Wildflowers-Open to Interpretation

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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.

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Wildflowers can mean, to some, strictly native plants to one’s general area, like the annual self sowing Rudbeckia triloba. These plants choose for themselves the spot in which they want to grow.

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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.

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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.

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Under the tall pines were found several of these reddish fungi. I wonder if it was Alice or simply critters that have been nibbling on this one?

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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’.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!


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18 Responses to Wildflowers-Open to Interpretation

  1. Georgia says:

    Oh Frances, what lush loveliness in a month which usually leaves things a little on the crispy side. I am seeing the autumn clematis on roadsides everywhere. It is know to me as virgin’s bower. I agree it is important to use the official names but hope some of the more poetical ones will survive as well. Thanks for sharing your spectacular abundance.

    Hi Georgie, thanks for the kind words. I agree about the common names and feel they will never go out of usage. I use the botanical names, which are subject to change to better identify the plants for world wide readers.

  2. gail says:

    Frances, This may be my favorite of your Wildflower Wednesday posts! Beautiful photographs and marvelous prose! Your garden is truly lush and happy from all the extra rain! Way to train that Sweet Autumn clemmie into a marvelous presence. I love the new blog look~Happy WW! xoxoxgail

    Thanks Gail. The rain has made such a difference in the garden this year and that clemmie trained itself. I have tried to kill it many times, even spraying, but it is unkillable. Now I just let it go. Happy WW my friend.

  3. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I guess your area has received all of our rain. I wondered where it was. I have those wild Jeruselem artichokes that are 12’tall. I don’t just snip them back I pull out every one I see and still they grow. ha… Happy WW.

    Hi LIsa, please accept my apologies for stealing your rain, but the garden has never been happier in late summer. Happy WW to you.

  4. Lea says:

    Beautiful flowers!
    Great photos!
    The morning glory is especially lovely.
    Happy Wildflower Wednesday!
    Lea’s Menagerie

    Hi Lea, thanks so much and Happy WW to you.

  5. Cindy, MCOK says:

    I cut the sweet autumn clematis back several times in spring & early summer to keep it from overwhelming the area it’s in. I haven’t checked it lately to see if it’s budding. I’ll do that today!

    Good idea, Cindy, for this vine can really go crazy. It is still beautiful, even as it eats everything nearby! HA

  6. I smiled with a gentle self-mocking acknowledgement when I read your complimentary description of the green coned susan, Rudbeckia lanciniata ….”Tall, lean and lovely”… a threesome of adjectives that I will never ascribe to myself…ha, well, I won’t rule out “lovely” but the “tall’ and “lean”…only in my teenage dreams! Anyway, everything looks great in the garden and on the screen. I would imagine it’s a big deal to take the plunge and change your blog look.

    Hi Michaele, I am in the same predicament as you with the tall and lean bit. HA The blog change happened totally by accident with the click of a button. I didn’t know I couldn’t go back to the old look. Oh well, after the initial panic wore off, I had fun choosing a new look. Next month might see even more experimenting.

  7. There are two vines called sweet autumn clematis. One is the native plant, Clematis virginiana, which is growing in my garden, planted by the birds. The other vine, Clematis terniflora, is from Asia. They have similar flowers, but very different leaves, as this webpage shows. I once grew sweet autumn clematis and it wasn’t fragrant. Now I wonder if I inadvertently bought the native plant, since they apparently can be mislabeled. I’d be curious to know which one you have.

    Thanks Kathy. I bought this plant originally from White Flower Farm, sold with other white clemmies in a package deal. Looking at their site now, it seems the one they sell as virgin’s bower is C. terniflora. This one grows very quickly and cannot be killed. I will check out the leaf shape to be sure and will change the post if needed. Added: I just checked, it is C. terniflora.

  8. Barbarapc says:

    So many of our wildflower are in fact those that have come as volunteers many years ago when European settlers arrived. I think your decision to label them as wildflowers is very apt. By the way, your garden, blossoms and new blog are looking lovely.

    Hi Barbara, thanks so much. You are exactly right, many of those uninvited but still welcome guests came over by ship from other lands, just like the humans. They are all wildflowers to me.

  9. Rose says:

    Love your broader definition of wildflowers, Frances. Try as I might, much of my garden refuses to be tamed by me and prefers to be a bit on the wild side, too. There is something to be said for plants, though, that “prefer to choose their spot in which to grow.” Rudbeckias and echinacea do that here, and I usually bow to their whims:) Look at that pokeberry! We had a huge one behind our barn a few years ago, at least 12 feet or more tall. The birds deposit seeds here and there each year, and I usually let one or two grow. Techinically, they’re weeds, I guess, but I think they’re pretty cool.

    Thanks Rose. Weeds or wildflowers, what’s in a name? HA I have trouble getting the Echinaceas to seed here, lucky you!

