Wednesday Vignette – Wine Cups


This week’s garden vignette is a dreadfully disorganized scramble that was slated for revamping – one of these days.

If ever.

Then it kept raining, raining and raining and everything grew into a heap of lush green foliage with flowers on top of the mess.

DSC_1554 There are two scramblers here – Wine Cups (Callirhoe involucrata) and Clematis ‘Rooguchi’. Most of the plants in this bed had been moved from my old gardens in Glen Ellyn years ago, so the area has functioned more as a holding area than a garden.

So THAT’S my excuse!

DSC_1544There is an Astrantia, a Galium called ‘Victor Jones’, a daylily I picked up on sale and underneath the mess, there HAD BEEN an Oakleaf Hydrangea.

I dare you to find it!


Another little garden is taking shape in the distance where a decrepit farm gate is getting replaced with a new one constructed of old barn wood.


I am rather fond of scramblers like Wine Cups for their ability to weave into their neighbors sometimes creating arresting combinations – or sometimes just confusing combinations as you never know what flower belongs to which leaf.

In the prairie it threads its way into Northern Bush Honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera) which, by the way, is NOT a Honeysuckle, nor is it invasive. I have also let it scramble through Wine and Roses Weigela.


Wine Cups, also called Poppy Mallow, is a member of the mallow family (Hollyhock, and Hibiscus among others) easily recognized by the distinctive flowers.

Wine Cups is drought-tolerant, develops a significant taproot and produces bright magenta flowers all summer long. The color is always clear, never muddy as is common with magenta colored flowers. Native range includes Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas with scattered populations in Illinois.


Hey, I think I can spot the Hydrangea in this shot!

Flowering can be prolonged by removing old flowers before they set seed. Mine have never seeded. If yours have, please comment!


Hurry up – time to get this posted!

Whew – what a workout! I think I’ll take a nap now.



Wednesday Vignette — Pale Indian Plaintain

Set featured imageDSC_1543

Pale Indian Plantain (Cacalia atriplicifolia) is not something you are going to run across at your local garden center. It is a Midwestern native found in rocky woodlands, thickets and wet meadows throughout Illlinois, “conspicuous but uncommon” according to Swink and Wilhelm. I obtained a few from my friend Victor and scattered them about just to see what they would do, this being the only one to bloom this year.


What a lovely thing it has turned out to be, conspicuous to be sure, and not just in flower. Leaves and stems are thick and leathery. Leaves are blue-gray in color while the stems and petioles display a purple cast. Creamy white flowers exude an aroma like vanilla.


Forgive the blur — I haven’t quite mastered the macro feature of my camera.

A couple years back I rolled a hollow log into this bed that consists of nothing more than a jumble of Bittersweet clambering up an electric pole. There is an old gate and chair hiding in the jumble, along with Kitty.


Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepsis) and Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis) are nearby companions. Alas, the snowplow almost demolished the old log last winter.


It appears that deadheading will extend the bloom. Right now I am content to watch the show.

Wednesday Vignette – Bottlebrush Times Two


Appropriately named Bottlebrush Grass sports long floral spikes that resemble a bottlebrush. I rarely see it used ornamentally except by native plant enthusiasts like myself. It is perfect for woodlands or to add textural interest to the summer shade garden. It is quite lovely backlit, as most grasses are, and the light color makes them stand out. Plants often form small colonies and I suspect they may seed about. Paired spikelets become straw colored when mature.


Bottlebrush Grass was assigned to a different genus in the past and referred to as Hystrix patula. Because this grass forms a naturally occurring hybrid with Virginia Wild Rye (Elymus virginicus), it was reassigned to the Elymus genus and is now known as Elymus hystrix.

Repetition of flower form with Bottlebrush Buckeye in the background was quite accidental but is much enjoyed.


Yes, I KNOW it’s Thursday! Alas, I traveled to Wisconsin but I still wanted to keep up the momentum of this “meme”.

Wednesday Vignette — Ozark Coneflower


I am charmed by the randomness of Clematis which attaches itself to anything within reach. This year – quite by accident—its companions are Echinacea paradoxa (Ozark Coneflower) and Aesculus parviflora (Bottlebrush Buckeye). The rose, on which it was supposed to consort with, does not want to cooperate.


Echinacea paradoxa is a rare native wildflower found in the Ozark region of Arkansas and Missouri. The paradox of this species is that it’s a yellow flowered member of the purple coneflower family. According to Prairie Moon Nursery, Echinaceas easily cross-pollinate. E. paradoxa is one of the parents used in hybridizing Coneflowers resulting in the bizarre colored cultivars that are so popular in the market these days. E. paradoxa is deer resistant, fragrant, and is not prone the Aster Yellows that plague E. purpurea.

This is my first post for Wednesday Vignette which was initiated by a fellow blogger who describes it as follows:

This meme celebrates combinations. The inspiration of the week can be foliage and flowers, but it can also consist of surrounding materials, colors and textures, or a combination of it all – anything that creates an arresting display in the world around us.

I plan on featuring plants that are native to the Midwest. Sounds easy, no? Let’s see if I can keep this up!

Weeding at Nachusa

Echinacea pallida

As if I didn’t have enough weeding to do, last week I volunteered at Nachusa Grasslands near Franklin Grove, IL, owned by The Nature Conservancy. They emailed a request to volunteers that read in part:

“This week yellow sweet clover is blooming. We have lots of plantings that could use a person to sweep them for weeds BIRDS SINGING, FLOWERS BLOOMING. The joys of summer are yours. I can assign you a planting. Let me know. ”

Now . . . how can you refuse an offer like THAT?

