Tuesday, June 30, 2020

What’s Coming Up In The Garden, 55: green head coneflower

This is an unusual coneflower that has a very prominent green head that eventually turns yellow and golden brown in the fall. I wanted something bright in the potager, native and upright and not attractive to deer but super attractive to pollinators, and this fit the bill nicely. Unlike many of the natives I’ve planted, these aren’t drought resistant, but since they’re in a space that will get regular watering anyway, I think they’ll do well in the potager.

I put in four of these this week and am hoping to see some blooms this season!

More info:

Rudbeckia laciniata 'Autumn Sun (sold out until 2021)'

Autumn Sun cut-leaf coneflower

Native to North America


FIRST IMPRESSIONS:  Rudbeckia laciniata Autumn Sun is a selection of a native clump forming perennial with multiple upright stems.  The leaves are large, dark green and deeply lobed.  From summer until fall foliage is topped with clusters of showy daisy-like flower heads. Each head consists of a yellow-green globular cone surrounded by drooping yellow rays.  This rhizomatous species thrives in partly shaded sites with moist or wet fertile soils. 

HABITAT & HARDINESS:  Rudbeckia laciniata Autumn Sun occurs in most of the southern Canadian provinces and in all the contiguous United States except for California, Nevada and Oregon.

Plants are indigenous to bottomland forests, moist meadows, borders and clearings of moist woods, shaded sloughs, shaded banks of rivers, creeks and ponds, calcareous seeps and wet to moist fields or pastures.

This species is hardy from USDA Zones 5-9.

PLANT DESCRIPTION:  Rudbeckia laciniata Autumn Sun is an upright lanky perennial that branches in the top half. 

The stems are smooth, light green and clad in alternate drooping blades.  Basal leaves are up to 12” long and 12” across with narrowly winged petioles and 3-7 large toothed lobes.  As the stems rise, the leaves become progressively smaller and unlobed.  

For 1-2 months beginning in summer, stems terminate in clusters of daisy-like heads.  Each head is 2-3” across with a nubby globular cone wreathed by 6-12 clear yellow oblong ray florets. 

The young cones are green with unique widely spaced disc florets that impart a pincushion-like appearance.  The cones turn yellow as the disc florets mature and finally morph into golden brown seed heads as winter approaches.

Plants are 4-7’ tall with a 3-4’ spread.  This species often forms colonies from long underground rhizomes.

CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS Rudbeckia laciniata Autumn Sun thrives in part sun and moist soil.   Plants tolerate wet soils, seasonal flooding, heat and humidity.

Plants are pest resistant and foliage is unpalatable to deer and other herbivores.

This species is not very drought tolerant.  It may survive in sunny well drained sites but leaves are usually wilted with brown edges. 

In good growing situations with plenty of moisture, plants may spread aggressively from rhizomes.

LANDSCAPE USES:  Rudbeckia laciniata Autumn Sun is a dramatic Accent for a Wildlife Garden or moist Meadow. Plants are also used as Butterfly Nectar Plants or as part of a Grouping or Mass Planting.   This wildflower offers Showy Blooms and provides Erosion Control.  It is useful in Stormwater Management and Rain Gardens. It can be used in Cottage Gardens, Deer Resistant Plantings, Low Maintenance Plantings, Perennial Borders or Shade Gardens.

COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS:  Try pairing Rudbeckia laciniata Autumn Sun with Aster novi-belgii, Deschampsia caespitosa, Eupatorium perfoliatum, Lobelia cardinalis, Penstemon calycosus, Carex amphibola, Panicum virgatum or Sorghastrum nutans.

Rudbeckia laciniata is a possible substitute for sunny rain gardens and stormwater management projects.

TRIVIA:  Blossoms attract a variety of bees, pollinating flies, beneficial wasps, butterflies, skippers and moths.  Caterpillars of Silvery Checkerspot Butterflies forage on the foliage and seeds are sometimes eaten by goldfinches.  Foliage is not particularly palatable to deer and other herbivores.

Rudbeckia laciniata Autumn Sun can be differentiated from related species due to their nubby green to yellow cones.  Most other Rudbeckia spp. have brown, black or gray cones.  Foliage of this species has 3-7 deep lobes while most other Rudbeckia spp. have fewer or no lobes.