  10. Dianne says:

    It’s a joy of mine to see where flowers will show up in my gardens. Sometimes there will be masses, sometimes only one or two. I used to get upset that I was losing them, but sooner or later, there would be large masses again. They just do things their own way, not mine. I have a climbing hydrangea that is on a trellis on my front porch and also in a back area. We’ve taken so many starts and it’s still quite a “monster” – growing quite wildly. I’m thinking of planting another start to grow up an old maple tree. It will still have shade, and provide a pretty focal point where there is now little of interest. I’d never seen some of the flowers here (ironweed for one), and loved that you showed them and gave their “correct” names, just in case I want to find some myself. Your garden is so lovely and looks like a piece of heaven. Thanks for sharing it with us gardeners. Nothing better than perusing posies…..any day of the week!

    Hi Dianne, thanks so much for sharing here. Your climbing hydrangea sounds delightful and a good *mother* plant, as well. Seeing the volunteers seedlings pop up in unexpected places is now thought of as seredipity rather than something that needed to be controlled. Maturity as a gardener will do that for us. Hope you can find some ironweed, it is a beauty with those dark purple flowers in late summer into fall.

  11. I love the colors, and shapes, and textures you photographed. There is such joy in wildflowers.

    Thanks Charlie. I love diversity in the garden.

  12. An interesting view on the definition of “wildflowers.” I think I agree–generally, I think of wildflowers as beneficial plants that grow in the wild in one’s habitat. I don’t like to think of the invasives as wildflowers–I don’t know why. Probably because I think of “wildflowers” as a pleasant thing, but invasive, non-natives (in whatever locale), are not. In any case, your wildflowers are spectacular, and I especially enjoyed that last photo of your diverse collection!

    Hi Beth, thanks for adding to the conversation here. Not all invasives are created equal, in my opinion anyway. Now crabgrass, that deserves the number one hated plant spot!

  13. Hannah says:

    You have so many great wildflowers. Living with a dry summer season in the PNW, I imagine many that get tall for you would not get so tall here, even without whacking. I like the fullness of the Amsonia tabernaemontana foliage, it is what I’ve been looking for, it seems a lot of plants don’t get full enough, or maybe I need to whack them more. Oops, I was reading too many blogs, the Amsonia was a different site. It’s Joe Pye Weed I would like to grow for a full bush, and I like the flowers for the butterflies.

    Hi Hannah, thanks for visiting. We normally have had very dry summers here and the plants all do not get as full, even with the whacking. I have not ever cut the Amsonias, we grow several including the one you mention even if it was from another’s blog post, but they are much fuller this year with the extra rainfall. I have cut the Joe Pye and it did not bloom at all that year, so it does not get whacked, either.

  14. Beespeaker says:

    That is a beautiful Rudbeckia triloba. How do the bees like it?

    It is beautiful, but does not seem to be a favorite with the pollinators, unlike the Lemon Queen Helianthus that is planted next to it. Those are covered with all sorts of flying diners. Perhaps if it was the only food in town, it would be preferred.

  15. I guess I am one of those who thinks of wildflowers as natives, but I suppose any naturalized exotic should qualify. I know people who run screaming at the mention of pokeweed, it is quite ornamental, though, isn’t it? You’ve got many gorgeous flowers as summer transitions to fall.

    Hi Jason, thanks for sharing your thoughts about wildflowers. I first began to think about this upon learning that queen anne’s lace, what I consider to be an iconic wildflower is an exotic. Roadside weeds, I suppose, are what were wildflowers to me, and still are. They are beautiful and plant themselves, putting the wild in wildflower. But to each his own.

  16. Susan says:

    I have just discovered your blog. I didn’t even know what a blog was but yours is beautiful. I garden in Clinton, TN, so can I consider you a neighbor? I usually throw in the towel (or should I say trowel) by August but this year the weather has been so nice that I am still going strong. I’ve gone back to your older posts and it is like reading the best gardening book ever. Thank you for sharing your garden. Susan

    Hi Susan, thanks so much for visiting and welcome. Garden blogs have so much to offer! You are north of me but I have been to Clinton and love the countryside there. I am thrilled to hear you are reading and enjoying the old posts. They are still good, even though old! Like some folks I know. HA

  17. Kris P says:

    Oh, what a difference climate makes! One woman’s wildflower is another one’s carefully tended vine. I’m currently trying to establish ‘Sweet Autumn’ Clematis in my garden, having left one behind at our former house. It’s coming on but slowly…At present, while I still have a lot of empty space in the garden I’ve now had for 2 years, I’d welcome some wildflowers, invasive or not. thanks for sharing yours.

    Thanks, Kris, for adding in here. As I recall, the autumn clemmie was slow to get started. It may surprise you with its vigor in years to come. To help fill up your empty space, perhaps some wildflower mixture seeds? Good luck with your gardening!

  18. I love wildflowers, in the wild. My hubby is just too orderly to tolerate them much. So I’ll admire the wildflowers that you and Gail use with such glorious abandon. I do love that look so much, but I’d also like to stay married. LOL

    You are wise, Robin! I really love seeing the wildflowers in the wild, too. My puny attempt to recreate those swaths are nothing even remotely as beautiful.

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