Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Down By The Seashore

The North Shore of P.E.I. in August, 2011
Our shorelines are filled with So Many Beautiful Native Plants.  It's Amazing that so many plants will grow and thrive in such harsh conditions.  Native plants literally hold the sand together with their roots, preventing erosion and the ultimate moving of the dunes.  These photos were taken in late August of 2011 on our North Shore in P.E.I.
Artemisia stelleriana (Dusty Miller)
Wild bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica)
I've learned that salt can be extremely beneficial to certain types of plants and shrubs that thrive in the sand.  Salt spray can act as an anti fungal and is even known to deter bugs.  Beach plants have clever ways to get rid of salt.  A native P.E.I. grass; Spartina alterniflora (Salt water cord grass), is adapted to live in salt water.  Excess salts are removed from the plant by epidermal salt glands.
Wild bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica) is an excellent green shrub for the shore.  Its shiny green leaves last well into late fall when it is full of grey scented berries loved by birds and also used for bayberry candles.  It thrives in the sand with no maintenance for its root nodules contain nitrogen-fixing microorganisms which allow it to grow in poor soils.

Sea Lavender (Limonium carolinianum) is a perennial, salt-marsh plant that grows 1 - 2 ft (30 - 60 cm.) high and has abundant, small, pale purple flowers on branching clusters.  Sea lavender blooms create the appearance of a delicate purple mist on the salt marsh during the late summer.  We often collect sea lavender to dry, made my first wreath with it last fall.  It is sort of a rite of summer like berry picking.

Seaside goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens) is a native perennial that is well adapted to the landward side of fronting dunes, low secondary dunes, and edges of salt marshes.  The fleshy, waxy leaves growing abundantly along the entire length of the stem help retain moisture that would otherwise be lost to the drying effect of salt spray.  Its bright yellow flowers are larger than those of the typical goldenrod and provide a great show in late summer and early fall.  We have them growing wild in our field as well.  I guess that tells you how sandy our soil is!  They make a lovely cut flower!

Seaside Goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens)
A windy day at the shore

Friday, 20 January 2012

Sporobolus heterolepsis (Prairie dropseed) at Lovegrass Farm

Sporobolus heterolepsis (Prairie dropseed) Sept. 2, 2011
Sporobolus (spor-AH-bol-us) heterolepsis (het-er-oh-LEP-is) or Prairie dropseed is a warm season grass that is refined enough to fit into formal gardens and is also a natural choice for prairie and meadow gardens.  It's very fine arching leaves; to 20" (50 cm.) turn from summer green to gold/orange in the fall.  Tall, wispy inflorescence's 30" (75 cm.) high rise up thickly over the tufts, with fine panicles of tiny flowers and seeds.  The flowers produce nectar for bees, butterflies & hummingbirds.  The seed bracts are white when ripe and the flower stems turn the same orange color as the leaves in the fall.
Prairie dropseed July 5, 2011 (showing fine foliage)
Prairie dropseed July 18, 2011 (moves in the breeze)
Prairie dropseed Early Aug, 2010, Rooftop garden at Boothbay Botanical Gardens in Maine
Prairie dropseed prefers dry sandy soil but does great on a wide range of soil types.  It is deep rooted and extremely drought tolerant once established which makes it very effective for erosion control on a slope and it is now being used in roof top gardens.
Aug. 5, 2011 (starting to flower)
Aug. 25, 2011 (at sunset)
It is a slow grower that takes about 4 years to reach blooming size from seed but will grow without care for decades without any centre die back or need for renewal and is hardy to Zone 3.  Prairie dropseed likes full sun or light shade and makes a well-defined and distinctive border when planted 18 - 24" (45 - 60 cm) apart.  It's hairlike foliage is ideal for softening edges of sidewalks and patios.  It does not freely self-seed in the garden.  Prairie dropseed is on the threatened and endangered species list in Saskatchewan, Canada and in some of the United States.
Oct. 2, 2011 (fall stem color is starting to show)
Oct. 19, 2011 (changing color)
Prairie dropseed rivals Little Bluestem in mass plantings.  Inter plant with spring bulbs so you have a show before the grasses grow and inter plant narrow leaved echinaceas, liatris & sedum "Matrona' for a later show.  They also have an added bonus of a unique fragrance that has been compared to coriander or popcorn.  I found that it was especially noticeable when the air was calm.  The edible seed head is an attraction to birds.  Plains Indians ground the seed to make a tasty flour.
I can't say enough about this low-maintenance plant!  Sunrise and sunset; especially with dew or frost made it look Spectacular!  I truly enjoyed watching it change through the seasons!