4-7 ft


3-4 ft


18 Inches

USDA Hardiness Zone:


Bloom Color:


Rudbeckia laciniata 'Autumn Sun (sold out until 2021)' Characteristics

Attracts Wildlife

  • Butterflies
  • Pollinators


  • East-Coast Native
  • Cut Flower
  • Rain Garden
  • Coastal
  • Clay Soil
  • Bog
  • Naturalizing
  • Long Blooming


  • Full Sun to Partial Shade

Deer Resistant

  • Deer Resistant

Flowering Months

  • September
  • August
  • July

Foliage Color

  • Green

Growth Rate

  • Medium

Juglans nigra Tolerance (Black Walnut)

  • Yes

Salt Tolerance

  • Low

Soil Moisture Preference

  • Moist to Wet

Monday, June 29, 2020

What’s Coming Up In The Garden, 54: pitcher plant, Scarlet Belle

The space between the yellow pitcher plants and the ailing woodland stonecrop was empty and thus offering prime space for weed invasion, so I wanted to put something there that would add some variety as well as take up that space.

My daughter loves pitcher plants so I chose this native hybrid from one of our local native plant nurseries. It’s absolutely stunning! 

The nursery is sold out of woodland stonecrop but in the fall I’m going to do a new planting in this spot and give it one more chance to grow there. If it fails again, I’ll need to look for something different. Meanwhile I will let the pitcher plants do their thing and spread out if they will to become an even larger spot of interest and beauty.

More info:

Sarracenia 'Scarlet Belle' is a popular and brightly colored pitcher plant with a low-growing habit. Plants look stunning throughout the growing season. 

  • Compact habit
  • Intensely colored pitchers, especially in the fall
  • Very unusual shaped leaves


  •  7 to 10 in. tall 
  • Grows to 12 in. wide over 3 to 5 years 
  • Clump-forming habit 
  • Hardy in USDA hardiness zones 6, 7, 8, and 9

Flowering period

In central North Carolina, flowers open in late April before the new pitchers emerge.

How to grow

  • Full sun 
  • Plant in a peat-based growing medium
  • Keep wet by growing plants with their containers sitting in a tray of water
  • Don't fertilize, they catch their own
  • Only water with rain, distilled, or reverse osmosis water

Care and maintenance

After a hard frost, the tips of the pitchers may turn brown. Trim off the dead parts of the leaf to keep plants looking attractive.

Where to plant

Large tubs and bogs.

When to plant

Scarlet Belle can be planted any time throughout the growing season.

When will my plant flower?

Plants are flowering size and will bloom their first year if purchased before April.

Native habitat and range

The parents of this hybrid grow in bogs and savannas in the southeastern United States.

Source and origin

A hybrid between S. leucophylla and S.psittacina created by the late Bob Hanrahan in 1985 and registered in 2002.

On the International Carnivorous Plant Society website, Bob informs us how he developed and named this beautiful pitcher plant hybrid.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Pandemic project

Since March I’ve been craving something to do with my hands, like embroidery or cross-stitch, even though I don’t really know how to do either of these things. I vaguely remember doing something with stitching in home ec class in ninth grade, but mostly when it comes to sewing, I remember my grandma and her Singer, and the many colors of thread she had in the fold-down drawer, like a rainbow, and the button drawer that was full to its brim with buttons.

This craving has led to many nights of perusing embroidery websites online, like The French Needle, which has the most extravagant kits, some of which are very pricy, so I just put things in my shopping cart and then left it there, until a week later those items were sold out and I would start again.

A few weeks ago I decided to look for less expensive sources for kits, and after going to several including Etsy, I had collected some tools and two things to start working on, as well as a really lovely envelope style case to keep the work in while I do it. 

I haven’t started yet, but I have derived an unusual amount of pleasure and calm from just looking at the kit and its colored threads. I’ll do the actual stitching soon enough, but during this time of staying at home, wearing masks, and fielding anxiety about a multitude of things happening in our country and our world, I’m finding that perusing and pondering and enjoying the simple things make everything a bit better.

This is the back of the case. It makes me happy just to look at it, inch by inch, as it reveals its story. 

