An American Native: Coneflower

Coneflower photographed by Jeff Zablow at Lynx Prairie Reserve, Ohio

Doug Tallamy’s book urged us to stop putting in alien plants, don’t purchase non-American plants for your home gardens. is argument? Compelling. Real. In 2013 that’s exactly what we did. Our new Pittsburgh home gardens, front and side filled with native plants from the northeastern USA. At the time, Sylvania Natives was an outstanding natives nursery . . . and it was in Pittsburgh, 1/2 miles from our home.

In went native plum trees, Pagoda Dogwoods, Obedient plant, Asclepias (common milkweed), Clethra, Cut-leaf Coneflower, Oakleaf hydrangea, Ironwood, Senna, Hawthorne, Cornus Florida, Tulip Poplar and more, so much more.

I was skeptical about one or two of these ‘natives.’ I’d seen Purple Coneflower many, many times in those big-box home improvement stores, Lowe’s and Home Depot, and I’d seen it in several nurseries that stocked alien cultivars. What’s was the truth of Purple Coneflower?

In 2017 I joined a stellar group of folks at Adams County, at the southern tip of Ohio. Angela, Dave, Joe, Barbara Ann A”H and Flower. There, in the OMG!! Lynx Prairie Preserve, there, I found it! Purple Coneflower, native and Spectacular!

Coneflowers. Native and a favorite of butterflies, bees, Ruby-throated hummingbirds and I’m sure more, so much more. Easy to set-in, hardy and a fine, fine investment for you Wall Street types.

Jeff

I’m Often Asked What I Have . . .

Butterflyweed Wildflowers at Raccoon Creek State Park

Here we are in the middle of Spring 2016, and I’ve been asked over and over again, what I’ve planted and will plant in My Own home garden in Pittsburgh. Established 4 years ago, this once wasteland of a space was renewed, with 3 truckloads of good grade topsoil and 1.5 truckloads of mushroom manure (available here in southwestern Pennsylvania). Distributed, graded and contoured, this was given time to settle in, and then we planted the foundation beds. The front bed is approximately 45 feet by 10 feet, sits behind an iron fence, and on a good sunny weekend day, sees no less than several hundred adults and children pass to and from Frick Park, our next door neighbor. The Park offers the nearby and locally famous ‘Blue Slide Playground’ as well as ball fields, meadows, forest and extraordinary Off Leash Area for dogs. This 900+ acre park is in the city of Pittsburgh. Well maintained, it is heavily used.

Imagine that. Hundreds of people may walk by my front garden on a sunny Saturday or Sunday. I engage some of them in conversation, and I enjoy that alot. Questions are appreciated, and responses are rationed, depending on how much the questioner wants to hear.

So the front garden and the rear side garden share my time and energy.

I’ve gone Native, with much thanks for that to Kathy McGregor of Sylvania Natives and her suggestion, read Doug Tallamy’s book. I did and things changed. I went native, for good reason.

Just a few days ago I was asked to share a photograph of the front garden. I tumbled this over in my mind, and concluded that sharing photographs of gardens somehow seems to not do them justice. Rare the image that produced the beauty of an entire garden.

The front garden, along appropriately named Beechwood Boulevard, features American plum (3), Pagoda dogwood (2), Ice hydrangea (3), False dragonhead (a pleasant surprise), irises (dutch), Milkweed (A. syriaca – Thank you Monarch Watch), Cardinal Flower (Native), Asters (2 different cultivars), Crocosmia (To buck up my Ruby throated visitors), Daffodils, Hyacinths,  Salvia (2-3 types), Giant Zinnia (obtained locally from the greenhouse in Clayton (the Frick mansion)) and Tulips. This year I’ve added: Dense Liatris (Gayfeather ), additional Native Cardinal flower, New Jersey Tea, a Striped Maple (for fun). I have too, 3 painted rocks, created for me by a very talented artist.

The rear side garden is a Big challenge, as I add new plants by day, and Frick Park’s groundhogs, deer and perhaps opossums always remember to leave me a Thank you Note the next morning. Persist I do though, and the garden features 3 Dogwood trees (Cherokee pink), 2 American Hornbeam trees, 2 Chokecherry trees, a Tulip Poplar tree, 2 Hazelnut bushes and 8 bedraggled Pussy Willow bushes (feasted on daily? by deer). In this rear side garden there is the ‘Peanut garden’ with belgian block (AKA cobblestones in native Brooklyn) with Cutleaf Coneflower, Monkeyflower, Milkweed (A. syriaca), Dwarf Balloonflower, Daffodils, Pipevine (Thanks Curt), Tithonia (Mexican sunflower), Liatris, Dill, Mint (Chocolate?) and . . . Anise Hyssop, which No One told me is terribly invasive!! The seeds of anise hyssop have what seems to be 110% success. I also have a side small bed with Senna (Native). This year I’ve added: Shrubby St. John’s Wort, Buttonbush and Native Butterfly Weed ( Asclepias tuberosa, acquired at the Adkins Arboretum in Maryland’s Shore area). I hope my new Butterfly weed grows to be as lush and healthy as the one shown in this image, seen in Raccoon Creek State Park.

Yesterday I watched a very buff looking garter snake (3 feet) happily moving through the front garden. A pleasing sight to anyone who loves their garden and welcomes any and all visitors. So there it is, the sign is out for Butterflies, Bees, Wasps, Moths, Hummingbirds, Birds, Snakes, Earthworms, Fox and yes, Groundhogs, Deer, Opossum, Raccoons and whomever else shows up. Ain’t the Pittsburgh your Grandma remembers.

Jeff