If a polygonatum falls in the forest…

Decay - Solomon Seal Nov 18 2017 c

Solomon Seal is probably my favourite shade tolerant perennial.  It has graceful arching stems with beautiful, dainty hanging flowers in spring that bees love; the leaves stay dark green all summer; it’s extremely drought tolerant and, in the autumn, everything turns first deep yellow then a beautiful orange/tan before leaves and sometimes whole stems collapse to the ground.

I never ‘clean up’ this garden  – I let everything decompose as it falls.  And then I wait for the new shoots to poke through this natural mulch and start the cycle again.

 

Solomon Seal

Polygonatum biflorum with its June flowers

Transformation

Perennials Do It Too!

Woodland Sunflower

Woodland Sunflower (Helianthus divaricatus) – I love seeing the green vein skeleton as chlorophyll slowly withdraws from the leaves.

This is the time of year everyone on the eastern part of North America – and anywhere else there’s woods and forests with deciduous trees – goes gaga over fall foliage.  Folks take road trips to the country or the hills wherever they may be to take it all in, and Instagram, blogs and Facebook pages are chock a block with images of gorgeous reds, oranges and yellows.

With all the hullabaloo about the trees and some shrubs (I start drooling when I see some Viburnums in late October)  the changing colours of perennial leaves often go unnoticed.  Maybe this is because, low to the ground, they don’t stand out amongst fallen maple or oak leaves.  Maybe folks are so busy looking out and up at the trees they don’t take the time to look down.  Maybe it’s because a lot of people ‘clean up’ their flower beds – cutting back foliage before it has a chance to display the subtle and oh so temporary slendour that can be just as gasp-worthy as a Staghorn Sumac.  Here are a few examples from my garden.

Solidago

Who could have anticipated Goldenrod (Solidago sp.) leaves would turn such a lovely red… certainly not all of them do; more often than not they just turn brown and wither away but this year quite a few are truly beautiful.  Perhaps it’s a specific variety that is spreading around.

Solomon Seal

Solomon Seal (Polygonatum biflorum) will get even yellower before the leaves finally just fall off, leaving a forest of stalks over winter.

Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida), below left, and Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), below right,  have different shaped flowers and leaves – but both turn a beautiful orange/red, pallida sooner than purpurea.

Sedum spectabile

After the flower heads turn brown and the fleshy leaves dry and fall off, it’s the stalks of Sedum spectabile that turn a glowing rosy pink.

There’s more of course.  Hosta.  Some Geranium.  Siberian Iris.

What are your favourite perennials for fall foliage colour?
Temporary

How to Stand Out in a Crowd

I have large patches of purple and white Liatris scattered around the garden – all originating from the seed of a few plants I purchased and planted 15 years ago.  The height of the flower spikes vary year to year, depending on how much rain we get.  This spring, with record breaking rainfalls in April and May, the Liatris was almost as high as an elephant’s eye.  Let’s say it was as high as a medium size cow’s eye.

Except for this one stalk, which for some reason decided walk its own path, follow its own winding, curvy, horizontal road.  By the time this photo was taken in mid August it was so heavy with flowers the tip was almost touching the ground.

I collected a lot of Liatris seed a few weeks ago and hope to add even more August height in years to come.

curvy Liatris

 

via Photo Challenge: Rounded

going to seed…

Ironweed seedhead Oct 11 2017 b

Ironweed – Vernonia noveboracensis

This time last year we had already had our first frost – not unusual around here – but this year, summer started late and it’s just now starting to cool down.  Today’s high is 11 but the next two weeks, if you believe the forecast, will be in the high teens and low twenties.  With overnight temperatures nowhere near frost warning levels.

Even so, and swarms of Monarch butterflies notwithstanding, autumn is upon us.  Trees know it – leaves are starting to turn yellow, red or plain brown and fall.  Native perennials know it too.  Foliage is holey and ragged looking and flowers are going to seed, creating some lovely images as they wait for a bird to gobble them up or a strong wind to shake them free and send them flying.  Here’s a few of my favourites, ready now for collecting (or not!).

 

wildflower seedhead Oct 11 2017

unknown – what am I??

Goldenrod seedhead Oct 11 2017

Goldenrod – Solidago

Echinacea Seed heads Oct 11 2017 a

Echinacea purpurea

Big Leaved Aster seedhead Oct 11 2017

Big Leaved Aster – Eurybia macrophylla

 

 

In Praise of a Not Very Spectacular Native Shrub

Snowberry.  Doesn’t the name conjures up images of large, juicy, creamy berries produced after pollinators have spent the summer happily buzzing amongst fluttery, multi-petaled white flowers?

