Chelone lyonii, Pink turtle head – A lovely native species offering autumn blooms

The beautiful Chelone lyonii ‘Hot Lips’ also goes by the common name of pink turtlehead. It blooms from July straight through to October, so it’s a terrific addition to any garden.

Chelone comes from the Greek word meaning tortoise because each blossom obviously resembles, without too much imagination, a turtle’s head.

A great perennial for late summer colour that doesn’t much like excessive heat, it will tolerate full sun if its feet are kept cool. The flowers are primarily pollinated by bees, but the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds will often visit them as well. The foliage of this plant is known to be bitter so it’s avoided by Deer and other herbivores. In my own experience the deer have yet to touch the Chelone, so this species is something to cheer about by any rural gardener!

Lucky to have this plant in my garden due to a lovely share from another local gardener, in the six or so years since it’s established, the plant has multiplied from one single flowering stem into more than a dozen. With its strong stems, the clump doesn’t flop over after a rainstorm.

It’s worth noting that there’s a white flowering species called Chelone glabra that I’d like to get my hands on! A host plant for the endangered Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly, and like their pink cousin they too will thrive in damp locations and shady glades.

It’s my hope to collect many seeds this year. I’ll be able to offer them online at my Etsy shop. The pollinators did their jobs well, seed heads are forming, and with a little luck the mild weather we’re currently experiencing means they’ll ripen before the first hard frost. Then I can get my hands on some! Culture/Info:

  • Foliage: Herbaceous smooth-textured.
  • Requires consistently moist soil.
  • Propagation Methods: By dividing the root-ball or from seed.
  • Direct sow outdoors in fall or early spring.
  • Stratify seeds if sowing indoors.
  • Seed Collecting: Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds.
  • Non-patented native perennial
  • Height: 24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

Thanks for visiting. Happy Autumn! : )

Gardening for pollinators and other wildlife

When we strike a balance with nature, creatures of all shapes and sizes with whom we share our neck of the woods all benefit, so it’s a win-win!

When we seek to create a garden, it can become a hub of activity, much of it we may not even be aware of, but activity that caters to wildlife. If we are mindful of life beyond ourselves and provide eco friendly spaces for other living creatures, we offer refuge to many a beneficial visitor.

Insects, birds, and smaller mammals begin to thrive, visit and maybe even take up residence! That’s usually because creatures smaller than themselves are also in the vicinity, offering a food source, so the chain of life begins.

Spring is an ideal time to embrace local biodiversity. We gardeners can see the effects of our handiwork in our own plots.

Perhaps not overnight, but over the course of a season when our yards yield evidence of the wildlife we’ve attracted. This is done when we create a natural space in which they can prosper.

Take the humble bumblebee. I’m going to risk the raising of eyebrows from fellow dog lovers and state that bees are up there with our pooches as ‘man’s best friend’! But seriously, some hard working pollinators might seem scary to a few folk, but they very rarely sting and if they do, it’s as a last line of defence. Beyond that caveat, a bee’s hard work and importance to us as a species cannot be overstated.

Can you imagine a garden without flowers? Or an orchard without fruit? In some parts of the world, this dystopian outlook is closer to reality than we might fear…

Approximately 80 percent of food crops grown around the world require pollination and that’s mainly done by the hardworking bee. Unfortunately bees are having a particularly hard time at the moment. It has become entirely clear to many that habitat loss and the use of pesticides and herbicides, mainly by big Ag are the main contributor to our loss of bees. (I believe Monarch butterflies may also fall victim to these practices for similar reasons, but I digress..).

Millions of bees have died and this disturbing occurrence is not just taking place in North America, but all over the world. Because of this, it’s crucial that we gardeners plant our plots to ensure the survival of the bee. We can offer them a safe haven from chemicals, and considering just how important they are with respect to our food supply, the consequences could be devastating to say the least, so our help no matter how small is vital.

We can help by offering bees, and other pollinators, plants that are attractive to them when  foraging for food. Consider growing bee balm (Monarda) in the garden. It’s an excellent choice and certainly lives up to its name! The bonus is, bee balm is extremely appealing to hummingbirds and butterflies, too!

