Sunday, October 20, 2013

NJ Native Plant Society South Jersey Chapter Has Formed

It is with great pleasure that I announce the creation of a South Jersey chapter of the NJ Native Plant Society. And its right here in Atlantic County. For several years I have wished to be able to start one as the monthly meetings were usually in north or central NJ, and pretty far away. But I knew, between work, the nursery and my volunteer work, I had too many irons in the fire and just w have stepped up to the plate and made this happen. However recently some fellow native plant enthusiasts from South Jersey have stepped up to the plate and formed two new South Jersey Chapters, The Southeast Chapter and the Delaware Bayshore Chapter. Now native plant lovers from all over South Jersey will be able to study, volunteer, educate and share to get more out of the plants we love so much. I don't have much information on the Delaware Bayshore Chapter yet. I will update once I do.

The Southeast Chapter has been organized by naturalists Jesse Connor and her husband Jack Conner and native plant enthusiasts Barbara Fiedler and Bert Hixon. The meetings will be eight held at Stockton State College in Pomona, Atlantic County, monthly excluding Nov, Dec, July and Aug. at 7pm in room L0115. Meetings an events will feature presentations on various native plant topics as well as field trips. This is very exciting! I will post updates as they become available on events and such. You may also want to go to the website of the NJ Native Plant Society and join so you will get updates on all the happenings.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

September Plant of the Month - Narrow Leaf Sunflower, Helianthus angustifolius

The name Sunflower conjours up images of tall plants with huge flowers as big as one's head which with all their bright yellow petals, resemble the sun. Sunflowers are a familiar sight to almost anyone, from small children to elders. The annual Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is what usually comes to mind. But did you know that there are top species of Sunflowers that grow here in South Jersey and in the Pinelands? One is Woodland sunflower ( Heliathus divaricatus) and the other which I will talk about today is Narrow Leaf Sunflower ( Helianthus angustifolius).

Narrow Leaf Sunflower is not as tall and showy as its annual cousin, but the trade off is that this plant is perennial and while having much smaller flowers, have many flowers, making it an attention getter in the garden. The plant begins blooming in early September and should continue through most of the month and even into October. 

Thick populations make an impressive roadside display
In the wild, this plant is found in moist to wet areas, usually in full sun, and sometimes part shade. The ones in full sun tend to have a lot more blooms. For best results, I recommend planting in the same conditions which makes them great for those wet spots in the yard that don't drain well, or even a bog or rain garden. The do tend to naturalize quite well, so consider this when doing a bog garden as you don't want it to over take your other plants.

Wildlife that utilize this plant include bees, butterflies and birds as it provides both nectar and seed. The seed heads are not ripe until November so leaving them on through winter makes a great treat for songbirds when food is getting scarce.

Growing this plant will require cold, moist stratification and is best sown outdoors in fall. Occasionally some plants will bloom the first year from seed. It can also be grown in a container.

For a nice alternative to Chrysanthemums, pot one up and trim it back in July to make it bushier. It will bloom in the Fall and look great among your pumpkins, gourds and Fall decorations.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Happenings at the Nursery As Autumn Approaches

A butterfly nectars on Smooth Blue Aster

 It is just a little past half way through September. Just a few days until Autumn officially begins. And the last few nights have gotten cooler and the days are delightful. I have always believed September is South Jersey's best kept secret. A time when we locals can really enjoy the last days of summer. The heat, humidity, droughts, annoying insects and summer crowds are gone, we are left with nice weather we can enjoy, before we dig in for the coming winter months.

As the days get shorter, nature sets forth a final burst of color that helps to support those fall migrants making their southern journey. One can see the awesome display of yellow, purple, and white colors of numerous species of Goldenrods, Asters, Bonesets and our native fall-blooming Liatris. Various species will bloom in turn, carrying this display into October.

A collection of Fall blooming natives
Here at the nursery, there is quite a lot going on.  On the plant tables, Showy Aster, Smooth Blue Aster, White Wood Aster, New York Aster, Bog Aster, Turtlehead, Blue Mistflower, Narrow Leaf Sunflower, and Hairy Blazing Star are coming into bloom.

In the beds on my property, New England Aster and Smooth Blue Aster are just breaking out. I counted no less than twenty bumblebees this evening. They seem to like the Smooth Blue over the New England Aster this year. Pink Turtlehead and Slender Goldenrod have been blooming most of the month and the Turtlehead in particular has done very nice this year with all the rain we've had. The buds are formed on the Seaside Goldenrod which should bloom in October. I expect the Smooth Blues to really take off in the next few days and will keep a lookout for Monarchs which visit frequently.

