Plants in the Garden
CORNERSTONES OF THE GARDEN
There are over 70 species of flowers in the garden. Each brings unique features — color, structure, nectar, pollen, bloom period, and more. However, there are a few that play a significant role in the garden: Liatris, Rudbeckia, Echinacea, Asclepias, and Penstemon.
L. ligulistylus Photo: Mike Murphy
Mid-to-late July is Liatris season. These stunning plants are also known as blazing stars or gayfeathers, which hints at the impact their flowers have in our gardens. All but one Liatris species can be found in North American. So, this is a perfect group of plants for native plant enthusiasts, pollinator protectors, and gardeners looking to add eye-popping color in the garden.
Liatris are members of the Aster family (Asteraceae). All plants in this family produce what appears to be a single flower that is actually a cluster of much smaller flowers.
There are more than 30 species of Liatris and they all share three characteristics: the flowers open from the top to the bottom on the spikes, all are good pollinator plants, and they support numerous insects species that are food to songbirds.
Liatris you will find in the garden (click to learn more about each)
L. ligulistylus - Meadow Blazing Star
L. pycnostachya - Prairie Blazing Star
Commonly known as Black-eyed Susans, the genus includes over 20 species of annuals, biennials, and perennials. Rudbeckia are members of the aster family and all of the species are native to North America.These lovely mid-to-late summer flowers are grown for their bright yellow, daisy-like flowers with black to dark purple center cones. All prefer full sun but will tolerate part shade and once established are drought tolerant and all attract insects and pollinators.
Rudbeckia you will find in the garden:
R. triloba - Brown-eyed Susan
R. subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers'
R. fulgida var. sullivantii “Gold Sturm”
R fulfida var. deamii
R. subtomentosa 'Little Henry'
Commonly known as purple coneflowers, Echinacea is a member of the aster family and includes nine species, all of which are native to central and eastern North America. The purple flowers with their dark central cones can be found on sunny, open roadsides, prairies, and meadows. They flower from early-to-late summer and attract hummingbirds and butterflies. If the plants are not deadheaded, seed eating birds such as finches will eat the seeds. All Echinacea are very drought tolerant and can survive in areas that other plants find inhospitable.
Echinacea you will find in the garden:
E. pallida - Pale Purple Coneflower
E. paradoxa - Burn’s Purple Coneflower (a yellow coneflower!)
E. purpurea - Eastern Purple Coneflower
E. tennesseensus - Tennessee Coneflower
E. pallida Photo: Northeast Pollinator Plants
Also known as milkweeds are named for their latex, a milky substance exuded when the plant is damaged. They are readily recognized by the white, floss-like threads that float in the air dispersing seed. Most are toxic to humans and other species. However, as with many such plants, there are species that feed on them most notably larvae of the monarch butterfly. These plants also produce abundant nectar that attracts bees, wasps, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Note: For gardeners in the South, there is one species that should NOT be grown. When it isn’t killed by frost (as it is in Northern gardens), A. curassavica, or tropical milkweed can lead to new overwintering sites and the consequent year-round breeding of monarchs. This is thought to adversely affect migration patterns and may cause a build up of parasites.
Asclepias you will find in the garden:
A. tuberosa - Butterfly Weed
A.incarnata ‘Ice Ballet’ - Swamp Milkweed
A.exaltata - Poke Milkweed
A. incarnata Photo: Mike Murphy
P. digitalis Photo: Tom Potterfield
Also known as the beardtongues, Penstemon are one of the largest genera of wildflowers in the world with approximately 270 species. All are native to North and Central America. At least one species is found in every state except Hawaii. The name comes from the long, frequently hairy false stamen that gives the appearance of an open mouth with a fuzzy tongue.
Penstemons are adapted to many environments from moist meadows to dry rangelands and alpine regions. They come in an array of colors from vivid red to purple blue to white. They can be host plants of some butterflies and are frequently visited by long-tongued bees. In Maine, they mostly bloom in June and July and are great gap fillers after the spring flush and before the late-summer/fall bloom extravaganza.
Penstamons you will find in the Garden:
P. calycosus - Longsepal Beardtongue
P. cobaea - Dew Flower
P. digitalis - Foxglove Beardtongue
P. digitalis ‘Husker Red’ - red leaf form
P. grandiflorus - Large Beardtongue
P. smallii - Small’s Beardtongue