Attracts Butterflies

See also: Herbaceous PerennialsNative Plants
The garden industry's persistent habit of passing off magenta flowers as red is an old and nefarious trick. Happily, there are a number of truly red-flowered plants. Monarda 'Jacob Cline' is a winner.

bee balm Jacob Cline

Monarda 'Jacob Cline'

Bee Balm 'Jacob Cline' (Monarda didyma) rivals cardinal flower as one of the truest and deepest red flowers of summer . Difficult to photograph accurately, 'Jacob Cline' is the best of the bee balm clan, relatively mildew-resistant and as smoldery as the deepest, darkest red rose.

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See also: Herbaceous Perennials
Honestly I was just wandering around the Georgia Botanical Garden when I was first introduced to Cestrum 'Orange Peel'. The name is far too cute for this tough and undemanding plant that thrives in the heat of summer.

Cestrum 'Orange Peel'

Cestrum 'Orange Peel' - garden perennial for sunny exposures. Click for larger.

Cestrum 'Orange Peel' bears flowers faintly reminiscent of butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), coming into bloom just as butterfly weed finishes. Cestrum 'Orange Peel' is extremely long-flowering, from early summer into late fall.

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See also: Herbaceous Perennials
Asclepias curassavica, commonly known as tropical milkweed or blood flower, is not reliably winter hardy in gardens north of zone 8. Native to South America, tropical milkweed has showy scarlet and yellow flowers. Asclepias curassavica is longer flowering than the much beloved native Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed).

tropical milkweed

Asclepias curassavica, tropical milkweed, is showy and long-flowering, but not reliably hardy in temperate North America. Click for larger.

Tropical milkweed is attractive to monarch butterflies and easy to grow in a garden setting. It prefers full to partial sun and can tolerate dry conditions once established in spring. Tropical milkweed is also at the center of ecological research at my alma mater, the University of Georgia.

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See also: Native PlantsHerbaceous Perennials
Before covering the essential goodness of butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) in detail, I pass on the best butterfly weed tip I know: Butterfly weed emerges late in spring. It is by far the number one perennial I (perennially) edit from the garden by accident in early spring before it has a chance to emerge.

butterfly weed - Acslepias tuberosa

Butterfly weed in flower.

Almost impossible for enthusiastic gardeners is to simply leave the perennial bed undisturbed until the butterfly weed has emerged. Marking the spot where Asclepias tuberosa resides with twigs (my mother's choice during her gardening years) or stakes can make the difference.

You may find various showy cultivars of butterfly weed at garden centers but many are not reliably hardy. As with American columbine, the species version of butterfly weed is the most reliable and in my opinion the most beautiful.

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See also: Herbaceous Perennials, pink wood sorrel
White wood sorrel (Oxalis crassipes alba) is a garden favorite in the South, flowering from March through September. White wood sorrel is a low-growing perennial to maybe 12" or so. Oxalis crassipes alba grows to 18" wide. Buy a few and tuck here and there amongst other perennials or in an informal group.

Oxalis crassipes alba - white wood sorrel

White wood sorrel (Oxalis crassipes alba). Click for larger.

The small flowers (1/4" star-shaped) are pure white and cover the clover-like foliage in waves. White wood sorrel doesn't need sopping wet soil, but it will have a longer bloom period in moister soils. White wood sorrel can handle average water (rainfall only) once established and will do fine in poorer soils.

Poorly drained soil should be avoided. Oxalis crassipes alba can grow in partial shade to full sun.

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Baptisia australis (blue false indigo), like all of the false indigo, is easy to grow, drought tolerant, hardy across a huge swath of the U.S., and attractive to bees and butterflies. More, it is a native perennial.

I cannot fathom how many photographs I have taken of blue false indigo. It is a favorite plant and somehow the images never measure up. Today, my children Flynne and Ian were behind me, clamoring for a picture of a bee, never mind the Baptisia.

