gardening success plan ahead to make sure plants
take root and bloom at various times. Great blue
lobelia brings pollinators to your yard.
NEWS, Va. — To be successful with your gardens next
spring and summer, put in new plants now.
the advice of garden experts, including Bruce Peachee,
horticulture curator at the Virginia Living Museum in
Newport News, Va.
days and cool nights are ideal for maximum root growth,
which counteracts transplant shock," says Bruce.
the roots continue to grow all winter, providing for a
vigorous plant to emerge from dormancy in the spring.
Fall-planted plants will require less attention next
summer, as compared to ones that are planted next
you choose new plants for your garden, consider native
species because they tolerate your area’s weather and
serve as food and shelter for area wildlife, while also
providing a good show in the garden, advises Bruce.
plants are vital to the environment because they provide
and enhance habitats for wildlife, according to Kathi
Mestayer, a Historic Rivers Chapter master naturalist
and native plant gardener for more than 20 years in
Williamsburg, Va. She’s also a state board member of
the Virginia Native Plant Society www.vnps.org.
‘native’ plant is one that is part of the local food
web," she says.
can think of natives as pieces of the local habitat ‘puzzle.’
We are nowhere near smart enough to know all of the ways
in which pieces of the food-web puzzle interact, so the
easiest thing to do is plant and conserve our native ‘puzzle
pieces’ and leave the rest to nature."
help nature, she suggests you plant larval host plants,
as well as nectar plants.
is common for the larvae — worm stage of life cycle
— of butterflies and moths to be very, very limited in
what they can eat," she says.
because they have co-evolved over the millennia with
specific plants, and in many cases can only digest those
plants. The larvae of the monarch butterfly, for
example, can only digest plants in the milkweed family.
It’s not a preference for milkweed, it’s an absolute
host plants are often … trees. For example, our native
oaks are particularly valuable as larval hosts for moths
blue lobelia, or Lobelia siphiltica, is a lovely
perennial in late fall, according to Helen Hamilton,
past president of the John Clayton Chapter, Virginia
Native Plant Society ((),
in Williamsburg, Va.
also author of the just-released book, "Wildflower
& Grasses of Virginia’s Coastal Plain," which
can be ordered through the website
clump-forming perennial blooms July through October, may
self-seed in optimum growing conditions, and can be
divided in the spring," she says.
known as blue cardinal flower, this plant tolerates
drier conditions than the red species."
spikes of brilliant true-blue flowers grow on a stiff
leafy stalk, 1-3 feet tall, while the inch-long
violet-blue flowers are stripped with white. Leaves are
alternate on the stem, finely toothed and pointed.
Blue Lobelia is a wetland native species, requiring wet
to moist soil, fertile and loamy. The plant requires
little maintenance, growing in part shade, but in full
sun the soil must be consistently moist, as in rain
gardens. The natural habitat is meadows, moist thickets
and swamps from Maine to Manitoba and Colorado, south to
North Carolina and Texas. While found in most counties
of Virginia, it is infrequent in the Coastal Plain,
medical writers thought American Indians used the root
primarily to treat syphilis, hence the species name
siphilitica. While potentially poisonous, the American
Indians used root tea for syphilis, and leaf tea for a
number of illnesses, such as colds, worms, nosebleeds,
coughs and headaches, according to Helen.
SOME NATIVE PLANTS
are some additional native perennials and small shrubs
that gardening enthusiasts recommend. Learn more about
native plants through the National Native Plant
Association at www.nanps.org and the Center for Plant
Conservation at www.centerforplantconservation.org.
turtlehead, or Chelone glabra. Blooms August-October
with large tubular white flowers that resemble turtles’
heads. Reaches 2-3 feet tall, likes part shade and
average or wet, well-drained soil. It’s usually found
in moist areas along streams with ferns and cardinal
flower. Pinch stem buds in spring for bushier plants.
Cold hardy to Zone 3.
root, or Veronicastrum virginicum. Blooms June-August
with 5-inch-long white spires. Reache 3-6 feet tall,
likes sun to part shade and rich to average or wet,
well-drained soil. It’s whorled leaves make it an
unusual addition to a perennial border. Butterflies are
attracted to the nectar plant. Cold hardy to Zone 3.
waterlily, or Nymphaea odorata. The plant blooms
March-October with 2-6 inch fragrant white flowers that
open early morning and close around noon. The plant
likes sun to shade and thrives in shallow water; its
leaves are bright green on top and reddish-purple
underneath. Cold hardy to Zone 4.
Jersey tea shrub, or Ceanothus americanus. Also new to
the plant sale, the small shrub grows 1-5 feet tall with
tiny white flowers in 2-inch clusters March-April. Likes
shade to part shade and well-drained sandy or loamy
soil. This low-growing, upright, deciduous shrub is
larval host plant for spring azure, summer azure and
mottled duskywing butterfly caterpillars. It also
benefits bees and birds. Cold hardy to Zone 4.
or Lindera benzoin. Blooms March-April with tiny
yellow-green flowers before spicy-scented leaves and
shiny red fruit on female plants. Grows 6 feet tall,
likes part shade to shade and average to wet,
well-drained soil. Male and female plants needed for
berry production; plant is swallowtail host. Cold hardy
to Zone 4.
mint, or Pycnanthemum. The perennial herb with
rhizome-like roots features a mint-like odor and flavor.
This upright, clump-forming mint has whitened leaves
under white-pale lavender flower clusters blooming late
summer into fall. It’s a nectar source for bees and
butterflies, and likes part shade to sun and moist,
well-drained average soil. Cold hardy to Zone 3.