Tag Archive | wildflowers

Not all Coneflowers are Purple!

The purple coneflower (echinacea purpurea), which is native to Wisconsin, is one of the most reliable and hardy perennial plants in any flower garden. Easily surviving our Wisconsin winters, it thrives, spreads, and forms a beautiful mass of flowers that attract birds, bees, and butterflies, and self-sows to keep the garden full. However, did you know that the simple purple coneflower is only one of many, many cultivars available to us in Wisconsin. Try some of these, or any of the newer cultivars introduced each Spring.

Rocky Top Hybrid

Rocky Top Hybrid

‘Rocky Top Hybrids’ have spidery petals and narrow leaves, marking this plant as a probably cross between a native wildflower and a standard garden coneflower. These flowers, on their thin, wiry 24-inch stems, tend to follow the sun during the day as sunflowers do, so all the blooms face the same direction.

Sunrise

Sunrise

‘Sunrise’ contains butter-yellow petals surrounding a cone that starts out green and turns gold as the flower matures. A light, sweet fragrance is a nice touch. Most are in shades of orange and yellow, and are 30-36 inches tall.

‘Sparkler’, at first glance, may look like a typical coneflower. But the leaves have splashes of cream and white that may turn more green in

Sparkler

Sparkler

the heat of summer. These plants are a little slower to take off than coneflowers with all-green leaves, but they’re definitely worth the wait. 28 to 36 inches tall.

Jade

Jade

‘Jade’ starts with white petals around the green center cone when the flowers open. As the flowers age, the center cone turns more orange and the petals droop a bit, showing their green-tinged undersides. 24 to 32 inches tall.

‘Razzmatazz’ has been particularly popular over the past couple of years due to it’s “fuzzy” appearance. Instead of a red-orange cone, the centers of these flowers are covered with tiny pink petals. Those fluffy heads are big and heavy, so plant ‘Razzmatazz’ in full sun — plenty of light will keep these 30-36 inch tall stems strong.

Razzmatazz

Razzmatazz

Doppelganger

Doppelganger

‘Doppelganger’ might be one of the most unusual coneflowers ever created. This coneflower, also sold as “Doubledecker”, has two tiers of petals. The first year or two, most or even all of the flowers mays be ordinary, single coneflowers, but one the plant is established, it’ll be covered with crazy 40-inch tall blooms.

Vintage Wine

Vintage Wine

‘Vintage Wine’ have blooms of a rich, bright pink, sometimes almost red. Besides the great color, the petals point out, instead of hanging down, and the foliage on this coneflower is some of the healthiest we’ve ever seen. 30 to 36 inches tall.

 

Advertisements

Woodland Blossoms

by Master Gardener Tammy Borden

I love the time of year when the forest floor is alive with color. Mid to late spring is the prime time for native woodland flowers to shine. The leaves from deciduous trees haven’t fully emerged yet, allowing the sun to penetrate through to the ground, warm- ing the layers of dead leaves that have accumulated through the years to create a rich soil with lots of organic matter. The sun also beckons many woodland blooms to push through.

Don’t have a forest in your backyard? No worries! You can still grow many woodland natives. Here are some of my favorites that have done well for me in my shade garden.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit

Jack-in-the-Pulpit

Jack in the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) Member of the Arum family. Prefers moist soil. An exotic looking plant with a hooded flower or “pulpit.” The leaves can resemble those of Trilliums, but are generally larger and have deeper veining. The flowers produce a cluster seed head which turns a brilliant red in fall.

Yellow Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum) Member of the lily family. Can tolerate dry shade. Nodding yellow 1″ flowers. The leaves have a beautiful mottled appearance that is said to resemble the coloring of a brown trout, from which it receives its name. Do not allow tuberous bulbs to dry out when planting. Be patient – they can take from 4-7 years to bloom from seed.

Smooth Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum biflorum) Member of the lily family. Can tolerate dry shade. Long arching stems produce small inconspicuous light green blooms along the stem that hang below the leaves. When its stalk breaks away it leaves a distinctive mark that is said to resemble the seal of King Solomon, from which it derives its name.

Wild Columbine

Wild Columbine

Virginia Bluebell (Mertensia virginica) Member of the borage family. Prefers moist soil. Can also tolerate morning sun. Also called lungwort. Foliage will die down by mid-summer. Beautiful groups of bell-like flowers that start off pink then change to light blue. Hybridized versions available.

Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) Member of the buttercup family. Can tolerate dry, rocky soil. One of the most stunning woodland flowers, in my opinion. It was once considered for our national flower because the shape of its orange and yellow flowers resemble the talons of a bald eagle. Aquilegia is Latin for “eagle.” Loved by hummingbirds and sphinx moths. Many hybridizes versions are available.

ground level view of forest trilliums in spring bloom.

ground level view of forest trilliums in spring bloom.

Trillium (Trillium Grandiflorum) Member of the lily family. Prefers consistently moist soil. Large pure white three-lobed flowers that fade to pink. Some unique hybrids are also available featuring purple flowers, versus the white three lobed flowers commonly seen. Seeds are dispersed by ants that carry them into their nest, but don’t eat them.

Be sure to purchase woodland flowers from a reputable nursery that has not cultivated their plants from wild stock. It is illegal to dig up many woodland native species. Seed collection, however, is a wonderful way to preserve and propagate your own plants.

The Humble, but Reliable Coneflower

Do you have a nice, sunny spot in your garden that is calling for color? Coneflowers look gorgeous in nearly any style of garden. For a relaxed, meadow-inspired look, combine coneflowers with grasses, spike blazing star and goldenrod. Wis108567.002py grasses create a contrasting backdrop for bold coneflowers. They’re also surprisingly adaptable in containers, but they’re usually won’t get as big as they do in the ground. Tucking a few coneflowers into containers is a great way to entice butterflies near a deck or patio.

When it comes to the old-fashioned pink-purple or white coneflower, there isn’t an easier plant to grow. As long as you put the plant in the ground the right side up, it should be fine! Coneflowers like plenty of sun and average, well-drained soil. Like any perennial, you’ll want to water new plants the first summer, to get them safely established. After that, they’ll be virtually carefree!

The yellow, red, and orange ones can be a little tougher to get to survive for several years. Why aren’t they as vigorous? The plant breeding that created those beautiful colors included a species that’s a little pickier about its growing conditions than purple coneflowers — and that means the offspring are a little picker, too. For the most success, try these tips from Dan Heims, president of Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc, a company that’s developed some of these bright new flowers:colors

  1. Pick a good site. While the old-fashioned purple coneflowers will grow almost anywhere, the yellow, red, and orange ones need full sun and rich, moist, well-drained soil. Adding some compost to the bed before you plant will make them happier, too.
  2. Buy the biggest plants you can find. This is no time to cut corners! Choose plants with multiple growing points, not just one cluster of leaves.
  3. Don’t let it bloom the first year. Heartbreaking, right? But the plant will establish healthier roots if it’s not putting energy into flowers the first year. Plants in quart- or gallon-size containers won’t need this if their root systems have had a chance to grow to fill the pot. But if you’re working with plants in small 4- or 6-in. wide pots, it’s best to either pinch the blooms off or cut the entire bloom stalk back.
  4. Be sure to mulch. If you garden where the ground repeatedly freezes and thaws during the winter, mulch over the plant with a 6-in. layer of chopped leaves to protect the crown.

At the end of the season, some gardeners like to leave the seedheads standing — they provide subtle winter interest, and birds, especially finches, eat the seeds. If you leave the seedheads standing, volunteer seedlings will come up. Either enjoy these free plants, or pull the seedlings to keep them in bounds. (Interestingly, the seedlings of all varieties eventually revert to pink-purple.)

 

Plant Goldenrod in Your Garden – Don’t Blame it for Your Allergies!

goldenrod

Tall, showy goldenrod

I was talking with a friend (with a degree in Horticulture) recently and he suggested that I add some goldenrod (Solidago sp.) to my gardens for height and that beautiful yellow color. My immediate reaction was “Won’t that make me sneeze even more each Spring?!”  As it turns out, I’m not the only one to confuse my sneezing each spring with the blooming of this lovely plant. The real culprit (ragweed) bears some resemblance to goldenrod, but is easily identifiable with just a little research.

Purplish stems of the ragwood plant.

Purplish stems of the ragweed plant.

Alicia R. Lamborn, Environmental Horticulture Agent for the Baker County Extension of the University of Florida, has written a paper addressing the difference between these summer blooming plants.  To access that article, click here; then plant some beautiful goldenrod in your garden and ignore the box of tissues!

Posted by Vicki

Wisconsin state flower…and other things

Lovely little violet

Lovely little violet

The Common Blue Violet (viola sororia) is the state flower of Wisconsin, Illinois, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. What do all of these states know? This little beauty of spring loves the climate of Wisconsin, especially shady and moist areas. Let it spread throughout your shady areas and enjoy the beautiful little purple blooms each spring and summer.

