Friday, August 26, 2011

Native Southern Plants From the Rose Family

The rose family of plants gives us many interesting flowers, trees, and shrubs. These native plants can make for an easier gardening experience with less watering and maintenance than non-native plants. These five selections are all native to the Southern portion of the United States, and are all from the rose family of plants.

Potentilla simplex Michx. (Common Cinquefoil)

A member of the rose family, the common cinquefoil grows under a foot tall with both flowers and leaves coming up on runners. Leaves have five parts to them and the yellow flowers are 5-petaled. Blooms occur during April through June. Cinquefoil prefers shade or partial shade and dry soils.

Sibbaldiopsis tridentata (Ait.) Rydb. (Shrubby Fivefingers)

This spreading carpet like plant only gets to four inches in height and is a member of the Rose family. Its dark green evergreen foliage gets red in the winter. Blooms are 5-petal and white or pink with a bloom season of June to July. Optimum growth occurs in partial shade with a well-drained acidic soil.  You may propagate this by division or by seed that is sown right after collection.

Malus angustifolia (Ait.) Michx. (Southern crapapple, wild crabapple, Malus angustifolia var. angustifolia, Pyrus angustifolia)

This deciduous sun loving tree has fragrant pink flowers. It is a member of the Rose family and its name means “narrow leaves”. This tree will get up to 30 feet tall, prefers sun but will live in partial shade, and has hard green apples as fruits. This will have a high heat tolerance.

Spiraea tomentosa L. (Steeplebush)

Steeplebush is a member of the rose family and is a deciduous shrub that grows three to six feet high. It has pink or rose-purple plumes of flowers from July to September. Foliage will turn yellow in the fall. It prefers any lighting conditions and moist acidic soils. It is a larval host to the Columbia silkmoth butterfly. Propagate by seed or softwood cuttings.

Fragaria virginiana Duchesne (Virginia Strawberry)

From the rose family, the Virginia strawberry grows up to 12 inches and is a low running perennial. Its blooms are 5-petal white flowers with red fruit. It will flower from May to June. It prefers sun or partial shade and dry soils. Propagate by seed or stolon division. Historically it’s been used for its fruit as an old time gout remedy and its leaves are a mild astringent. It is a larval host for the gray hairstreak butterfly and the grizzled skipper butterfly.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

White Blooming Native Wildflowers Grown in Shade

Got a shady spot you’d like a wildflower or prairie garden and looking for some white blooming natives? These native plants are all able to be grown in shade and thrive. Between the four of them here, they offer wide variety of types of bloom, foliage, and texture styles.

Maianthemum racemosum ssp. racemosum (L.) Link (Feathery False Lily of the Valley, Smilacina racemosa)
This gets up to two to three feet tall and has a raceme of white flowers at the terminal end of the plant. Leaves are green and elliptical. Its bloom season is from April to May. Fall berries are a red-pink color. A member of the Iris family, it prefers moist acidic soil and partial to full shade. Propagate by seed or root division. It attracts wildlife as the berries are eaten by birds and small mammals while the leaves are browsed by deer.

Galium triflorum Michx. (Sweet-scented Bedstraw)
This perennial grows four feet long in a trailing growth pattern. Leaves are in whorls of six. Flowers are very small and star-like, with a green-white color. Galium triflorum blooms May through September with a sweet fragrance. It prefers partial shade or full shade conditions and wet or moist soils.  Propagate by seed or by rhizome division.

Gaultheria procumbens L. (Eastern Teaberry, Wintergreen, Checkerberry)
This small plant grows just under six inches with a 15 inch spread. It has white urn-shaped flowers in late spring, with red fall berries and aromatic evergreen foliage. The scent is a light wintergreen smell. It loves partial to full shade and very acidic soil. The berries can be a food source during the winter for turkeys, squirrels, chipmunks and grouse. Berries and leaves are eaten by bears and deer.

Maianthemum canadense Desf. (Canada Mayflower, Unifolium canadense)
A perennial that works well in rock gardens; Canada mayflower will grow three to six inches tall. It will have white clustered flowers May through June. Its foliage is shiny and textured. There is a pale red berry after flowering. It prefers partial to full shade and wet or moist acidic soil. Propagate by seed or rhizome division. The roots were a folklore good luck charm and Native Americans used Canada mayflower as an herbal remedy for sore throats and headaches. WARNING: Some parts of this are poisonous.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Yellow Native Wildflowers for your Garden

Working on a specific color scheme garden or is yellow just your favorite color? Then finding these yellow native wildflowers will be a perfect addition into your landscape.

Caulophyllum thalictroides (L.) Michx. (Blue Cohosh)
This perennial grows up to three feet tall and has small flowers in clusters. Flowers start out yellow and turn brown as they age. Blooms appear April through May. Usually found in streams, it prefers shade and moist well-drained soil. Expect lovely blue-green foliage and dark blue berries. You may divide in spring or fall to propagate. Native Americans used this as an herbal remedy for menstruation suppression and to ease childbirth pain. It was mixed with other herbs for abortive purposes. It should not be taken by pregnant women.

