2015’s plant successes

You’d think with all the time I spent observing and cleaning up after caterpillars, I wouldn’t have had time for the outside garden, but I did. In fact, I’m having a hard time coming with my favorite success stories because there are so many to choose from. These more than make up for the few garden disappointments.

Milkweed‘s success goes without saying since I’ve so thoroughly documented our monarchs, though this photo is a reminder that butterflies aren’t its only visitors. We’ll keep the common milkweed (though we may thin out the number of plants) and butterflyweed, and this year we’ll try adding swamp milkweed and possibly others to extend the monarch season.

closeup of a honeybee on common milkweed

Iris was on the bigger and better list in 2014. That photo comparing 2013 to 2014 looks so quaint now because these flowers are multiplying exponentially. We divided the biggest clump and will need to be even more proactive at the end of 2016.

a clump of at least two dozen tightly-packed irises

Trilliums: This is the first time we’ve successfully grown trilliums – one of my all-time favorite wildflowers back to fourth grade science class – after a couple attempts! First up were trillium sessile, which we added in 2014 after they bloomed.

two purple trilliums, one missing a leaf and one missing the blossom

Then came many large-flowered trilliums that were transplanted from my parents’ yard.

three white blossoms and two buds

Wild geraniums are another childhood favorite transplanted from my parents’ yard, growing for the first time in ours. They were also used as a bed for some cute native bees.

wild geranium with a bee sleeping upside-down

I didn’t see this jack-in-the-pulpit until it popped out of a patch of violets – a fun surprise. It’s the first one to bloom after a couple years of planting seeds. There were also lots of non-blooming jacks, so I expect more next year.

jack-in-the-pulpit above many violet leaves

Cinquefoil was blooming by April 27, though the tag says it should happen in mid- to late summer. This is one plant; a second, planted right next to it at the same time, is hidden somewhere under these leaves. Not sure why this one did so much better than its sibling.

large clump of green leaves with many small yellow flowers

Snowdrop anemone was on the bigger and better list last year, and this year it got even bigger. It’s threatening to take over a large chunk of the garden, so during autumn cleanup we tried moving it to a new spot under a pine tree. I am afraid that this might be one we need to remove completely, if it keeps up its aggressive nature.

closeup from above of more than 20 large white flowers

Lamb’s ear was on the success list last year so I hesitate to include it again, but in 2015 it flowered for the first time.

five clusters of small purple flowers on a tall white stalk

Stiff goldenrod: Who buys goldenrod, when it’s a “weed” that grows everywhere? Me, that’s who. We already had a volunteer Canada goldenrod, and I bought a stiff goldenrod to diversify. Boy, did bees like this newcomer. Maybe it’s because by the time it bloomed, most of the other flowers (including the Canada version) were done, but I couldn’t keep track of all of the honeybees, bumblebees, tiny native bees, wasps, beetles, and flies that converged on this one. They did not sit still for me, so this is the best photo I could get of the variety of insects.

yellowjackets, bumblebee, fly, small native bee, wasp on small yellow flowers

Culver’s root really shined this year. It was fun to watch insects climb up its spikes.

six clusters of tall white spikes

Finally, one blue vervain grew after multiple attempts at planting seeds.

Gray-headed coneflower spread like crazy in 2015. It’s a native so I’m trying to be open-minded, but we’ll have to keep a close eye on this one in 2016 so it doesn’t crowd out its neighbors more than it already has.

Plains coreopsis is another to watch closely. It was from a “wildflower” mix from a couple years ago, and it’s been self-seeding ever since.

In 2015 we had rudbeckia in many forms: native black-eyed susan, non-native black-eyed susan, orange coneflower (which looks exactly like the non-native black-eyed susan), and this pretty multi-colored version. I am confused about where it came from – perhaps from 2014’s wildflower seed packet (though this was the first year it appeared).

ombre petals with yellow at the edges and dark orange at the center

Cup plant was quite the show-stopper. We bought it in 2014 so it didn’t have a chance to do much until 2015. It grew taller than my reach – taller even than the 4-to-8 feet advertised on its plant marker. Apparently I was intrigued by the “cup” aspect because I took several photos like this:

cup plant full of rain water

It attracted bees, butterflies, and even birds – I often saw goldfinches and one day spotted a downy woodpecker!

two yellow flowers, each with a bee


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  1. Lots of successes for the gardener, but even more for the birds and bees. What gorgeous photos (goldenrod/rudbeckia and anemone shots especially stunning)! Someday I want to see a photo of the whole beautiful thing.

    • Thanks, Carmine! It’s been fun to revisit all these cheery flower photos during the last two super-cold weeks. Fauna photos coming soon…


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