This post is a continuation of an entry inspired by a question posed on Gail's Clay and Limestone . Which plants could we not garden without, and look forward to seeing each year like old friends? Following close after Bearded Iris, I chose plants that are native to our farm.
Some of these plants I have transplanted into the garden; others grow next to the wood edges and in ditches and mingle with the borders of the garden.
At times we have had large drifts of Atamasco Lily next to sloughs on the farm; these drifts dwindle and grow as trees grow up and cast heavy shade, or are felled in storms. I have an almost endless supply to harvest in a certain spot in the woods *if* I can get in between the tree roots and be careful of poison ivy.
I must get pictures of the Atamasco Lilies at Howell Woods this spring; there are magnificent spreads beside the gravel roads.
We have a couple of wild Fringetrees here; they are small and always at risk of being devoured by greenbriar and other trees, but they are still much treasured for their beauty and fragrance. The flowers smell like sweet coconut. Unfortunately these trees are all but impossible to reproduce from cuttings, and neither tree has ever produced fruits -- they may be the same sex -- so I purchased a tree from the Botanical Garden and another from Mail-Order Natives. It'll be interesting to see if either has fragrant flowers; not all of them do.
I used to think that Ruellia caroliniana was a fall bloomer, since that's when I first saw it blooming both here in one of our floodway fields, and at Howell Woods. Now that I have it in the garden it usually blooms in spring, with sporadic bloom thereafter. It's a ground-hugger, unlike Ruellia brittoniana, but the small flowers have the same bluish-purple irridescent coloring. Some people consider it a weed, since it likes to spread itself around, but I think it's too lovely to be called a weed.
We have a lot of summer flowers here, such as dozens and dozens of these Meadow Beauties that bloom all summer wherever there is any dip or swale in the ground. I think we have two species on the farm. One pictured below, which has narrow leaves, a low-growing habit, and has flowers of this pale pink and a medium pink. The second species is more upright, with rounded leaves and glowing rose-pink flowers.
The rest of the mid-summer bloomers are white, which works out well since most of them are plants that do best with a bit of shade.
Swamp Cyrilla (Cyrilla racemiflora) is one of those prized four-season trees. In June it's covered with racemes of small white bells (much like Sourwood). In late fall (as late as December) its smooth bark is set off by brilliant orange and red foliage.
Sourwood, on the other hand, has flowers very similar to Swamp Cyrilla, but the similarity ends there. It likes a well-drained soil, and shows up on our place only above the hundred year floodplain line. It has a distinct pyramidal form and vivid early red fall color. I've seen gorgeous specimens near Raleigh within view of the highway, and I have to say, they look better than mine. Mine tend to get leafspot. They do cling to the side of a steep slope, seeded in from a tree in the neighbor's pasture. Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum), also commonly called Sorrel Tree and Lily-of-the-Valley Tree is a beautiful and fairly common tree but not the easiest to grow to its fullest potential.
Lizard's Tail (Sururus cernuus) grows in all of the shallow swales on the farm, including the ditch by the old house site. The foliage is fragrant in one way, when it's brushed against, rather lemony, while the flowers are sweetly fragrant, especially en masse. They tend to pave the swales, literally forming a river of bloom. I love its other common name, which is Water Dragon.
There is a bank of Sweet Pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia) that's over 100' long just west of the old house site. It grows wild there, along with Cyrilla and American Snowbell. In June the upright racemes of very sweetly scented flowers look like hundreds of white candles. These are big shrubs, up to 10' tall and suckering. In shade the foliage is a lovely very dark green.
My husband found this Turk's Cap Lily near where the horse paddock behind the house is now. It was at the edge of the woods, on raised loam near a spring. I moved it when the area for the paddock was cleared, and put it in the bed in front of the house. When the house was moved, I divided the bulbs and planted them near the ditch for safe keeping. In good fertile soil this lily gets 8-9' tall and is covered with flowers in July.
Joe Pye Weed grows all over on the farm. I'm not sure of the species; this one usually tops out at 4-5', rarely getting to 6', and comes in light and dark mauve colors. It blooms equally in sun or shade and likes a lot of moisture. It's a butterfly favorite.
There's a lot of Blue Lobelia here, and next to running water can also be found Cardinal Flower. I think running water helps eliminiate cutworms that tend to cut through the stems when the plant is in full flower. I have given up trying to grow this plant from seed or cultivate it. Rather, I let the wild Cardinal Flower spread around and grow where it will.
And then my favorite and easiest-to-grow wildflower here, Bidens.
Plants that I still have not yet been able to bring into the garden are the hollies. I haven't yet had success with cuttings or the patience necessary for the seeds. We have a very heavily fruiting American Holly I'd love to clone, and Possamhaw (Ilex decidua) that would really stand out next to the woods. As well as the magnificent Winterberry (Ilex verticillata).
Thanks to Katarina at roses and stuff for hosting Blooming Friday.