Mid-June Prairie Garden
White Wild Indigo (Baptisia leucantha) is an elegant plant that becomes a focal point in a flower border. Its tall spikes of waxy cream pea blossoms bloom from early June into early July on smooth purple-green stems that rise above an open shrublike plant. The smooth, blue green, tri-parted leaves are attractive all summer long. This one, above, is, however, the only White Wild Indigo with which I have had success.
The white trumpets of Foxglove Beard Tongue (Penstemon digitalis) are in bloom now, also. The bee-attracting blossoms are arranged in tiers around smooth straight, 2-3’ burgundy-green stems. No, this is not the cultivar ‘Husker Red’–its stems are naturally this color. Individual clumps diminish over time, but it seeds itself about joyfully, always fitting in perfectly wherever it lands–there are never too many Foxglove Beard Tongue. In the wild it is found in sandy or mesic prairies and savannas.
Dick Young describes Foxglove Beard Tongue it in his book Kane County Wild Plants and Natural Areas as having “pristine white, horizontal blossoms, like musical horns facing out from the stem and ready to play during the month of June.”
Ohio Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis) adds color to the June composition surrounding my west side sidewalk.
Photo by Jack Shouba
Clusters of striking, iridescent blue, tri-petaled blossoms with golden-yellow anthers bloom at the top of the reed-like stems of Ohio Spiderwort in June. The flowers open a few at a time every morning, closing by noon on sunny days. (On cloudy days, they stay open all day.) The vertically folded arching leaves grow alternately along the stems; 2 or 3 smaller leaves emerge just below the blossom cluster that give it its spider-like appearance.
After blooming, the foliage deteriorates quickly. If it not hidden by other plants, cut it down; it will grow back fresh and green again.
I find Spiderwort to be more attractive in the wild than in the garden.
Photo by Jack Shouba
Taken at Horlock Hill Prairie
Spiderwort is common in prairies and sandy Black Oak savannas. I first saw Spiderwort from a distance overlooking the student-made portion of Horlock Hill Prairie and thought it was iris until i got closer.
They are also common in railroad ballast.
White Wild Indigo has been difficult for me to grow, Foxglove Beard Tongue has been easy, and Spiderwort has been way too easy. What has been your experience with these flowers?