Monthly Archives: July 2013

What are all the yellow flowers?

A few folks have asked us, “What are all the yellow flowers in the meadow?” Those with a more garden-design perspective have also wondered why it seems like all we have are yellow flowers. Actually, there are other colors in there too but, yellow being what it is, it tends to scream at you while the lavenders and whites recede. In addition, the deer have eaten many of the beautiful red Monarda that were growing along the edges where they could have been easily seen by passersby and provide a contrast to all that yellow. Fortunately what seems to bother garden designers doesn’t phase the birds, bees and butterflies.

There are a few other reasons why the sunflowers and goldenrod are going gangbusters – first, as I mentioned in my last post, we had ideal weather for growing that resulted in many of the plants growing taller and faster than expected. Second, and perhaps more to the point, we had no control over the seed mix planted last year by Mulch Solutions. As you can learn from previous posts, we started out with a carefully curated plant and grass combo that didn’t really make it out of the starting gate the first year. Mulch Solutions graciously offered to reseed for us at no cost, but we didn’t get the plants we specified during the first go-around. Living by the motto “never look a gift horse in the mouth” we were quite happy to accept what was given and, as you can see from the photos in the previous post, loads of flowers germinated – the majority of them being yellow – and now seem to be angling for a role in a science fiction movie about monster plants.

So, moving forward, we continue to add plants and grasses that the Wolf Trap native plant garden and Meadowlark Botanical Gardens graciously allowed us to dig from their gardens and replant in the library meadow. Although the plants are wonderfully free, Garden Club members still have to do the manual labor, which means the amount of plants we can add each year is limited to the available woman power. Just think what we could accomplish with more volunteers (hint, hint) Little by little, we’re improving the plant mix. We are also working with local experts to round out our meadow with other colors and plant selections and to fulfill the requirements for becoming a certified Monarch Butterfly Waystation. Clearly the meadow is a work in progress and within a few years it should be more self-sustaining.

Please stop by throughout the growing season and in coming years to see how the meadow is evolving. In the meantime, we know the birds, bees, dragonflies and butterflies are living it up. They don’t care how much yellow there is!

Here’s a list of items that are already in the meadow:

Latin Name Common Name Height
Andropogon virginicus Broomsedge 2′ – 5′
Asclepias incarnata Swamp Milkweed 3′
Asclepias syriaca Common Milkweed 2′-3′
Aster prenathoides Zigzag Aster 8″ – 40″
Baptisia australis False Blue Indigo 3′ – 4′
Chamaecrista fasciculata Partridge Pea 1′ – 3′
Chasmanthium latifolium Northern Sea Oats (Grass) 2′ – 4′
Coreopsis tripteris Tall Tickseed 4′ – 6′
Coreopsis verticillata Tickseed 8″ – 18″
Dichanthelium clandestinum Deer Tongue Grass 3′ – 6′
Eupatorium dubium Joe Pye Weed “Little Joe” 3′ – 4′
Eupatorium purpureum Joe Pye Weed 7′
Euthamia graminifolia Grass Leaved Goldenrod 1′ – 4′
Filipendula purpurea ‘Elegans” Japanese Meadowsweet 3′ – 4′
Helianthus divaricatus Woodland Sunflower 2 1/2′ – 6′
Helianthus mollis Downy or Ashy Sunflower 2′ – 6′
Heliopsis helianthoides Oxeye Sunflower 3′ – 6′
Liatris spicata ‘Kobold’ Spike Gayfeather 2′ – 3′
Liatris squarrosa Rough Blazing Star 2′ – 3′
Monarda didyma Common Beebalm 1′ – 2′
Monarda fistulosa Wild Bergamot 1′ – 2′
Oenothera fruticosa Common Sundrops 18″ – 24″
Penstemon digitalis Tall White Beard Tongue 3′ – 5′
Phlox paniculata Phlox 3′ – 4′
Physostegia virginiana Obedient Plant 4′
Pycnanthemum virginianum Mountain Mint 3′
Rudbeckia hirta Black-Eyed Susan 1′ – 3′
Schizachyrium soparium Little Bluestem (Grass) 18′ – 24″
Senecio aureus Golden Ragwort 1′- 3′
Senna hebecarpa Wild Senna 6′
Solidago juncea Early Goldenrod 2′ – 3′
Sorghastrum nutans Indian Grass 3′ – 8′
Verbesina alternifolia Yellow Ironweed 3′ – 8′
Vernonia noveboracensis New York Ironweed 4′ – 7′
Veronicastrum virginicum Culver’s Root 4′ – 7′
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July 2013 – What a jungle!

