Tuesday, September 9, 2014

August 2014 Plant of the month New York Ironweed, Vernonia noveboracensis


I first saw New York Ironweed along Absecon Creek and recognized it from a field guide. I had been exploring a roadside brackish marsh which was teaming with flowering natives. I later discovered it along the Great Egg Harbor and two years ago again on the Mullica. I was awed by how tall it was and the rich dark purple flowers, I suppose you could nick name it "Deep Purple."

In the asteracae family, its 3" - 5" flat cluster flower heads attract many kinds of pollinators including birds, bees, butterflies and skippers. The plant can grow from 3 to 7 feet high and tolerate a variety of soils. The fact that I have seen it along coastal rivers indicates that it tolerates brackish conditions. I have also seen it on display at the Pinelands Preservation Alliance's native Plant garden under dryer conditions and it seemed to do well. But I think it is most content to be in moist, sunny areas. I have seen it blooming in the various locations throughout the month of August.

A mass planting in a garden

I have grown this plant from seed with mixed success. Some years I have had an abundant crop, other years it was scarce. I have experimented with cuttings also, and have found mixed results. I prefer seed propagation over cuttings, since I have found that the can bloom the first year from seed if given room to grow and plenty of sun and water.

Try this plant for back of the border where you want something tall. I blends well with companion plants, Cardinal Flower, Sneezeweed, Narrow Leaf Sunflower and Marsh Rattlesnake Master which make for a colorful display. In a moist, sunny location you should have beautiful results.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Insect Rants and Raves

Whorled Milkweed
I am going to stray from the plants today to talk about insects, particularly pollinators which, as we all know the plants depend on for survival and so do we. Two of these topics I am very excited about and one I am appalled at.

On July 5th I saw my first Monarch of 2014. I will be watching for more. I also saw a few out at Forsythe Wildlife Refuge. I hope you are all finding them as well. I have had a lot of calls for Milkweed, so the word is definitely getting out there to help protect them and that is great. Hopefully we will start to see an increase rather then an decrease in populations. I do have a few more plants available if anyone is looking for some. Common, Swamp and Butterfly. 

While I am on the Milkweed subject, I am happy to report that my first seed-grown Whorled Milkweed has finally bloomed after three years. I am very excited to finally have a picture. It is quite dainty and has white flowers. I look forward to harvesting seed this year and having them available next year.

Anyone who knows me well knows that my second love after photographing plants is photographing dragonflies. I love dragonflies. This year in my new home I have a resident male Great Blue Skimmer who is perched on a mini-shepherd's hook daily for over a month and patrols the yard chasing off all other dragonflies, hummingbirds and pickup trucks who approach his area. I call him Jagoo, the Urdu for for fighter. He is not shy at all and lets me take his picture quite close up. He is quite a joy and greets me each sunny morning when I come outside as he has gotten used to me and knows I am not a threat. He seems to stay away when it is overcast.  Another dragonfly that hangs out on the other side of the yard away from Jagoo, is a male Painted Skimmer. He has been quite shy, but today allowed me to photograph him up close, close enough where I could almost touch him. So I am quite excited to get these close up shots of both of them.

Jagoo, Great Blue Skimmer,
 (and watch-dragonfly)
Male Painted Skimmer


                                                         Lastly, I have a concern. I was surfing the net and clicked on an ad entitled "How to Green Your Home" which turned out to be an add for Gaiam. Now I love Gaiam and have ordered a few things for my new home from them. They are generally an eco-friendly, fair trade oriented, green company. However one of the items in the ad was recycled glass wasp traps. Now something about this title just doesn't sound right to me. Am I to pay up for something "green" to kill a pollinator? I was somewhat appalled.

Wasp nectaring on a Swamp Milkweed

Now I realize that wasps can be a problem when they build their homes under the eaves and around areas used by humans. But I am inclined to believe that humans can find a way to live in harmony with wasps by encouraging them to build their nests away from our living areas by installing a fake nest or using a wasp repellent. Avoid having things they consider food like pet food and compost piles near the living area. Perhaps planting nectar plants out in the back areas to entice them out there. I will look into more ways to discourage wasps. But as I have seen them pollinating my vegetable garden and Swamp Milkweeds, as well as carrying off detrimental caterpillars like Tomato Hornworm, I certainly welcome mine. I will post anything I find related to this, but encourage you to share any tips you have for non-lethal wasp control. After all, they are pollinators.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Native Plant of the Month - July 2014 Spotted Wintergreen - Chimaphila maculata

I have to say that one of my all time favorite plants since I was small has been Spotted Wintergreen. When I was ten years old we moved from the bayside of Absecon to the Estates when the terrain begins to change and borders on the Pinelands. Our yard was wooded with lots of trees and behind our property was woods for as far as the eye could see. It was completely different from what we had before and I instantly fell in love with the woods. I would walk the trails behind our house and go out on Saturdays exploring. It was along one of the trails that I first spotted the tiny plant, dark green with whites stripes down its leaves. I didn't know the name of it, though a friend had told me it was "Teaberry". I later found that to be incorrect when I did learn the identity of the plant, finding it in a book. It was Spotted Wintergreen, Chimaphila maculata. This plant almost seemed magical to me, staying green all winter when everything else lost its leaves.