I am quite enamored of this area, not only because of my interest in native plant communities but also because of the equestrian trails at nearby Franklin Creek.


My riding buddies enjoy many hours here each summer. With 198 acres and 12 miles of trails (is that ALL?), we still manage to get lost.

Nachusa sign

Nachusa Grasslands, just north of the equestrian area, consists of 3,100 acres of prairie remnants, restorations, and reconstructions and is home to over 700 native prairie plant species.


I believe this is Common St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

I doubt if I have as much as 70 species in my own prairie garden.
And I thought I had a lot!


The “enemy” – Yellow Sweet Clover.

The steward for this area had mowed the top of the knob to control seeding from this pest.


Bill Kleiman provided me an amazing tool that I had seen touted – and sold – by Wild Ones. It is a adapted spade, very light in weight with the handle conveniently rotated – perfect for slicing tap rooted plants like Wild Parsnip, Burdock, Thistle or Queen Anne’s Lace.


This is how it works: The sharp end slices through the soil at the base of the plant like butter. By slicing, not prying, below the plants crown, the “Parsnip Predator” effectively severs crown buds, resulting in root death and no soil disturbance.


When the “carrot” is severed, the plant dies.

Wild Parsnip is a plant that has invaded my pastures and is common along the roadsides where I live, so I was much interested in how to best combat it.


It’s a nasty thing. The juice of Wild Parsnip in contact with skin in the presence of sunlight can cause a rash and blistering that makes poison ivy look like a walk in the park. My friend Janet admits she still has visible scares from encounters from many years ago.

I swiped this photo from A Prairie Haven, a marvelous blog with wonderful butterfly and moth photos. “I wish they would eat it all”, they write. Check out their “parsnip pulling outfit” – LOL!


Since I was not equipped with gloves, long sleeves, and a bag over my head, I concentrated on the Yellow Sweet Clover. Nachusa’s strategy was to go after 2-year plants that can reach 8 ft in height. I found smaller plants that had been bent but not cut in the mowed debris. Tedious to be sure!


In my wanderings I came across deer beds, Leadplant, and graceful Panic Grass.



and a few I managed to ID when I returned home:


Dianthus armeria or Deptford Pink.

I much prefer the botanical name for this one.


Growing on noon, I gathered the weed piles and returned to headquarters throwing my weed harvest on a burn pile along with all the others – a tiny contribution.

I now have been “promoted,” having the password to the tool shed I can come and go as I please. WOW! I thought of my many friends who love the birds and wild places just as I do.

Paw Paw Edith? Glen Ellyn Mary? Chicago Bob? Roberta? Karen? Misha?

Even though I continue my own battle of weeds at home, there is something about a morning at Nachusa that nourishes the soul.


Controlled Chaos in the Prairie

Controlled chaos is what I call my native prairie – emphasis on chaos.


Echinacea pallida (Pale Purple Coneflower) was drop dead gorgeous in it’s second season.


The following winter I discovered voles or 13-lined ground squirrels, comfortably nested under the snow, having a banquet on the corms. Goodbye Flowers. After that, the weeds moved in – Bindweed, Quackgrass, Black Medic, Sow Thistle – I got ‘em all.

So I just began digging.

And digging . . .

And digging . . .

Then pitching the entire mess into the dumpster. Hey – would YOU want Bindweed in YOUR mulch pile?


Support staff is “ready and able”.

When you have GIANT HOLES to fill, adversity can be an opportunity for improvement.

This season’s additions include Cacalia plantaginea (Prairie Indian Plantain), a sweet thing I first saw at Hitt’s Siding, a prairie remnant courtesy of the Burlington Northern RR (below):

Cacalia plantaginea -Prairie Plantain

Melanthium virginicum (Bunch Flower) is touted by Prairie Moon Nursery. When bare root plants were offered on sale this spring, I bit.


Silene regia (Royal Catchfly) – can’t get enough of this exceptional plant. This is what it looked like last year, blooming concurrently with Ratibida pinnata (Yellow Coneflower). I have a sinking feeling this gorgeous specimen ended up in my dumpster.


Anemone canadensis (Meadow Anemone) is known to grow in gravel along roadway edges. Might it keep the Chickweed and Clover at bay?

Don’t let me down, Meadow Anemone. Grow . . . please grow!

Last year’s Anemone in the Ditch Garden:


So, there’s hope. (I hope.)

Solidago graminifolia (Grass-leaved Goldenrod) is both rhizomatous, aggressive, and downright scary when let loose in the garden. I’ll include a picture from as mine are pretty darn puny.

Desperate conditions require desperate measures.


Callirhoe involucrata (Wine Cups) — I really don’t understand why I keep killing this thing. It has this charming habit of threading itself amidst its companions with vivid cup shaped flowers reaching for sunlight. Lovely with Diervilla lonicera and, well, just about anything!


Now to figure out how to mark these things so I do not destroy them with my pick and shovel next year in a weeding frenzy.


There will be no more weeding my weeds!




Peonies now spent, roses beginning to open and the prairie is filled with shapes and textures that are so lovely to look at.


This time of year is so exciting to me, like the moment you feel at a horse race when the gate is about to open.


Echinacea purpurea (Pale Purple Coneflower) below:


Tradescantia ohiensis (Spiderwort)


Baptisia leucantha (White Wild Indigo)


In a few short weeks a cacophony of color will follow.


Join me for a stroll?