Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wildflower Wednesday: The Wild Ones

We have been blessed with warm temperatures this past week--days in the 70's, just perfect for planting bulbs and some final garden clean-up.  That is, when it hasn't been raining!  Instead of Murphy's Law, I've come up with a new one, "Rose's Law":  If you have a whole day off to work in the garden, it's going to rain:)  Ah well, after the past summer's drought, I guess I shouldn't be complaining and instead be thankful that we are finally getting some much-needed moisture to end the drought.  Before I go out to sneak in a few more bulbs before heading off to a dentist's appointment, let's take a moment to celebrate Wildflower Wednesday by looking at a few wilder varieties of natives/wildflowers growing in and around my garden this fall.

A few blooms remain on the Aster pilosus, commonly known as Hairy Aster or Frost Aster.  I prefer the latter name, especially since this aster is the very last to bloom and is undeterred by frost.  This is a plant that appears of its own free will all over the farm; in fact, most people would probably consider it a weed rather than a wildflower.  But it certainly has its redeeming qualities.

My husband has been laid up for most of the summer with back and knee problems and hasn't been able to keep up with the trimming around the farm buildings, but I'm glad he didn't get a chance to cut these Frost
Asters down in front of the old shed.  I wish I had taken this photo a few weeks earlier when they first bloomed, but you'll have to take my word for it that in their prime they provided billows of white blooms that looked as good as anything I might have purposely planted here.

But the most important characteristic of the Frost Aster is that the bees love it!  Blooming at the end of the season, it provides a last valuable source of food for bees before winter sets in.  This plant is not for everyone, but if you would like to learn more about it, you can check out my earlier post here.

 Another plant that seems to have appeared on its own is this small tree behind the butterfly garden. It took me a long time to identify it, but after seeing numerous specimens growing in the wild at our local forest preserve and then doing a little research, I finally found that it is a Rough-leaved Dogwood, Cornus drummondii.  Like other tamer dogwoods, it is covered in white blooms in the spring, but I also like its burgundy foliage in the fall.

Although it is no longer blooming, I did want to include this plant from earlier this fall that also appears voluntarily all around the outbuildings.  It's a type of Persicaria, probably Persicaria cespitosa though I'm not positive.  I remember the first time I saw Persicaria mentioned on someone's blog and being aghast!  Back in the days when farmers "walked beans"--pulling out weeds by hand in soybean fields--rather than spraying them with herbicides, I learned very quickly to identify this plant better known to us as smartweed.
As a teenager living on a farm, walking beans provided one of the few sources of a little spending money for me, and, of course, my dad believed in teaching us about the value of hard work. After hours of pulling or cutting out these plants that quickly spread to make a tangled mess, choking out the valuable soybean plants, I soon learned to hate smartweed.

Lest I offend anyone, I have since seen some lovely examples of  Persicaria cultivars growing in private gardens and in botanic gardens--and I agree they are worth planting in a garden.  But this is one type of Persicaria you definitely don't want in your garden, or it will quickly take over.  I was pleased with this photo and thought it looked rather pretty and innocent here . . . but it met an untimely end soon after the photo shoot:)

While I was trying to find the proper botanical name for the smartweed, I was surprised to see one of my favorite plants listed in the Illinois Wildflowers website as a "weedy wildflower."  Belamcanda chinensis or Blackberry Lily certainly doesn't belong in the same category as smartweed!  A native of East Asia, this plant can occasionally be found growing in the wild throughout the state.  However, I've tried for years to get these lilies established here with no luck--until this year.  Thanks to some seeds from Frances, I was thrilled to have not one, but two blooming lilies this year.

As much as I like its unique blooms, it is in the fall that I most enjoy Blackberry Lily.  One look at these berries, actually seeds, and you can see how it gets its name.  Since the plant spread by either rhizomes or seeds, I might be lucky enough to have several more of those pretty little lilies in the future.  While the other plants listed here probably aren't appropriate for most gardens, Blackberry Lily is a great addition anywhere for both summer and fall interest.

