Saturday, May 29, 2010

Penstemon hirsutus in bloom!

[Photo: Penstemon hirsutus.]The hairy penstemon (aka "hairy beardtongue", "eastern penstemon", penstémon hirsute) that I purchased a few weeks ago at the North American Native Plant Society plant sale a few weeks ago is already blooming, despite the stress of moving to a new home and this crazy heat wave we've been having. I knew very little about this plant when I got it, except that it was a purple penstemon. I'm quite happy with it.

[Photo: close-up of Penstemon hirsutus blooms.]In this close-up, you can see that the dainty flowers are actually bicoloured, mauve and white. Walter Muma's Ontario Wildflowers site has much better close-ups; in the fourth photo down you can see why one of the common names is "beardtongue".

Hairy penstemon is a larval host plant for the beautiful Baltimore checkerspot butterfly. According to Michigan State University, hairy penstemon attracts beneficial insects, including parasitic wasps and pirate bugs, which prey on nuisance insects. This lovely plant also provides nectar for hummingbirds, according to the Ontario Hummingbird Project.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Campanula rapunculoides: my new most hated plant?

[Photo: Roots of Campanula rapunculoides.]I have posted before about the evils of garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata, herbe à l'ail), which is devastating forests in the Toronto area, but in our own garden the biggest invader is Campanula rapunculoides (creeping bellflower, or as I call it, creepy bellflower, campanule fausse raiponce).

Although I knew creepy bellflower is invasive in southern Ontario, I hadn't been trying to remove it from our garden because the landlords' son is very fond of it, and it is very pretty (see photo at bottom of post). I thought I would just stop it from spreading by deadheading it. Ha.

Creepy bellflower spreads mainly by roots. It forms a thick mat of roots which make it impossible for anything else to grow. Realizing that creepy bellflower was part of the reason good plants I put in weren't making it, I decided I would try to at least thin it out.

The pile of roots above represents about an hour of hard work. Unlike garlic mustard, which pulls up quickly and easily, creepy bellflower roots break off and stay in the ground when you try to pull them up. Sites recommend digging up at least the top 15 cm of soil and removing all roots. Any bits of root remaining in the ground will regrow.

[Photo: The pathetically small area I cleared of creepy bellflower (mostly, but note leaves of plants growing through the fence.)]And here is the depressingly small area I removed those roots from. You can see the heart-shaped leaves of more creepy bellflower poking through the fence. I could just pull off the leaves, but that seems pretty pointless when the massive root system under and beyond the fence is inaccessible to me. I think that my landlords' son doesn't need to worry about not having his creepy bellflowers any time soon.

[Photo: Campanula rapunculoides in bloom.]And here's a picture of creepy bellflower from last July. Yes, it is pretty, but it isn't prettier than the other campanulas. The USDA PLANTS Database lists three campanulas and kin native to Ontario:

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Phlox divaricata 'Sweet Lilac': a better photo

[Photo: Phlox divaricata 'Sweet Lilac'.]I'm starting to get used to the weird colour, but I still wish it was the natural lavender colour instead.

What's blooming in High Park, late May

[Photo: Lupinus perennis in bloom, High Park.] I've just got back from pulling garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata, herbe à ail), an extremely invasive plant here in Toronto which I've ranted about before, with the High Park Volunteer Stewardship Program. The wild lupines (Lupinus perennis, lupin sauvage, shown above) are starting to bloom, so this is the week to go see and admire them.

In all, I saw the following in bloom:


  • Lupinus perennis (wild lupine, lupin sauvage)
  • Maianthemum stellatum (starry false Solomon's seal, maïanthème étoilé)
  • Viola sp. (violet, violette)


  • Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard, herb à ail) (invasive)
  • Chelidonium majus (greater celandine, grande chélidoine) (invasive)
  • Hieracium caespitosum (yellow hawkweed, épervière des prés)
  • Silene latifolia (white campion, silène blanc)
  • Stellaria sp. (chickweed, stellaire)
  • Taraxacum officinale (dandelion, pissenlit commun)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Phlox divaricata 'Sweet Lilac' in bloom

Last year, we bought this woodland phlox (phlox bleu) at Valumart. It wasn't blooming, but based on the tag I thought it would look like the wild type. Unfortunately, now I find that it is this weird shade of magenta instead of the pretty lavender blue of the natural form. I guess that's what I get for trying to buy a native plant at a supermarket instead of a more reputable source.

It does smell nice, at least.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Native plant sales in Toronto this weekend!

The Toronto Botanical Garden's annual plant sale starts today!
When: Thursday, 10-8; Friday, 10-8; Saturday, 10-5; Sunday, 10-5 Where: Lawrence and Leslie (directions)
What: I can't find a plant list on the site, but there will be some natives available

On Saturday, the North American Native Plant Society has their annual plant sale.
When: Saturday, 10-3 Where: Markham Civic Centre, 101 Town Centre Blvd., Markham (map)
What: see the plant list for the amazing selection! Prices are very reasonable, $5 for most herbaceous plants and $12 for most shrubs and trees.

On Sunday, the High Park Volunteer Stewardship Program has their annual native plant sale.
When: Sunday, 11-2
Where: the greenhouse in High Park (map (PDF)
What: 20 species native to High Park, see the plant list (PDF). Great prices, $5 for wildflowers and grasses, $10 for trees.

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