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.