FWG Plant Sale 2012 Top Ten: #1 – Grey-headed Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata)

We’re profiling ten plants available at this year’s Native Plant Sale which may be less well-known – but still very lovable! Why not consider adding one of these to your garden?

Photo by C Burns

Flowers: Yellow

Height: 35-70” (90 to 180 cm)

Width: 16-40” (40 to 100 cm)

Light: Full Sun

If you’re expecting a subtle grey flower, you’ll be sorely disappointed when you discover Grey-headed Coneflower is actually yellow! Its petals hang beneath its centre so it looks like a dancer when the wind blows. The common name is derived from the flower centre, which is a brown-grey shade until it dries to a lighter grey-brown in the late autumn. The leaves are lance-shaped.

A plains flower, Grey-headed Coneflower prefers well-drained soils with a gritty texture, though it can grow in all textures. It can withstand periods of drought. Deep roots make it good for finding water in the soil profile or for stabilising slopes. Continue reading

Come on out! The Annual Native Plant Sale is this weekend!

Saturday, 2 June from 9:30 until 12:30 at the Interpretation Centre parking lot

Every first Saturday in June, a grey gravel parking lot in Ottawa suddenly turns green.

Rain or shine, the Native Plant Sale goes on as the main fundraiser for the Fletcher Wildlife Garden. Tables with all sorts of native plant species make this event unique – likely the largest native plant sale in the city.

Many people have never heard of the Fletcher Wildlife Garden, a wildlife habitat project in central Ottawa. For over 20 years, volunteers have laboriously worked with dedication to transition parts of the old Arboretum and Central Experimental Farm into a hot spot for native animals and insects, as well as plants. Beloved by dog walkers and nature groups, the FWG is directly south of the traditional ornamental landscape of the Arboretum on Prince of Wales Drive.

Importantly, the FWG is its own creation. While we are friends with those who manage the lands around us, the Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club is responsible for this 7 ha parcel of land and volunteers of the Fletcher Wildlife Garden for most of its maintenance. These individuals plant, weed, tend and catalogue the various denizens, finding new species of insect each year.

Volunteers clearing out invasive trees.

The Native Plant Sale is the primary source of operating funds – for buying the lawn mower that trims the trails to tools for fighting an ever increasing onslaught of invasive species. Many visitors simply assume they are using a public park and don’t realise that we rely upon donations and grants to accomplish our work.

Weeding DSV by hand in the Butterfly Meadow – a monumental task.

The Plant Sale is a year-long undertaking. We collect seeds, cold stratify them then put them under grow-lights when spring is still a fond hope early in the year. Little baby plants are tended to and coddled (but not too much – we want them to hold their own in the big, wide world!) These plants are re-potted into larger containers, a laborious task which is even more work given it coincides with cleaning out the Backyard Garden in spring.

Potting up from small cells to 4″ pots.

A new nursery holds our little treasures, and we live in fear that they will be stolen by unscrupulous individuals. Plant-napping is a real threat to many ‘public’ and private gardens, and our own is sadly not immune.

The work doesn’t stop at the new plants grown from seed each year. Over-wintered plants need to be re-potted when their roots require more space, while transplants from the established garden are potted up in large containers for more impressive displays. We must keep sun plants in part sun (too much and they parch to death) and shade plants in shade, everybody watered when their soil dries out and weeded as much as possible.

Re-potting in the nursery.

Day of the sale, volunteers arrive early to set up tables and ferry plants around, then cross fingers that we get good traffic given the many other events held the same day. Weather is also an unpredictable force! We answer questions and invite people to see mature plants in the Backyard Garden, since so many plants we sell look underwhelming when baby small and with unforgiving names like Hairy Beardtongue or Sneezeweed.

Entrance to the beautiful Backyard Garden.

To say the plant sale is a lot of work would be a classic understatement.

However, while we appreciate the influx of funds we are also accomplishing a greater task – that of increasing the number of native plants in an urban landscape where non-native horticultural varieties rule. We know we are creating new food sources and larval hosts for butterflies, as well as preserving plants that might otherwise be overlooked in their natural habitat as less showy. It is satisfying to watch a family leave with new plants, excited about the wildlife garden they are going to build at home, or those people who are artfully mixing native plants into their existing plantings. The love and interest in native plants by the public at large happily seems to be undergoing a horticultural renaissance.

Native flowers.

We’re wild about native plants, and want you to be as well!

Our website is full of information, and we’re happy to answer questions at the sale. Do tell your friends and come on out to support a great cause, enjoy a walk around the entire park site or simply visit the Backyard Garden to see how beautiful our native plants are in the landscape!

I’m wild for native plants – how about you? I say NUTS to invasives!

FWG Plant Sale 2012 Top Ten: #2 – Bottlebrush Grass (Elymus hystrix)

We’re profiling ten plants available at this year’s Native Plant Sale which may be less well-known – but still very lovable! Why not consider adding one of these to your garden?

Photo by epa.gov

Flowers: None

Height: 36-60” (100 to 150 cm)

Width: 16-60” (40 to 150 cm)

Light: Full Sun to Part Sun

One of the most unusual grasses we have at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden, Bottlebrush distinguishes itself with remarkable awns that poke out at almost a 90º angle to its stem. In the morning dew, we find it photographs magically.

