Blazing Stars


Two blazing star species in our garden are blooming now: Spike Blazing Star (Liatris spicata) and Prairie Blazing Star (L. pycnostachya).

The shorter spike blazing star was the first to bloom. We had put some spike blazing star in our tall-grass prairie planting at the base of the bank. Another name I have seen for spike blazing star in American literature is marsh blazing star, reflecting its distribution in areas with ample moisture. The base of the bank can be quite wet in spring, while the top of the bank can be very dry by mid-summer.

Spike blazing star (Liatris spicata), planted last September, starts to bloom in our tall grass planting.
Spike blazing star (Liatris spicata), planted last September, starts to bloom in our tall grass planting.

Spike blazing star occurs as a wildflower in southwestern Ontario. Probably the best place to see it in the wild is Ojibway Nature Preserve in Windsor, which is where I took this photo a few years ago.

A wild stand of spike blazing star, blooming in Ojibway Prairie Nature Preserve in Windsor, Ontario.
A wild stand of spike blazing star, blooming in Ojibway Prairie Nature Preserve in Windsor, Ontario.

Both species are very attractive to butterflies and large bumble bees.

White admiral on prairie blazing star in the swale garden.
White admiral on spike blazing star.



Saturday Mornings at the Farmers Market

Beaux Arbres Native Plants' Table at the Shawville Farmers Market.
Beaux Arbres Native Plants table at the Shawville Farmers Market.

We are becoming accustomed to the task of loading the trailer with a selection of our native plants (and Michael’s basketry material) and taking them into the Shawville Farmers Market on Saturday mornings.DSCN2681

Last Saturday, I brightened our table with a big bouquet of summer blooms. The interior of the market building needs all the help it can get — it is a visually dreary space with fluorescent lighting. There are not that many options for a market space in Shawville, and this building has some good features, but, boy, oh boy, does it lack charm.

I must have been channelling my inner Martha Stewart, because Saturday was a two flower arrangements day. I love the vivid orange of Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia) but the stems are short unless you are willing to sacrifice a lot of future flowers by cutting the unopened buds. I made a little nosegay for our outdoor dining table with short-cut stems of Tithonia, dill flowers, and sprigs of marjoram. Some day I would like to have a cutting garden full of zinnias and cosmos and other cottage-garden style annuals for cutting.nosegay

Summer Flowers: Blooming in our garden this week

I have been away from my computer for over a week – first I had a power cord issue, then our service provider wasn’t – so I have been unable to post pictures of some very nice flowers blooming in our garden. I will make up for it by posting a whole bunch of Plants of the Week at once.

Starting with a sundrop trailing over the rock wall:

Oenothera fremontii
Oenothera fremontii


Sunset anise-hyssop (Agastache rupestris) isn’t native to eastern North American, but it has proven to be hardy in western Quebec through at least one vicious winter. I put a mass of seedlings in front of a few plants of wild lupin to hide them from a foraging groundhog with a taste for my best plants. I thought the strong odour of the Agastache would mask the lupins and it seems to be working. I have come to appreciate the massed planting of the Agastache for their strong summer colour and tolerance for very dry soil.

Sunset anise-hyssop (Agastache rupestris) in the rock garden.
Sunset anise-hyssop (Agastache rupestris) in the rock garden.

The pale buds of Virginia mountain mint are present for a long time before the flowers open. Perhaps because of the mass of unopened buds, I always think of these flowers as white. Looking more closely, I can see that the opened flowers are actually covered with small purple spots. This is quite an aggressive spreader and I can already see where I will have to intervene where I have placed Virginia mountain mint too close to mid-sized neighbours. The minty smell is lovely where the plant has been placed next to rough country lawn – makes mowing a pleasure.

Virginia mountain mint (Pycnanthemum virginiensis)
Virginia mountain mint (Pycnanthemum virginiensis).

The crescendo of tall late-summer yellow daisies is building with the jaunty flowers of sneezeweed. I have put rather too many sneezeweeds into the swale garden – just rammed a bunch of left-overs in late last year and they all survived. I plan to transplant several of them to locations uphill as I develop the swale garden. I like sneezeweed (it doesn’t deserve its dreadful common name) but there are more tall yellow daisies to come in that part of the garden and I do not want it to be all yellow.

Sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale)
Sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale)

No monarch caterpillars on our swamp milkweeds yet this year. Two of the many plants of swamp milkweed which I planted last year have white flowers. They are not a cultivar, as I sowed all the plants from wild-collected seeds. White flowers just happen from time to time in many species where the flowers are usually coloured. Seems unusual to get two white-flowered plants in one batch, but randomness is random. Both pink and white swamp milkweeds have been attracting great spangled fritillaries.

A white-flowered swamp milkweed (Asc;e[oas omcarnata_
A white-flowered swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata).
A vibrantly coloured clustered poppy mallow (Callirhoe triangulata) was very slow to get going but worth the wait. We lost all the winecups, the trailing species, Callirhoe involucrata, that were growing on top of the rock wall. They didn’t survive last winter. I suspect they aren’t a long-lived plant. Plants which flower non-stop all summer are seldom long-lived. I am hoping this shier, more upright cousin will bloom for many summers. It is growing up beside, and being supported by, a clump of little bluestem grass.

Poppy mallow.
Clustered poppy mallow (Callirhoe triangulata).

The great star of the summer in the swale garden is cardinal flower. It deserves a post of its own….