Mail order's sold out? Request it at the garden center

Green thumbs up

to calling your local garden centers...

...to ask if they are going to be growing and selling ‘X’, X being that plant your mail order source reports “sold out.”

Many items have become scarce following the pandemic surge in gardening interest. (“Look, Steven, Burpee is sold out of seedling trays. Burpee!”) Yet your local garden center with its greater buying power and wholesale sources may still be able to find X. What they need is incentive to look. Hearing requests for it can be the starter.

Overlooked natives

For instance, Karen Bovio of Specialty Growers in Howell, MI (one of the best perennial sources in the country) let us know the other day that she has bumper crops of seedling pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea) and gray coneflower (Ratibida pinnata), two natives that are not well known and thus infrequently grown and hard to find. Because we’ve asked for them, Bovio knows that we use both in butterfly and pollinator gardens.

She told us, “I had amazing germination this year…I will be transplanting them into 6-packs to start and then into 4.5” pots and will definitely have more than I need. I will have to pitch some unless I know someone is interested. I just hate to throw out perfectly good seedlings.”

We told her we would need some and that we’d ask you about the rest. If you plan to plant pearly everlasting or gray coneflower this year and would like husky 4” pots to plant, give Specialty a call or send an email. 517-546-7742, karen@specialtygrowers.net

Pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea) is a host plant for the American Lady butterfly caterpillar, which eats the leaves in spring. The disfiguration is quite temporary. Without any action on the gardener’s part the plant will regroup and put on a great late summer show.

Pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea) is a gray-green dense mound of foliage by midsummer, even after hosting butterfly caterpillars.

Pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea) is a gray-green dense mound of foliage by midsummer, even after hosting butterfly caterpillars.

Here is how you might find pearly everlasting blooming in the wild in August.

Here is how you might find pearly everlasting blooming in the wild in August.

The gray “rug” covering the ground beyond Janet in this photo is a loose mat of last year’s pearly everlasting stems. We let them lie. Self-mulchers!

The gray “rug” covering the ground beyond Janet in this photo is a loose mat of last year’s pearly everlasting stems. We let them lie. Self-mulchers!

It’s also very low maintenance. We don’t deadhead it because the flowers dry in place - thus its common name. We don’t cut it down in fall or spring, since it flattens neatly by winter’s end, allowing new shoots to grow through.

What of gray headed coneflower?

'Fraid you'll have to surf to find a photo as we have no digital images of this fine plant. That happens sometimes.

This summer we'll rectify that because we intend to try once again to recreate and capture renowned English designer Gertrude Jekyll's trick with our prairie native. She accepted the floppy nature of the plant's tall stems (like many prairie plants it evolved with strong companions all about that it could lean upon) and simultaneously capitalized on the long bloom season. When the stems began to elongate she pegged them down, stems radiating from the crown like spokes from a wheel. Responding as plants do to the urge to grow against gravity, side shoots developed from the pegged stems and grew straight up to create a wider, shorter, sturdier version of this pollinator magnet.