Hypertufa troughs & native plants

Beaux Arbres is now closed for the season. I am collecting and packaging seeds and having fun with hypertufa troughs.

The little rectangular trough, pictured above, was one of my first efforts. It features a lump of fossilized coral and five little plants: early saxifrage, dwarf hairy beardtongue, Penstemon nitidus, Penstemon pinifolius, and a little thing from last year, which lost its label over the winter but which might be a Draba.

The only species which is native to the Ottawa Valley is the Early Saxifrage (Micranthes virginiensis). The Penstemons, an entirely North American genus, have the centre of their diversity further west, in the Rockies, and those western Penstemons are much too lovely to ignore. I wouldn’t plan my garden around them, but as little gems to try in a trough garden, they are fascinating. The small alpine species are said to require excellent drainage to be hardy in the east, which is why I have planted them in the hypertufa.

I have several other little plants I want to grow in troughs, both to provide excellent drainage and so they don’t get lost, swamped by larger neighbours. I have some seedling Silene acaulis, some other little pots which I know contain an Arctic Draba, and some dwarf Arctic Irises, all thanks to the Ontario Rock Garden and Hardy Plant Society’s super-excellent seed exchange. I also have some tiny plants from our north woods, which want cool peaty soil and shade: twinflower, creeping snowberry, and common wood sorrel, which deserve their own specialized container. I might want to create a trough garden for fen conditions – saturated, marl-bottom, and full sun — to grow Grass-of Parnassus and perhaps some carnivorous sundews. It’s an addiction. Once you start adding trough gardens, it is impossible to stop. I’ll be patting hypertufa mix into box forms until the snow flies.

Looking ahead to next year: Beaux Arbres will be participating again in Seedy Saturdays in the Ottawa area next spring. We will also be bringing seed cards to some Christmas craft fairs. (Native plant seeds make excellent stocking stuffers for gardeners – just saying.) We will keep you posted on this blog…

This is NOT a groundhog sarcophagus. It is a larger hypertufa trough, still curing. I have many more little plants to grow in troughs.

More on native plants for meadows

I had a grand time at the Nepean Horticultural Society on Thursday, talking about wildflower meadows. One of the best parts of the evening was the questions after my talk. Some great, thoughtful, questions came from the audience – thanks to all who asked.

(I am a bit slow getting to this. The cold I was fending off all week, so that I could give the talk Thursday evening, exacted vengeance on Friday and through the weekend.)

One of the most remarked upon parts of my talk was the illustration of the depths of roots of various prairie plants and wildflowers. I thought I would put up this illustration, from Conservation Research Institute, 1995, to give everyone another look at this phenomenon.


The botany prof who first drew all these wonderful root systems, whose name I couldn’t recall, was a Dr Weaver, of the University of Nebraska, and he is the subject of a fine blog post in the blog Gardenhistorygirl. I urge you to click through to see some astonishing botanical illustration work.

Prairie plants root systems sequester carbon in the soil as they build organic matter in topsoil. I mentioned this briefly in my talk. The Guardian newspaper recently published an article on how farming practices affect the amount of carbon in the soil: Our best shot at cooling the planet might be right under our feet. Imagine the difference in carbon sequestration between a field growing little bluestem as a perennial hay, and, say, industrial corn. You may not be in a position to seed an hundred acres in little bluestem, but you may want to be part of the solution by doing your little bit, creating a small meadow of native grasses and flowers where you can, in your yard or at your church or school.

Also, while you are here, take a look at the roots of Cylindric Blazing Star, second from the right. Wow! Cylindric Blazing Star is a little thing, no bigger than a petunia plant, and its roots go down 15 feet.



Making a wildflower meadow

Just a reminder that I will be at the Nepean Horticultural Society on Thursday evening, talking about the procedures we used to make the three native plant meadow areas at Beaux Arbres. I’ll be showing lots of pics of summer wildflowers to cheer us up during this unpleasantly cold spell in March.

Making a Wildflower Meadow

by Trish Murphy of Beaux Arbres Native Plants

for the Nepean Horticultural Society

Cityview United Church, 6 Epworth Ave., Nepean ON

Thursday, March 16th 2017, 7:30 pm

All are welcome.


Earth Day: Will we have plants to sell?

The Ontario Horticultural Society, District 2 AGM is being held this year in Cobden, almost just across the river from our farm in Bristol. It will be featuring talks on native plants and a talk by the always entertaining naturalist, Michael Runtz.

We couldn’t resist signing up to be a vendor at their marketplace. Although I have no idea whether we will have any plants ready to sell, if seemed a grand opportunity to reach some of the most enthusiastic and committed gardeners in eastern Ontario.

So, let us hope for some fine warm spring weather in the weeks before Earth Day, April 22nd. With luck, the earliest plants will at least have sent out a few leaves. We don’t have any heated greenhouses to force plants ahead of their season, so what we get is what the season brings. It does mean that nothing we sell needs to be hardened off before being planted in your garden.

If you live in the Cobden, Beachburg, Renfrew, Douglas, Eganville area, and you are interested in gardening and not yet a member of a Horticultural Society, now would be a fine time to join, to participate in what is going to be a fine AGM. Pre-registration is required to attend the event.

Celebrate Earth Day in Eganville

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Hosted by the Eganville & Area Horticultural Society

Opeongo High School, 1990 Cobden Rd. (between Eganville & Cobden)

Rankin Cultural and Recreation Centre, 20 Rankin Road, Pembroke