Tag Archive | plant

The Crab Apple ~ Malus Species

Like many heralds of spring, crab apples explode with color upon the dreary backdrop of April.  For a tree that can grow in almost all 50 states, there are not many other species that can offer the colors, shapes and sizes the crab offers. It also has three season interest (as seen below), with blooms in spring, beautiful green (or red) foliage in summer, along with berries for winter. Fall is usually uneventful, as fall color is unknown to this tree.

Crab apples are loved by many of our wildlife friends.

  • The leaves are eaten by caterpillars of many moths and butterflies.
  • The flowers provide an important source of early pollen and nectar for insects, particularly honeybees.
  • The fruit is eaten by birds including cardinals, robins, thrushes and finches.
  • Mammals, including mice, raccoons, vole and squirrels also eat crab apple fruit.

Although all of the blooms are similar shaped, they come in a plethora of colors, buds that bloom to another color and different bloom times. Crabs can grow from 5′ – 50′ feet, but on average, stay between 15′ to 25′ feet range. This makes them a great choice for under wires or a street tree, along with the fact they are salt tolerant. Varieties can vary from columnar, weeping, spreading, vase-shaped to pyramidal which allows them to be planted almost anywhere. Click here for my favorite ‘cheat sheet’ (It’s a PDF) on crabs, which shows size, shape, bloom and berry colors, along with other great info.

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Sadly, there are many things lurking out there to attack crabs. Although many of the new varieties are resistant to one or more disease; scab, fireblight, leaf spot, rusts are among the top killers of crabs. Buying a resistant variety is the key to longevity.

Although the fruits are very tart, they are plentiful and able to be turned into jellies and jams quite easily, due to their high pectin. Here’s how you can do it!

A Makah Legend

The Indians who live on the farthest point of the northwest corner of Washington State used to tell stories, not about one Changer, but about the Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things. So did their close relatives, who lived on Vancouver Island, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

When the world was very young, there were no people on the Earth. There were no birds or animals, either. There was nothing but grass and sand and creatures that were neither animals nor people but had some of the traits of people and some of the traits of animals.

Then the two brothers of the Sun and the Moon came to the Earth. Their names were Ho-ho-e-ap-bess, which means “The Two-Men-Who- Changed- Things.” They came to make the Earth ready for a new race of people, the Indians. The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things called all the creatures to them. Some they changed to animals and birds. Some they changed to trees and smaller plants.

Among them was a bad thief. He was always stealing food from creatures who were fishermen and hunters. The Two-Men-Who- Changed-Things transformed him into Seal. They shortened his arms and tied his legs so that only his feet could move. Then they threw Seal into the Ocean and said to him, “Now you will have to catch your own fish if you are to have anything to eat.”

One of the creatures was a great fisherman. He was always on the rocks or was wading with his long fishing spear. He kept it ready to thrust into some fish. He always wore a little cape, round and white over his shoulders. The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things transformed him into Great Blue Heron. The cape became the white feathers around the neck of Great Blue Heron. The long fishing spear became his sharp pointed bill.

Another creature was both a fisherman and a thief. He had stolen a necklace of shells. The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things transformed him into Kingfisher. The necklace of shells was turned into a ring of feathers around Kingfisher’s neck. He is still a fisherman. He watches the water, and when he sees a fish, he dives headfirst with a splash into the water.

Two creatures had huge appetites. They devoured everything they could find. The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things transformed one of them into Raven. They transformed his wife into Crow. Both Raven and Crow were given strong beaks so that they could tear their food. Raven croaks “Cr-r-ruck!” and Crow answers with a loud “Cah! Cah!”

The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things called Bluejay’s son to them and asked, “Which do you wish to be–a bird or a fish?”

“I don’t want to be either,” he answered.

“Then we will transform you into Mink. You will live on land. You will eat the fish you can catch from the water or can pick up on the shore. ”

Then the Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things remembered that the new people would need wood for many things.

They called one of the creatures to them and said “The Indians will want tough wood to make bows with. They will want tough wood to make wedges with, so that they can split logs. You are tough and strong. We will change you into the yew tree.”

They called some little creatures to them. “The new people will need many slender, straight shoots for arrows. You will be the arrowwood. You will be white with many blossoms in early summer.”

They called a big, fat creature to them. “The Indians will need big trunks with soft wood so that they can make canoes. You will be the cedar trees. The Indians will make many things from your bark and from your roots.”

The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things knew that the Indians would need wood for fuel. So they called an old creature to them. “You are old, and your heart is dry. You will make good kindling, for your grease has turned hard and will make pitch. You will be the spruce tree. When you grow old, you will always make dry wood that will be good for fires.”

