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Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

The group of  White Snakeroot plants in my yard this year has created a delightful orb of delicate white flowers. It resembles a bush but it is actually a cluster of single-stemmed flowers.

I strongly recommend this native plant for shady gardens. Mine grows underneath the canopy of a neighbour’s Norway maple, and it has produced a plethora of flowers, starting in late summer, and continuing to bloom in September.

White Snakeroot

White Snakeroot (Eupatorium rugosum) is indigenous throughout southern Ontario in places such as rich woods, thickets, clearings, waste places, ditches, meadows and beside lakes and streams.  I planted mine four years ago and it has formed a clump of plants, about three feet wide and four feet tall in the centre.  The plants get taller towards the centre, which gives the illusion of a shaped shrub.

Do not plant this plant near pastures, however. It’s poisonous to livestock, and will create “milk sickness” in humans when they drink the milk of animals who have eaten the plants.

I think it’s safe to plant this perennial in my city garden, far from any grazing domestic animals. It will spread by seeds, so if you plant this flower, you will be pulling out seedlings. The picture below shows seedlings that grow in the stones surrounding my flower beds. They do not spread by roots, however, so they are relatively easy to control.

Snakeroot Plant Seedlings

Don’t be fooled by the ugly name, the White Snakeroot makes a pretty addition to shady city gardens.

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My hens-and-chicks plant (a species of Sempervivum) had pretty little flowers this summer. But I knew that the plant that bore them was going to die soon.  However, I wasn’t too worried because I also knew that there would be many other little ‘hens and chicks’ that would remain.

Hens-and-Chicks Flowers

I heartily recommend planting Sempervivum in  the most difficult of conditions. They do fine in sandy, dry, soil with poor nutrition. And they spread in neat clumps.  They’re especially great in rock gardens and xeriscaping. Although they’re not grown for their flowers, they are a nice little splash of colour in the spring.  Although the part of the plant bore them will die, if you’ve got a large enough cluster of them, you don’t need to worry, and you can enjoy this  flowery exit.

Dead Flower Stalk

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Do you think it looks messy to let the leaves that fall on your garden bed lie undisturbed?  That seems to be the case for a majority of gardeners.  Whether the neighbours think it looks unkempt or not, I have a policy of leaving mine to rest on my gardens, especially the beds with woodland plants.  I do this for a variety of reasons.

My Garden Bed with Leaf Mulch

First, they keep in moisture.  We had very little snow and precipitation this winter, but what did fall, was largely retained by the leaves.

Second,the leaves help to support a thriving soil food web with an abundance of different types of microscopic life forms, beneficial insects, and earthworms to make your soils teem with life.

Third, it’s convenient. No need to rake and bag for yard waste pick up.  No need to buy and add mulch to replace the leaves. I do add some compost to some of the plants that need extra nutrition.

I am careful, however not to make such a thick layer that it smothers the plants.  The leaves are from a Norway maple, which are fairly large, and may cause matting which plants can’t grow through. It is possible to use a mulching mower to shred them if you own one.

Yes, sometimes the leaves blow around and look a bit messy on my walkway.  However, the wooden siding on my flower beds helps keep them in.

The proof that the mulch benefits the plants can be seen when I compare the Solomon’s Seal that has leaf mulch with Solomon’s Seal that has no leaf mulch (see below).  The ones with mulch are tall and lush and already blooming. The ones without leaf mulch (or any mulch for that matter) are short and straggly and only have a few buds.

So next time you start to rake leaves from your flower bed, you might like to reconsider!  Leaves are a gardener’s friend!

Solomon’s Seal without Leaf Mulch

Solomon’s Seal with Leaf Mulch

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A few years ago I planted a sharp-loped hepatica — a native woodland flower– to add to my front garden.  I made the mistake of leaving it in  the coir pot, which I thought would biodegrade.  Later, I found out  that the amount of moisture needed to decompose the pots might rot the roots of the plant. The containers need to be constantly wet, otherwise they will dry out and take water away from plant roots. Also, when they decompose, they deprive nitrogen from the soil.

Sharp-Lobed Hepatica

When I didn’t see the flower last year,  I thought that it had died. But lo and behold, I spotted one small flower this year coming up through the leaf litter.  What a beautiful surprise!

The flower opens  first while the furled, hairy leaves are still just peeking out of the ground.  When the flowers disappear, the leaves open out.  These small brownish leaves are blending in with the leaves in my flower bed, which makes me think they may have been there last year, but I didn’ t notice them.

Sharp-Lobed Hepatica Leaves

Sharp-Lobed Hepatica (Hepatica nobilis var. acuta) like well-drained, rich soil, with dappled sunlight in the spring and shade in summer.  Mine is growing in sandy loam at the edge of the shade of a Norway maple.  Hopefully, it will continue to thrive and multiply there. Luckily, I hadn’t given up and planted something else at that spot. Sometimes it takes a year or two for a perennial plant to adjust to its new surroundings and show its lovely blossoms. So don’t give up on your flowers after one year… you may get a welcome surprise.


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