While looking into the state flower, I thought: “What else has Wisconsin designated as being official?” Some of these are obvious, some not so much:

  • state soil: Antigo Silt Loam
  • state motto: ‘Forward’
  • state bird: Robin
  • state tree: Sugar Maple
  • state fish: Muskie
  • state animal: Badger
  • state wildlife animal: White-tailed Deer
  • state domestic animal: Dairy Cow
  • state mineral: Galena (lead sulphite)
  • state rock: Red Granite
  • state insect: Honeybee
  • state symbol of peace: Mourning Dove
  • state dog: American Water Spaniel
  • state beverage: milk
  • state grain: corn
  • state dance: polka

Posted by Vicki

The Humble Dandelion

dandelionI admit that those bobbing yellow heads irritate me when they pop up in my carefully kept lawn. And, for those neighbors that make no effort to control the growth of the dandelions in their yards that are so close to mine, I have unkind thoughts. But sometimes, especially when my grandchildren visit, I remember when I couldn’t wait to run out and pick those beautiful little flowers for my mom. Or sit with my friends and rub them under everyone’s chins to see who liked butter. At one time, I knew how to weave them into a lovely tiara and pretend to be a fairy princess, but I think that skill has gone. Then, as a teenager, my friend’s dad made dandelion wine that didn’t taste very good, but was a forbidden pleasure.

But not everyone outgrows their love for these little spots of sunshine. From Mother Earth News: “All parts of the dandelion are edible and have medicinal and culinary uses. It has long been used as a liver tonic and diuretic. In addition, the roots contain inulin and levulin, starchlike substances that may help balance blood sugar, as well as bitter taraxacin, which stimulates digestion. Dandelion roots can be harvested during any frost-free period of the year and eaten raw, steamed, or even dried, roasted and ground into a coffee substitute. The flowers are best known for their use in dandelion wine, but they also can be added to adownload salad, made into jellies or dipped in batter to make dandelion fritters. The leaves are rich in potassium, antioxidants, and vitamins A and C. Dandelion greens can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, sautéed or braised. For use in salads, greens should be harvested from new plants while still small and tender, before the first flower emerges. Larger greens tend to be tougher and more bitter, and better suited for cooking.”

And they make lovely tiaras for little girls!

Posted by Vicki

Seton Catholic Middle School 7th Grade – Native Plant Education

By: OCMGA member Rich Fischer

I had the pleasure of providing native plant consultation to the 7th grade students of Menasha’s Seton Catholic Middle School on April 21, 2015. I found this to be a wonderful opportunity to meet with an ambitious and eager bunch of kids who are excited to be in charge of identifying site-appropriate native plants to purchase and getting hands-on experience planting their selections in Jane’s Woods. Jane’s Woods is a wooded area donated by John Bergstrom and named for his mother Jane. The woods is immediately behind the new St Mary’s Catholic Middle School which is in the last phase of construction. Next year, this group of students will be the first 8th grade class to graduate from the new school.

OCMGA volunteer Rich Fischer with the 7th grade class of Seton Catholic Middle School, Menasha

OCMGA volunteer Rich Fischer with the 7th grade class of Seton Catholic Middle School, Menasha

Jane’s Woods is being designated as a learning opportunity for the new St. Mary’s middle school and high school students. It will be populated with only native Wisconsin vegetation. The students and volunteers have already spent many hours busting buckthorn in Jane’s Woods and are now working on repopulating the understory with native plants.

Wild Ones member Zaiga Freivalds and I helped the 7th grade class choose native plants that will have the best chance of success in this site. The area is wet in the spring, dry in the summer and has many mature hickory and maple trees with an open canopy. The students will be purchasing and planting these native Wisconsin herbaceous plants and suitable woody plants this spring. They selected 5 each of 16 herbaceous plant species to populate the woods understory: Jacob’s Ladder, Jack In The Pulpit, Large White Trillium, Leatherwood Fern, Royal Fern, Sensitive Fern, Bottlebrush Grass, Sharp Lobed Hepatica, Virginia Bluebells, Marsh Blue Violet, Marsh Marigold, Shooting Star, Solomon’s Seal, Swamp Milkweed, Bloodroot and Red Baneberry. Woody plant selection has not been finalized but will likely include: Red Osier Dogwood, Silky Dogwood, Elderberry, Serviceberry, White Cedar, Red Oak, White Swamp Oak and Nannyberry Viburnum.

I was amazed at the students’ awareness of the value of maintaining native habitat and their passion for ecology. They made great use of technology, using the internet to research potential plants and make informed recommendations. Their young minds are leaps and bounds ahead of me when I was their age. The students’ ability to leverage technology, coupled with their enthusiasm and quest for horticulture knowledge is very impressive and encouraging for our future.

Posted by Vicki