Joe Pye: No Weed To Me….

July 24, 2014 hummingbird 005

Named for Jopi, a Native healer who used this beautiful  plant, Eutrochium purpureum, to  heal early colonists with fevers and other health problems; this gorgeous perennial wildflower is found throughout Eastern North America.

 

Joe Pye Weed begins its season of bloom around the end of June or beginning of July here in coastal Virginia.

Joe Pye Weed begins its season of bloom around the end of June or beginning of July here in coastal Virginia.

 

Jopi Weed, or Joe Pye Weed, reminds us of the rich botanical legacy Native Americans generously shared with early European settlers in America.  Native Americans continue to use Eutrochium for urinary tract infections, fevers, and other health conditions.

But I purchased this plant from Knott’s Creek Nursery in May not for its medicinal uses, but for its beauty.

 

July 6, before the tiny blossoms began to open

July 6, before the tiny blossoms began to open

 

I was looking for Asclepias tuberosa, or native Milkweed,  at the time.  I wanted to purchase a native perennial which would attract more butterflies to the garden, and would serve as a host for butterfly larvae.

Since Knott’s Creek was out of Asclepias that day, I purchased the Eutrochium instead, knowing it is also a butterfly magnet.

Jopi Weed, like so many native plants we purchase for the garden, is easy to grow.

 

July 24, open and ready for the business of welcoming nectar loving insects

July 24, open and ready for the business of welcoming nectar loving insects

 

It prefers moist soil and full to partial sun.  This one is planted in compost, mulched with bark, and gets regular water from both rain and irrigation.

It hasn’t grown much taller in the few months we’ve had it, but it has begun to form a clump.

Planted in the right spot, with abundant moisture, these plants can grow to 6′ or more tall and form a clump several feet wide.

Close up of new growth filling in from the bottom of the plant

Close up of new growth filling in from the bottom of the plant; every branch has blooms forming at its tip.

Deciduous, it should be cut to the ground sometime between a killing frost and early spring.

Clumps can be divided as they grow.

Although we haven’t found butterflies on the flower head yet, it is alive with clouds of bees, flies, and wasps visiting this nectar rich part of the garden.

 

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We recently heard Dr. Doug Tallamy of The University of Delaware speak on “Bringing Nature Home,” also the title of his 2009 book.

He described ways to support our populations of wild birds by designing landscapes which not only feed a large number of bird species, but also support their ability to raise the next generation.9780881929928s

Dr. Tallamy made the point that although berries and seeds are desirable; birds need a steady supply of insects in their diet more than they need the plant foods we offer.

And further, the more insects we can attract to our gardens,the more birds we can attract and sustain.

 

This Aloysia virgata, Sweet Almond Tree Verbena is native to South America.  It is also known for attracting butterflies and other nectar loving insects.

This Aloysia virgata, Sweet Almond Tree Verbena, is native to South America. It is also known for attracting butterflies and other nectar loving insects.  It eventually grows to 8′ and blooms from July through until a hard frost kills it back to the ground.

 

 

Now, that sounds counter-intuitive to a gardener, doesn’t it? Who among us wants more bugs out there eating our plants?

But Dr. Tallamy spent a long time explaining that in a balanced garden, the insect damage is insignificant and nearly unnoticeable because those bugs get eaten up by our happy bird tenants.

Which brings us back to our Joe Pye Weed, in a round about sort of way…

 

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Do you see how many insects are gorging themselves on the nectar provided by  this one gigantic bloom?  When we plant nectar rich native plants, we support a huge variety of insects, and the insects feed our birds.

And we don’t have to be native purists to achieve a rich web of life  in our gardens.

We just have to be smart enough to  select natives which support a variety of species.

 

MIlkweed, growing in the wild in the edge of a marsh on Jamestown Island.

MIlkweed, growing  wild in the edge of a marsh on Jamestown Island.

 

 

Native trees, like Oaks and Birch each support hundreds of species of animal life.

If this interests you, please take a look at Dr. Tallamy’s book, which goes into useful detail about how this all works; and how to strategically include the best native species of plants in your wildlife garden.

And this lovely Joe Pye Weed is a step in that direction for us.