Chrysopsis mariana (L.) Ell. (Maryland Golden Aster, Heterotheca mariana)
The Maryland golden aster grows up to 12 inches high with yellow flowers throughout August, September and October. Leaves start out wooly and turn smooth as they age. It is a perennial. Plant a Maryland golden aster in sunny locations with wet or moist soil. Propagate by seed. Seed should be planted in the spring. Maryland golden aster is drought tolerant.

Coreopsis auriculata L. (Mouse-ear Coreopsis, Early Coreopsis, Lobed Tickseed)
This flower gets six to 12 inches high and needs spacing of nine to 12 inches. It loves full sun and has average water needs. Its bright yellow flowers will bloom late spring to mid-summer. You can deadhead to prolong the bloom time. Mouse-ear coreopsis has herbaceous foliage and is a slow spreader with low maintenance needs. To propagate you can divide root ball or direct sow seed outdoors directly in the ground.

Coreopsis lanceolata L. (Lanceleaf Coreopsis, Lance-leaved Coreopsis, Coreopsis crassifolia)
Growing one to two-and-a-half feet high with three to four inch long leaves, this perennial is evergreen. Ray flowers are yellow with four lobes and a daisy-like appearance. Blooms will appear from April to June. Lanceleaf coreopsis is fine in any lighting and prefers sandy dry soils. Propagate by seed or clump division.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sow Seeds Now for an Easy and Delicious Fall Garden

Late summer is the ideal time to start your fall garden. In most areas of the country, you can grow a "second season" crop of your favorite cool-season vegetables and lovely fall flowers. In mild winter areas, you can grow even more garden favorites for harvest in late fall, winter, even into next spring. Now is the time to gear up for some of the best growing weather of the year, which lies in the cool season ahead.

What to Grow
Many casual gardeners don't bother to plant later in the summer because they think of a garden as something to be planted in spring. The Home Garden Seed Association (HGSA) is out to change that mindset, along with the idea that growing plants from seed is difficult. The HGSA has found that "fear of failure" is the primary reason many home gardeners do not garden with seed, and it wants to forever dispel that fear. To help gardeners gain confidence with seeds, the HGSA has assembled a list of the Top Ten Fall Varieties that are EZ and fun to grow from seed:
Even where winters are cold, many vegetables can still be grown to maturity before first frost. In addition to the Top Ten listed above, try broccoli, carrots, cabbage, and arugula. When choosing varieties, select ones that are fast-maturing to ensure a harvest before the cold weather hits. Consider extending your planting season even more by growing crops under cold frames and row covers. Now is also a good time to start seeds of many flowering perennials. Sown in fall, many will be ready to start flowering by the following spring or summer.

In mild winter areas, you can grow an even wider selection of fall and winter crops, including onions, leeks, and parsley. Seeds of annual flowers that thrive in cool weather can also be sown now for fall and winter bloom, including alyssum, candytuft, calendula, lobelia, stock, and sweet pea.

When to Start
The key to growing vegetables for fall harvest is timing. Vegetables grown in this season need about 14 extra days to mature compared with spring-seeded crops due to fall's shorter days and less intense sunshine. When deciding the date to start your veggies, first determine your average first frost date. Check with a good, independent garden center. Then look at the seed packet for days to maturity. Add 14 days to that number, then use that figure to calculate back to seed-starting date.

Growing On
Remember that sowing seeds or setting out transplants in midsummer can be more stressful to young plants than seeding during cooler, often wetter spring weather. Be sure to keep the soil moist as seeds are germinating. Protect young seedlings with shade cloth or plant them near taller plants, such as corn or tomatoes to provide shade from the hot afternoon sun. Another option is to start seeds in containers in a spot with high, bright light and then transplant young seedlings into the garden. This works well for crops like lettuce and spinach, whose seeds don’t germinate as well when soil temperatures are high.

Fall Harvest
With a little effort in late summer, you'll have a splendid harvest of vegetables in fall. Cool weather-loving crops, such as kale, lettuce, spinach, and broccoli, will thrive in the lower autumn temperatures.

National Garden Bureau would like to thank member Home Garden Seed Association (HGSA) for this article. Their EZfromSEED Web site shows you everything you need to know about growing plants from seed.   
Let's Go Garden!

Any or all of this information may be reprinted, with credit given to National Garden Bureau.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Texas Native Trees that Grow under 50 Feet Tall

Sometimes size really does matter when you are looking for trees that come under a set height. This can be important for having a tree grow under a balcony or other landscaping themes where shorter trees are preferred. These are all trees that grow under 50 feet tall, all native to Texas.