To learn more about other wildflowers and natives, visit our hostess Gail and her the bee-utiful garden at Clay and Limestone.


  1. Thanks for introducing me to these wildflowers. Some do look familiar but I didn't know their names. Your childhood may have been tough but I can see how your dad cultivated a talented gardener.

  2. I love those starry billowy frost asters and I think I have them growing wild in the meadow behind us. And the blackberry lily seeds look like jewels! The orange flower has a sweet face, but I agree with you, it's the shiny seeds that are so interesting.

  3. I love the frost aster! That is one species I don't have, but I'd like to get some.

  4. Those blackberry seeds are my favorite part of the belacamda too. So neat looking!

  5. I have some of those white asters in the front garden blooming up a storm. I pull them out and yep, they just come right back in. I think next year I will just cut them back and make them look rounded like the store bought mums. :) I have had a blackberry lily for years. ONE. It never reproduces. It must hate where it is but it won't die. I can't imagine them spreading. Maybe I will move it next spring to see if it will spread. Happy WW.

  6. Sarah, I really had a wonderful childhood--Dad never made us work too long in the fields. Walking beans gave me an appreciation of the hard work he did...and convinced me I didn't want to be a farmer:)

    Laurrie, You probably do have these asters growing in the wild. They pretty much look like weeds until late fall when they finally bloom.

    Jason, These might just take over your garden, if you're not careful!

    Tina, The first time I saw a blackberry lily it was in the fall. It was those seeds that drew my eye and made me want to have this plant.

    Katie, Thanks; I'm happy to finally have the lily.

    Lisa, I pull these asters out whenever they pop up in my garden. Hmmm, cutting them back sounds like a good idea:) Everybody told me, too, that blackberry lilies were so easy to grow, but it's taken me years to finally get these two established!

  7. I think that some of the things that some might consider *weeds* have a definite place in a garden and you have the space to let them spread. Too bad about rain on your day off but after your hot summer, I expect the garden is in need of it.
    Lovely photos, as always.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  8. It's been ages since I have had time to visit your garden, lovely as always. I am envying your warm weather, though I did have a sunny Saturday in my small patch last weekend and did some tidying for winter.

  9. I'm so happy to have got here at last Rose, I have visited a couple of times in the last two weeks or so but was called away from the computer before I could comment :-( Well, you certainly do have some extremes in weather there from frozen ground in the earlier post to temperatures in the 70s here which, by the way, we here would consider hot rather than warm ;-) You do have very pretty 'weeds' there, the Frost Aster is lovely and would definitely stay in my garden especially as the insects love it :-)

    The photo of the Dianthus on the previous post was beautiful and I loved your container planting as well, so colourful. Your trees are looking beautiful with their Autumn colours too! Of course I fell in love with that lovely, delicate looking Praying Mantis :-)

    I was very sorry to read of your husband's health problems and hope his rest over the Summer was helpful.

  10. Smatweed! So that is the name to that stinker of a plant that keeps popping up in my Semi-formal garden. Ah ha, now I know the name thanks to your post today! I have been meaning to do a post on that thing to ID it but never got around to it. I think it keeps popping up from me scattering store bought wildflower seeds. I get the last root out of the ground then more show up the following year! I do like the little blooms but they strangle everything else near them in no time at all. If only all the plants would grow so healthly for me. Ha....

  11. It's good that you are getting an opportunity to plant the bulbs. With luck you'll get some more sunny days to enjoy the process.

    The frost aster do a good job of softening the edge of your outbuilding, and it looks like the bees agree.

  12. Love those asters. I rescued some of them from our lawn last fall and have given them a spot to hopefully fill.

  13. I hope your visit to the dentist wasn't too painful or expensive. Love those asters and blackberry lilies. They're both very cheerful looking flowers. I wonder how smartweed got its name? Do you suppose it made kids use their imaginations to get out of helping with weeding?