Finally, I took a good photograph of blue false indigo by taking a picture of a bee for my children.

blue false indigo

Blue false indigo in detail + bee. Click for larger.

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See also: Native PlantsHerbaceous Perennials
Twilite Prairieblues false indigo (Baptisia x variicolor 'Twilite') is tough and robust in the mid-spring garden. The name is a mouthful (the spell checker is still pouting). Twilite Prairieblues is a hybrid originating in 1998 from parents blue false indigo (Baptisia australis) and yellow false indigo (Baptisia sphaerocarpa).

To my eyes the dominant color is maroon. Twilite Prairieblues false indigo has been described as smoky purple.

twilite prairie blues

Twilite Prairieblues false indigo. Smoky purple? Maroon? Click for larger.

The darker false indigo varieties tend to recede into the landscape. Blue false indigo and Twilite Praireblues are best appreciated up close in the garden. Twilight Prairieblues in particular can get lost visually. If you are looking for a false indigo that will attract a crowd from across the way, consider a yellow false indigo such as Carolina Moonlight.

Twilite Prairieblues flowers for a couple of weeks starting in early May in Georgia. It seems to coincide with the first roses.

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See also: Native PlantsHerbaceous Perennials
Golden columbine gets bigger and bushier than the more graceful and delicate American columbine (Aquilegia canadensis). Like American columbine, Aquilegia chrysantha is an herbaceous perennial native to the United States. Golden columbine's flowers are also larger than American columbine's, reaching  2-3 inches long.

golden columbine

Golden columbine is superb in the spring perennial garden. Click for larger.

Golden columbine (Aquilegia chrysantha) is native to the southwestern United States. It has pale lemon yellow flowers that border on ethereal. Leaves are three-lobed. Golden columbine is a clumpy grower, reaching up to three feet tall and wide.

Golden columbine can handle full sun to part shade. I recommend you plant it in a place that is in the shade at the times you are most likely to be in the garden.

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See also: Herbaceous Perennials
The name "pink wood sorrel" just sounds so woodsy and native. We can be forgiven for thinking it must be native to somewhere in the United States. It is not; it is from Japan. Pink wood sorrel (Oxalis crassipes rosea) has sterile flowers. If there is a plant guaranteed not to take over your favorite ecosystem, pink wood sorrel is it.

Frankly, pink wood sorrel is such a non-aggressive little plant that I doubt it could take over even if it had aspirations to do so. Butterflies like pink wood sorrel. Not all naturalized plants are equal in their ability to become invasive dangers to our world, and it is wise to bear this in mind during our garden journeys.

Oxalis crassipes rosea

Pink wood sorrel's flowers are small - 1/2" or so across. Click for larger.

Pink wood sorrel would be very attractive planted with a white low-growing perennial. The dwarf crested iris 'Tennessee White' comes to mind...or maybe that foam flower my mother was so fond of.

Pink wood sorrel grows in low mounds 6"-12" high and the flowers are held aloft delicate stems a few more inches still. Pink wood sorrel is an unassuming plant, and I would either plant it in drifts (with an outlier here and there) or find places where it seems to have sprang up on its own, along an old wood fence perhaps.

Continue reading ‘Pink Wood Sorrel – Not native. Not to worry.’

See also: Native PlantsHerbaceous Perennials
Coreopsis auriculata Nana has the common name 'ear-leaved tickseed', but I refer to it as Coreopsis Nana and leave it at that. (What I mostly do is just call it coreopsis and point at it in the garden).

Coreopsis Nana

Coreopsis auriculata Nana in late afternoon. Click for larger.

Coreopsis Nana may bloom in spring, but its golden flowers hint at summer. Coreopsis auriculata is called 'early tickseed' for a reason. After cold mornings and endless pansies and azaleas, I am ready for some warm colors in the garden. This beckoning of summer is where the value of Coreopsis auriculata resonates with me.

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