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While we watch for the butterflies to find it, we’ll also appreciate the beautiful nectar loving insects it brings to our Forest Garden.

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Female Tiger Swallowtail on Lantana.  Lantana is the most visited plant in our garden by both butterflies and hummingbirds.

Female Tiger Swallowtail on Lantana. Lantana, native to parts of the Americas,  is the most visited plant in our garden by both butterflies and hummingbirds.

Flower or Weed?

Queen Anne's Lace,

Queen Anne’s Lace, Daucus carota, growing in the wild

Would you consider this to be a flower or a weed?

This is a distinction I have always had trouble making.

I will often let volunteer plants  grow in the garden in order to discover what they will do.

Perennial Ageratum in our garden late last September.

Perennial Ageratum in our garden late last September, growing with Rudbeckia, another “volunteer” native flower.

That is how I discovered the perennial Ageratum which grows in our garden.  It is now an important part of our late autumn flower show.

But this year, I found some Ageratum seedlings growing in a pot used last year for tomatoes.  And I’ve left them alone to grow.

June 4 2014 ageratum 003

Self-sown perennial Ageratum growing in a pot where I grew a tomato vine last year.

I’ve added a tomato plant to the pot, but will leave one or two of the Ageratum in the pot when I thin them one day soon; expecting the bees visiting its flowers to pollinate the tomato, also.

Honeysuckle vine twining around an ancient native Yucca, Adam's Needle, in our garden.

Honeysuckle vine twining around an ancient native Yucca, Adam’s Needle, in our garden.

When Europeans began exploring North America in the 17th and 18th Centuries, they were delighted with the rich variety of new plants they were able to collect and ship back to Europe for cultivation.

European botanists had a keen interest in discovering new species  in the “new world” which would add to their collection of useful plants.

They hoped to find new foods, such as Pecan trees; new flowers, like Hydrangea arborescens; new medicinal herbs, like Echinacea; and new ornamental trees and shrubs for their gardens.

An Echinacea purpurea in our garden.  This is the species, which is native in our region.

An Echinacea purpurea, Purple Coneflower,  in our garden.  This is the species, which is native in our region.

They collected and exported hundreds of species to Europe, which were highly valued and entered the nursery trade there.

Of course, these voyages of exploration were sent out to all the newly colonized areas of the world.  And many of our favorite contemporary  plants came into cultivation in European and American gardens as a result.

Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne’s Lace

They did not ask, “Is it a flower or a weed?”  Each newly discovered herb, tree, shrub, and flower was evaluated based on its usefulness, hardiness, and beauty.

Over the years, we have all been influenced by the nursery trade to fill our gardens and pots with popularly cultivated selections.

Hybrid Echinacea cultivar.  This flower was offered for sale last weekend by Knott's Creek Nursery at our local Farmer's Market.

Hybrid Echinacea cultivar.  This flower was offered for sale last weekend by Knott’s Creek Nursery at our local Farmer’s Market.

Many of these are hybrids, or improvements to the original species.  Plants are hybridized to make them bigger, smaller, brighter, or more productive than the original.

Plants for sale at our Farmer's Market.  Hybrids are bred to be brighter, more disease resistant, and to have desirable qualities the native species may lack.

Plants for sale at our Farmer’s Market.  Hybrids are bred to be brighter, more disease resistant, and to have desirable qualities the native species may lack.  We also have been conditioned to choose exotics over native species in many instances.

We want day lilies which bloom all season, vegetables more resistant to disease, and dwarf fruit trees and butterfly bushes which fit into our gardens.

We are conditioned to purchase the “Proven Winners” plants we see advertised in magazines.

Hydrangea quercifolia, Oakleaf Hydrangea, is native to the Southeastern United States.  This is H. "Snow Queen," a cultivar which has improved on the species.

Hydrangea quercifolia, Oakleaf Hydrangea, is native to the Southeastern United States. This is H. “Snow Queen,” an improved cultivar.

And we sometimes forget the native “proven winners” which have grown beautifully and productively for centuries without intervention from man.

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I’m happy to see the new interest many gardeners are taking in native plants.  Many of us have come to understand the important role these natives play in the life cycles of species of animals we hope to protect.

