Spring has its attractions, sure, but there is plenty to love about the late season blooms. Since so much has faded away, every bit of color stands out and is that much more appreciated, and the bees and I are enjoying all of them!
Above is one or the more unusual plants – spotted bee balm (Monarda punctata). I first saw this at Garden in the Woods, and they claimed it was a Cape Cod native, so I tried it and it came back for its second year looking just as good. The pollinators love it, too!
This boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) just showed up one year, and as it is a handsome 3′ tall plant it deserved a place in the back of the native pollinator bed.
Near it is this related plant – “Little Joe” Joe-Pye weed (Eutrochium dubium ‘Little Joe’), which only grows to 3-4′ but has the same dusty-pink color of the larger specis plant.
Here is one that is new for me this year – Great blue lobelia (Lobelia sphilitica). I was volunteering doing some bed clean-up on the Rose Kennedy Greenway in the spring, and there were a couple of extra plants. Of course I could give them a home! I was a little worried because it prefers moist to wet soil, but as you can see it did fine in my average moisture, well-draining soil. I think it might be more tolerant than its sister plant, the cardinal flower. I’ll be keeping my eyes open for how well it does over the winter and into next year
One of the stars of the late season is the goldenrod. It shows up everywhere in the garden, wherever there is a sunny gap in the planting bed. One year I had an empty hour in late August, and went into the yard to try to identify the exact goldenrods that were growing. Supposedly there are 12 species on Cape Cod, and I think I have 5 of them! This one is most likely Solidago canadensis, My challenge of course is to edit the population to stay to at a reasonable size. The bees will take advantage of as much as will grow, but my tolerance is a bit more limited.
There’s even some interesting flowers in the woodland garden. This is white wood aster (Eurybia divaricata). It has a mound of heart-shaped leaves all summer, then in August – September there is a cloud of small white aster blooms floating over the top. This plant naturalizes beautifully, and now makes a little meandering stream through the middle of the woodland bed.
Best of all, as I worked in the garden this fall, were the surprises I found. Nothing makes a native-plant-geek’s day like “gift” plants! On the left is Indian pipe, or ghost pipe (Monotropa uniflora). It’s an ephemeral that emerges when there is moisture after a dry period, lasts a couple of days, then dies off. It is parasitic, relying on fungi in the soil for its nutrients I remember seeing this in the woods of New Hampshire as a kid, but this is the first time on the Cape – very cool!
And this is wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), and yes, the leaves taste like Lifesavers. I planted a little 3″ pot of this 2 years ago, then couldn’t find it ever again, probably due to weedy grasses that grew in that area. When I cleared out the grasses last week, lo and behold, the wintergreen had not only survived, but spread out – hooray!