Saturday, August 16, 2008

Butterfly Weed, Bees, and Skullcaps

I love the combination of orange and purple, any purple, almost as much as I love the combination of purple, blue and pink.

I got a start of Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) by putting out seed obtained from the NC Botanical Garden through their Native Seed Distribution Program. I just threw the seed out onto the ground in the garden in April. Wherever I want more Butterfly Weed I spread fresh seed from the original plants. Oftentimes it's necessarily to go ahead and lay out fresh seed because the seeds will actually start germinating in the pod. I love this plant; it's very drought tolerant and the orange flowers really stand out.

Butterfly weed looks pure orange, but on close inspection some plants have flowers that are actually yellow with red stripes.

Bumblebees just love the flowers.

Scutellarias have a beautiful blue-violet color and bloom in spring and summer depending on the species.

We have S. integrifolia growing wild on our farm. It's short, rarely even a foot in height, and blooms in May with scattered rebloom the rest of the season. A colony of these skullcaps is a lovely sight. S. integrifolia can tolerate dry conditions but definitely prefers moisture. Ours grow wild in ditches and other wet places. It is easily transferred into the garden. Seedlings often come up around the parent plant but S integrifolia is too small and delicate to be aggressive.

Scutellaria ovata is a new plant in my garden as of last fall. According to the NC Botanical Garden it prefers soil on the dry side, but mine are in a heavily composted bed and are happy. It blooms a little later than S. integrifolia, in late May/ early June.

The last Scutellaria to bloom is S. incana in July and August. This plant handles dry part shade better than most perennials. It's the tallest Scutellaria I have, reaching about 2' in height. It has silvery green foliage, making it easy to distinguish from the fuzzy ovate leaves of S. ovata and the small green leaves of S. integrifolia.

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