Plants have evolved to grow among other plants, not as lone specimens. Typha latifolia, several species of Scirpus and Carex, and Eupatorium perfoliatum mingle on the edge of this pond. Image: Tom Potterfield
To create resilient landscapes, write Planting in a Post-Wild World authors Thomas Rainer and Claudia West, focus on a plant’s ecological performance rather than its country of origin.
A designed plant community is a translation of a wild plant community into a cultural language. Why do plant communities need translating? Practicality, for one thing—urban and suburban landscapes are so drastically altered from the historic ecosystems that once existed. Think of your home and then think of the landscape that existed there a thousand years earlier. The process of urbanization has entirely altered the environmental conditions. So a designed plant community may reflect these changes by incorporating a narrower selection of the most adaptive species. Or it may include species from different habitats to supplement a native palette, particularly when an all-native selection is not commercially available.
Small is beautiful: Muscari armeniacum, Narcissus ‘Hawera’, and Tulipa clusiana ‘Lady Jane’ are in proportion with each other, and Phlox subulata offers a horizontal plane from which these bulbs pop. All images: Rob Cardillo
The Art of Gardening co-author Eric Hsu shares how bulbs are used to stunning effect at Chanticleer Garden.
Bulbs, like tropicals, are essential for the outsized floral expression that is quintessentially Chanticleer. Generally adaptable and colorful, hardy bulbs feature prominently throughout the garden, concentrating colors in sections. Despite being less easy to place, summer- and autumn-flowering bulbs like lilies, colchicums, and cyclamens extend the exuberance of spring bulbs. There is hardly a part of Chanticleer devoid of bulbs: Even in the largely native Bell’s Run, rogue clumps of snowdrops can be found. Our prevailing style of bulb planting is loose and informal, a naturalizing concept that originated with the self-styled Scottish ‘Daffodil King’ Peter Barr and was promoted in William Robinson’s The Wild Garden (1870). From early to midspring, the Orchard overflows with daffodils sparkling beneath flowering cherries, crabapples, and dogwoods. Chionodoxas, scillas, and Grecian windflowers unify the disparate groups.
Gorgeous and durable blossoms of the hellebore eventually produce plump follicles clustered in the centers. The petals (technically sepals) hang on for a time, cupping the follicles while the seeds swell within. All images: Robert Llewellyn
Seeing Seeds authors Teri Dunn Chace and Robert Llewellyn take a close look at the beginnings of this popular plant.
Those who garden where the winters are cold and snowy cherish hellebores, for their early appearance is a sign of spring. The two most popular species are Lenten rose, Helleborus ×hybridus, and Christmas rose, H. niger. The nodding or cup-shaped blooms come in a charming range of hues, from white and green to pink, yellow, and dark purple, sometimes speckled and freckled with contrasting colors. The petals are actually sepals; the true petals are reduced to nectaries, all centered by a boss of jaunty stamens. Hellebores are notoriously variable. Named hybrids and fine strains are available if you have a color preference. But all good things must come to an end, and when their blooms finally fade, a follicle, or podlike fruit, forms. Watch for it and the seeds it contains. It is easy to become distracted by all the other spring flowers surging into bloom at this time.
We are bombarded with television commercials on how to go green in our gardens—but most of the time, environmentally unfriendly methods are recommended to achieve green, particularly the application of chemicals to promote growth, inhibit plant diseases, and eliminate insect pests. By contrast, moss gardening is truly green through and through. You do not need a chemical “green thumb” to succeed—no fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. By eliminating the use of poisons, you can play a valuable role in reducing groundwater contamination and runoff of hazardous chemicals into our natural water resources. When you stop mowing, you are taking personal steps to reduce air pollution. Mosses are an environmentally benign way to conserve water, control erosion, filter rainwater, clean up hazardous chemicals, and sequester carbon. Also, mosses serve a valuable ecological role as bioindicators for air pollution, acid rain, water pollution, and wastewater treatment.
All of these side benefits of beautiful bryophytes make them good eco-friendly choices for our gardens. Add the feathers of a responsible steward and champion for sustainable landscapes to your jaunty moss gardener’s hat. Every little bit helps, and it all adds up to a better world.
Chuquiraga aurea is among the most common and largest cushion-forming plants. This spiny aster relative can form cushions the size and height of a Volkswagen bug! Bright yellowish gold strawflowers lend an air of everlasting flowering to the plant, which is rarely cultivated. All images by the authors.
The largest families of plants that now dominate steppe floras around the world—Asteraceae, Poaceae, Brassicaceae, and Scrophulariaceae—are believed to have arisen and evolved fairly late in the current Cenozoic era, long after much of the mountain-building in steppe regions was under way. Since herbaceous plants—especially those from xeric or alpine environments—are rarely preserved as fossils, much of the paleobotanical data is inferred by genetics and current distributions. It is likely that distant ancestors of these large families may well have occurred in more than one of the steppe regions: a significant proportion of the floras of North America and Eurasia are so closely related that they are believed to derive from a common floral ancestry from times when these continents were conjoined—or at least connected. The twinning of Abies and Picea at subalpine latitudes across the northern hemisphere suggests their origins may be traced to a common ancestor that once grew in the highlands of Laurasia. Myriad other comparable twinnings between continents argues for the uniform genetic origins of much of the highest latitude north temperate flora (termed Holarctic by botanists and zoologists alike), their distribution often characterized as circumboreal.
Gardening is all about syncopation. Although you should not be a slave to a watering schedule, it’s helpful to think about what you should do and when to do it. Unlike your garden outdoors, the pattern isn’t always obvious, even though seasonal cues indirectly drive your indoor gardening schedule. Here are some brief ideas for care points to address at the right moment, starting with autumn, when houseplant season begins.
Yarrow, monarda, and serviceberries. Three Midwest plants that many don’t realize are edible. All images by Lisa M. Rose
Learn to identify, harvest, and prepare these common plants with the help of Midwest Foraging author Lisa M. Rose.
So many of us are seeking a connection to the land and to each other. Foraging, local foods, and community gardening connect us in a deeper way to the world around us. That need for escape into the wild is very real: we desire space and clarity. I believe this is one reason foraging is gaining in popularity. We are also making the connection between healthy soil, healthy foods, and healthy people. The food on our plate has—or should have—roots in the earth.
As a forager, I have learned to sense and anticipate the subtle changes in the seasons, almost like a sixth sense. On sunny February days that are cold but bright, I can actually hear the sap in the maple trees begin to run. April rainstorms and warmer weather means it’s time to go mushroom hunting. On muggy days in June with frequent pop-up thundershowers, I always check on the roses and elderflowers—one round of summer thunderstorms could decimate the delicate blooms that I so love to dry for tea. And nuts falling in the green gulch next to my kitchen window? I try to harvest those walnuts before the squirrels do. I feel empowered with this ability to “read” the wild world around me. I will always have the ability to find food and these skills connect me to the natural world in a deep way.