To another creature they said, “You shall be the hemlock. Your bark will be good for tanning hides. Your branches will be used in the sweat lodges.”

A creature with a cross temper they changed into a crab apple tree, saying, “You shall always bear sour fruit.”

Another creature they changed into the wild cherry tree, so that the new people would have fruit and could use the cherry bark for medicine.

A thin, tough creature they changed into the alder tree, so that the new people would have hard wood for their canoe paddles.

Thus the Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things got the world ready for the new people who were to come. They made the world as it was when the Indians lived in it.


*** Did you like this post? I have more coming that show trees in all of their seasons. Stay tuned!!

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Summer Blooming Flowers 9-20-2016

He was always late on principle, his principle being that punctuality is the thief of time. ~ Oscar Wilde

No need to be punctual in seeing what I found blooming in 201320142015.

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Hardy mum ~ Don’t see many ‘rund here     ||     Monarda seedhead

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Purple hosta      ||       Liatris aspera ~ Rough blazingstar

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Solidago rigida(or Oligoneuron rigidum) ~ Stiff Goldenrod   ||   I’m confused & maybe this plant is also. This looks like roughleaf dogwood (Cornus drummondii), however its blooming now. Anyone with thoughts??

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Spiraea ~ Spirea     ||     Heptacodium miconioides ~ Seven Son Flower

Ironically, there are no fun stories about this tree, however after it finishes blooming, the calex turn bright red, giving it a second bloom time! This is in my yard, so I’ll be sure to let you see soon.

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Flies like nectar too! (on mint)    ||    A quick bouquet for my neighbor =-)


Rose hips

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Aster     ||     A hosta with a large flower

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Summer Blooming Flowers 9-14-2016

Time is a valuable thing
Watch it fly by as the pendulum swings
Watch it count down to the end of the day
The clock ticks life away

LINKIN PARK ~ “In the End” Hybrid Theory

Swing here instead to see what I found blooming in 201320142015

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Eutrochium purpureum ~ Joe Pye weed     ||     Chelone lyonii ‘Hot Lips’ ~ Turtlehead


Phlox paniculata ~ Not sure of flavor

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More Phlox. This one is ‘Bright eyes’      ||     Veronica Longifolia ‘First Lady’ ~ Speedwell

Heuchera villosa ‘Autumn Bride’
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Sambucus canadensis ~ Elderberry    ||     Errr…..

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Boltonia asteroides ~ false chamomile or false aster     ||      Strike 2

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Coronilla varia ~ Crown vetch     ||      Petasites frigidus ~ coltsfoot

I had never seen this leaf, so I had to take a pix to figure out when it would bloom next year (early spring)

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Salt Tolerant Plants For the Midwest


I figured this would be good timing for a read like this, as the fall is the best time to plant trees. Now is the time to think about what type of tree you want and where you’re going to locate it.

It is common practice across the Midwest to use deicing salts (primarily sodium chloride) in winter to maintain safe roadways, sidewalks and driveways. Despite the benefits, deicing salts used near plants can cause extensive damage. Salt is spread to nearby plants from roads being plowed, meltwater runoff, splash, and aerial spray.

When air-borne salt lands on twigs, buds or needles, the salt draws moisture out of plant tissue, causing desiccation and scorch. On evergreens, salt spray causes die-back starting at the tips of needles. On deciduous plants, the symptoms of salt damage become visible during summer or hot dry weather, when leaf margins show scorching. Salt spray and excess soil salts can also cause branch die-back, stunted growth of stems and foliage, overall lack of vigor, and many times death. Turf along well-used sidewalks and streets usually show stress and dead areas due to excess soil salt.

Symptoms & Effects ~ Air-borne Salt:

• Plants damaged by aerial salts are more common than by soil salts in the Midwest.

• Salt damage is most severe within 50 feet of the roadway (farther if roadway speeds are higher), which decreases with distance, however sensitive plants can show scorch at distances of 1,000 feet or more.

• On evergreens, salt spray causes needles to turn brown or yellow and twig die-back, commonly only on the roadside portion of the plant.

• On deciduous plants, salt spray can kill or contort the buds and twigs. In the spring, new growth may appear as a clump of twigs known as a Witch’s Broom.

• Branches that are protected by snow, fencing, parked cars or other barriers are less likely to be injured.

Symptoms & Effects ~ Soil Salt:

• Soil salt collects in drainage systems adjacent to roadways where the salt-laden runoff is channeled or splashed. These systems can bring salt-laden water far away from where it was originally used.

