Bucks County Herald

Elizabeth Ludlow Bowman: Tips for the Compleat Gardener

Fields of flowers

This is a picture of native phlox maculata in front of Monarda fistulosa, wild beebalm.

Somehow we survived the first week of July by gardening less and cooling more but the weeds are exuberant, celebrating the deeply moist soil and warm embrace of sun, waiting for us as temperatures return to normal July.

The seeds are finally growing into plants with promising buds. I find myself gazing at the expanse of un-mown lawn becoming meadow, noting the first wildflowers to stake a claim, inhaling the sweet, rich scent of life, watching a myriad of flying things moving between flowers.

Why not cut less lawn! There are beautiful wildflowers and native grasses that have interest and grace through the seasons while providing habitat for many beings. The wild turkeys and meadow birds like grouse love to dine on ticks that so many people worry about with long grass.

There are many wild turkeys that cruise through my environment and we have seen very few ticks this year. A flock of guinea hens will take care of ticks too if you don’t mind their singing, commenting on the moment. Guinea hens are fun.

Native plants are increasingly available as gardeners come to understand the benefits of making one’s personal environment nourishing on so many levels.

On this page is a picture of native phlox maculata in front of Monarda fistulosa, wild beebalm, mak-yew-LAY-ta meaning spotted and fis-tew-LO-sa meaning hollow. The stem is hollow and the petals form lavender tubes loved by hummingbirds and insects with a long proboscis that slips down tubes for nectar.

I found these plants at Gino’s Native Plant Nursery on Route 232 in Penns Parks but I know that following 232 towards New Hope a slight diversion onto Pine Lane will bring one to Iron Creek nursery where they have increased native choices.

If you are unaware, just south of Gino’s is the Wrightstown Farmer’s Market open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. It is a great market where some local CSAs have booths and a festive air makes you want to dance.

There are many lovely meadow plants that need no attention from the gardener except an annual mowing timed to happen after meadow birds have fledged. The best thing is the lessened use of fossil fuels and sweat energy to maintain an acre or two that can be admired without guilt. Many of the plants breathe out oxygen into our air while consuming carbon dioxide and transforming toxins into non-toxins.

Watch the meadows for yarrows and penstemon, Queen Anne’s lace and chicory. When the goldenrod starts blooming fall is on the way.

My friends and I have been debating which berries are ripening along roadsides and woodlands at this time. Usually the black raspberry, we always called black cap, which has silver-blue foliage and he berries turn from red to black as they ripen coming cleanly off the center when picked is the first to ripen.

I have not seen many of these this year but the wineberries, invasive aliens from Japan, are ripening everywhere. Rubusicolasius has found its way through most of the eastern U.S.A. and is appreciated by man and beast for its delicious fruit. Eat some while you pull it out because it can get really out of control and overwhelm natives.

The blueberries are ripening and after all this the blackberries, long, black cluster of drupes so loved by bears, will cede to wild grapes. All of the raspberries and wineberries are not actually berries but clusters of drupes and the blackberries differ by sending off the inner stem with the “berry” making them less enticing to eat from the bush.

All of these make delicious jelly or jam for winter delight. Regular raspberries are at their peak over the next few weeks so enjoy.



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