As we see the dwindling numbers of Monarchs, for example, we realize that we need to plant their favored host plant:  Asclepias, or milk weed.

Asclepias incarnata, or Milkweed is the host plant needed by larval Monarch butterflies.

Asclepias syriaca, or Milkweed,  is the host plant needed by larval Monarch butterflies.

In fact, I’ve run into a bit of an Asclepias shortage this spring.  It has grown fashionable to plant these one time “weeds.”

For weeds they were, growing in the hedgerows when I was a child.  I have fond memories of playing with milkweed pods in autumn, freeing the downy little seeds to float away on the wind.

But no one I knew would even consider planting such a “weedy” plant in their garden.

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This was at the very beginning of the environmental movement, before naturalized gardening had become fashionable.

So every plant dealer I’ve approached this season has been out of Asclepias when I was there to purchase one.

This is a good thing, and I am happy to know that so many plants are going into the ground in our area.

A perennial, these will feed generations of Monarch larvae for many years to come, and should go a long way towards helping to restore the population.

Achillea

But what of other native plants?

Queen Anne’s Lace, Daucus carota, a wild carrot,  has been a favorite of mine forever.  I love the airy effect of its blossoms in cut flower bouquets, and it is a beautiful plant growing in the bed.

Similiar to Achillea,  these drought tolerant and hardy plants attract many beneficial insects which can boost production of flowering vegetable crops planted nearby.

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The long tap root breaks up the soil to aid other more shallow rooted plants growing nearby.  This is a biennial plant, and has a variety of uses.  Yet, the USDA  lists it as a noxious and invasive weed.

I’ve been reading a fascinating book this season,  Native Plants of the Southeast, by Dr. Larry Mellichamp.  Dr. Mellichamp is a professor of Botany at UNC Charlotte and is also director of the Botanical Gardens there.

book

His book shares his love  and appreciation for  our native plants in the Southeastern United States.   It provides detailed descriptions, lush photographs, and useful cultural information for 460 different species of trees, shrubs, herbs, grasses, ferns, wildflowers, and vines.

Timber Press, of Portland, Oregon, has published this beautiful guide to the very best native plants for cultivation in our gardens.    Plants are rated for desirability and usefulness.

I’ve spent many hours studying this lovely book, and it has guided a number of the selections I’ve made for additions to our garden this season.

I recommend it to all serious gardeners in our region; especially those concerned with preservation of the many species of birds, butterflies, bees, and other small creatures who struggle to survive in this era of environmental change.

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Wild Allium growing in the historic district of Yorktown, Virginia.

So, flower or weed?

It depends on your perspective and the depth of your understanding.

It also depends on your goals as a gardener.  Each individual must make these judgements for himself.

There is beauty in every living creature.  As we look deeply enough to see the beauty of each creature in our gardens, our answers, and our questions, continue to evolve.

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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Deer Resistant Plants Which Grow Well In Our Neighborhood- Revised and Improved

July 20 garden photos 008

This Lady Fern has grown on the bank for years, never bothered by the deer. It is deciduous, but returns each spring larger than the year before.

The plants in the following list are mostly ignored  by our herd of deer.  They are well suited to our Williamsburg, Virginia Zone 7B climate and our soil.  Some  gardening friends and I have been compiling this list over the last few years.

We have observed that plants which grow extremely well in some of our gardens, such as Camellias and Hydrangea macrophylla, also called mophead Hydrangea; get eaten in others.  Our mature Camellia shrubs are left alone, but I’ve had tremendous damage done to some, but not all, newly planted Camellias.   Even newly planted oakleaf Hydrangeas have been stripped of their leaves during the last few weeks.

In fact,  newly planted trees and shrubs are the most vulnerable because they are rich in the nitrogen based fertilizers growers lavish on them.  They taste salty and delicious to deer, like salted French fries for us.  Plants which have been in the garden a while tend to have less nitrogen in their leaves and so aren’t as tasty.  When considering how much extra fertilizer to spread around your shrubs and trees, if any, this is an important consideration.  Growing your garden on the lean side might offer additional protection from grazing.

Echinacea, or Purple Coneflower, is a favorite of nectar loving insects. A perennial, it is rarely touched by deer and grows more vigorous each year.