•Snow that is filled with salt is many times plowed and shoveled directly on the root zone of plants to remove it from walkways and roads. This causes root dehydration.

• Soil salt damage causes browning along leaf edges, stunted growth, fewer and smaller leaves, less flowers, which means less fruit.

• Plants growing in soils high in salt generally are highly stressed, never look healthy and usually die early.

How to Minimize Salt Damage:

• Minimize or avoid using salt around landscape plants.

• Mix salt with fillers like sand, sawdust or cinders.

• Wait to apply a deicing salt until after shoveling or plowing.

• Avoid shoveling salt-laden snow on the root zones of plants.

• Construct temporary barriers made of burlap or fencing to protect low-growing plants susceptible to aerial salt damage.

• Keep plants healthy and correctly mulch (no mulch volcanoes!) to reduce water loss.

• Use salt-tolerant plants in exposed areas!

Here’s a list of plants that can tolerate salt. Plants in bold can handle more salt than the others. * means the plant can tolerate soil salt.

Deciduous Trees

Acer campestre – Hedge maple

Acer ginnala – Amur maple

Acer nigrum – Black maple

Acer pseudoplatanus – Sycamore maple

Acer saccharinum – Silver maple

Aesculus hippocastanum* – Horse-chestnut

Aesculus octandra – Yellow buckeye

Amelanchier x grandiflora – Apple serviceberry

Amelanchier canadensis – Serviceberry

Betula nigra – River birch

Carya cordiformis* – Bitternut hickory

Carya ovata – Shagbark hickory

Catalpa speciosa* – Northern catalpa

Celtis occidentalis* – Hackberry

Diospyros virginiana – Persimmon

Ginkgo biloba* – Ginkgo

Gleditsia triacanthos* – Honey locust

Gymnocladus dioicus* – Kentucky coffeetree

Juglans cinerea – Butternut

Juglans nigra* – Black walnut

Koelreuteria paniculata – Golden rain tree

Larix decidua – European larch

Larix laricina – American larch

Liquidambar styraciflua* – Sweet gum

Magnolia x soulangiana – Saucer magnolia

Malus (some cultivars) Crabapple  (x zumi ‘Calocarpa’, ‘Adams’, ‘Donald Wyman’, ‘Prairifire’)

