An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

June 21, 2009

Life Happens When You're Not Looking

Of late I have been fascinated by how persistent some plants can be. There is a junkyard near the house that has a beautiful example of the invasive Paulownia tomentosa growing among rusted and burned out cars. Surrounding the junk yard is a chain-link fence that has vicious coils of razor wire on top, and this is where you can see a stunning specimen of Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans) in full bloom this week. For some reason I take comfort when I see plants push through the asphalt or pop up from cracks in the sidewalk. Maybe it is hopeful that in spite of all the things we have done to muck up the environment, somethings still thrive. Or perhaps I have been watching too many episodes of the History Channel's Life After People.

I spoke last year in a post here about our compost pile at work. It is where we dump dead plants, clippings, branches, raked debris, etc. Each year I am amazed at what comes up from a pile of presumably dead things. Earlier this week I doused myself with DEET and took a stroll through the pile to see what early summer had to offer.

Perhaps the most prolific plant growing on the pile is Verbena bonariensis, which is also known as Verbena-on-a-Stick. I tried to get a picture of the bright yellow Goldfinches feasting on the purple flowers, but was suffering from camera limitations. I like how you can see one of our abandoned cube trucks in the background of this first shot.

Here the Verbena is competing for the camera's attention with the other major player on the pile, Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota), which does not seem very particular as to where it comes up.

Rose Campion (Lychnis coronaria)
This is one of those short lived Rudbeckias, maybe 'Indian Summer' or something like it.
Does anyone know the name of this little wildflower?
Evening Primrose (Oenothera speciosa)
Castor Bean (Ricin commonis)

Blooming soon, a large patch of unknown Daisies (Leucanthemum sp.).
This Clematis is likely Clematis x jackmanii and in the words of the man on the cart from scene 2 of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, "I'm not dead yet!" .
Trumpet Creeper (Campsis radicans) - without the razor wire.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Inside the gates we sell several hundred varieties of Hemerocallis, many are expensive, many are bargain priced, but the beauty of these outside the gate are free.
Some plants are notorious for their invasiveness and earn a spot on the Least Wanted List. Such is the case of the Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), which we have not sold in 10 years. I remember driving through New England some time ago and being awed by the beauty of this plant covering acres of ground, but that was before I knew how persistent some plants can be.


  1. I'm so fond of "weeds." Since childhood, I've quietly believed Queen Anne's Lace to be one of the loveliest of flowers. And isn't it a shame about the purple loosestrife? Even knowing what I know about it, it's hard not to find it beautiful.

    I believe your unidentified aster-type flowers are daisy fleabane (Erigeron strigosus). I think they're sweet!

  2. hey Les, thanks for the shout out. I love Great Days! Need to do a post music post. Stay tuned.

    Your Verbena Bonariensis shots are great, love it with the Daucus carota. I had some and forgot about it this year and went a little wild with the Roundup...oops.
    I was going to say fleabane but looks like Kim Denise beat me to it.
    so guess we will see you Monday afternoon........ :-D

  3. Lovely plants-both the wild kind and cultivated kind. I was warned a LONG time ago to never plant loosestrife. I am so glad for it too and I've followed the directions. I did however plant 'Miss Manners' obedient plant. We'll see on that one. Jumping verbena is one of my favorite perennials. You got some great shots of it-camera envy or not!

  4. Just a quick little note about Erigeron. During my years at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, Jenks Farmer collected seeds and we tried it in the Botanical Garden. It loved it all over the is a big seeder which in some cases is wonderful. In a nursery situation it can be a big from I do love the plant....

  5. Anything that persists regardless of it's living conditions usually deserves a spot in the garden. I love Stick Verbena, it's funny watching the Goldfinches balancing on their blooms. ;)

  6. The persistence of some plants and the determination of others is awesome and marvelous! What a compost area you have...a dream spot for plant scavengers! Gail

  7. Les, you are beginning to make me paranoid about my verbena on a stick. :) I'm always amazed when I see plants popping up in the cracks of my patio, with virtually no soil at all. This happened with a white buddleia a few years ago. The only way to take it out was to rip it out. Would you believe I gave it to a friend who replanted it and it has flourished? Quite amazing.

  8. Great photography, as always, Les. I have a real soft spot for trumpet vine, since it covered the fences of the cow pasture adjacent to my grandparents' property in Southampton County where I spent my summers. BTW - we have reservations to ride the VA Creeper Trail in a couple of weeks, based on your recommendation from last year. I'm really excited...don't know if I can say the same for the rest of the folks I'm dragging along, but they can all use the exercise!

  9. Kim,
    Thank you very much for the ID. I have heard of that plant, but did not know enough about it to help with the ID.

    It was great to meet you Mon. and you are welcome for the shout out.

    I have heard the Miss Manners is supposed to be behaved, you will have to let us know.

    Thanks for the additional information. I have been wanting to go to Riverbanks for the longest time, but it is not necessarily around the corner. I will be looking at the plants and not so much the animals.

    I had fun meeting you the other day. I put V. bonariensis in my backyard years ago, but I think the shade caused it to die out. I am going to re-try it in the sunnier front yard to see how it does.

    You would not believe how many plants I have found in that pile.

    I know that Buddliea is listed as invasive in many areas, but I have not seen that here. On a trip to England I noticed it growing in vertically in crumbling mortar, cracks in the sidewalk, waste areas and coming up around the railroad tracks. It gave new definition to persistent.

    I am glad you are going. Take plenty of pictures, take plenty of breaks. It really is not strenous, but can be a little hard on the butt. If you need a place to eat, In The Country is good. I hope you will share your experiences.


  10. Love this post! My verbena on a stick was lovingly planted and tended---ahhh--only two made it. Guess I should have thrown the seeds at will and ignored it. I do love the plant but couldn't find any around here this year. I need to move to VB and shop exclusively at your place. Maybe my two plants will turn to more next year.

  11. Anna,
    Sometimes you need to ignore a plant in order for it to survive, or at least that is what I tell myself at times like this.