Echinacea, or Purple Coneflower, is a favorite of nectar loving insects. A perennial, it is rarely touched by deer and grows more vigorous each year.

Key to symbols:

a native plant in our area

# attracts birds with berries, fruit, nuts, or seeds

a nectar producing plant which attracts butterflies and other pollinating insects

+ a nectar producing plant which attracts hummingbirds

Flowering Trees and Shrubs

Bamboo provides cover for nesting birds, shelter from the weather, and a steady supply of insects to eat. Deer never touch it.

Bamboo provides cover for nesting birds, shelter from the weather, and a steady supply of insects to eat. Deer never touch it.

# * + Althea, Rose of Sharon Hibiscus syriacus

! #   Bayberry, or Wax Myrtle Myrica cerifera

! # * Beautyberry Bush Callicarpa americana

# *   Boxwood Buxus sempervirens

! # * + Butterfly Bush Buddleia (various species)

# * + Butterfly Tree or Glory Tree  Clerodendrum trichotomum

Camellia C. japonica and C. sasanqua

# * +Crepe Myrtle Lagerstroemia

! # * Dogwood Cornus florida

# * English Laurel Prunus laurocerasus

Mountain Laurel blooms in early May in our neighborhood.

Mountain Laurel blooms in early May in our neighborhood.

# Fig  Ficus carica

* Forsythia

! # * Fringe Tree Chionanthus virginicus

! * Hydrangea arborescens

Japanese Maple Acer palmatum

* +Lilac Syringa vulgaris

# * Mahonia Mahonia aquifolium

"Josee" re-blooming lilac, in its second flush of bloom in late June, is appreciated by all the nectar lovers in the garden.

“Josee” re-blooming Lilac, in its second flush of bloom in late June, is appreciated by all the nectar lovers in the garden.

! Mountain Laurel Kalmia latifolia (all parts of this plant are highly poisonous)

! # *Magnolia virginiana and other species

Fall blooming Camellia extends the months of bloom well into early winter. Deer don’t graze established shrubs.

# *Heavenly Bamboo Nandina domestica (all parts of this plant are highly poisonous)

! * Native Holly Ilex opaca

! # Oakleaf Hydrangea Hydrangea quercifolia

# * Fire Thorn Pyracantha (various species)

! # * +Red Bud Cercis canadensis

# * +  Silk Tree or Mimosa Albizia julibrissin

# * St. John’s Wort Hypericum

! # Southern Wax Myrtle  Myrica cerifera

! # + Red Buckeye Aesculus pavia

! #* Adam’s Needle Yucca filamentosa and other species

Perennials and Bulbs

Alocosia ( various species)

! # * + Butterfly Weed Asclepias species

* Caladium

July 17 hibiscus 007

Rose Mallow, Lavender, Artemesia and Dusty Miller hold no attraction for hungry deer.

* + Canna Lily Canna

*  Centaurea ( various species)

! # * Coreopsis ( various species)

 * + Crocosmia ( various species) 

* Daffodil Narcissus ( various species)

! # * Daisy Asteraceae ( various species)

# * Dianthus ( various species)

! # * Purple Coneflower Echinacea purpurea

* Euphorbia ( various species)

# * Fall Anemones A. hupehensis

Fern   (click for detailed information)

Autumn Brilliance fern produces coppery colored new leaves throughout the season. Here, trying to protect a little Hosta.

Autumn Brilliance fern produces coppery colored new leaves throughout the season. Here, trying to protect a little Hosta.

# * + Gaillardia ( various species)

The Passion Fruit vine can grow up to 50' a year and produces edible fruit. Grown throughout warm climates, this perennial vine is beautiful and productive.

The Passionflower vine can grow up to 50′ a year and produces edible fruit. Grown throughout warm climates, this perennial vine is beautiful and productive.

* Geranium ( various species)

St. John's Wort

St. John’s Wort

* + Ginger Lily Hedychium ( various species)

! * Goatsbeard Aruncus dioicus

* Goldenrod Solidago rugosa

* Lenten Rose Hellebore ( various species) (note, this plant is highly poisonous)

* Dutch Hyacinth Hyacinthus orientalis

 * #  Iris (Bearded, Dutch, Louisiana, Siberian, etc.)