Don't miss this beautiful display. Getting out for a ride on the back roads, you may discover an old field full of color. If not there, just the roadsides along are coming alive with the signs of Fall. It is nature's finale, and its fabulous. Enjoy!

August 2013 Plant of the Month - Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis

Every year in August, one of the most beautiful species of  native plants in South Jersey come alive, Lobelia cardinalis or the Cardinal Flower. The first time I saw a Cardinal Flower, I did a double take. I was riding up Rt 322 in Weymouth on my motorcycle, when I neared the Egg Harbor river, and a brilliant red color caught my eye. I had to pull over, back up and investigate. There it was, a tall, bright red spike that was absolutely stunning, growing right on the bank of the river. I had never seen such a plant, but I had to know more. At that time we didn't have internet so I went to a bookstore and looked through flower books until I found it. Its name seemed perfect since it is bright red like a male cardinal. The following year I was camping along that same river and found one growing at my campsite half in the water. A hummingbird was feeding from it. Over the years, I saw them more, always along streamsides and always with a hummingbird, nearby. I knew this would be a great way to attract them to the yard. When I decided to start propagating native plants, I couldn't wait to start this one. But finding them was not all that common and getting seeds was even more tricky. Eventually I timed it right, found I good a seed pod and got to sowing. I have been raising them for six years now. 

Over the past six years I have learned quite a bit about them. Hummingbirds love them of course, but so do many species of butterflies and other pollinators. The do best in a sunny, moist location, but will tolerate partial shade. They will not tolerate drought. They are known as a short-lived perennial, that is , they only live about three years. But with seed saving you can continue raising them for many years. The first year, most plants will produce a basal rosette, a small clump of leaves, but no stalk. There are always some who break the rules, but generally speaking they do not bloom the first year. The second year they will and it's then that the look their best. The third year they will bloom, and most likely not come back after that. However they may self sow if conditions are ideal in your garden. I have had many clients comment on this, so I always recommend sowing seeds that last year. Otherwise you may need to re-purchase one to take its place.

If you choose to propagate, pick the pod when it starts to dry. The seeds are very tiny, like dust. In the fall, spread them evenly on a surface that will stay moist over winter and protect them with leaves to keep the from blowing away. Alternatively you may choose to propagate indoors. If you door, you will need to provide cold, moist stratification for 8-12 weeks in the refrigerator. Outdoor fall sowing eliminates the need for this step. Look for seedlings when temperatures being to rise and the soil no longer freezes. They will be very, very tiny. They grow very slowly. Be patient. When they have two to three sets of true leaves, gently lift them and transplant to individual containers, where they can continue growing.   If you want to raise them from seed, I recommend buying a plant and then saving the seed from it. That way you won't have to guess as to finding a plant at harvest time. You will have one and know when it is ready.

Cardinal flower is perfect for the Hummingbird Garden, Bog Garden, and Ponds. My favorite companion plants are Sneezeweed and Great Blue Lobelia. The three of these blooming together put on quite a show. The Sneezeweed is usually found growing with it in the marsh plant community. As long as you can provide the proper conditions of semi-sun and ample moisture,  this plant should do well and provide several weeks of color in your garden.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

July 2013 Plant of the Month - Swamp Rose Mallow, Hibiscus palustris

Hibiscus palustris in the garden
I saw my first when I moved into a mobile home park on 1984. My neighbor was an avid gardener and had a yard full of flowers, which she invited me over to see. It was the first time I laid eyes in the beautiful pink robust blooms, which resembled the tropical hibiscus I had seen in Florida. She told they were Hibiscus and they were hardy and came back year. I was amazed. She dug one up and gave it to me. I planted it and the next year I some volunteers, some I relocated and some I in gave away. The descendants of these plants I still have today, many years later and the one I gave my parents is still living in their back yard. They start blooming every July so I chose them for my July plant of the month.   

I had never thought about my Hibiscus plant as a wildflower until one day driving up Rt 9 by Absecon Creek, I saw on, growing alongside the Phragmites. I also learned that they go by a variety of names such as Swamp Rose Mallow, Rose Mallow and Swamp Mallow. I later discovered large stands of them in salt marshes, in four varieties of pink, white, and both pink and white with a crimson eye. The flowers are quite large, about 3 inches in diameter. Unlike its tropical relative, this one does die back to the ground over winter, but will re-emerge in spring. When growing en mass, they are a sight to see. They prefer a moist to wet, organic soil, but will do well in most gardens as long as their is ample moisture. Full sun is best, but partial shade is also tolerated, though less blooms are produced. They are visited by hummingbirds and bees. I have often come out in the morning to find bumblebees sleeping in the flowers.

