In Bloom this Week in my Prairie Garden
Overall Side Yard
The morning star of the early June garden.
The iridescent sapphire blossoms of the Ohio Spiderwort open with the dawn every morning, closing by noon (except on cloudy days when they remain open all day). It’s a common plant, found in sandy Black Oak savannas, in degraded prairies, and in railroad ballast. It multiplies freely and you will soon have way too many–but way too many give the best show. It becomes unsightly after blooming and needs to be cut back to the ground.
It combines beautifully with the tall white spiky flowers of White Wild Indigo in bloom now, also.
The emerging smooth, purple-green stems of the elegant White Wild Indigo resemble–no, look exactly like– asparagus spears. The buds on the tall stems soon open into waxy, alabaster pea blossoms that bloom from early June into early July. No longer common in our area, I have only seen it growing in made prairies, such as the one in the former Sears prairie in Hoffman Estates, the Geneva River Park, and Snuffy’s Prairie in Dundee Township.
Foxglove Beard Tongue (Penstemon digitalis), another tall white spiky plant, up to 3’, is blooming now also. Its sparkling white trumpets dance along the sometimes wine-colored tall stems. The fine violet lines within the trumpet act as a bee guide. It grows in sun or part shade and is found in mesophytic woods and in mesic prairies. In my experience, it is not a long-lasting plant; but it does reseed itself.
I don’t remember how Prairie Indian Plantain (Cacalia plantaginea or C. tuberosa) first came to my attention. I have a photograph of one as early as 2006, but I don’t recall the circumstances. It is mentioned in my book, published in 2007, written in 2006 and earlier. Oddly, it doesn’t appear in my bloom chart until 2011.
Anyway, I’m glad I have it–it’s extraordinarily beautiful.
Its tall stems rise up to 3’ and end up with a saucer-sized, flat-topped cluster of tiny, cream-white disc flowers that begin to bloom in June, carrying on through July.
The long-stalked, waxy, parallel-veined leaves do bear a superficial resemblance to the leaves of the common plantain, a ubiquitous European weed of lawns and compacted paths. But Prairie Indian Plantain is a high- quality denizen of wet and mesic prairies with a distinct elegance
Prairie Dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum) isn’t in bloom yet, but its magnificent leaves make a stunning statement at the front of a border. One or two or perhaps three scattered clumps of Prairie Dock throughout ones property add drama.
I’m very fond of Prairie Alum Root (Heuchera richardsonii), particularly when used as a border or an edging. While the flowers aren’t as colorful as Coral Bells, its Rocky Mountain cousin, provocative orange tongues stick out from the center of their bells in May. Its robust leaves turn to a lovely burgundy in fall, which lasts through most of the winter.
I hope all of you local readers qualify for Conservation at Home, a Backyard Certification Program.