Friday, April 15, 2011

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, April 2011

Once again it's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. Looking back at my April Bloom Day post from last year, I can see that spring really is coming along more slowly this year, it's not just my imagination. Last year I had a couple of native blooms for April 15: Waldsteinia fragaroides (barren strawberry waldsteinie faux-fraisier) and Mertensia virginica (Virginia bluebells, mertensie de Virginie), but there's no sign of them today, not even foliage (which worries me). I do have some flowers blooming today at least: [Photo: Chionodoxa forbesii.]

Chionodoxa forbesii (glory of the snow, gloire des neiges). [Photo: Primula hybrida.]

The Primula hybrida (primrose, primevère) which my landlords got as a disposable houseplant a couple of years ago is a bit of a mess, but at this time of the year I am grateful to see any flowers at all!

Behind and to the right you can see a bit of foliage from our native Tiarella cordifolia (foamflower, tiarelle cordifoliée). I think it kept its foliage all winter (hard to know for sure what's going on under the snow). It's sending out runners like a strawberry! I will be very happy if it spreads. [Photo: Puschkinia libanotica.]

The Puschkinia libanotica (snowdrift, scille de Liban) is not "drifting" at all. I wonder how long it took the neighbours to establish this beautiful mass of snowdrift? Since this isn't native, I guess I should be glad it's not prolific since that means it's less of a risk to wild areas. [Photo: clump of Scilla siberica.] Scilla siberica (Siberian squill, scille de Sibérie) is continuing to spread. I didn't realize at the time we rescued it from a neighbour's garden that it is an invasive species here in Southern Ontario and my landlords' kids would be upset now if I tried to remove it—not to mention that it is very difficult to remove. I will be deadheading. If you don't have this in your garden, don't plant it!

Behind and to the right of the scilla you can see some Aquilegia sp. (columbine, ancolie) foliage. The columbines in the front yard haven't bloomed yet and I can't remember if they are our native Aquilegia canadensis (wild columbine, ancolie du Canada) (my favourite flower) or the non-native Aquilegia vulgaris (also nice, and the bees like it). Maybe this year I'll find out!

Barbara Pintozzi at Beautiful Wildlife Garden wrote about using non-native minor bulbs to attract pollinators. I was hoping that the local bees and friends would visit these early flowers, but I haven't seen one! Fellow Torontonians, have you seen pollinators visit early non-native flowers (like crocus, squill, winter aconite, etc.) in your garden? Or are they just too early?

Thanks to Carol from May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. Be sure to visit her and check out what's blooming today in gardens all over the world!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

NANPS spring plant sale pre-ordering now open!

[Photo: close-up of Penstemon hirsutus blooms.]

The North American Native Plant Society's annual spring plant sale is coming up! This is the biggest native plant sale in all of Canada, and the best source for locally ethically grown native plants for Toronto gardeners. You can preorder online now, or just do what I do and shop on the day itself. The prices are very reasonable ($5 for most forbs, $12 for most trees) and the selection is amazing! (The photo above is the Penstemon hirsutus (hairy beardtongue, penstémon hirsute) which I bought at last year's sale. It started blooming within weeks of planting it in my garden!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Native alternatives to butterfly bush

Recently at the Birds & Blooms blogs, Carole Sevilla Brown wrote about the problems butterfly bush is causing in many areas of the United States. Although commonly recommended for butterfly gardeners, the most commonly available butterfly bush in the horticultural trade, Buddleja davidii, is native to east Asia and is an invasive species in many areas of the United States.

So far, Canada's cold climate has apparently prevented B. davidii from becoming naturalized here, except in parts of British Columbia (Tallent-Halsell and Watt, 2009). However, each mature butterfly bush can produce millions of seeds, and these seeds can be spread by cars and trains (Tallent-Halsell and Watt, 2009). So a butterfly bush in Toronto could contribute to the problems our neighbours to the south are facing. In addition, climate change is likely to make Ontario's climate milder and therefore put our wild spaces at greater risk from butterfly bush invasion.

Luckily, there are many alternatives for butterfly gardeners. Growing native species avoids the problems of habitat destruction caused by invasives, and can provide better attraction for butterflies by providing food for caterpillars as well as adult butterflies (Tallamy 2009).

With that in mind, here are a few flowering shrubs native to Ontario, which I found through Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center's Plants Database. This is a great resource for wildlife gardeners throughout the United States and Canada; you can search by state/province, habit, lifespan, light needs, moisture needs, bloom season, bloom colour, and height! Each species description at the Wildflower Center's database includes a wealth of information, including which butterflies' and moths' larvae feed on each plant, and links to their descriptions at Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA).

Native Ontario shrubs to attact butterflies

I'm so glad that Carole wrote her original post, as I didn't realize that butterfly bush was such a problem, nor did I know much about these lovely native shrubs that we can grow instead. I've got seeds for buttonbush stratifying right now, and I plan to look into some of these other shrubs as well. Please click the links for each plant to see gorgeous photos; I hope you'll be as excited about these plants as I am and try some in your garden!

Works cited

  • Nita Tallent-Halsell and Michael S. Watt (2009). The Invasive Buddleja davidii. The Botanical Review, September.
  • Douglas W. Tallamy (2009). Bringing nature home: How native plants sustain wildlife in our gardens (updated and expanded edition) Portland, OR: Timber Press.
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