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.

Open Garden Day, Spring 2016

Sunday, May 29th, 11 am – 4 pm

Beaux Arbres Native Plants is holding Open Garden Day slightly earlier this year,to give visitors a different view of the flowers, especially the spring flowers in the Rock Garden.

  • Tour the Demonstration  Gardens
  • Visit the nursery area to purchase your favourite native plants
  • Home-made baskets and other crafts
  • Coffee from Art Brulant

If you cannot make it that Sunday, we are open Saturday and Sunday afternoons throughout the summer, other hours by chance or appointment. Please plan to visit and bring a friend!


2016 Season

Download Nursery Catalogue 2016. pdf

Beaux Arbres Native Plants will open the 2016 season by participating in the Rare and Unusual Plants Sale on Sunday May 15th at the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa.

Two weekends later we will be hosting our own Spring Open Garden Day at the farm, with guided tours of the native plant gardens, demonstrations and really good coffee from Art Brûlant. That happens Sunday, May 29, from 11 am to 4 pm.

The Rare and Unusual Plant Sale has been held on Mothers’ Day in past years. This coming year, Mothers’ Day is early and the organizers decided to hold the sale the following Sunday. We have experienced two brutally long winters in Ottawa the past two years, and it was challenging to get nursery stock to saleable condition by Mothers Day. Last year, three weeks before the sale, I had NOTHING. Then we had two weeks of unseasonable warm weather, and the plants emerged and leaves unfurled in time.

I will posts more about the Sale closer to the date.

The Nursery Catalogue 2016 is available for download. We won’t be bringing anything like the complete list to the sale. We expect to bring mostly early spring bloomers like violets, pussytoes, early saxifrage, and prairie smoke and later spring flowers like penstemons, golden Alexanders and wild columbine and a small selection of shrubs and summer bloomers. It is always great to see the spring blooms but for the full selection, plan to visit the farm.


In bloom this week.

Harebells (Campanula rotundifolia) have been blooming continuously since the beginning of July in the rock garden.
Harebells (Campanula rotundifolia) have been blooming continuously since the beginning of July in the rock garden.

Some of the plants of boreal Jacob’s ladder in the rock garden, which were cut back hard earlier in the summer when they were going to seed, have rebloomed. Not as showy as their first flush of flowers but still welcome colour in the rock garden, which is primarily a spring garden.

Boreal Jacob's ladder (polemonium boreale).
Boreal Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium boreale).

I cannot recommend showy tick-trefoil for borders or small gardens: it is too lanky and in bloom for too short a period to justify it, and its sticky seed pods are a nuisance if you or a pet comes too close. However, it is a lovely component of meadows and naturalization projects. It is a favoured host plant for the caterpillars of Eastern Tailed Blue butterflies.

Showy tick-trefoil (Desmodium canadense)
Showy tick-trefoil (Desmodium canadense).

The first yellow daisies of late summer – sneezeweed and grey-headed coneflower – have been joined by cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum), a robust and quick-to-flower giant which can easily reach to the eaves of a single storey house. The seeds of cup plant are nutritious and sought out by goldfinches and other seed-eating birds over the winter, so the natural impulse is to let the plant go to seed. However, be warned. Cup plant seeds itself generously in gardens and, unless the seedling cup plants are recognized and removed, a natural garden can be replaced by a cup plant plantation. Cup plant’s close relatives from the tall grass prairie, prairie dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum) and compass plant (S. laciniatum) are both so slow to get going they need to be coddled by the gardener for their first couple of years.

Cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum)
Cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum)

Butterfly milkweed is finally in bloom. It has been very late to develop this year. Its bloom is overlapping with the first of the swamp asters, which is just weird.

Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa): bright orange flowers and a medium height make it ideal for a sunny border.
Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa): bright orange flowers and a medium height make it ideal for a sunny border.
Swamp aster or purple-stemmed aster in the swale garden.
Swamp aster or purple-stemmed aster (Symphyotrichum puniceum) in the swale garden.

Our oldest plant of Culver’s root flowered in July and has now gone to seed. Two-year old plants of this slow-to-mature prairie species are flowering for their first time and are in bloom now. They are shorter than they will be when fully mature; their elegant white candelabra are tucked in among their neighbours. When happily settled in, the tips of the long spires of this lovely plant can reach six feet high or even more.

Culver's root (Veronicastrum virgini_.
Culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum).

Cardinal flower. What else can I say. Except they are hard to get a good photo of. Intense reds and oranges are not handled well by my digital camera – the intense orange of Mexican sunflower also comes out as a fluorescent blob of colour.

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis).

Cardinal flower’s close relative, great blue lobelia, is also in bloom right now.

Great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica).
Great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica).

I don’t fuss with annuals too much but I like my Mexican sunflowers and I also sowed some seeds of love-in-a-mist. (Nigella). They are an amazing true blue and their seed pods are silly – a combination of striped balloon and jester’s hat.).

Love-in-a-mist (Nigella).
Love-in-a-mist (Nigella).

The Allegheny fringe is still extending its delicate tendril and blooming. It has reached the eaves of the studio, climbing some jute twine I provided for it, and has now started to drape downwards rather elegantly. I do love this native biennial.

Allegheny fringe or climbing bleeding heart (Adlumia fungosa).
Allegheny fringe or climbing bleeding heart (Adlumia fungosa).