Then you add the botanical name, Symphoricarpos albus, and reality sets in.  Latin can really be a buzzkill sometimes.

For me, the Snowberry is a memory pant — a shrub I remember from when I was a kid, lining (along with honeysuckle and blackberry canes) the rural road I walked along to catch the school bus.

There is absolutely nothing spectacular about this deciduous shrub, except perhaps that it’s native to almost all of Canada (and much of the U.S. as well) – that in itself should give it bonus points!  The flowers are so small you need to be within a few inches for them to be noticeable.   The berries are, indeed, white, but they are smallish, inedible for us and even unappetizing to birds.

1 Symphoricarpus albus Snowberry July 22 2017 a (2)

Symphoricarpos albus – Snowberry in July

This last tidbit may be why they stay on the bush into fall and winter, providing some interest when the rest of the landscape is grey or brown.

I like it because it grows well in my limestoney soil with no pampering or watering (even during last year’s prolonged drought, when the leaves drooped a lot but recovered nicely) and in the semi to mostly shade of the tree line (More berries are produced with more sun).  Although they may sucker after a while they’re pretty contained, growing to maybe six feet high and wide.  I can see them being a useful as a hedge or as a low visual barrier if you want to create a hidden patio; also a great shrub to fill in spots amongst trees if you don’t want to worry about grass  or perennials yet want some greenery.  And although it may be the food of last resort for birds, it does provide shelter for wildlife.

If you see this shrub at a garden centre and you have a bare spot in the yard consider Snowberry.  Maybe create some memories of your own.

4 Shileau & Snowberry Sept 19 2017

Shileau steals the spotlight from the Snowberry

7 Early Fall Favourites

In this first week of autumn I realize there’s nothing new left to come up in the garden – no new flower buds to open, no new unfurling of leaves, no more sudden growth spurts of stalk and stem.  The final Hollyhock flowers – those at the very tip of six or seven foot spikes – are blooming; Goldenrod is going to seed; Hosta leaves are yellowing and somewhat bedraggled.

Before I start to think and rave about the changing colours in our forest canopies and tree lines (or about raking up fallen leaves!), and before I set about in earnest collecting seeds for next year’s garden, I want to savour the beauty of these early fall favourites.  Thanks to Chloris in England who writes The Blooming Garden for encouraging this regular check-in of favourite flowers!

1 – Turtlehead – Chelone glabra — I’ve struggled but so far failed to get a good picture of this native perennial. Not too sure why, but all the close-ups turn out fuzzy so I can’t show you how bees love to force their way into the purple, snap dragon-like flowers, buzz around for a bit then force their way out again.  I’ve had to move this clump around a few times so it’s not that large;  hoping it’ll be happy in this spot, shaded by variegated Dogwood (Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’):IMG_3067_edited-1

2 – Garlic Chives – Allium tuberosum – like regular chives but with flat leaves and a more garlicky than oniony flavour.  I love them because the white flowers open late in the year and are often swarmed by bees.  I started this clump from seed – this is its second year, much slower to get going than regular chives – and will collect seed to start more clumps all over:Garlic Chives Sept 20 2017

3 & 4 – Evening Primrose – Oenothera biennis – this is the native species, not the domesticated  variety often sold in garden centres.  They can get very tall or sprawl close to the ground.  A beautiful, vibrant yellow to contrast nicely with New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae).  They spring up all over here because I often let them go to seed – but they’re easy to pull up where not wanted:Evening Primrose & New Englanfd Aster Sept 19 2017 3

5 – Colchicum – this is the ‘The Giant’ variety – I’ve posted before about them – just can’t stop myself.  This time next year the Veronica ‘Whitley’s Speedwell’ (the low growing ground cover on the left) will have spread over the mulch, providing a gorgeous bed for the purple petals:Colchicum Sept 20 2017

 

6 – Sedum spectabile “Autumn Joy” – not a native but bees of all sorts still love ’em!  A staple of my garden with its many very dry areas:Sedum spectbile - morning dew

7 – Reblooming tall bearded Iris – new to me this year thanks to a generous friend — I don’t know the variety of this Iris (does anyone??) but it had a huge show, as expected, in the spring.  It’s been sending up flower stalks again for the past three weeks with enough buds to last another month:reblooming white Iris Sept 20 2017