Friday, February 27, 2009

Blooming Friday -- Old Friends Part II

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. I hope that the new trees have 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 iridescent 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. I love white flowers in the 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 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 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 full 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 eliminate 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.


  1. You've got lots of great things here. The photos are very nice and wonderful to look at when it seems like winter will never end. Thanks.

  2. Sweetbay,

    Can I move into your garden! Just a little cottage...set above the 100 year flood line and I will be content; just looking out onto your garden! Your favorites are fantastic...just lovely. I am so glad you decided to share them with us ...Please tell me there is a part III!

    You have natives that folks in suburban areas are willing to pay huge amounts of money to have in their native garden! Many that I wish could grow here...but the conditions you describe won't be found at clay and limestone!

    Just wonderful Sweetbay....Now dear, when is the best time for the caravan of visitors to stop by!


  3. What beautiful blooms! I love those lilies!

  4. SweetBay, those are wonderful photos. Love the fringe tree but even more the lilies. How graceful they are.

  5. You are blessed with a great amount of flora and fauna. I would love to have wild fringe trees growing here. Thanks for the info on sourwood. I was wanting one but think I'll get the service berry instead.

  6. I love the lilies, too. And I love seeing beautiful photos like yours of plants growing in very different climes from mine.

  7. Absolutely gorgeous! The picture with the spider is wonderful!

  8. Among all those lovely and exotic plants, I took an immediate fancy to the Fringe tree. Such delicate flowers - knowing they're fragrant makes them even more beautiful!
    I wish you a lovely weekend!

  9. WHat a wonderful collection of flowers, and so many native! For me, many of them look amazingly exotic, but I take it, it could be the other way around for you with plants that are native to England.
    Have a great day!

  10. Thank you for the lovely comments everyone.

    Gail there will be a part III but I need to get more pictures. :) There are many things I didn't get any snaps of last year, including the wild Crabapple that we somehow missed last year. I love that tree. (It's tucked into the edge of one of the floodway fields so we have to make an effort to go down and see it.)

  11. Hi, thanks for visiting my blog! I'm not a professional jewellery maker but it's a dear hobby of mine as well as my husbands. I made that bracelet for Katarina on her specific request regarding colors and shape of pearls. :) is our webpage if you want to look at our other jewellery. :)

  12. I love your selection of flowers! I recognize that stand of bidens from the cottage garden forum. I think it was from the other direction, though.

    Lovely blooms!

  13. What a nice compendium of worthy plants! I had to look up the Atamasco Lillies. That was new one to me and one to add to my list. Thanks for the posting.


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