Solidago rugosa

2016 – Wrinkleleaf Goldenrod

Wrinkleleaf goldenrod, like other goldenrods, has a long panicle of yellow ray and disk florets characteristic of the Aster Family Asteraceae. But there are a few key features which distinguish Solidago rugosa from the other Solidago species. The central stem, which can reach 1-5 feet, is covered in tiny hairs or pubescence. The upper surface of the foliage has a wrinkled appearance due to the indentations of the leaf veins. Hence, the common name Wrinkleleaf goldenrod. The 4 inch long and 1 ½ inch wide leaves alternate along the stem. The leaves have toothed edges. The foliage is often dull and slightly hairy.

You can see wrinkleleaf goldenrod in bloom from midsummer into early autumn with a bloom period lasting between 1-2 months. The blooms of wrinkleleaf goldenrod attract an array of insects including bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, skippers and beetles. The caterpillars of many moth species feed on goldenrod as do many insects. Insectivorous birds feed on the insects which feed on wrinkeleaf goldenrod. Wrinkleleaf goldenrod grows best in full sun, moist well-drained, slightly acidic spots. Wrinkleleaf goldenrod makes a great addition to a naturalized perennial garden.

Symphyotrichum laeve

2016 – Smooth Aster

Smooth blue aster, a wildflower and a member of the Aster Family Asteraceae, is a lovely addition to a full sun perennial garden. At maturity, smooth blue aster can reach between 1 ½ to 3 feet in height and has an erect growth habit. The leaves are up to 6 inches long and 1 ¼ inches wide. One key identification feature is that the foliage is sessile, meaning no petiole or stem. The leaf margins are smooth-edged. Another distinguishing feature is the absence of hairs found along the stem and the leaves.

One trick to remember the common name of this plant is that the stem and the leaves are smooth. The blooming period occurs from late summer to early autumn, lasting about 3-4 weeks. Smooth aster will remain erect during bloom time, and it has some tolerance for hot, dry weather. The nectar and pollen of the blue and yellow flower heads attract honey bees, bumblebees, wasps, flies, butterflies, and skippers. Smooth aster can be susceptible to powdery mildew, but good air circulation should prevent the fungus from developing. Plant smooth aster in a spot in the garden where it can receive full sun, has well-drained soil, and will not be crowded out by taller or more aggressive plants.

Phlox divaricata

2016 – Wild Blue Phlox
Wild blue phlox or woodland phlox is a slow-growing herbaceous groundcover belonging to the Phlox plant family Polemoniaceae. At maturity, wild blue phlox can reach 12-18 inches in height and 8-12 inches in spread. The opposite, narrow leaves are slightly pubescent just like the stem. One subtle feature to observe is that the leaf tips tend to be blunt. The flower of P. divaricata blooms April through May. The five petaled flowers are shallowly notched. The flowers of wild blue phlox are cross pollinated by bumblebees, swallowtail butterflies, skippers, and moths.

As the common name implies, woodland phlox is native to the deciduous woods which explains why P. divaricata likes to grow in rich, moist, well-drained, average soils with part sun to light or dappled shade. If planted in dense shade, wild blue phlox will not be as floriferous. And that would be a real shame because the fragrant, lavender flowers attract hummingbirds, too. For more flowers, cut back after the first bloom to allow a second flush of flowers to emerge. Wild blue phlox makes an excellent addition to a naturalized perennial garden or to a rock garden. Wild Blue Phlox does not tolerate drought conditions. Additionally, wild blue phlox can be susceptible to powdery mildew, but moist, well-drained soil and good air flow should be able to prevent the fungus from affecting the plant