5 Common (and Native) Trees and Their Leaves

The leaf show hasn't begun in the south just yet so now is a great opportunity to look at some common leaves before the color changes begin! Red Buds (Cercis canadensis) are some of the pretties plants is spring but their foliage is pretty nice too. They have heart shaped leaves with a dark glossy green coat.  There are some varieties of redbud that have purple leaves (like 'Forest Pansy') and others with lighter green foliage. Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) is a colonizing tree with three forms of leaves.  One is a simple lobed leaf, another mitten shaped, and the third has three main lobes.  It turns a beautiful red-orange color in the fall.  Sassafras tends to colonize areas and is one of the first trees to propagate in areas that used to be fields as they change back to forest land. Sycamores (Platanus occidentalis) have large palmate leaves similar to…

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Native Plants to Bring in the (Native) Bees (Guest Post)

I invited native plant expert and advocate Benjamin Vogt to write a guest post on attracting bees to the garden with native plants. I hope you enjoy it! -Dave This morning, once the sun hit the main garden, I took my video camera outside. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do, recording the most active part of the day in the fourth dimension of the garden – that of pollinating insects. I’ve created a nearly self-sustaining ecosystem with checks and balances in less than 5 years, and I owe much of that to gardening organically with native plants that are sited correctly. I have three butterfly bushes that will be removed this winter. Why? As I swing the camera over not a thing is nectaring on them – not a fly, a bee, a wasp, a moth, or butterfly. They create a great, fast privacy screen each year, but they…

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Drought Tolerant Garden Plants

My gardens haven't seen any rain for several weeks now.  The grass is brown and I even commented to my daughter that it sounds like crunchy snow.  Of course the reality couldn't be further from the truth - it's hot!  No snowball could survive in our back yard today with temperatures expected to rise into the triple digits.  Droughts do provide us with one really nice opportunity to examine our gardens for drought tolerant plants.  Here are a few of those plants that have done very well in my garden without any supplemental watering. In most cases natives perform better than exotic plants in the garden.  But there are exotics that can thrive in our weather conditions.  Unfortunately these exotics often become invasive because they can handle our native conditions so easily.  Take this butterfly bush for instance.  It's done fantastic without any care from me this year.  It's a…

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5 Neat Native Plants!

Native plants have many advantages over exotic plants.  I thought for today's Friday Fives Post I would mention five native plants that are pretty neat to have in your garden.  First though let's define the terms native and exotic.  Exotic plants are those that are not indigenous to your region.  They've either been brought from other place by seed or in plant form.  In many cases exotic plants can be awesome plants in the landscape.  I think often people get confused between exotic plants and exotic-invasive plants.  Sometimes exotic plants do too well in an area and begin to dominate which of course is also when they become a problem.  They can choke out native forage plants that animals need to survive and may not have the necessary features to adequately nourish our wildlife. There are several advantages to planting native plants in your garden.  Native plants feed and nourish…

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September Colors in Bloom

It's been a couple months since I've participated in Garden Blogger's Bloom Day so I figured I was due for a post! Amazingly despite a summer of neglect the garden has quite a few reliable blooms to share. If you like to think on the positive side you could consider the neglect as a test of what thrives with or without the gardener in less than ideal growing conditions! Here's what's blooming this September in my garden: Orange Cosmos - Self-sown  Red Perennial Mums - a returning favorite! California poppy. The color orange again! Rudbeckia 'Cappuccino' - a little orange here too. Garlic chives Caryopteris 'Longwood Blue'! A great fall blooming shrub. Gaillardia Zinnias! Purple Butterfly Bush More purple from the naturally growing ironweed (Vernonia). And of course a favorite fall blooming native plant: Goldenrod! Enjoy more blooms at Garden Blogger's Bloom Day!

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My Favorite Native: Honeysuckle!

This time of year the native honeysuckle growing on my arbor is one of the showiest flowers around. Tons of flowers are covering the controllable version of lonicera. The native honeysuckle goes by the name of Lonicera sempervirens and not Lonicera japonica. I have the exotic foreigner too but it came with the garden! And it's been ignoring my eviction notices. The difference between the two is their growth habit. The native honeysuckle grows at a pace where the garden can actually keep up with its maintenance. The only drawback is that the native honeysuckle doesn't have the characteristic honey sweet fragrance, but I've talked about native honeysuckle before.  Check out that link above for more on the native honeysuckle but for the rest of this post I'll just show you some pretty pictures! Any objections? No? Good! (You really didn't have a choice anyway ;)) This variety is called…

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Witch Hazel Blooming

The other day I mentioned that the Winter Jasmine would be the first thing to bloom... I was wrong! It's the Witch hazel! It's the first time it has bloomed in our garden. So what's blooming in your February Garden?

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A Magnificent Monarch on Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Just one really neat sight I saw this weekend was the monarch sipping nectar from the milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). Milkweed is the host plant for the monarch butterflies which serves a very important role in the life of the fluttering favorites of backyard butterflies. Milkweed contains a chemical called glycosides which get consumed by the monarch caterpillars (see more here on milkweed). When they grow up this chemical makes the butterflies poisonous to birds and other predators - essentially the milkweed plant becomes a natural defense mechanism. This milkweed was not on the slope of my wild area but at my wife's parent's house on the outskirts of their woodland. Once the flowers turn into seed pods I'll collect them to plant in our natural areas and try to help these magnificent monarchs along!

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Oak Leaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)

I've been a fan of oak leaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) for a long time. The large oak shaped leaves and white flowering panicles are two of its best traits but in the fall its color changes are very nice too. The leaves change through a range of colors from the year round greens to the autumn golds and reds. Our oak leaf hydrangeas are fairly young plants. One was purchased as a full sized plant in a pot and the other was a discount plant in a small plastic wrapped container filled with sawdust. I figured it wouldn't make it for a number of reasons: it was small, had almost no root system, and of course it was a discount plant. To my pleasure and surprise I was wrong. The little oak leaf hydrangea is thriving in our side border garden in almost full sun. Oak leaf hydrangeas are native…

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Asclepias Tuberosa Seeds (Butterfly Weed)

Sometimes there are seeds that are just too cool not to have their own post which is the case for butterfly weed seeds! Asclepias tuberosa is a beautiful orange plant in the garden and along roadsides but what is really neat is its method of seed dispersal. After pollination the seed pods begin to form. Inside those pods small seeds are being formed with fluff that serves to carry the seed on the wind. I was inspecting the garden yesterday when I noticed that one of these pods had opened. I picked it to collect the seeds for planting in other gardens and set it temporarily near our sink only to have the pod completely open and the fluff begin to fluff out on the kitchen counter. Needless to say my daughters enjoyed watching the seeds float down to the floor like paratroopers. (You know, I kind of did too!) …

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