Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Rayless sunflowers, fall seedlings, & more

Rayless sunflower & native bee.
When I replaced a 10' x 14' section of lawn with a native garden, I planted several rayless sunflowers (Helianthus radula) as part of the mix. Months later, they are blooming much to the delight of the butterflies and native bees.

These flowers are not showy from a distance because they are missing the showy florets around the edge that look like petals. When we think of sunflowers, we expect to enjoy a big show, but the show here is more subtle and draws you in closer.

I wrote about this plant and reported on the progress on this native pollinator garden in my monthly post over on the Beautiful Native Plants blog: "The beauty is in the eye of the beholder."*

*Just to satisfy my curiosity on this cliché, I looked up the origins of the saying. This particular phrase, "Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder," is a paraphrase of Plato's writings and the theme has been repeated in various ways by different people, including by Shakespeare, over the centuries.  See this phrase finder website for more details.

Unexpected projects

Has this ever happened to you? You think one bed is fine the way it is, but then someone makes an offhand remark that forces you to see it differently or maybe you have some nice potted plants, but you suddenly realize that the plants are too large for their pots. The two realizations then merge into one or more unexpected and larger than anticipated projects.

Potbound! Two potbound yuccas are finally set free! Untangling the yucca roots.
Two different yuccas were pot bound. One ended up in the cactus bed out front, the other in the butterfly mound. Here's a link to my post "Pot bound!" on why it's so important to free the roots before planting.  

Before: The cactus in this hot corner bed were getting messy after more than six years.
After: A few cacti are left, but most were ripped out--very carefully! The new arrangement of all the larger lava rocks piled together makes a stronger landscape statement. I pulled out some of the ferns that had been growing into the cactus area and laid in some wood chips. You don't often have cacti & ferns mingling together,

The butterfly mound was a mess.

The coreopsis seedlings are planted in the lower
left corner and are mulched with pine needles..
In looking around the landscape for a good place to plant the second yucca, the butterfly mound jumped out as the right place.  Removing those messy non-native bulbs (The hidden gingers and the orange cannas) would be a big job, but it was time. And so this was the second unexpected project.

The yucca is happily planted and is already showing brighter green in its leaves, but this is not really a true "after" photo since there is more work to do here...

The mound started in 2005 after one of the four 2004 hurricanes had severely damaged a sweet gum tree in the middle of the back yard. Instead of grinding the stump out, we built the butterfly mound.  In recent years, I've moved to more natives and more natives have moved in by themselves.

Here's a link to my original post on the butterfly mound, "From stump to butterfly haven" and I'll post more about its transformation when it's not so beat up.


Coreopsis seedlings right out of the pot. Some of the seedlings in the pot had spawned new plants that are attached via rhizome.
I'd brought a six-inch pot of tickseed (Coreopsis lanceolata) back from my Sept. 21 appearance down at the opening of the Green Marketplace in Cocoa. It was time to get them into the ground. I was surprised to see how many of the seedlings had already put out rhizomes and had generated new plants. I planted half of them next to the yucca in the butterfly mound and the other half in the newly created butterfly garden where I'll be slowly removing yet another patch of turf. The tall tropical-looking leaves are more of the ginger lilies that were already in place.  Previously I'd transplanted a bunch of scarlet sage (Salvia coccinea) and a snow squarestem (Melanthera nivea) from other places in the yard.

I mulched the seedlings with pine needles and not the arborists' wood chips because it's easier to control and is less likely to react with the soil and decompose.

See a previous post on the beginnings of this bed.

I added half of the coreopsis seedlings to the front expanding butterfly garden.  

Sorting seedlings

I'd planted two cabbage seeds in each of 5 holes: 5 seedlings emerged, but two were from one hole.  Now which ones are parsley seedlings?

Now is the time to transplant the seedlings while they are still small. Once you've grown some of these plants from seed, you'll figure out soon enough which are the wanted seedlings and which are the weeds. There are six visible parsley seedlings (two with a first leaf), two chamberbitters (Phyllanthus urinaria) with the oblong leaves of various sizes, and at the bottom are four weedy sedges. I pull more chamberbitters than any other weed.

Note the early morning evenly-spaced water drops along the edges of the cabbage seedling leaves--the result of guttation. During the day, water flows freely through the plants and evaporated into the air.  At night the pores (stomata) close up because there is no photosynthesis, but the water is still flowing, so the excess is excreted through special glands (called hydathodes) that are evenly situated along the leaf margin.

At the St. Johns County Home & Garden
Show, a special weekend appearance.

Roadside flowers in Clay County.
Swamp sunflower (Helianthus angustifolia)

Last weekend I took a break from gardening and writing to participate in the St. Johns County Home and Garden Show. Renee Stambaugh of Native Plant Consulting invited me to share her booth. It was fun to talk to people about native plants, sustainable gardening, and edible gardening.  I sold a few books, too. On the way over I took some photos of amazing roadside flowers in the sunlight.

I hope you're finding time to enjoy the beautiful fall weather in your gardens or out and about.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

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