claw)

A wild member of the allium family

Prairie Larkspur

Prairie mallow

Echinacea (cone flower)

Asclepias (Butterfly weed)


Deptford pink



Prairie rose

Yellow clover

daisy fleabane

The wonderful golden seed puff of goatsbeard

Not your average garden! But this is where they all live, and do it so beautifully!

Many of these grow in my garden, and I find that they do very well. (Note: Most of them have come on their own, with no help from me, except to recognize them when I saw them.) Almost too well, in fact. With good soil and plentiful water, the majority of them tend to be a bit invasive, or at the least, extremely aggressive. They have to be tended to with a ruthless hand, pulling them out with no sentiment or there would be no paths or beds, just a sea of wildflowers to wade through! Which, come to think of it, might not be such a bad thing!

"A wildflower is just a weed with a pretty face. If ragweed was beautiful, we wouldn't care if it made us sneeze!"---Anon.
To learn more about the Roaring River Conservation Opportunity Area, please visit their website:
http://mdc4.mdc.mo.gov/Documents/17987.pdf And if you get an opportunity, visit in person!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

For All You Hosta Freaks Out There

You know who you are, all you hosta lovers, freaks and geeks! Obsessive/compulsives, like me, who think there are no bad hostas. And we want all of them we can get! Lucky for us, there are thousands of varieties to choose from! (Oh, and don't be fooled by my knowing their names. I'm only telling you about the ones that haven't lost their labels, or never had any. I'm not that organized!)

Lower hosta bed, looking up. The pink in the middle is astilbe "Heart and Soul". El Nino is the pretty little blue and white in the foreground. Midwest Magic to the right. Two dogwoods, one pink and one white, will eventually shade this bed. We lost a small elm that shaded it, and poor Pizazz got its leaves burned this spring, but it is coming out of it.
On Stage
Of course, there has to be a Sum and Substance!
The big one in front is Regal Splendor. One of my favorites and a beautiful, reliable hosta that seems to be slug-proof. Left of it is Fire Island, Pineapple Upside-down Cake, Sum of all, and in the background, Blue Angel. This is the upper level. Someday, Sum of All, Blue Angel and T Rex (to the left, on the other side of the elephant ears and out of sight) will fill the center of this bed. These hostas were planted in '08 and '09., except Regal Splendor which is about 5 years old.

An assortment, next to the path going down to the lower level

Silver Threads and Golden Needles

Old bed under redbud tree, these hostas have been here for 6 years.

Pizazz at the top. You can see the sun damage.  Liberty is in front, left. Next to Liberty was labeled as White Feather, but it is not.

Sun Power

Great Arrival, in the center

Looking down into a new area, dwarf and mini hostas go down there.

Always beautiful and always reliable, Albo Marginata

New bed, just planted this spring (except for the A.M.'s.

Other side of mini-hosta bed. This area is new this summer, last week in fact. The larger hostas were transplanted out of spots where they were being crowded. A very young Big Daddy is in the back center.


Sweet Home Chicago. See the astilbe next to it?

This is when they were planted, in 2008. The astilbe has to come out! It doesn't stand a chance between Chicago and Veronica Lake, on the right! That's Paul's Glory, in the back.

Gold Standard in the back, Antioch in the front. Both old varieties but nice!

From left: Fragrant Summer, First Frost, Guacamole, Abiqua Drinking Gourd, underplanted with Kabitan

Albo Marginata Montana

Saving the best for last, Blue Angel. This plant is about 9 years old.
Hope you have enjoyed this sampling of my hosta collection!
Happy Gardening!

"I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day, a fresh try, one more start, with perhaps a bit of magick waiting somewhere behind the morning." ---Jpseph Priest 1753-1804

Thursday, June 17, 2010

What's Blooming in the Garden! Just a Bunch of Pretty Flowers

A sampling of what is going on in Chaos

Bath's Pink Dianthus

Pink Missouri primrose


Regal lily

Common orange daylily

Dwarf yellow daylily

One of my summer favorites, Queen Anne's lace. The flowers are wonderful, pressed. They look like snowflakes.

Yellow lily

Pot of impatiens and pansies on the back steps

wildflower, starry campion

Anacyclis blooming in a bed of sedums

hardy crinum lily

I think this is Catherine Woodberry

big orange daylily (sorry, lost label!)


"Steep thyself in a bowl of summertime" --Virgil