Saturday, November 05, 2011

And This Year's Survivors & Thrivers Are.....

After a summer like this one, there are times when I am simply amazed that any plants survived. When I find plants that have thrived, they are true cause for celebration! This post is to honor those hardy plants that not only made it through the heat and drought with no special extra care, but those that have bloomed boldly and/or look particularly healthy as we head into the unknown winter.

In the pasture/restoring prairie areas and draw, I first want to give a shout out to the common ragweed (Ambrosia artemesiifolia) and giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida). The plants aren't as tall as usual, especially the giant ragweed, but they had many blooms and should be loaded with seeds - so important because of the high value of their seed as food for wildlife. (In the photo above, taken in early September, Greg is posing by the giant ragweed in the draw. Normally these plants would be well over his head - as high as 10-12 feet in some years. This year they barely reached his waist.) As harsh as the weather's been through the growing season, I'm so glad that there is at least some plentiful, healthy seed to help the wild animals make it through the winter.

Also out in the pasture/restoring prairie areas, the dotted gayfeather (Liatris punctata) was adorned with many flowers this September - we had more plants, each with more individual bloom spikes, than we've had yet since we lived here!

Not as showy, but still interesting, the false boneset (Brickellia eupatorioides) was also much more prevalent than I've seen it before. The flowers are small and off-white, looking quite a bit like little threads gathered together in a small pom-pom. It doesn't take them long to turn into seed heads, complete with white "feathers," forming larger, round puffs that absolutely shine in the light when backlit by the sun.

Another flower that wasn't wildly showy, but seemed more abundant than in most years, was the heath aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides). The plants and even the flowers seemed smaller than usual, but conversely the plants were more abundant. They formed small white drifts among the grasses that almost looked like light drifts of snow and fed small armies of insect pollinators during the heat of the day when little else was blooming.

Moving out of our yard and into the wider landscape, the sunflowers (Helianthus spp.) were amazing this year. Maybe it was just that so many of the other plants were brown and dry and/or stunted, but the sunflowers seemed to glow even more brightly and golden than in most years. I'm planning on gathering seeds (tomorrow?) to increase the number of sunflowers on our property. They are simply too pretty and too hardy not to establish decent colonies on our property.

In the garden, of course, the aromatic asters (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium) have been astounding, as were the Wichita Mountains goldenrod (Solidago 'Wichita Mountains'). The sand love grass (Eragrostis trichodes) has loved the summer this year, too. (In fact, if anyone would like a seedling or two or ten of the latter, I have plenty to pass around!)

Most of the other natives are doing fine. The rose verbena (Verbena canadensis) required a little extra water during the worst of the heat and drought, as did the summer phlox (Phlox paniculata), but both appear to have survived without any serious problem. Next year, of course, I'll be able to tell a little more certainly about survival rates, but I have reasonable confidence that my prairie flowers will, for the most part, be fine.

It certainly hasn't been the prettiest year in the garden or on the prairie, but there's always next year!


Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

I'm not sure I've ever really thought about ragweed. I certainly couldn't have identified it and did not know it could grow so tall! I wonder if it grows on my parents' farm but they called it something else. (My mom has odd names for some plants that I have found out aren't right! Ha.)
I like gayfeather and am glad it is spreading for you.
I'm hoping my heath aster plants settle in to where I moved them. One in the alley disappeared with the digging by the phone/internet people but one is out there still and I have about 6 in the front garden.
Sunflowers are just made to be here.
Your asters and goldenrod look great together.
I don't know where I'd put the sand love grass. When do you usually plant or divide that?
Here's to next year!

Melanie said...

Love your list of survivors! I transplanted 3 gayflowers out of our pasture last summer to put by the waterfall. Two of them survived and I LOVE 'em!! I love the vibrant purple spikes at the end of the summer. I was worried that they wouldn't bloom.. since they didn't until mid September! My sis-in-law harvested some cleome seed pods for me that she gave me last night. They were wild in her pasture. .and had NOOOOO water whatsoever, coupled with the heat. .and they still grew and bloomed! I'm planning to throw some of those seeds in the ground next spring too! I might be interested in a piece of the grass. .I'll have to look it up to see what it does! Enjoy your Sunday!

ProfessorRoush said...

Here's a second to your amazement over the survival of plants this year. And thanks for Id'ing the false boneset for me...I didn't know what it was.

Gaia Gardener: said...

Sherlock, I've got lots more heath aster if you need some more (or want some seed). I'm digging the sand love grass out this fall - I think it's hardy enough to survive no matter what time of year you transplant it!

Melanie, congrats on transplanting the gayfeather! I'm really rather surprised you had 2 out of 3 survive, given how deep their roots are supposed to be. What cleome did you get from your sister? The garden one, or one of the natives? If it's one of the natives, I might be interested in seeds from that, if and when you ever have extra to share.

The sand love grass gets about 2 - 2 1/2 feet tall, with feathery, open seed heads. We have a sandy loam soil here, and it absolutely loves it. Be aware that the reason I have so much to share is that it's happily reseeding itself - which would be great, if they weren't in my front walkway flower bed!

Jim, I'm looking forward to reading your next posts, both about your garden AND about your vacation! Glad to be of service with the false boneset.

Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

I don't think I have space for the sand love grass after looking into in some more.
I'll keep the heath aster offer in mind but am hoping my little rescued plants like their new homes.
Thank you. It is so nice to find out about plants that will survive here from real gardeners! said...

Ohio had a really extreme summer too. And the natives are always ready to hang in there. Great photos too.

Gaia Gardener: said...

Sherlock, I'm really not sure that I deserve the compliment of being called a "real gardener," but thank you!

Claudia, thank you for your nice comment also!

Autumn Belle said...

During this time of the year, the survivors steal the show. The bush of asters look very lovely. Happy thanksgiving!