Fraxinus cuspidata
Common Name: Fragrant Ash, Flowering Ash
Lifespan: Perennial
Description: A small tree that can be a large shrub, the fragrant ash can get to 20 feet high. Gray bark will have scales as it ages. Slender branches have dark-green leaves and white 4-petaled flower clusters. Fruits are samaras. Bloom season is May through June.
Planting Guide: Fraxinus cuspidata should be grown in partial shade and dry nearly neutral pH soil. It is cold tolerant.
Propagation: Fragrant ash is propagated by seed that is stratified in cold moist sand for 30 to 60 days. Sow after collection or after the stratification if planting in the spring.
History: It will attract butterflies and birds for its cover and nesting. It is also a larval host for swallowtail butterflies.
Warnings: This particular tree doesn’t have much problem with disease and pests.
Distribution: Fraxinus cuspidata is found in AZ, NV, NM and TX.

Rhus lanceolata
Common Name: Prairie Sumac, Lance-leaf Sumac, Prairie Flameleaf Sumac
Synonyms: Rhus copallinum var. lanceolata
Lifespan: Perennial
Description: Growing up to 20 feet high, prairie sumac is a deciduous tree with white flowers and red fruits. Leaves are green and then become red or orange in the fall season. Leaves are veined and pinnate in an alternate arrangement. Flowers bloom July and August in a panicle. Fruits are drupes.
Planting Guide: Rhus lanceolata prefers sunny spots and dry alkaline soil. It is both cold and heat tolerant.
Propagation: Prairie sumac is propagated by seed and semi-hardwood cuttings. Cuttings should be done in late summer. Seed will need to be collected September through October and then have 30 minutes to an hour of acid scarification.
History: It is a larval host to the Banded hairstreak (Satyrium calanus) butterfly and the Red-banded hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops) butterfly.
            Leaves have tannin in them and can be used in tanning leather.
            Sumac-ade, a lemonade type drink, can be made from fruits of the prairie sumac soaked in water.
Warnings: If the soil is very rich the prairie sumac may get fusarium wilt when young.
Distribution: Rhus lanceolata is found in NM, OK and TX.

Sabal mexicana
Common Name: Mexican Palm, Rio Grande Palmetto, Texas Palm, Palma Di Micharos
Synonyms: Sabal texana
Lifespan: Perennial
Description: A slow growing tree, the Mexican palm grows to 50 feet tall and 3 feet in width for the trunk. Leaves are large and fan-like, blue-green in color. Fruits are in clusters and dark purple. A trunk will start to appear after the tree has aged to about ten years old. Blooms are white and occur March through May.
Planting Guide: Sabal mexicana prefers sun or partial shade with moist or dry soils. It is find in sandy or clay soils.
Propagation: Mexican palm is propagated by seeds. No treatment of the seeds is necessary but for best germination you can cold stratify for 30 days.
History: It attracts birds and wildlife as it is aromatic and has browsing fruits.
Warnings: The trunk won’t begin to really appear until it is at least 10 years old.
Distribution: Sabal mexicana is found in TX.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Self-Seeding Native Wildflowers and Plants

Want to have a meadow wildflower garden that you never need to replant? These are great self-seeding native wildflowers that will continue to give you bloom after bloom with out propagating or replanting. All are native to the United States that are profiled here.

Coreopsis grandiflora Hogg ex Sweet (Coreopsis, Largeflower Tickseed)
The largeflower tickseed grows one to two feet high and can have many stems to a plant. There are dissected linear leaves and bright yellow ray flowers. Blooms occur during May and June. Largeflower tickseed prefers partial shade and sandy soils. It can be propagated by division and by seed. It can self seed to the point of becoming invasive.

Coreopsis tripteris L. (Tall Tickseed)
This tickseed flower gets four to six feet tall and needs spacing of two to three feet. It likes full sun and is easy to grow in wet well-drained soil. Shorter flowers will appear in drier areas. It has bright yellow blooms mid-summer to fall. This is a self-seeding flower that will give you a longer lasting garden. Deadhead the flowers for optimum bloom time. It is also heat, drought, and humidity tolerant.

Impatiens capensis Meerb. (Jewelweed, Spotted Touch-me-not)
This flower gets two to six feet tall with an 18 to 24 inch spread zone. It likes shade and moist soil. There are pendent gold or orange blooms from July to October. It self sows, so deadhead to prolong bloom life. Butterflies and hummingbirds love jewelweed’s blooms, and so will you. This is an herbal remedy: crush leaves to put on bug bites, poison ivy, or razor burn. WARNING: Berries can be toxic if ingested.

Liatris spicata (L.) Willd. (Dense Blazing Star)
Another good pick for a bird or butterfly garden, this will grow up to four feet tall. It has violet to white flowers from July to September and will self sow freely. It prefers full sun or partial shade, moist acidic soil, and is very low maintenance.  Dense blazing star’s flowers look like a feather duster. It is a deer resistant plant. Propagate by seed that has been stratified.