It wasn't until I was much older that I saw the plant flower, small flowers turned upside down like little umbrellas, creamy white and waxy, with green centers. Still it was enchanting to me. Unfortunately the woods I grew up in were later converted to suburbia with McMansions. My sister bought a lot there saying it would be nice to live where you played as a child. She was getting ready to put in a swimming pool and I went to survey the yard for plants to rescue and found a small population. I carefully dug them with about two feet of soil trying to capture the the soil fungus that the plant needs and hoped they would survive in my yard which was quite natural. Eventually they seemed to sucumb and disappeared. Then for about two years I didn't rake the flower beds opting to leave the leaves in place to act as mulch for my azaleas. One spring I was cleaning up and lo and behold, the plant was there under the azalea. I can only guess that the leaf compost created the environment for the fungus to thrive and the plant to re-emerged from a dormant state which they sometimes do when conditions are not right for them to thrive in. On my new property I am very blessed to have several populations. One is quite beautiful and large and seem to be growing where the previous owner blew the leaves to.

I have not attempted to propagate and sell this plant as it tends to just grow where it will. Since there is a fungal association with this plant so it will grow where conditons are met. I believe however that the mix of pine/oak leaf litter plays a role in the availablilty of the needed fungus. Knowing this I recommend just enjoying the plant where you see it and resist the temptation to buy from diggers or dig one yourself. You can always visit the populations yearly when they bloom. I often revisit my favorite plants in the wild each year and even today when I happen upon populations of this precious little plant, it brings an instant sense of happiness and joy to me.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

June 2014 Native Plant of the Month - Iris prismatica

Each year in June there seems to be an abundance of native plants flowering. One of my favorite local natives is Iris prismatica or Slender Blue Flag. I first heard of this plant not by finding it, rather by reading about it in the late Howard Boyd's book, "A Pine Barrens Field Guide". Iris prismatica is one of two local native Irises here in South Jersey, the other being Iris versicolor. Then one day while passing through Galloway TWP, I spotted it in a roadside ditch. It was spectacular, with so many blue-violet blooms. A real show stopper. Naturally, I had to stop and photograph it. Then I returned in a couple weeks for seeds. They were not ready. I waited another two weeks, still nothing. It wasn't until late summer that the seeds were finally ready. I picked two seed pods and sewed them after a six week chill in the fridge. But nothing germinated for me. Thinking they never would germinate I tossed the tray aside and forgot about it. The following spring when cleaning up the nursery area, I was shocked to pick up that tray and find many small single blades emerging from the soil. It was the Iris. I established a home for them in my bog, and each year they spread not only from seed, but by runners. This week they are blooming again, being in full sun, they are looking their best ever.

Iris prismatica, is a local native Iris also known as Slender Blue Flag. It resembles the larger Iris versicolor, but it's more like a mini version, with slender grass-like leaves and more dainty flowers that look somewhat like a Japanese Iris. I have seen Hummingbirds visit almost daily while in flower.

Propagation is easy by seed if you sow outdoors in the fall and look for seedlings in the Spring. They generally bloom the second year. Try this wonderful little plant in one of those moist areas that doesn't drain well and other plants are hard to grow and you will find that this one is easily a star.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Native Plant Opportunity......Absecon City-wide Yardsale 6/7/14

What could be better than shopping for native plants and bargain hunting too? This coming Saturday 6/7,  from 8am -4pm, I will have the native plants for sale at the annual city-wide yard sale in Absecon. In the spirit of finding bargains, I will have some special deals. At shows the plants are usually offered in a 5 pack for $17.00. This Saturday they will be 5/$16.00. or 10/$30.00, which is just $3.00 per plant.  Single plants are $3.25 each. The following species will be available:

Aster nova belgii - New York Aster

Aster novae-angliae - New England Aster

Aster cordifolia - Blue Wood Aster

Aster laevis - Smooth Blue Aster

Liatris spicata - Blazing Star

Solidago sempervirens - Seaside Goldenrod

Echinacea purpurea - Purple Coneflower

Rudbeckia fulgida - Orange Coneflower

Oenthera fruticosa - Sundrops

Panicum virgatum - Switchgrass

Tehproisa virginiana - Goat's Rue

Eupatorium perfoliatum - Boneset

Tradescantia virginiana - Spiderwort

Carolina Lupine - Thermopsis carolinana

Iris prismatica - Slender Blue Flag

Sedum ternatum - Wild Stonecrop

Lysimachia ciliata - Purple Fringed Loosestrife

Asclepias incarnata - Swamp Milkweed

Prickly Pear Cactus, Opuntia humifusa

Butterflyweed - Asclepias tuberosa

The address is 703 Ambassador Drive Absecon, NJ 08201 which is located in Absecon Estates behind the Shoprite and City Hall/Heritage Park.

