Monthly Archives: June 2010

Stuff In My Yard: Shrubby St. John’s Wort

By | plants, Stuff In My Yard | 2 Comments

Shrubby St. John’s Wort

Hypericum prolificum

Despite the name, shrubby St. John’s wort is not the same as the stuff you get in bottles to treat the blues, nor the one that makes cows get weird sunburns. That’s a noxious weed. This, however, is a North American native, a compact, not-terribly-large shrub found throughout the east, although it’s currently endangered in New York and New Jersey. Clearly we need better nomenclature, because seriously–you want to grow this plant.

I planted this shrub on faith, as I plant many things, and I gotta say–this is one that abundantly rewarded me. The label said that pollinators liked it and that it was good food for the larvae of various hairstreak butterflies. That was good enough for me. I had no idea what the flowers would look like. I plunked it into the prairie planting, as one of the anchors on the end, and it’s been a low maintenance, tough little plant, drought tolerant, a good grower, and absolutely covered in these fascinating yellow flowers. Massively exceeded my expectations, can’t recommend this little guy enough.

The ones I’ve seen at the Botantical Gardens get maybe six or seven feet high, but those were really well established and even then were loose, open, not-very-large plants. Mine is about thigh-high at the moment–if it gets really huge, I’ll probably move it over a few feet, but it’s not giving indications of shooting up that high. Not a screening plant at all, but it’d be a perfectly good plant for the back of a bed, or the middle of an island bed, you could probably even grow other plants up through it. They like full sun, but I’ve seen them growing in part shade without any apparent ill-effects.

Haven’t seen any caterpillars hosting on it yes, but the pollinators are indeed attracted to it–I watched bumblebees rolling in the flowers like puppies on a freshly vacuumed carpet. Also, it’s deer-resistant. Does it get any better than this?

What a difference a week makes…

By | Day-to-Day, My Garden | 5 Comments

Texas sage, one of my all-time favorite plants.

Been away from the garden for days and days, traveling to a friend’s wedding on the coast and then doing an anime convention in Dallas.  Texas has some great plants, but unfortunately I didn’t see any of them, because cons are pretty much “airport, hotel, convention center, hotel, airport.” I think there may have been a small park with some carefully caged grass. The vast array of wildflowers for which Texas is justly famed–including some spectacular species that I grow in my own garden–stayed off the radar. Ah, well.

It’s good to be back home, though, in my own garden, where things have done ‘sploded in my absence. A week wreaks a lot of changes in early summer. The grape tomato is covered in green spheres, the Roma tomatoes are growing huge and starting to ripen, the jalapenos are already putting out peppers. The zinnias and nasturniums all bloomed (and man, I gotta grow these every year, they’re wonderful. Generally not an annual person, but these rock.) The Culver’s root bloomed, and I forgive it for being annoying and needing staking. It’s awesome. I saw the first honeybee, finally, and it was wallowing in the Culver’s root.

Less impressed with the blue vervain, which got extremely tall (six feet!) but has small, not-very-impressive flowerheads. Supposedly the pollinators like it, but I haven’t seen any on it. Unless I come out and find them covered with bees in a few days, I won’t be planting more–it’s a heckuva lot of plant for very little pay-off, and I don’t think it hosts anything much on the leaves. The giant Joe Pye Weed, by contrast, has cracked seven feet (and can get up to twelve!) and is showing signs that it could maybe put out a flowerhead at some point, although I might only be able to see it from the upstairs window.

Meanwhile, the bee balm popped and the coneflower is getting ready to go, my broccoli (planted in the flower bed because I’m like that) has actual…err… broccols…on it, and the pink catmint waited until my back was turned and became large. The bees luuuv that one. And the shrubby St. John’s wort, which has been teasing me with buds, finally opened one. It’s REALLY cool–sort of like a daisy crossed with a scrub-brush. I’m glad I planted that.

It was nice to just wander around the garden in the morning again. A whole bunch of plants needed deadheading, so I spent awhile wandering around chopping the heads off things. I picked up a mealy-cup sage during our travels, at the Elizabethan Gardens on Manteo Island, which needs to be planted, but a spider took over my gloves and I think laid eggs in it, so that’s gonna wait until I can get new gloves. (Yes, I could wash them and they would probably be fine, but I WOULD FEEL THEM CRAWLING IN MY SOUL. Ahem.) Hacked back the pineapple sage. I think that needs to go to another part of the yard. Y’know, where it can’t eat the world.

Meanwhile, the birds are out, and they all want to sun in one particular area–I keep seeing them spread their wings and press their breasts to the ground, then just sit there. We’ve had cardinals, chickadees, and some unknown still-not-quite-out-of-baby-fledge (probably a brown thrasher) do it in this exact same spot. I don’t know why that’s a good spot, unless they’re not sunning but passively “anting” to kill parasites. Hard to say.

Man, it’s good to be home.