Growing these plants is quite easy. The seeds are round, about 2mm, and contained in a roundish pod. Wait until you see the pod had turned brown and starts to crack open. This is the ideal time to harvest them. Sow them in the fall outdoors and look for seedlings in the spring. If you will be sowing indoors, pre-treament of cold moist stratification is recommended to ensure the seeds break dormancy . Seedlings should emerge withing 2-3 weeks at 70 degrees. They can be potted up when they have 2 sets of true leaves.

I think it makes an excellent rain garden plant as well a pond plant. In the garden, I feel the closer you can mimic its natural conditions, the better success you will have. The plant is long lived and attracts wildlife and well beautifies the yard. With its easy care, this plant is a great choice for nearly any garden.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

June 2013 Plant of the Month Butterflyweed, Aslecpias tuberosa

Ever since I was a child, I was facsinated with Butterflyweed. I can recall riding on the schoolbus, just before Summer recess, and seeing it along the roadside. It stood out like a sore thumb with it's beautiful spashes of bright orange. It was this daily ride to school through this rural area that really got me interested in Wildlflowers. Back then we called it Wild Mustard. It wasn't until I got my first wildflower book at the supermarket checkout stand, still as a young girl, that I learned another name for it, Butterflyweed. From there I learned it goes by many names; another reason I like to use Latin when talking about plants. It is also called Pleurisy Root, as its rumored to have been a cure used by Native Americans for lung ailments and Railroad Annie as it often grows in sandy openings along rail lines. In these parts, Butterflyweed blooms in June, often right around the summer solstice. So I felt it was appropriate to make this the June Plant of the Month.

I have been growing this plant for 10 years now. My first ones I picked up at a nursery and I still have them. I have also saved seed from them as well as nearby wild populations I saw while walking. The seeds are easy to harvest as the are in pods. The trick is to get them before the pod breaks open for when this happens the seeds, attached to a fine silky fluff blow away. This is nature's way of carrying them to other areas which is probably why they are not seen in the wild in too dense of populations. To date I have about ten on them in different areas of the yard.

I often hear remarks about the difficulty of propagating from seed. I can say that this is one of the easier Milkweeds to grow this way, but conditions must be right. I have grown it successfully for many years in a row then last spring (2012) my whole tray failed to germinate. So something wasn't right, but I had no problem this year. As they say " if at first you don't succeed, try, try again," and I recommend another attempt. Be sure that the seeds receive a cold period. Planting them in the fall is the best way to ensure this. But if you can't, store then in a paper envelope in the refrigerator for at least 8-12 weeks. This gives them the artificial winter they need to break dormancy. Then sow them in a moist mix of peat and sand, maintaining a medium moisture level. Expect germination sometime in April.

Butterflyweed is a member of the genus Asclepias, also known as Milkweeds. The genus is the only group of plants that the Monarch butterfly larva can consume. Without it, Monarchs would cease to exist. The Monarch isn't the only insect that relies on Milkweed. There are Milkweed bugs, Milkweed Beatles and orange aphids. The aphids I have learned will show up every year around the first of August. They suck juices from the plant and as long as they are not over abundant, seem to not harm a plant that is healthy and robust. However they are unsightly and you may want to hose them off with a stream of water. Under no circumstances should you use pesticides, even organic ones. They will kill the Monarch caterpillers.

Butterflyweed is also loved by other butterflies as well as hummingbirds, bees and other pollinators, so it a desirable plant in wildlife gardens and an absolute must-have for a Monarch Waystation.

I have Swamp Milkweed in my bog, not far from where the Butterflyweed grows. Most years I find the caterpillers have hatched on the Swamp, then after consuming it, move over to the Butterflyweed and consume it. The leaves on both species promptly regenerate.

Culturally speaking, Butterflyweed prefers a dry sandy location with full sun to partial shade. It will not tolerate standing water or over-watering unlike its water loving cousin Swamp Milkweed. It also grows a long taproot, so keep this in mind when selecting a location for your plant as it resents disturbance one established. Find it a permanent spot from the begining. Fertilizers are not needed as this plant thrives in poor soils.

 In nature, Butterflyweed can be seen growing in community with Goat's Rue, Bird Foot Violets, Slender Goldenrod, Hyssop Leaved Boneset, Hairy Blazing Star, Stiff Leaved Aster, Maryland Golden Aster and Silverrod. In the garden, mine are planted alongside of Echinacea and Liatris which also draw pollinators.

