If you’re a regular visitor to Wildflower Farm’s website, you might be familiar with the many North American native perennials we offer. Many of you have taken the time to browse through the species and order the seeds that suit your space. And for that I would like to extend a hearty “Thank you” for you are making the world a better place. I’m sure the bees and other pollinators are thanking you as well.
Now, in 2015, Wildflower Farm would like to expand your floral family with the introduction of five new species. Let me introduce you.
You are already familiar with blue, white, and cream false indigo. Now, we are bringing you the brilliant yellow version. Like the other Baptisia species, Baptisia sphaerocarpa is a slow grower. Don’t let that fool you, though. This slow growing species is incredibly long-lived and can tolerate the driest of conditions.
A member of the legume family, it will give nitrogen back to the soil as it goes through life, making it a welcome addition to nutrient poor soils. It will also tolerate the frigid Canadian winters and the hot, dry summers experienced in the southern US. Yellow Wild Indigo is an all around winner where native perennials are concerned.
If you’re looking for a fall bloomer, you’ve found it. The New York aster, like others in the Symphyotrichum family, will provide your garden with early to late fall colour which is something many gardeners forget about. The fall flowers, however, are some of the most important for native insects as they provide a final dose of sugars before the winter slow down.
Growing to a height of 3-4 feet, the New York aster is a meadow favourite, with many insect species using it for food, shelter, and egg-laying. Its extensive root system provides ample erosion control with the added bonus of bright purple flower clusters.
If you’re not familiar with the other members of the Echinacea family, I’m going to ask you start there. Not because they are any better than the narrow-leaf coneflower but because you need to know about them. These flowers are butterfly favourites with the monarch particularly enjoying a purple coneflower feast mid-summer.
The narrow-leaf coneflower is shorter than other Echinacea species but still thrives in full sun. It is distinguished from the purple coneflower by its narrower petals and from the pale purple coneflower from the shear density of the petals. Plant in dry soils where you have trouble growing other species. You will be pleasantly surprised.
Another member of the Helianthus family, the woodland sunflower provides the familiar friendly face of yellow that we are used to seeing in this family. You will find that each stem tends to split off two or three ways for a cluster of flowers that stand 3-4 feet tall.
Blooming mid-summer to fall, the seeds will provide food for birds including the Bobwhite, Goldfinch and Tufted Titmouse. The plants themselves are important host plants for many insect species and provide food for so many more: syrphid flies, cuckoo bees, skippers, butterflies, and moths are among the list.
While this plant is an important species to add to your garden, you are forewarned that its rhizomatic root system means it is a bit of a spreader. Not always a bad thing, especially where soil loss is a concern.
Another member of the Liatris family has been added to the Wildflower family and we couldn’t be happier. A butterfly favourite and an excellent cut flower, rough blazingstar is up there with our favourite plants for good reason.
Rough blazingstar has a bit of a different look than the meadow and prairie blazingstar. For starters, it is typically shorter and the flowers have a slightly more scraggly look to them than the meadow blazingstar. If you grow all three varieties of Liatris offered by Wildflower Farm, you’ll have your seasons covered from mid-summer to fall.
Each of these species is a native North American perennial that will provide you years of enjoyment in the garden. Consider adding them to your already established garden or, if you don’t have much in the way of native plants yet, this is a good place to start.