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Keep tall plants beautiful
the field tripper header
A child reaches up towards tall woodland sunflowers
Need a little help from your friends? Keep your plants standing tall all summer.
PLANT OF THE MONTH
Look up! These tall beauties will bask in shady yards 
Woodland Sunflower
The towering, sunny blooms of Woodland Sunflower, Helianthus divaricatus, light up a mid-summer forest. But where can you grow this tall woodland beauty in your yard?
 
Not one for small, formal gatherings, Woodland Sunflowers make a cheerful backdrop along a partially shaded fence or wall. Be aware that they can be hard to contain. They eagerly spread by underground rhizomes and lean over unsuspecting neighbours. Keep them supported by staking or planting behind dense shrubs, such as Purple-flowering Raspberry. These sunflowers can also be placed behind other tall perennials like Wild Bergamot, Black-eyed Susan and New England Aster.
 
Preferring part-shade and moist soils, Woodland Sunflower grows up to 1.8 metres (6 feet) tall and is adaptable to most conditions and soils, including drought, salt, compaction and juglans. Bright yellow ray florets (resembling petals) encircle darker yellow centers, as the plants show off multiple blooms on each stem from late July through early September. Remove unwanted plants as they pop up and divide every 3-4 years to keep healthy.
 
Many native bees will visit these flowers. Silvery Checkerspot and Painted Lady Butterflies use it as a host plant for their caterpillars and birds such as American Goldfinch and Mourning Doves love to eat its nutritious seeds in autumn. Flowers can also be cut and brought inside to create cheerful bouquets.
CARING FOR YOUR YARD
Keeping it simple with stakes and twine
Keeping Tall Plants Attractive

Tall perennial plants will lean and flop for a variety of reasons, making a garden look messy and uncared for.
Here are some tips to help combat the summer flop.

Prevention is the Best Medicine

Don’t over fertilize
Plants that receive too many nutrients grow quickly resulting in leggy, weak stems. A top-dressing of compost in the spring is enough for native prairie and meadow plants who typically thrive in low-nutrient soils.

Give plants their space
Planting perennials too close together can lead to tall, floppy plants as they reach for light and room to grow. Before planting, research your plants’ mature size and space them accordingly. For a garden that has grown dense over time, you can relocate some plants to allow more light and air in.

Consider the sun
A sun-loving plant growing in shade will become leggy. If your garden receives less than six hours of sun, select plants that are part-shade (4-6 hrs. sun) or shade (less than 4. hrs sun) tolerant.

Get Pruning
Late-summer bloomers, like New England Aster, can be snipped back by about a third in early summer (before the flower buds form). This results in shorter, bushier plants.

Divide and Conquer
Depending on the species, many perennials that grow in dense clumps benefit from occasional dividing. This gives crowded plants the light and space needed to improve their posture.

Offer Support
Plant tall grasses, shrubs or bushy plants around tall perennials for natural support. Alternatively, create your own support system using tomato cages, bamboo stakes and twine, or chicken wire and stakes. You can also purchase supports from most garden centres and hardware stores.

DID YOU KNOW
New England Aster has both ray and disk florets
A Flower Made of Many Flowers
The Aster family (Asteracea) is the largest family of plants in Canada and the United States. Also referred to as the Composite Family, it consists of over 2,000 species including dandelion, coreopsis, yarrow, goldenrod and plants that we call asters, such as New England Asters.

Asteracea are distinguished by their unique flower structure: what appears as a single bloom is actually a cluster of individual flowers or florets (many “mini-flowers” that may or may not look like separate flowers).

There are two main types of florets found on an Asteracea flower head.

Ray Florets
These are often mistaken for petals, but are actually individual flowers with the tiny petals fused into a long flat shape that we interpret as a single petal.

Disk Florets
These make up the centre or eye of the flower head. If you look closely you will see many small flowers with petals fused into a tube shape.
Black-eyed Susan is composed of hundreds of disk florets and 8-21  yellow ray florets
Some species in the Aster family, such as Black-eyed Susans and Woodland Sunflowers, have ray florets on the outside (that look like petals) and disk florets forming the flower’s centre. Others are composed of only one type of floret. A dandelion, for example, is made entirely of ray florets, whereas Boneset is composed of only disk florets.

When a pollinator visits a flower in the Aster family, they’re getting nectar and pollen from many different flowers (all the florets) without having to move around to many different plants. This makes the Aster family a favourite among many pollinators.

In the fall, each floret that contains the female component (pistil) will form a seed. When you leave these plants standing into the winter, you’ll be welcomed by feasting finches and sparrows.
EVENTS
Join us to see pollinators enjoying the Port Credit Pollinator Garden
Our Last Summer Garden Tour
Learn which pollinator-friendly plants would work in your garden and how to design with them.

Designing for Pollinators Twilight Tour
Port Credit Pollinator Garden
Port Credit Library
Thursday, August 8, 7 to 8 p.m.
Register here.
Stay Tuned for Fall Workshops
Through September and October we'll be offering one Caring for Your Green Yard and two Rainscaping workshops. Hope to see you there!
At Credit Valley Conservation, we create connections between people and nature, knowledge and action. We lead the protection, restoration and enhancement of our local natural environment, and we inspire a deep appreciation for the role of nature in keeping us connected, healthy and happy.
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