Young plants may take up to three years to flower, although I was shocked one summer to find several of my first year plants blooming in August. But they are well worth the wait as they are extremely long-lived. My 10 year old plants are still going strong. I highly reccomend this plant for its easy care, beauty, wildlife benefit, and longevity so you can enjoy it for many years to come.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

May 2013 Plant of the Month - Lyre Leaf Salvia (Salvia lyrata)


I stumbled upon my first population of this plant while walking along a roadside in Mays Landing several years ago. The plants were not yet blooming and formed a thick carpet along the shoulder of the road. I had never seen it before and I was truly astonished. I picked a leaf off and pressed it in my notebook and wrote a brief description of what I saw. When I got home I checked my field guide only to find it wasn't listed. So it became my mystery plant.

A couple of weeks later I went to Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve for their Spring Native Plant sale. Here, lo and behold was my mystery plant offered for sale. I was ecstatic. I inquired about it to a staff member explaining how I had just happened upon it down in South Jersey. He told me the name was Lyre Leaf Salvia or Lyre Leaf Sage, (Salvia lyrata in Latin). So I bought one and brought it home.

The following year, my congregation held their first annual Native Plant Swap. I found the plant offered here and acquired one more. Since I had found the plant growing roadside close to where a stream passes under, I planted them in a moister area of my yard and they seemed very content. They didn't spread like a carpet as I had hoped, however. But then the following year, walking along a roadside in Egg Harbor TWP, I spotted another healthy population, got pictures and later a nice supply of seeds. They germinated well after a year of overwintering in trays outside. I now offer this plant for sale annually.

Lyre Leaf Salvia being in the mint family, has a typical square stem extending from a basal rosette of deeply lobed, hairy leaves. During the winter, the leaves are veined with dark purple which sometimes persists through spring. The flowers are pale blue, 1 inch long tubular in shape and
arranged in whorls around the stem. The flowers have 3 upper lobes and two lower. The lower lobes extend beyond the upper lobes, providing an excellent platform for bees to land on. Bloom time in the Mid-Atlantic is generally May through early June. It germinates easily from seed, making it an excellent native ground cover.

I have found by experience that growing this plant is easy in moist to medium soils. It seems to tolerate sun, shade and semi-shade equally as I have found it growing in all three conditions, but always near a stream or low area. I think it makes a great addition to rain gardens, rock gardens and woodland gardens and well as a must-have plant for pollinator gardens. It sometimes comes up in cracked and crevices like Wild Columbine, in fact, it makes for an excellent companion to Wild Columbine.

In the years since discovering my first population, I have discovered a handful more throughout Atlantic County, but not so many that I would describe it as a common roadside plant in the Pine Barrens. I had gone back to check on the original population I first discovered years back, only to find that the road had been repaved, the shoulder graded and grass was planted in its place. That made me sad. Hopefully some live roots still exist somewhere and will re-emerge.  I still see it as a treat to discover even more populations of Lyre Leaf Salvia as I walk along roadsides studying and discovering our fabulous native plants.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Upcoming Event - Galloway Greenfest

Hey all,

Just wanted to let you know about an event I am participating in that you all may be interested in. Its the Galloway TWP Greenfest. This is an initiative between Go Green Galloway Committee and Absegami Earth Shepard student group. This event promises to feature close to 30 Eco-friendly businesses and non-profits, Green workshops and kids' activities, organic and Fair Trade products.

I will have a table here with the plants including wildlife favorites like Liatris, Echinacea, Asters, Milkweeds and also some that I have not yet offered this year such as Bee Balm, Turtlehead, Slender Goldenrod, Blue Mistflower, and Solomon's Seal.
The Greenfest will be held this coming Saturday, June 1st, (rain date June 2) from 10am-4pm at the Historic Smithville and Village Green, 615 E. Moss Mill Rd Galloway TWP, NJ. Admission is FREE. For more information check out their Facebook page.

Hope to see you there!


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Native Plant Swaps

Dear Fellow Native Plant Enthusiasts,

I would like to share an opportunity with you to attend a Native Plant Swap & Sale. These events are growing in popularity as the demand for native plants grow. This is how they work in general. You bring extra natives you have in your yard, such as volunteer seedlings or even plants you propagated yourself. A few of the plants will be offered as a price for admission. The rest will be credits for swapping. A great way to get hard-to-find plants cheap. Often there is a sale in conjunction either by pre-order or on site or both. So what isn't available for swap may possibly be available for sale. Additionally there are folks on site who do talks or workshops or otherwise available to offer advice about natives.