Aptly named with a head that looks like a bottle brush, its scientific name is equally apropos whereby ‘hystrix’ means hedgehog. This spiky head is nonetheless very airy in appearance, and its delicacy is nicely contrasted with bushier flowers or other grasses.

Remarkable for its ability to tolerate full sun to filtered light conditions, Bottlebrush can grow in dry to slightly moist soils. In the Backyard Garden, we have it growing by the frog pond and in the central grasses bed. Continue reading

FWG Plant Sale 2012 Top Ten: #3 – Great Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)

We’re profiling ten plants available at this year’s Native Plant Sale which may be less well-known – but still very lovable! Why not consider adding one of these to your garden?

Photo by northcreeknurseries.com

Flowers: Blue to white

Height: 12-36” (30 to 100 cm)

Width: 8-12” (20 to 30 cm)

Light: Full Sun to Part Sun

Great Lobelia is a member of the Campanula family, hence its pretty, bell-shaped flowers. Profuse in blooming, the flowers are held atop tall, straight plants in clusters beloved by pollinators. Bumblebees and the odd hummingbird are known to enjoy a tipple from this plant!

However, Great Lobelia is also quite pest resistant, so no insect gets much of a snack from its leaves. This is because it contains a chemical compound, lobeline, which is even currently being used in medical research. Continue reading

FWG Plant Sale 2012 Top Ten: #4 – Spreading Dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium)

We’re profiling ten plants available at this year’s Native Plant Sale which may be less well-known – but still very lovable! Why not consider adding one of these to your garden?

Photo by J Cameron (newhampshirewildflowers.com)

Flowers: White-Pink

Height: 12-36” (30 to 100 cm)

Width: 24-59″ (60-150 cm)

Light: Full Sun to Part Sun

Some native plants have the most unfortunate names that give them an underserved bad rap. Foremost among that group is Spreading Dogbane, which is commonly found in open areas like pastures, woodland edges and roadsides. This is another plant that can thrive in poor, dry soils. It spreads through seed held in little pods, or through its roots – hence the ‘spreading’ part of its moniker.

Dogbane is poisonous for grazers and can make them ill – hence its inclusion on the Ontario weed lists. However, in the home garden it is one of the prettiest native plants around. With its delicate arching form and small, sweetly fragrant bell-shaped pinkish flowers, Dogbane is one of those plants visitors to our garden always inquire about regarding its identity. We have it up against the Interpretation Centre by the parking lot where it does an admirable job of making do with less than ideal circumstances – even surviving periods of drought! Continue reading

FWG Plant Sale 2012 Top Ten: #5 – Bigleaf Aster (Eurybia macrophylla)

We’re profiling ten plants available at this year’s Native Plant Sale which may be less well-known – but still very lovable! Why not consider adding one of these to your garden?

Flowers: White

Height: 12-35” (30 to 90 cm)

Width: 24-36″ (60-90 cm)

Light: Part Shade to Full Shade

Frequently one of the first asters to bloom, Bigleaf Aster is a forest and edge habitat herbaceous plant. Its flowers have delicate, airy petals surrounding a yellow centre. Unusually, the flowers can also appear as pale purple or violet. Bigleaf Aster begins to flower in July and continues until September. Continue reading

FWG Plant Sale 2012 Top Ten: #6 – Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

We’re profiling ten plants available at this year’s Native Plant Sale which may be less well-known – but still very lovable! Why not consider adding one of these to your garden?

Flowers: White

Height: 12-35” (30 to 90 cm)

Width: 18-35″ (45-90 cm)

Light: Sun

Extremely distinctive, feathery leaves and their fragrance when crushed are the hallmark identifiers for Yarrow. While its white flowers are not very remarkable, the umbel is held above the plant with pride. Blooming from June until August, Yarrow is popular with many pollinators and many of them know it as a reliable source of nectar – Yarrow can be found all over North America, from coast to coast! Continue reading

FWG Plant Sale 2012 Top Ten: #7 – Lanceleaf Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata)

We’re profiling ten plants available at this year’s Native Plant Sale which may be less well-known – but still very lovable! Why not consider adding one of these to your garden?

Flowers: Yellow

Height: 20-24” (50 to 80 cm)

Width: 12-18″ (30-45 cm)

Light: Sun

With its bright, daisy-like yellow flowers, Lanceleaf Coreopsis is a cheery plant for any garden – and indeed is a stalwart member of most native garden plantings. Blooming with profusion, flowers can be enjoyed from July until September with dead heading. Once it goes to seed, Lanceleaf Coreopsis is a food source for birds seeking a snack. Continue reading

FWG Plant Sale 2012 Top Ten: #8 – Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor)

We’re profiling ten plants available at this year’s Native Plant Sale which may be less well-known – but still very lovable! Why not consider adding one of these to your garden?

Flowers: Blue with yellow and white

Height: 15-35” (60 to 90 cm)

Width: 4-12″ (10-30 cm)

Light: Sun

Blue can be a difficult colour to source in a native garden, but the beautiful Blue Flag Iris does just that with panache – and it throws in a bit of yellow for flair! A wetland plant, this iris likes moister sites where its roots can be in damp soil. However, we find it does well in regular soil moisture levels, though it does not grow quite as quickly. Continue reading