And the other side, which makes me equally happy. My first project will be the nerve cell that I got from a neuroscience PhD student on Etsy who makes these kits to calm her own neurons. The second project will be Anne of Green Gables and the wonderful quote:

“Why must people kneel down to pray? If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I'd do. I'd go out into a great big field all alone or in the deep, deep woods and I'd look up into the sky—up—up—up—into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then I'd just feel a prayer.” 

Meanwhile, looking at the threads, the pink thimble and tiny purple scissors, the patterns and needles, makes me feel calm and excited. Something to look forward to, something to work on a little at a time until I finish it. 

A friend said this sudden penchant for embroidery could represent my subconscious wanting to stitch the world back together. She could be right. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

What’s Coming Up In The Garden, 53: climbing aster

Our local demonstration pollinator garden has a superb example of this climbing aster, and it’s what clued me in to planting it in the potager. It tends to bloom many months of the year here in central NC, so it will be wonderful to have for our bees.

Of course it’s a native to NC and given the success of the non-climbing asters I’ve planted in the past two years, I’m looking forward to seeing this one mature. 

We built this trellis using two posts we had on hand and a “hog panel” from our feed store that they cut in half for us. They come in 16-foot lengths, and we didn’t need anything quite that tall. But I have the other half in the barn so I can use it for something else when the time comes.

I’ve planted three climbing aster plants along the base of the trellis. Two have had their leaves chewed off by something - rabbit? Squirrel? Raccoon? I’m not sure. If this continues to be a problem I’ll use some chicken wire to allow these young plants to get a safe start.

More info:

Ampelaster carolinianus 

Common Name(s):


Previously known as:

  • Symphyotrichum carolinianum
Phonetic Spelling
am-pel-ASS-ter kay-ro-lin-ee-AY-nus

Climbing Aster is a sprawling herbaceous perennial that produces long stems and can climb to heights greater than 10 feet. It prefers to sprawl over the top of fence posts or other plants or can be located and allowed to use a trellis for its support. The side branches grow horizontally, allowing them to use adjoining plants for support of the plant structure.

It can be found growing in marshy shores, stream banks, edges of swamps, moist thickets or wet woodlands. Standing water may affect the plant's health, so a location where good drainage can be accomplished is desirable. It will tolerate seasonal flooding.

Deadhead this plant in the fall, but refrain from any additional trimming at that time. Delaying until spring when the plant is showing signs of awakening is a better alternative.  

In the late summer and fall, it produces pink to purple blooms with yellow centers.

The rapid growing-spreading habit may require frequent division.

Insects, Diseases and Other Plant Problems:  Common diseases of the climbing aster include wilt disease, powdery mildew, and botrytis.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Monday, June 22, 2020

Three Young Bucks in Arcadia

My husband took this photo today while checking on the bees. I can’t stop looking at it. I love the deer and these three make me smile. 

PSA: Clementine says WEAR YOUR MASK!

Lots of folks are not wearing masks in NC as well as other states. If you wear a mask you protect others, and if others wear masks, they protect you. It’s not 100% but if both people wear masks, transmission of the virus is very low. So simple. An act that shows you care, you respect, you are doing one very important thing you can do personally to impact this pandemic. 

With thanks to my daughter for sharing this photo!

Sunday, June 21, 2020

What’s Coming Up In The Garden, 52: threadleaf coreopsis

I’m finally getting back to identifying this. It’s a lovely plant and is doing very well in the pollinator beds here!

More info:

Coreopsis verticillata 'Zagreb' 
Common Name: threadleaf coreopsis  
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Asteraceae
Zone: 3 to 9
Height: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Spread: 1.50 to 1.50 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: Bright yellow
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Flower: Showy
Tolerate: Deer, Drought, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil


Easily grown in dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun. Thrives in poor, sandy or rocky soils with good drainage. Tolerant of heat, humidity and drought. Prompt deadheading of spent flower stalks can be tedious for a large planting, but does tend to encourage additional bloom and prevent any unwanted self-seeding. Plants may be sheared in mid to late summer to promote a fall rebloom and to remove any sprawling or unkempt foliage. Species plants can spread somewhat aggressively in the garden by both rhizomes and self-seeding.

