Questions From My ReadersI've set aside this post to answer several questions that were asked regarding remarks I made in a previous article. Clematis, Asters, and Native plants were leaving some with questions. As I write, I make some statements and I forget that not all gardeners have the same experiences and I make some assumptions. So please allow me to go back and clarify some items regarding clematis, asters, and native plants.
Q1) You said that your clematis have never bloomed so late. When do they bloom? And what happens when they are out of sync with their normal cycle?
A1) My comment indicated that I had never had a clematis bloom in September, as several of my clematis were doing this year. I can only attribute this late bloom to the fact that these plants were moved in late spring. At the time of the transplanting, each plant got a feeding of organic fertilizer, and the new location was in full sun – more that six hours a day. Their previous location was mostly shade – less than four hours of sun a day. Clematis bloom times vary with the type of clematis. Some bloom in early summer, some bloom in late Summer. Some varieties are re- bloomers, which means they can and will have a secondary bloom after the first flush. This secondary flush usually does not produce as many blooms as the first. Two re-bloomer are Niobe, and Moonfleet.
The Autumn Clematis is a prolific blooms, bordering on invasive. It can grow 15 feet and easily cover a fence or structure in a season. It blooms – in Autumn – in my Zone 6 garden – in late August into September.
Q2) You said that asters were more reliable than mums. Why?
A2) Asters have been reliable in my Zone 6 garden for many years. Mums, on the other hand, do not overwinter well. Of the dozens of mums I have planted, only one survived. Asters, a native to the United States, are a wildflower. Asters are more drought tolerant than mums, and are a great nectar source for butterflies and bees. Hybridizers have created beautiful colors in mauve, pinks, and purples.
When I worked at a nursery where mums were grown, we told customers to treat mums as a ‘tender perennial’. Fall planting of mums does not give the roots a chance to get established before the ground freezes. Many folks were disappointed when the mums did not return in the spring. Gardeners determined to have mums need to plant them in the spring and keep them watered during the summer so roots have a better chance of survival.
Q3) There’s such thing as Native Plants? Which ones? And how do I take care of them?
A3) This topic would take several books to fully explain. So the (sorry) quick answer is: Natives are plants that are original to an area, before transplants came from foreign countries. The recent interest in Natives is the resurgence of heritage, history, and the eco-friendly nature of these plants.
Native plants can be herbaceous perennials, wildflowers, trees, and shrubs that have acclimated themselves to the 1) soils, 2) the moisture, 3) the insects, 4) and diseases common to the area and have survived.
Native trees, shrubs, and perennials are not too picky on soil. They can survive, and actually thrive, in poor soils. They do not want heavy fertilization, and once established, they are drought tolerant.
I hope these answers clarify some of the items in question. If I can explain anything else, please feel free to add a comment. Gardeners love to share, so join in the discussion.