Currently I know of two such events coming up and I will be participating. The first will be held Saturday, May 4th, at the UU Center in Pomona. This is actually the 5th year for the UUCSJS Plant swap & Sale, and it grows bigger each year. There was a pre-order sale for shrubs and there will be plants for sale and swap. Admission is two plants. I will have plants for sale there and taking questions on native plants. Jesse Connor, a native plant expert will also be advising on plants and wildlife choices. Some plants that have been available for swap in the past include Wild Black Cherry, American Holly, Eastern Red Cedar, Little Bluestem, Ferns, Lyre Leaf Salvia and May Apples.

I will have the following species available for sale: Cardinal Flower, Slender Blue Flag, Sneezeweed, Seashore Mallow, Prickly Pear, Seaside Goldenrod, Butterflyweed, Baptisia, Showy Aster, Liatris, Echinacea, Brown Eyed Susan, Wild Stonecrop, Blue Eyed Grass, Blue Wood Aster, Indian Grass. Trumpet Creeper, Virginia Creeper, Swamp Milkweed, Common Milkweed and Whorled Milkweed.
Here is a link for more info:

Jake's Branch County Park

On May 19th from 12-4, there will be another Swap & Sale entitlies "Yard, Garden and Native Plant Fair" at Jake's Branch County Park in Ocean County. I beleive this is their 3rd year doing this. I will be doing a workshop on natives that day. I will also be selling plants along with other plant vendors as well as Wild Birds Unlimited.

There will be a nature walk lead by a naturalist and other activities. Bring plants or seeds to swap. The event is FREE.
Here is a link for more info:

I know once you come out and check out a Swap & Sale, you'll want to come back next year. Hope to see you there.......


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Plants for Rain Gardens

A Black Swallowtail Butterfly feeds on Lobelia species in a Rain Garden in Galloway TWP,  NJ.

A rain garden is a shallow depression either natural or man-made in which you can direct storm water runoff from a roof or other impervious areas of the yard where water does not drain readily. It can be used to direct water from around the base of your home to other parts of your yard and away from storm water drains where it can negatively affect streams and rivers or other bodies of water. A rain garden is a great way for you as an eco-conscious gardener to have an impact on the environment through gardening.


Rain gardens help to:

 recharge the aquifer so as to maintain adequate ground water levels.

improve water quality by filtering storm water and diverting it away from streams, rivers, bays and the ocean.

provide a mecca for wildlife such as song birds, hummingbirds, butterflies, bees and other pollinators.

beautify yards and public spaces.

provide a mecca for wildlife such as song birds, hummingbirds, butterflies, bees and other pollinators.

By creating a rain garden you can help protect our streams and rivers.  The Mullica River in South Jersey, pictured, is home to many native plant communities, containing species such as Sneezeweed, Cardinal Flower New York Ironweed, Rattlesnake Master and Sunflowers. Some of these same species also work well in the rain garden.

Plant selection

Ideally plants used in a rain garden should be able to tolerate standing water as well as periods of drought. The following is a list of plants that I have observed to meet that criteria:

Herbaceous plants
Seaside Goldenrod
Blue Vervain
Blue Eyed Grass
Slender Blue Flag
Foxglove Beardtongue
Purple Coneflower
Swamp Milkweed
Common Milkweed
Giant Purple Hyssop
Rattlesnake Master
Mountain Mint Blue
Trumpet Creeper

Sweet Pepperbush
Wild Black Cherry
Sweet Bay Magnolia
Red Twig Dogwood
Chokeberry (Red or Black)
Inkberry Holly

Little Bluestem
Northern Sea Oats

Always begin by first testing your soil, to determine what you have. You can then select plants based on that information or amend the soil to accommodate certain plants you may desire. I find that planting according to your conditions is easier than altering them. You also want to stay away from utilities so be sure to call for a mark out before you dig. For more information on building a rain garden, including specifications, go to and download the Rain Garden Manual.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Greetings! Welcome to the my blog on South Jersey native plants. I decided to blog this year as I had such a great time exploring last year and wanted to be able to share with my customers, friends and fellow native plant enthusiasts. I will also be tweeting on Twitter. I guess I am finally catching up to all this social networking stuff. I also started a Flickr account to share photos of plants, insects, historical places and scenery. I hope to blog at least weekly.

Things are a little behind schedule this year due to Hurricane Sandy. The nursery lost two greenhouse units and some plants. But overall, damage was minor here. While South Jersey in general was spared the brunt of the storm, I know it was a different story in the northern regions. My heart goes out to all of those in Central and North Jersey as well as in New York, where the storm did so much damage. You are all in my thoughts and prayers and I hope that you are safe and on the path to recovery.