'Zagreb' can spread in the garden by rhizomes and self-seeding, particularly in moist fertile soils.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Coreopsis verticillata, commonly called threadleaf coreopsis or whorled coreopsis, is a rhizomatous perennial which typically grows in dense, bushy clumps to 1-3' tall. Features yellow, daisy-like flowers (1-2" diameter) with yellow untoothed rays and yellow center disks. Flowers appear singly in loose clusters (cymes) in a profuse and lengthy late spring to late summer bloom. Shearing plants in mid-summer will promote a fall rebloom. Palmately 3-parted leaves with thread-like segments lend a fine-textured and airy appearance to the plant.

The genus name comes from the Greek words koris meaning "bug" and opsis meaning "like" in reference to the shape of the seed which resembles a bug or tick.

Specific epithet means having whorls in reference to the leaves.

Plants in the genus Coreopsis are sometimes commonly called tickseed in reference to the resemblance of the seeds to ticks.

'Zagreb' is more compact (to 1.5' tall) and features bright yellow, daisy-like flowers (1-2" diameter) with untoothed rays and darker yellow center disks.


No serious insect or disease problems. Slugs and snails may occur. Tends to sprawl, particularly if grown in moist and/or fertile soils. Crown rot may occur if grown in moist, poorly drained soils. Uncommon diseases include botrytis, aster yellows, powdery mildew and fungal spots.

Garden Uses

Borders. Also effective in naturalized areas, native plant gardens or cottage gardens. Good plant for areas with poor, dry soils.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

What’s Coming Up In The Garden, 51: foxglove beardtongue

This is a delicate flowering pollinator plant, and I’m happy to have it in the potager, already blooming though just planted two weeks ago. 

More info:

Penstemon digitalis 

Phonetic Spelling
PEN-stem-on dig-ee-TAH-liss

Penstemon digitalis is a clump-forming perennial in the plantain family that can be found in the mountains of NC. It grows up to 5 feet tall in prairies, wood margins and open woods of eastern and central USA. In late spring to early summer tall clusters of showy white tubular flowers appear that attract bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies. No serious disease or pest problems.

This plant adapts easily to cultivation and prefers well-drained, moist to dry loamy soils and tolerates clay soil if it is well-drained. Plant in full sun to light shade in small groups in the native/pollinator garden, naturalized areas or borders.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Bloom update: wild bergamot and rattlesnake master

These two are in the same bed and are really getting going now. The wild bergamot is subtly different from the Appalachian bergamot in the potager. I need to take photos either early in the am or late in the day so they’re in the same light, and once the spotted horsemint (also a Monarda) blooms, I’ll do a comparison post with all three.

But today, I’m enjoying these newly blooming native pollinators in the larger of my two pollinator beds by the house.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Appalachian bergamot bloom update

The first bloom is opening up today, and it has a tiny spider nestling inside!

Monday, June 15, 2020

What’s Coming Up In The Garden, 50: Appalachian bergamot

This is new in the potager and is Monarda fistulosa, and a variant of the one I have in the front bed. It should look very similar to the Monarda punctata I love so much, but is different enough that I wanted to have it on November Hill. When both species and two variants of fistulosa are blooming, I’ll do comparison shots and see if we can nail the variants of each.

For now, it’s looking like this, the grouping on the far right:

It’s raining today, or I’d go out to get a closer photo.

One of the things I love about the NC Botanical Garden is that they curate unusual variants of species and you can often find things there that aren’t available commercially. This seems to be one of those variants.

Another interesting thing I’m learning as I garden alongside my native plant study classes is that many of the plants I gravitate to are in the Lamiaceae family. It’s fun to find a plant I love by its bloom and foliage and then learn that yes, it’s another member of this very beautiful family of plants.

Here’s a delightful blog I found that has photos of several species of Monarda, including the Appalachian bergamot I’m planting here. If you scroll down to the Monardas and then click on the different species you can multiple photos of each one. A truly lovely blog, so do peruse it further while you’re there!

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Brown Bunny’s Potager, an update

I’ve had a lot of plans for the potager but haven’t had the time to go all in with them yet, so when the NC Botanical Garden plant sales opened back up by appointment and no contact pick up, I couldn’t resist leaping at the opportunity to get some pollinator plants into the space. 