Just off the top of my head, I’d like to name several varieties in my garden that I’ve found appeal to bees and other creatures:

Aconitum (Monkshood), Chives , Dandelions,  Purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), Digitalis (Foxglove), Bearded Iris, Lupinus X polyphylla (Lupine) Physostegia virginiana (Obedient Plant), Pulmonaria (Lungwort), Sunflowers, Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus), Hollyhocks, and Gaillardia, just for starters! Of course the best thing any gardener can do is to have a progression of blooms throughout the growing season, which is a tall order for even the seasoned gardener, but definitely a great goal to have.

The same gardening practices that attract and help wildlife also improve our air, water and soil quality. The benefit goes beyond our gardens, and it only takes a few plants and some forethought to create these habitats.

We can even attract creatures to our garden by adding a couple of containers with some flowering annuals. Gardeners with limited space may even want to plant vertically. Using wall space, arbors or fences to grow perennial vines like honeysuckle, Virginia creeper or annuals like sweet pea, morning glory, or scarlet runner beans and even hanging baskets will woo pollinators.

If you’re ambitious, consider selecting a wide variety of plants that provide blooms from early spring into late fall. Hummingbirds happen to prefer red tubular flowers and will visit all season long for them. Butterflies are usually drawn to more open-faced yellow and purple flowers, as well as herbs like lavender, dill, thyme, oregano and parsley.

Many herbs can be grown in containers in the smallest of garden like a balcony or windowsill. And I’ve yet to mention native plants, which offers the ultimate gift to wildlife as they are even more attractive a food source for local pollinators than anything else one could grow.

By making a conscious effort to not use harmful chemicals in the garden we encourage beneficial insects like ladybugs to visit, who happen to eat aphids! Toads and frogs are great allies in the garden as well since they eat slugs and grasshoppers. For them, I have a couple broken clay pots turned upside down, which offers these creatures some shelter during rainstorms. I also strategically place large seashells in the garden which collect water to offer them a drink on a hot day.

With very little maintenance, the garden will be a welcome haven for all kinds of insects and birds, and wildlife, while adding beauty and creating sustainability at the same time. Whether it’s mulching beds, reducing the size of lawn, which happens to be the most unnatural landscape of all considering the chemicals and water use that go into maintaining one, or by harvesting rainwater in a barrel for use on annual containers, we all benefit by preserving the environment and creating an ecological balance in our own backyard. Remember, preserving the environment is one of the most fundamental elements of gardening.

Have fun in the garden, and at the same time lend a helping hand, and those green thumbs to the pollinators in your neck of the woods. 🙂

The unusual Rose of Jericho, aka Resurrection plant, (or even) Zombie plant?!

ressurection-plants-at-wall-flower-studioSharing an unusual North American native plant today, (not from my neck of the woods!), but from Arizona and Texas.  The Selaginella lepidophylla, otherwise known as a rose of Jericho, or resurrection plant, is about as drought tolerant a plant as you can get. It is actually classed as a tumbleweed and this seemingly innocuous species is simply amazing! Let me explain why..

Doesn’t look like much, does it?! A dead root ball, perhaps.. However, mist it with some water, stand back and watch the magic begin as it comes back to life.

Back from the dead, as its name suggests! From a dead ball of brown to a thriving green plant with cedar like ferny foliage, and all in about an hour’s time! Considering the time of year with Halloween approaching, perhaps ‘zombie plant’ wouldn’t be far off, after all. 😉

resurrection-plant-opening-wfs-2016-011I’ve taken a series of photos to show the progress from the above photo to green and alive! It turns green pretty quickly.

This was about 10 minutes after watering.

 

 

 

It starts to unfurl… 15 minutes in.

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more unfurling.. 20 minutes in.

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The green colour is much more apparent at this point. Deepening to a cedar green colour… 45 minutes in.

 

 

 

 

 

Almost all the way open! 55 minutes in.

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Filling out nicely and the green is soft and lush. 65 minutes in.

 

 

 

 

resurrection-plant-opening-wfs-2016-021Fully open! Looks kind of like a big ferny, mossy chrysanthemum blossom!

Smells like a forest after the rain.

The best part is, you can let it dry right out again. It will return to its natural dried state,  furled up like an animal in a deep winter hibernation, waiting for spring to arrive once again.

For more information on these lovely and unusual plants, visit:

Thank you for visiting!

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