Wildflowers, what picture does that word conjure for you? For me, it is a broadly encompassing net of plants and flowers both native and exotic, like the blue morning glories that were never planted here by the gardener. Various colors, shapes and sizes are allowed to cling and climb around and about. If they misbehave, they get pulled, however.
A criteria that I like to use for wildflowers here is that it just showed up, uninvited but welcome. This Datura ssp., devil or angel? is such a visitor, story about it here. Some years there are none, some years there are a few. We feel lucky that 2013 blessed us with this one growing in the perfect position.
Prairie plants are considered wildflowers, even though the steeply sloping foothills of the Smoky Mountains are hardly defined as such. Prairie native Eryngium yuccifolium arrived in this garden as a purchased plant, shared seedlings and seeds. The vision includes many more and seeds have been saved and sown with success. Now all they need is time to grow.
Purple and pink New York asters, Aster novi-belgii, (nope, not going with the new naming system for these) are the precursors for the big aster explosion coming soon. If cut back after this first flowering, they will rebloom later well into fall. The photo above features a sheer curtain for the asters provided by Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’.
Sweet it is, but autumn Clematis terniflora has the potential to take over if not carefully pruned to protect the innocent. It puts the wild in wildflower! The mother to this plant was purchased with a group of white flowering clemmies to grow over an arbor at our first Tennessee house in 1990. A sprig was planted where this fence stands now to cover a woodpile. Rampant it is, but pretty as well. The pollinators adore it.
Tall, lean and lovely, the green coned susan, Rudbeckia lanciniata is a true native to my area. The broad leaves form an evergreen clump that is easily recognizable, the better to dig and place appropriately for the twelve foot flower stalk of August into September to show to its best advantage. Goldfinches love the seedheads, too. Joe Pye makes a good roommate.
Even taller than the Joe Pye and the tall Rudbeckia is the tree sized pokeberry, Phytolacca americana. These giants grow behind the brushpile at the back of our property and the birds deposit the seeds all over. Never before have they grown to these proportions. It must have been all the rain we received in 2013, nearly twenty inches over the average so far.
It has taken over five years to find the right escort, and to get him to make it through summer, for the two Ilex verticillata ‘Berry Heavy’ shrubs in the front island to live up to their name. I. ‘Jim Dandy’ is THE MAN.
Another plant that just showed up to the Fairegarden party is ironweed, this flowerhead sporting a little white-legged mascot. Look out butterflies! Vernonia gigantea is indeed a giant, like many of our native wildflowers. In May the stalks are cut back by half to try to limit the height to six feet rather than the twelve feet it will grow undeterred by the pruners. Click here to read about who else gets the whack job, er which fall bloomers receive a gentle topping in spring to control their eventual size.
Whatever your idea of wildflowers might be, my friend Gail of Clay and Limestone happily lists stories about them on the fourth Wednesday of each month. In my garden, all the denizens are a little on the wild side!