Nyssa sylvatica* – Tupelo

Ostrya virginiana – Ironwood

Platanus occidentalis* – Sycamore

Prunus maackii – Amur chokecherry

Prunus virginiana* – Choke cherry

Pyrus calleryana – Callery pear

Quercus alba – White oak

Quercus bicolor* – Swamp white oak

Quercus ellipsoidalis* – Northern pin oak

Quercus imbricaria – Shingle oak

Quercus macrocarpa* – Bur oak

Quercus robur – English oak

Sassafras albidum – Sassafras

Syringa amurensis* – Japanese tree lilac

Syringa pekinensis* – Peking lilac

Taxodium distichum* – Bald-cypress

Ulmus ‘Regal’* – Regal elm


Evergreen Trees

Juniperus chinensis* – Chinese juniper

Juniperus horizontalis* – Creeping juniper

Juniperus virginiana – Eastern red-cedar

Picea pungens* – Blue spruce

Pinus mugo* – Mugo pine

Thuja occidentalis* – Eastern arborvitae



Alnus rugosa – Speckled alder

Amorpha fruticosa* – Indigo-bush

Aronia arbutifolia – Red chokeberry

Aronia melanocarpa – Black chokeberry

Berberis thunbergii – Japanese barberry

Buxus microphylla var. koreana – Korean boxwood

Caragana arborescens* – Siberian pea-shrub

Caragana fruticosa – Russian pea-shrub

Clethra alnifolia – Summersweet clethra

Comptonia peregrina – Sweet-fern

Cotoneaster species* Cotoneaster

Forsythia spp.* – Forsythia

Hamamelis virginiana – Witch-hazel

Hibiscus syriacus – Rose-of-Sharon

Hippophae rhamnoides* – Sea-buckthorn

Hydrangea spp. Hydrangea

Hypericum spp. – St. John’s wort

Ilex verticillata – Winterberry 3-9 M

Lespedeza bicolor Shrub – bush-clover

Myrica pensylvanica* – Bayberry

Perovskia atriplicifolia – Russian-sage

Philadelphus coronarius – Mock-orange

Potentilla fruticosa – Shrubby cinquefoil

Prunus x cistena – Purpleleaf sand cherry

Pyracantha coccinea – Firethorn

Rhodotypos scandens – Black jetbead

Rhus aromatica* – Fragrant sumac

Rhus glabra* – Smooth sumac

Rhus typhina* -Staghorn sumac

Ribes alpinum* – Alpine currant

Robinia hispida* – Bristly locust 5-8 T

Rosa rugosa* – Rugosa rose

Sambucus canadensis – Elderberry

Shepherdia canadensis – Buffaloberry

Spiraea spp. (most) Spirea

Symphoricarpos albus – Snowberry

Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’* – Palibin lilac

Syringa patula ‘Miss Kim’* – Miss Kim lilac 3-7 T

Viburnum dentatum – Arrowwood viburnum

Viburnum lentago – Nannyberry

Viburnum prunifolium* – Blackhaw viburnum

Viburnum trilobum – American cranberry-bush

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl


Rain Garden Maintenance

We had a client that requested us to have his retention basins replanted with more color than the all cattail garden. We installed the plugs last September. Here is the results of our venture! Although just a bit thin, every species seemed to have made it over the winter and the full filling of the basins.

I was able to get released from the chains of my desk and got to come out to this location! This was a special treat! The whole reason I was let-out was because there was no one able to identify native plants. Why am I wasting my time sitting at a desk? Anyhow.

Here’s what the basins looked like this July.  There were a few cattails that were trying to resurface, however we pulled them by hand. The basin only measured about 14 feet wide so I waded in with my rubbers and threw the offending weeds at my crew for them to collect. They couldn’t identify the weeds fast enough, so they learned by looking at the things I had already pulled.



The lobelia and bull rush look so beautiful to me. I wish more people thought as much. Another reason I was brought out here was the clients were complaining that they weren’t seeing fields of color. No patience whatsoever. Grasses always grow faster than the flowers (forbs). Native restorations are usually said to be complete in three years. This is only year one.


Sagittaria latifolia – Common arrowhead

Very tasty when roasted, the texture is somewhat like potatoes with a taste like sweet chestnuts. The tubers can be eaten raw but they are rather bitter. It is best to remove this skin after the tubers have been cooked, but before eating. The tubers can also be dried and ground into a powder, this powder can be used as a gruel or mixed with cereal flours and used to make bread. North American Indians would slice the boiled roots into thin sections and string them on ropes to dry in much the same way as apples. The tubers are best harvested in the late summer as the leaves die down.

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly – Papilio glaucus

This hungry little fellow hardly cared that I was taking his photograph.

He was enjoying a reblooming lilac.


Caterpillar Hosts: Leaves of various plants including wild cherry (Prunus), sweetbay (Magnolia), basswood (Tilia), tulip tree (Liriodendron), birch (Betula), ash (Fraxinus), cottonwood (Populus), mountain ash (Sorbus), and willow (Salix).
Adult Food: Nectar of flowers from a variety of plants including wild cherry and lilac (Syringa vulgaris). Milkweed (Asclepias) and Joe-Pye Weed [Eupatorium] are favorites in the summer months

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Mulberries and Gooseberries – Sweet and Tart


Mulberries are a fav of mine, for more reasons than one:

They are yummy – taste like blackberries
They are free
Easy to find
I’m doing my part to stop an invasive species, as long as I poop inside. 😉 (How do you think birds spread it? )

Gooseberries are not really my bag, very tart and crisp, will make you pucker! 😍  I’ve got 2 shrubs right near my patio that make them convenient to eat. Two mulberries for every goose!  I’ve not made preserves out of them.  Too much going on this time of year.
They are a secondary host species to the White Pine Rust. Many have been removed from the landscape, for the pine’s sake.

Ilex Farrell

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Perennial Bloom Times By Color

When I’m doing any garden designing, I first listen to my clients needs: colors they like/dislike, types of flowers they like, privacy requirements, the list goes on. I then whip out my ‘helper’ sheets to make the process go quicker. These are my perennial helper sheets. They are divided by color, height and bloom time. This is not a complete list of perennials for the area, however, it is a great start! If you need to see what any of these look like, please search my site! I’m fairly sure I’ve got most of these pictured.

I hope it helps you as much as it helps me!! Happy planting =-)
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Cordyline fruticosa – Ti Plant or Good Luck Plant

The name Cordyline comes from the Greek word kordyle, meaning “club,” a reference to the enlarged underground stems or rhizomes. Hawaiians believe planting one in front of your home keeps the evil spirits away. The boiled roots taste like molasses and were used to make a beer that was reported to cure scurvy. Young leaves are used as a potherb. Older leaves are used to wrap food, make clothes, rain capes and for thatch. Use Ti leaves to wrap foods to be grilled, steamed or baked. Dried leaves should be soaked to soften before using.
imageIn tropical climates ti makes an interesting specimen shrub, valued mainly for its magnificent foliage, this plant comes in many colorful varieties. Elsewhere, grow in a container, it rarely grows enough to show it’s woody nature. The white club-shaped rhizomes are high in starch and were a valuable food item for Polynesians and Maoris. Other than bringing good luck to its owner, perhaps the most important use is that the leaves are made into Hawaiian hula skirts!

