GARDEN WALK REPORT
He who plants a garden, plants happiness.
The day was perfect–part sun, not too hot.
The Butterfly Weed was still in bloom, joined by Prairie Coreopsis and Wild Quinine, mentioned last week.
The Purple Prairie Clover, also mentioned last week, was a big hit.
Visitors were fascinated by the deeply cut basal leaves of Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum) that tend to point in a north-south direction–Indians and pioneers used these plants as, well, a compass. Next month, yellow daisies will open along the top part of the tall stems.
Rosin Wed (Silphium integrifolium), cousin of the Compass Plant, is in bloom right next to it.
Elegant candelabras of densely flowered spires of tiny, white tubular blossoms form at the top of the 3-6’ tall Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum) in late June or early or July. Protruding, gold-tipped stamens give the flowers a fringed appearance. A close relative of the garden veronica, Veronicastrum means “false veronica.” Tiers of 5-parted whorled leaves encircle the stems, another attractive feature. Adaptable, it grows in sun or part shade.
False Sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides) started to bloom Saturday and is almost in full bloom today. (This is actually a picture from last year.) Large, opposite triangular leaves appear on 3-4‘ smooth stems that form a loose clump topped with cheerful, yellow-orange daisies in bloom from late June through August. In the wild, it grows abundantly in disturbed prairies and along woodland borders; In the home garden, it grows in sun or partial shade. It is, however, an aggressive seeder; so plant it with other strong growers such as Rosin Weed and Culver’s Root, just mentioned; Beebalm, Purple Coneflower, and Spiderwort would also work.
I cut down the long canes of the Illinois Rose and untangled the Honeysuckle vines from the arched trellis in order to repair and re-paint it. That didn’t, however, happen. The rose blooms on 2-year-old wood, so very few blossoms were produced.
The hit of the show was Prairie Dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum) with its enormous rough, spade-shaped basal leaves–a dramatic presence in the prairie or prairie garden from spring through late fall. Hold your hands flat on both sides of the leaf–it will feel cool no matter how hot the day. In July, smooth, leafless stems will rise up from the center of the plant to 10’; a cluster of golden daisies with greenish centers will bloom at the top. In autumn, the leaves turn a gorgeous red-mahogany.
One would think a tall plant such as this would belong at the back of the garden, but that’s not the case. The leaves are the focal point–plant it in front of other plants. The tall stems can be seen through easily, so they won’t hide the plants in back of it.
Note: Prairie Dock, a fine native plant, is no relation at all to Curley Dock (Rumex crispus), a ubiquitous European weed found here in abandoned fields, pastures, and yards