In honor of the fifth anniversary of Gail Eichelberger’s Wildflower Wednesday meme, I want to share some of the wildflowers I grow in Oklahoma. Over the past five years, my garden has leaned closer and closer to a wildflower pollinator haven. Whenever I must remove a rose because of Rose Rosette Virus, I tend to plant a grass or wildflower in its place. The garden seems happier that way. It doesn’t mean I’ve given up on tough roses yet though.
Featured above is yellow Baptisia sphaerocarpa. I have two or three different yellow baptisias, a white one, two blue ones, and even B. australis x B. alba ‘Purple Smoke,’ a seedling from the North Carolina Botanical Garden according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. They should know. In my mid-spring garden, baptisias really shine, but don’t try to move them about. Being prairie natives, they have tap roots. Move them, and they will sulk at best, and die at worst. You’re forewarned.
Also, in the mid-spring garden is Packera obovata, f/k/a Senecio obovatus–another victim of taxonomic name change roulette. Although golden ragwort can be aggressive in a wet year, it’s just about the most beautiful thing I grow in spring. Looking at this photo, I think I should spread it about in the garden some more. It takes full sun or partial shade.
With this next one, I’m cheating a little. Joe pye weed is a wildflower, but I grow the dwarf version, Eutrochium dubium ‘Little Joe,’ a selection from the Conard Pyle Co. I grow it because the larger native would be too large for my garden beds. This one is large enough to sit in the center of a bed anyway. ‘Little Joe’ has plenty of nectar so I think it counts as a wildflower in the truest sense.
Another plant I grow that was selected from a native wildflower is Boltonia asteroides ‘Pink Beauty.’ The native wildflower ranges from purple to white. Boltonia needs to be cut back at least once in June so it doesn’t flop, and even then, you may need to stake it. I do. I grow the pink version because I love its bright shade.
Even though Gail and I live several states apart, we grow many of the same wildflowers. This always surprises me. My soil is alkaline. Hers is neutral. She has clay and limestone. I have clay and red sandstone. Of course, some of her wildflowers that won’t thrive here, but many do.
Physostegia virginiana, obedient plant, false dragonhead, is a native Gail loves, and I hate. In her garden, it colonizes beautifully. Here, it is a thug of the worst kind. I would get rid of it, but I can’t. I’ve decided I must bear with it in spite of its thuggish ways, so I pull out handfuls every spring. Obedient plant has a square stem which means it’s part of the mint family. That should tell you a bit more about its behavior.
Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii, hummingbird shrub, is native to west and central Texas, but it’s hardy to at least my Zone 7a garden, which sometimes thinks it’s Zone 6b. I love this shrub, and yes, hummingbirds love it too. It is slow to leaf out in spring, but well worth the wait. It grows about 5′ x 4′ here.
I can’t write a wildflower post without mentioning ‘Annabelle,’ the easiest hydrangea I know. She even beats out H. paniculata varieties, although I grow several. Such a beauty, and a pollinator magnet.
Another thuggy native is mountain mint, but I confined it with railroad ties in a corner of a partially shaded bed. There are many mountain mint varieties. I think mine is common mountain mint. I bought it years ago from a nursery at the Ponca City Herb Festival.
I keep it because pollinators love it. Plus, it’s white, and it lights up a shady spot, although it doesn’t look shady in the photo below. It does get morning sun and is shady all afternoon.
Why grow wildflowers? Well, they are interesting, diverse and acclimated to your environmental conditions. They often need less water and fertilizer making your life easier in your little garden plot. Plus, they’re beautiful, and if you want pollinators, wildflowers bring them in.
American wisteria, W. frutescens, is a great native vine. Bumblebees can’t get enough of it. I have native wisteria planted on two arbors where I lost roses. Crossvine, Bignonia capreolata, is another native vine that should be planted more often. I planted one last year so I don’t have good photos of it yet. I do have one more spot that needs a native vine. What do you think I should plant there?
St. John’s wort, Hypericum spp., is a great shrub. I don’t know if mine is H. prolificum or H. frondosum. I think it’s the shrubby St. John’s wort. Maybe someone can tell me?
I do know it’s easy to grow, and bumblebees love it. St. John’s wort blooms in spring, and afterward has this great gray-green foliage. Mine is in partial shade, but I think it would be good in sun too.
Below is Phlox x ‘Minnie Pearl.’ If I understand things correctly, this phlox is thought to be a naturally occurring hybrid of P. maculata and P. glaberrima. It was found by Karen Partlow on a roadside in Kemper, Mississippi. I guess, sometimes, a plant can be a wildflower even if it’s a hybrid. Pollinators, both insect and hummingbird, like it, and so do I. It is completely disease resistant, and I grow it in full, hot sun. You can find it online from Plant Delights Nursery. I bought mine from Bustani Plant Farm a couple of years ago. In growth habit, ‘Minnie Pearl’ reminds me of P. x ‘Wanda’ which I bought at Bustani also.
You can see from the photos above that wildflowers often have simple flower structures which make them easier for pollinators to access. Wildflowers often have more nectar than fancy hybrids too–another good reason to grow them.
I have so many more wildflower–I haven’t even touched the non-asters yet–but this post is too long and probably boring you. Today’s high is 50F, but temperatures plunge again into the teens tomorrow. Our weekend forecast has snow, freezing rain, sleet and regular rain–all on separate days. We shall see what actually happens.
Congratulations to my dear friend, Gail, on all of the wildflower posts she’s celebrated over the last five years, and a special “thank you” to her for encouraging all of us to grow more wildflowers for our pollinators and ourselves.