While planting perennials this time of year means a lot of watering and care, we’re already doing that for the vegetable plants, so it’s just a matter of standing with the hose a bit longer than we already do.

I’m going to do separate posts on the new plants I’ve added, but the list includes Appalachian bergamot, narrow leaf mountain mint, foxglove beardtongue, Atlantic blue-eyed grass, and climbing aster.

This is the main vegetable section, with lettuces, chard, and kale still going, cucumbers going crazy, and tomatoes and basil. There are also two bronze fennel that will be for pollinators - they’re growing but really blend into the landscape in this photo!

The squash side with yellow squash and zucchini, plus a couple of new tomato plants.

To prep the pollinator plant bed I wet the ground, then put a layer of our compost, put down plain cardboard (recycled from packaging) that I wet thoroughly on both sides, then another layer of compost. Wetting the cardboard down makes it easier to dig through when planting. 

And the finished new bed. It’s hard to see the plants with the grass behind but once they settle in and grow I’ll get a better shot. I also didn’t take a larger photo of the entire area, but this pollinator bed will be the central focus of the potager when you come through the gate. 

If you look to the left of the wheelbarrow in this photo you’ll see the three climbing asters not yet in the ground. I’ll be putting two posts in the ground and a 10-foot wire panel for them to climb. When mature, along with the hazelnut to the left, these will create a nice screen along the fence line. 

To the left of the interior potager boundary fence, in that corner just outside the potager, I’m building a two-bay compost area where we can compost manure and garden wastes for easy access to the garden beds. I’m thinking of putting wire panels in the back of the compost bays to plant something like native coral honeysuckle which will carry the screening along the perimeter fence line. 

This week if the rain doesn’t prohibit it, I’d like to get the climbing asters situated with their panel, get the compost bays set up, and upcycle our old huge mailbox into garden tool storage here in the potager. 

I’ll probably be adding some new vegetables to the lettuce bed as those finish up, and maybe a few melon mounds. And in the fall I’ll add more flowers to this space along with a couple of chairs for sitting. It’s starting to take on the potager “feel” I had when I first came up with the idea to make this space, and that makes me happy. 

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Bloom update: elderberry flowers!

The elderberry live stakes we put in during December came up beautifully and suddenly the ones in Poplar Folly are blooming! I’m really happy with how the live staking worked. 

We put them in areas that get a lot of water flow during rainfall, and we put the stakes in during December, midwinter in NC, to allow the stakes to develop very strong root systems on until spring. The roots secure the ground, the elderberries thrive on the big rain events, and erosion is decreased significantly.

The lives stakes look like sticks, and at our local native plant nursery the cost was 80 CENTS each. At this price you can easily purchase many and really address storm run-off issues for very little cost.

The fact that it’s elderberry is icing on the cake. Elderberry blooms are lovely, feed pollinators, and the berries are wonderful  and feed wildlife and can be used by humans to make the amazing elderberry syrup, wine, etc. I’m eager to see these mature and hope we can harvest some in the next year or two.

Friday, June 12, 2020

What’s Coming Up In The Garden, 49: swamp milkweed

This escaped me until yesterday when I noted it’s ready to bloom. I misidentified it as Joe Pye but realized today that it’s swamp milkweed - the major clue being that it’s blooming way too early to be Joe Pye. I see it’s coming up in a few places in the garden beds, but this one is the most mature and will bloom out any day now. It’s really lovely and butterflies love it.

More info:

Asclepias incarnata subsp. pulchra 

Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
as-KLEE-pee-as in-kar-NAH-tuh PUL-kruh

Eastern Swamp Milkweed is a native wildflower found in bogs, marshes and other wet sites. It can be found on the coast, Piedmont and mountain areas of NC. It is similar to A. incarnata but can be distinguished by its broader leaves, bushier appearance, and deeper bloom color (though it can be highly variable). It grows 2-4 feet high and the 5-inch seed pods persist into winter. It was chosen as the 2005 NC Wildflower of the Year.

Although it naturally grows along ponds, streams, swamps and bogs, this plant will do well in low lying areas of the garden that retain moisture. It is tolerant of clay soils and will grow in full sun to partial shade. It is pollinated by bees and is a host plant for the monarch butterfly. Use in a native/pollinator garden. 

More information on Asclepias incarnata.