Light: This plant does well in partial shade to nearly full sun. It needs more water if grown in full sun. Indoors, Ti likes a bright position, but out of direct sunlight. Although it will survive in quite low light, the foliage will never develop its full potential colors.
Moisture: In summer, do not allow the soil to dry out between waterings. Ti needs very humid air to keep the leaf tips from drying out and turning brown. Mist frequently, especially in an air-conditioned room. Another trick is to position the pot on a bed of gravel and water. Fluoride in the water will cause the leaf tips to brown, so don’t use cityimage water!
Propagation: Ti is easy to propagate from stem cuttings, called “logs.” Cut 3-5 in (7-12 cm) sections of mature stem, remove the leaves, and place on a bed of sand, preferably with bottom heat. The “eyes” on the stem cuttings will grow into shoots with leaves. When a shoot gets 4-6 leaves, cut it and its eye from the log, and root in potting medium as you would any cutting.
Prunning: Be careful when pruning as the next leaf grows from the old leaf. Do not cut too far down on the stem, as you will nip the top of the new leaf.

© – Ilex ~ Midwestern Plants



Perennials for Midwestern Clay Soils

Most of the Midwestern area is comprised of clay soils. Never fear! This is a much better situation to have than sandy soils. Clay soils maintain more minerals and moisture than other soils.

Sometimes clay soils can be bad, such as in conditions where there are more problems than just the soil. If while digging in the soil, it looks blueish-black and smells kinda off, this is because of poor drainage and the smell is from rotting organisms. The area should be assessed for drainage problems before anything else is done.

If the clay is a redish-orange, this is perfect as the soil is holding all the minerals plants crave.

The soil should be mixed with a fair amount of compost to help perennials get a good start. If the soil is very compacted, some sand can be mixed it also. Be sure to surround the perennial bed with leaf compost to aid in nutrients getting to the roots and all the other benefits mulch does for plants.

  • For Trees and Shrubs for clay soils ~ CLICK HERE
Botanical Name Common Name Bloom Color Light
Achillea tomentosa woolly yarrow Jun-Jul yellow sun
Achillea filipendulina fernleaf yarrow Jun-Jul yellow sun
Arisaema spp. Jack-in-the-pulpit May-July green/purple shade
Aruncus dioicus goatsbeard Jun-Jul white ps/sh
Asclepias tuberosum butterflyweed Jun-Aug orange et al sun
Astilbe arendsii & var. false spirea, astilbe Jun-Aug white-pink-red ps/sh
Bergenia cordifolia heartleaf bergenia Apr-May pink ps/sh
Brunnera macrophylla Siberian bugloss Apr-May blue ps/sh
Echinacea purpurea purple coneflower Jul-Oct pink sun
Helenium autumnale
‘Moerheim beauty’
Sneezewort Jul-Sept bronze red sun/ps
Heliopsis scabra Heliopsis Jul-Aug yellow sun
Hemerocallis spp. daylily summer many sun/ps
Heuchera hyb. coral bells Jun-Aug white-pink-red sun/ps
Hibiscus spp. rose mallow Jul-Sept white-pink-red sun/ps
Hosta spp. plantain lily Jul-Aug lavender ps-sh
Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’ houttuynia June white sun/ps
Iris sibirica, pseudo-
acorus, versicolor, etc.
Siberian and blue and yellowflag iris variable blue, violet, yellow et al. sun/ps
Liatris spicata gayfeather, blazing star Jul-Aug pinkish sun/ps
Liriope muscari lily turf Aug-Oct lavender-mauve-white ps/sun
Lysimachia spp. Yellow loosestrife, gooseneck loosestrife Jul-Sept yellow-white sun/ps
Perovskia atriplicifolia Russian sage Summer Lavender sun
Primula spp. primroses Mar-Jun many ps/sh
Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ Goldsturm rudbeckia July-Sept yellow sun/ps
Salvia spp. salvia, sage Jul-Oct blue-violet sun/ps
Sedum spectabile var. stonecrop, sedum Aug-Oct pink-red sun
Tradescantia virginiana spiderwort Jun-Sept blue-violet-white sun/ps
Yucca filamentosa Adams’s needle summer white sun