  14. Yesterday was an incredible warm and beautiful day here, too--75, sunny, and stunning! And now tomorrow the high will be 48. I'm assuming you're experiencing a similar shift? This will be hard on our human constitutions...and the remaining annuals. They'll soon be perfectly frozen, drooping decorations for Halloween. Lovely photos and perspectives, as always, Rose!

  15. Very nice photos, Rose! Smartweed looks so innocent and demure in the photo - just another reminder how deceiving looks can be!

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  16. Nothing like warm autumn days for planting bulbs. That's just what I was doing today.
    I took little grandson to our local Home Depot and bought an assortment of tulip, daffy and crocus bulbs for planting in his mother's front garden.

    After picking up big sister from kindergaarten (doesn't time fly?) we dug (yes, I"ll have sore wrists tomorrow) and planted and made patterns (Jazzy's idea) in the front garden.

    I hope the squirrels don't dig them all up before spring! Anyway, it was fun - even the neighbourhood children came over to help.

    I like your blackberry lily. Those berries look luscious and I remember as a child, we'd eat anything growing on a bush. Some berries made us suck in our mouths (choke cherries I think). Others were either bitter, sour or sweet. It's a wonder nobody got sick!!!

    Your garden looks so welcoming to little critters (bees especially) and I'm glad you can get out and enjoy some nice weather. Rain is predicted all weekend - complements of the hurricane. I hope you don't get too much of a deluge, as I hear it's coming your way.

  17. I am also a fan of Frost Aster. It's a lovely filler this time of year and the bees love it. Calico aster too.

    I'm also a nonfan of smartweed. I've been pulling a lot of it this year.

  18. A beautiful Aster Rose. Never saw it before. Great post of the wildflowers in your garden.
    Have a wonderful weekend

  19. We had smartweed tangled in our garden in Virginia. I HATE it. It can get away from you easily and take over the garden. I love Blackberry lily, those seedheads are great!

  20. So nice to see so many wildflowers in your garden. I too love the asters, wish we had more that could take the colder weather. Mine have been gone a few weeks now and I miss them.

  21. I love asters and let them plant themselves with abandon all over my garden. Your Frost aster is lovely and maybe now Mr Prairie Rose will appreciate leaving the 'weeds' bee! xogail

  22. Hi Rose. Beautiful asters.

    I too have tried to grow blackberry lilies without success. Hard to believe they could be classified as weedy.

    Your very lucky with your weather. The bottom fell out here. Sunny but cold and windy. In spine of the cold, I'm counting my blessings because I'm not in the path of that nasty storm out east.

  23. Hi Rose...our husbands have something in common, knee and back issues and, of course, they both have fabulous wives.

    Luv how the Blackberry Lily berries/seeds look this time of year.

    Always a pleasure to stop here for a visit.

  24. Rose a lovely grouping of wildflowers! Balmy weather last week but what a difference a few days make..Sandy has arrived to my world..EEKS!!

  25. I smiled at your "Rose's Law". So true, so true. Love your sweet asters.

  26. I see why you were excited about the blackberry lily! It is extraordinarily beautiful! Hope you get more and more blooms as the years pass. Happy Halloween!

  27. I almost think I like Frost Asters more than the blue and purple cousins. I have been on the fence about Persicaria. I keep seeing it in gardens everywhere and have admired it. Just when I think I will take the plunge and try it, I read a post like yours. As far as I understand some cultivars are quite safe, but tales like yours make me continue to hesitate.

  28. Hi Rose, this is Christy from Christy's Wildlife Cottage Garden. I guest blogged on Tina Ramsey's blog yesterday, 10-31. Thank you for your comments. I really appreciated it. Your garden looks fabulous. I look forward to seeing more of it!

  29. Gorgeous. I love the asters. Why don't I have any blackberry lily? Hmmmm....must remedy that.


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