Last Flowers of the Season

New England Asters are still blooming in my garden! (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

New England Asters are still blooming in my garden! (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Last Flowers of the Season

For the first year in many years, I have a new flower still blooming after several snow storms and record low temperatures this fall.

I would venture to say the soil where I live in mid-Missouri is finally frozen although I haven’t actually tested it to confirm. After all, the official beginning of winter is only a few days away.

In the past, the last flowers to bloom in the USDA Hardiness zone 5b season were, appropriately enough, forget-me-nots. Those delicate blue flowers have established themselves in several growing beds along my walks. As soon as I see them in bloom, I know the growing season is fading.

This last growing season had a surprise. Even after the forget-me-nots turned to seed the New England Asters were in bloom. At first I thought it was because one group was in a protected area but when I checked two other congregations, they were all still in bloom.

I know they are hardy perennials but surely a good snowstorm, or two, would dampen their blooming enthusiasm.

Not so, they are a little worse for wear but still popping out a few flowers. I love their purple color and hardiness so I picked one little sprig to add to red geraniums now in bloom inside.

Funny how this tiny little bouquet cheers me when I see it every morning, makes me think about red tulips and my hillsides full of bright yellow, cheery daffodils. Spring is just around the corner, isn’t it?!

Charlotte

Blue Dayflowers

Blue Dayflowers are one of the true blue flowers. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Blue Dayflowers are one of the true blue flowers. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Blue Dayflowers

If you’ve ever looked for sky blue perennial flowers - or any blue flowers - you know they are few and far between. Unless you start paying attention to your garden “weeds,” where you may find one of the prettiest true blue flowers around.

Dayflowers tend to appear mid-summer in my mid-Missouri garden, a little pop of blue showing up among flower beds and borders. This native from Asia is now prevalent through Missouri and listed as a Missouri wildflower.

Part of the spiderwort family, Commelinaceae blooms May through frost. The plant is named after Jan and Kaspar Commelin, distinguished Dutch botanists. According to Edgar Denison in “Missouri Wildflowers,” there was a third botanist who died young. The two larger petals represent the two surviving brothers and the smaller one the botanist who died at a young age.

A group of blue dayflowers adding color to a garden corner. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

A group of blue dayflowers adding color to a garden corner. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

What I love about these flowers is that they require little water and easily grow in both sun and shade.

The stems will sprawl through a flower bed, nicely filing in an area with their leaves. I found myself adding starts all through my garden this fall hoping they will return next year.

Who can argue with an easy to grow perennial that easily adds a dash of true blue to a garden?

Charlotte

Best Place for Native Seedlings

This flowering dogwood was a seedling given away several years ago at a local hardware store for National Arbor Day. I didn’t count on the nearby bridal veil overtaking the seedling so give your seedlings plenty of room to grow. By purchasing from George O. White State Nursery, you know you are getting the native species as opposed to hybridized species.

This flowering dogwood was a seedling given away several years ago at a local hardware store for National Arbor Day. I didn’t count on the nearby bridal veil overtaking the seedling so give your seedlings plenty of room to grow. By purchasing from George O. White State Nursery, you know you are getting the native species as opposed to hybridized species.

Best Place for Native Seedlings

Ever been given a free redbud or dogwood during Earth Day or Arbor Day? Most likely those tree seedlings were purchased from this unique nursery. I am going out on a limb here, as they like to say, but there is no better place to get Missouri native tree and shrub seedlings than George O. White State Nursery in Licking, Missouri.

The nursery was started by my former employer, USDA Forest Service, to raise native species to restore Missouri’s national forest in the 1930s. Overgrazing, over-cutting and over hunting of Missouri’s forests depleted or exterminated many of the species we take for granted today – wild turkey, river otters, ruffed grouse, even deer, not to mention the millions of trees and shrubs that provide wildlife food and cover.

To restore the wildlife populations, millions of native trees and shrubs were required. It was the mission of George O. White, a US Forest Service forester, to establish the nursery in Texas County.

According to Missouri Department of Conservation, “As a Forest Service employee, White helped establish and operate the nursery. He would go on to organize and direct the Department’s first forestry program, and he became Missouri’s longest-tenured state forester, serving for 21 years. In 1960, the Department renamed the state nursery and dedicated it in honor of White’s commitment to Missouri’s forests and forestry efforts.”

Today the nursery sells off their extra stock to the public in the fall. In the past, the sale started Nov. 1, about the time all of the fall leaves were on the ground, but this year, it was pushed up two months to Sept. 1.

The seedlings are not available for pick up, and shipping, until February but some of the stock sells out fast; ninebark, witch hazel and elderberries often sell out quickly. If the order is not paid for, the stock may be offered back up for sale at the time the plants are scheduled for shipping but I try not to wait too long after the ordering window is open to place my order.

The prices are hard to beat. Not including sales taxes and an $8 handling charge, seedlings can range from 32 cents to 80 cents, depending on how many seedlings you buy, usually in bundles of 10, 25 or 100.

Once you have the seedlings, it’s best to get them in water to keep them hydrated. They can also be wrapped in wet newspapers and placed in plastic bags to keep the roots moist. Phelps County Master Gardeners bought 100 flowering dogwoods for giveaways at the 1st annual spring Growing Green Fair in 2013, wrapped them in wet newspapers and nicely kept them hydrated before the event so I know this works.

The George O. White Nursery catalog is a great free reference for how to plant the seedlings including an easy chart of various land uses.  (Photos by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The George O. White Nursery catalog is a great free reference for how to plant the seedlings including an easy chart of various land uses. (Photos by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

They also offer a wonderful color catalog that provides details on how best to use the various species. A copy was available in Missouri Department of Conservation’s September magazine and you can call the nursery and ask them to mail you one.

You can also download a copy of the catalog here: https://mdc.mo.gov/sites/default/files/downloads/SeedlingOrderForm.pdf

Don’t want 10 of one species? Talk to your friends and consolidate an order, that way you don’t end up with too many plants and too little space to plant them.

Charlotte