Thanks to a wet and not-too-steamy Spring, everything in the meadow is not only thriving but growing larger and taller than normal. It’s a jungle out there! A gorgeous, show-stopper of a jungle. What started as a sea of yellow now has spots of white and lavender. As we continue to add plants and learn which ones thrive and which ones give up the ghost after a year, the color palette and diversity will expand.

With that in mind, members of the Meadow Committee went to the Wolf Trap Foundation theater earlier this year and dug up numerous perennials that were graciously donated to us by the staff. They needed help dividing some of the more successful members of their native garden, and we needed to add some diversity to our site. It was a win-win.

Also this Spring, several members of the Potowmack Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society came for a visit and helped us identify invasives that we should remove and suggested several plants worth adding to the mix.

We have also been working on several fronts with folks from Fairfax County. They are interested in the meadow for several reasons:
First, they want to start establishing Monarch Waystations throughout the County because development is eliminating the plants the butterflies need to eat and travel through our area. Our meadow is an ideal candidate for this. In addition to the many nectar plants we already have, we will be adding both common and swamp milkweed, both of which are pink, in the Fall because those plants are specific hosts for Monarchs. For more information on the program, check out http://www.MonarchWatch.org.

Second, the County is developing a curriculum for use by area elementary schools that will encourage teachers to take their students to meadows such as “ours” to study the environment, pollinators, water quality and more. Great Falls Elementary School is not only walking distance from the meadow, we already have a footpath that connects the school and the library so visiting students can simply hike over with their class. No buses needed!

And third, the County is studying numerous issues regarding stormwater management areas such as the one our meadow has filled to see how the plants impact water flow, to determine if edging the meadow creates run-off, to determine the ideal mowing schedule and other important factors.

It has been suggested that our meadow be used as a pilot project for all three of these activities and, of course, we are delighted to participate. Beyond all of the other reasons for establishing the meadow, these additional activities will add to the educational value for citizens and County officials alike.

In addition, one of our members is putting together a binder of information on all of the plants in the meadow. Each plant will be described on a laminated page that will include photos of the flower and seeds as well as basic botanical information. The binder will be kept at the Reference Desk in the library so it is available for those who want more information on the plants or who need help identifying some of the “residents.” It should be ready this Fall.

Plans for the Fall also include the addition of ironweed, which is purple, and deer tongue grass to the meadow. We are woefully short on  grasses so we plan to add as much as possible in the years to come. At some point we know the meadow will be self-sustaining, but right now we still need to work on our mix of plants. We are also still learning which ones are tough enough and well suited to the site so they will be around for years to come.

July 14 2013

July 14 2013

Happy sunflowers are hiding the sign that says "No Swimming." Really?
Happy sunflowers are hiding the sign that says “No Swimming.” Really?

Looking back towards the library entrance. What a glorious sight.

Looking back towards the library entrance. What a glorious sight.

I don't think the deer are willing to wade in because the flowers are so thick. They seem to be grazing along the edges this year. That's ok- there's plenty to go around.

I don’t think the deer are willing to wade in because the flowers are so thick. They seem to be grazing along the edges this year. That’s ok- there’s plenty to go around.

Some baptisia trying to hold  its ground. This was one of the plants we dug recently from the Wolf Trap garden.

Some baptisia trying to hold its ground. This was one of the plants we dug recently from the Wolf Trap garden.

I see some milkweed poking up on the bank near the sidewalk.

I see some milkweed poking up on the bank near the sidewalk.

The deer loved these. All the flower heads were nibbled off before they had a chance to open.

The deer loved these. All the flower heads were nibbled off before they had a chance to open.

On the day I came to take photos, these huge bees were working the blossoms like there was no tomorrow. Butterflies were enjoying the flowers too but I wasn't willing to wade into the jungle to photograph them up close.

On the day I came to take photos, these huge bees were working the blossoms like there was no tomorrow. Butterflies were enjoying the flowers too but I wasn’t willing to wade into the jungle to photograph them up close.

View from the sidewalk looking down the length of the meadow.

View from the sidewalk looking down the length of the meadow.