Re-blooming irises will bloom again in late summer, and then continue throwing out blooms through December. They need to grow in an area of full sun to continue blooming.

Re-blooming Irises will bloom again in late summer, and then continue throwing out blooms through December. They need to grow in an area of full sun to continue blooming.

# Ivy

! # * + Rose Mallow Hibiscus moscheutos

! * +Joe Pye Weed  Eutrochium ( various species)

# * Lambs Ears Stychys Byzantina

* + Mexican (Bush) Sage (Salvia leucantha) or Salvia Mexicana

* Muscari ( various species)

* Pelargonium ( various species)

* Peony Paeonia ( various species)

* + Red Hot Poker Kniphofia ( various species)

! # * Black Eyed Susans  Rudbeckia ( various species)

 

Butterflies enjoy Echinacea growing here with Gaillardia, Comfrey, Pentas, and other herbs.

Butterflies enjoy Echinacea growing here with Gaillardia, Comfrey, Pentas, and other herbs.

Gaillardia, gift from a friend's garden, growing here with Comfrey.

Gaillardia, gift from a friend’s garden, growing here with Comfrey.

Purple ruffles basil is one of he most beautiful.

Purple Ruffles Basil is one of he most beautiful.

Herbs

* Artemisia

# * Basil

* Comfrey

* Curry

# * Dill

* Fennel

* Germander

* + Lavender

* Mint

Pineapple sage blooming in late October is a favorite food source for butterflies still in the garden

Pineapple Sage blooming in late October is a favorite food source for butterflies still in the garden

Pineapple Mint with Lavender

Pineapple Mint with Lavender

!# *+ Monarda

* Oregano

# * Parsley

* + Pineapple Sage Salvia elegans

Rosemary

* Sage Salvia species

Annuals and Biennials

* Angelonia

Castor Bean (all parts of this plant are highly poisonous)

Ginger Lily, hardy in Zone 7

Ginger Lily, hardy in Zone 7

# *+Spider Flower Cleome hassleriana

Spiderflower, or Cleome, is beautiful in the garden and attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.

Spider Flower, or Cleome, is beautiful in the garden and attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.  Seen here with Lamb’s Ears and Coneflowers

* Dusty Miller Centaurea cineraria

Star Jasmine, also known as Confederate Jasmine, is evergreen, fragrant, and a magnet for butterflies. Very hardy, it grows enthusiastically.

Star Jasmine, also known as Confederate Jasmine, is evergreen, fragrant, and a magnet for butterflies. Very hardy, it grows enthusiastically.

Yucca in bloom

Yucca filamentosa  in bloom in partial shade.

# * + Foxglove Digitalis purpurea

# * + Lantana or Shrub Verbena Lantana camara

* + Mandevilla sanderi

* Mexican Heather Cuphea hyssopifolia

* New Guinea Impatiens Impatiens hawkeri

Persian Shield Strobilanthes dyerianus

Persian Shield

Persian Shield

* + Pentas ( various species)

* Plectranthus ( various species)

* Purple Heart Tradescantia pallida

# * + Zinnia elegans

Vines

! * + Trumpet Creeper Campsis radicans

! * + Honeysuckle Lonicera sempervirens

Purple Heart, Sage, and purple Pentas are safe from deer grazing.

Purple Heart, Sage, and purple Pentas are safe from deer grazing.

! # * + Passionflower Passiflora incarnata

*  Periwinkle Vinca major & V. minor

# * Star Jasmine Trachelospermum jasminoides

! # * + Virginia Creeper Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Grasses

Bamboo (various species)

Miscanthus

Plants that will need extraordinary measures to protect in a forest garden include: 

Azaleas, Hostas, daylilies, lilies, roses, impatiens, some Sedums, Tomatoes, squashes, sweet potato vines, cucumbers, beans, and mophead Hydrangeas.

All photos by Woodland Gnome.

Virginia Creeper is growing up this dead Black Locust tree, delighting all hummingbirds and butterflies in the garden with its huge orange blossoms.

Virginia Creeper is growing up this dead Black Locust tree, delighting all hummingbirds and butterflies in the garden with its huge orange blossoms.

 

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