Organic vegetable plants will also be available for $1.00 each. 6 pka for $2.00 each. Jalapenos, Lettuce, Scallions, Cherry tomatoes, Beefsteak tomatoes, Basil, Eggplant, Sweet Corn.

The weather looks like its going to be splendid, so come on out and find bargains city-wide.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Spring 2014 Updates at the Nursery

Updates at the nursery Apr 9

Is it finally over.... this long, cold winter? I was begining to think I would never see the end of it. I have to apologize for the lack of postings over thr past few months. This past year has been very eventful and while it seemed to be never ending stress and turmoil, it ends up to look promising for the future. I had been looking for some time now for a new home and a suitable property for the nursery. I am pleased to announce we will be moving. The site is teaming with native plants and which I have inventoried the winter remains of and can not wait to re-evaluate once Spring comes and they re-emerge. I have been looking daily, but so far only the aliens on the property are emerging. One of the reasons that they outcompete natives is that ther emerge earlier and go down later than natives. But I saw bracken fern skeletons so I am waiting for fiddleheads.

I also set up a bird feeding station which has attracted many species including Goldfinches, Cardinals, Blue Birds, Juncos, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Titmouse, House Finches, Mourning Doves, Carolina Wrens, Hairy Woodpecker, a Mocking Bird, Bluejays, a Brown Creeper and a Pine Warbler. I plan to install plenty of bird food plants including Echincea and Liatris which the Goldfinches love as well as Bee Balm and Cardinal Flower for Hummingbirds. This past week I have seen a Mourning Cloak Butterly almost daily on my walks.

Unfortunately I am a little behind on plant rearing. I am dedicated to getting the Milkweed out there for the Monarchs, however. Everything else offered for sale will be left over from last year until later in the season.

Update: May 8

Its May and the Bracken Ferns are emerging, I have a pair of Towhees in my woods and also Lady Slippers. I have also seen Spring Azures and a Tiger Swallowtail, a Black and White Warbler and a Rose Breasted Grosbeak, all today. The frogs are chirping and Whippoorwill singing into the wee hours. I am adding to the wildlife garden daily and planted corn in my vegetable garden today. At our other home we had a beautiful Baltimore Oriole that arrived around May first each year for the past seven years that would sing his heart out. I will miss him, but am hoping one will come here as well. Each day I can't wait to go outside and see what is new. Wishing everyone a happy and blessed Spring.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

6th Annual UU Native Plant Swap and Sale

Dear Fellow Native Plant Enthusiasts,

Its that time of year again. The 6th annual UU Native Plant Swap and Sale will be held this coming Saturday, May 10th, from 9am-2pm at the UU Center, 75 S. Pomona Rd in Pomona. This just gets better each year. You can come and trade or buy plants. There are several ways to participate. First there is a pre-order that people sign up for each year and this is the day the plants are picked up. Second, you can swap plants. The way this works is you bring your extra natives, volunteer seedlings or divisions potted up and trade for other natives. It costs two plants admission, so say you brought 10 plants to the swap. Two would go toward admission and you would receive eight tickets, to be used to get other plants. Third, there will also be plants offered for sale. I will be there as well as Jesse Connor and Barbera Feidler of the NJ Native Plant Society to offer advice on native plants. There are many awesome plants and as this event grows yearly so does the selection of plants. In the past I have aquired many plants through this swap, including May Apples and Barren Strawberry, Little Bluestem and American Beautyberry. Be sure to sign up for the pre-order list for next years' sale.

I will have the following species available for sale: Common Milkweed(limited), Seaside Goldenrod, Echincea, Liatris, New England Aster, New York Aster, Blue Wood Aster, Prickly Pear, Switch Grass, Butterflyweed, Joe Pye Weed, Sneezeweed, Slender Blue Flag, Blue Vervain, Sundrops, Wild Stonecrop, Spiderwort, Bee Balm, Rattlesnake Master, Brown Eyed Susan, Columbine, Boneset, Purple Fringed Loostrife, Obedient Plant, Foxglove Beardtongue, Cardinal Flower, Great Blue Lobelia, and Sweet Flag.


So come on out and get native plants. And while you are there be sure to check out the onsite rain garden to see how natives look in the landscape. Here's the link! Hope to see you there.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Spring had Sprung...Finally! Come Out for the Annual Earth Day Festival

Today I finally saw my annual confirmations of spring. The Shadbush and Bird Foot Violets are blooming, and a Spring Azure on the trail, very encouraging after this very cold winter. And with Spring comes the annual Earth Day Festival at ACUA Sunday April 27 from 10am-4pm. The ACUA is located on Delilah Rd in EHT. I will be there with plants for sale including Swamp Milkweed, Asters, and Seaside Goldenrod for Monarchs. Also many other wildlife friendly, species like Echinacea, Liatris, Bee Balm and Switch Grass. Jesse Conner will be doing the talk this year. She will be talking about the newly formed chapter of the NJ Native Plant society. This chapter is based in Galloway TWP, and allows us South Jersey folks to participate in discovering the native plants we love. Please come out and see us.