Native Plant Profile: Adlumia fungosa, allegheny vine, climbing fumitory

A species new to me that I picked up at yesterday’s plant sale for the Manhattan Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society (MCNARGS). Since I don’t know anything about it, I researched it to figure out what it wants and find a place for it in my garden.

Adlumia fungosa, climbing fumitory, scrambling into Clethra in the backyard in July 2015

Adlumia fungosa is a biennial vine in the Fumariaceae, the fumewort family, or Papaveraceae, poppy family, depending on the accepted taxonomy. It can grow up to 12 feet in length by scrambling over other plants and rocks in the moist, wooded slopes it requires. Common names include allegheny vine, climbing fumitory, and mountain fringe.

Its primary native range is New England and northeastern United States. Following the mountains, its range extends as far south and west as Tennessee and North Carolina. It’s also found in scattered counties as far west as Minnesota and Iowa.

Biota of North America Program (BONAP) floristic synthesis county-level distribution map for Adlumia fungosa. In this map, yellow and light green highlights counties where specimens have been recorded. Dark green shows state-/province-level nativity.

Although not native to New York City, it is native to adjacent and nearby counties in NY, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The New York Flora Association (NYFA) Atlas lists its endangered/threatened status as as S4: Apparently secure in New York State. Other sources, including the New England Wildflower Society (NEWFS), list it as threatened or endangered throughout its range.

I’m going to try this plant on the north side of my garage. That area is consistently moist from runoff from the garage roof. There’s no slope there, but it’s densely planted with shrubs and perennials, so this plant should have lots to scramble over. If it’s really happy, there’s also the nearby arbor.

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April 2015: Native Plants Planting Plan

2015-04-26 Update: Finally finished planting everything.

Took me most of the day to figure out where all of the 63 plants I received this week are going. Better late then never.

Bog Planters

Plant in the bog planters. I’ve only seen Iris versicolor, but never grown it. The other species are new to me.

  • Geum rivale, water avens
  • Iris prismatica, slender blue flag
  • Iris versicolor, blue flag
  • Mimulus alatus, winged monkey-flower
  • Mimulus ringens, square-stemmed monkey-flower

“Wetland” area

Planted where they can benefit from runoff from the garage, bog planters, and other containers. I’ve seen Caltha, but never grown it. The others are new to me.

  • Argentina anserina, Silverweed
  • Caltha palustris, marsh marigold
  • Ludwigia alternifolia, bushy seedbox
  • Menispermum canadense, Canada moonseed
  • Mitella diphylla, two-leaved mitrewort
  • Penthorum sedoides, ditch stonecrop
  • Scirpus cyperinus, common wool-grass
  • Scutellaria lateriflora, mad-dog skullcap
  • Woodwardia areolata, netted chainfern

Front Yard “Meadow”

This is sunny to partly sunny, dry to moist. Except for the Allium, of which – I’d forgotten – I’m already growing a cultivar, all these species are new to me.

  • Allium cernuum, nodding onion
  • Asclepias verticillata, whorled milkweed. Part of my effort to increase the number of milkweed species in my garden.
  • Chelone glabra, white turtlehead, planted at the shadier end of the border.
  • Helianthus decapetalus, ten-petal sunflower
  • Liatris scariosa, Northern blazing-star
  • Oclemena acuminata, whorled wood aster
  • Parthenium integrifolium, wild quinine
  • Penstemon hirsutus, northeastern beard-tongue
  • Pycnanthemum incanum, hoary mountain-mint. This and the next species are relatives of the P. muticum, clustered mountain-mint, which is abundant in my garden and gets more pollinator visitors than any other plant. I’m growing P. virginianum elsewhere. I want to compare these species, both to be able to identify them, and to see if there are any differences in the number or species of pollinators they attract.
  • Pycnanthemum verticillata, whorled mountain-mint
  • Symphyotrichum pilosum pilosum, hairy white oldfield aster
  • Symphyotrichum prenanthoides, crookedstem aster
  • Viola palmata, early blue violet
  • Zizia aptera, heartleaf golden alexanders. Relative of the Z. aurea I already have, and which is seeding itself in my garden. I’ll also be transplanting some of these volunteers to the front yard. I want more plants from the Apiaceae as hosts for Eastern black swallowtails, in the hopes they’ll leave more of our parsley for us.

Backyard “Woodland”

Small things, planted by the Gardener’s Nook so I can keep a close eye on them this year. Some of these are favorites I’d planted in the native plant area of my first garden in the East Village.

  • Actaea pachypoda, white baneberry
  • Actaea rubra, red baneberry
  • Anemone acutiloba (Hepatica acutiloba)
  • Dicentra canadensis, squirrel corn
  • Dicentra cucullaria, dutchman’s breeches
  • Dodecathon meadia, shooting star, white- and pink-flowering forms
  • Hydrastis canadense, goldenleaf
  • Jeffersonia diphylla, twinleaf
  • Sanguinaria canadensis, bloodroot
  • Thalictrum dioicum, early meadow-rue
  • Viola affinis, sand violet
  • Viola labradorica, Labrador violet
  • Waldsteinia fragarioides, Appalachian barren strawberry

Planted in various other locations in the backyard.

  • Agrimonia striata, woodland agrimony
  • Anemone virginiana, Virginia anemone
  • Argentina anserina, silverweed
  • Arisaema draconitum, green dragon
  • Eurybia divaricata, white wood aster
  • Geum aleppicum, yellow avens
  • Geum canadense, white avens
  • Hydrophyllum virginianum, waterleaf. This turns out to be a duplicate. I thought I had killed the specimen I bought a few years, but it had just moved from its planted spot.
  • Osmunda claytoniana, interrupted fern. A favorite of mine from my first garden in the East Village.
  • Phlox divaricata ‘Blue Moon’, woodland phlox
  • Rudbeckia laciniata, cut-leaved coneflower. Another accidental duplicate. I’ve got one in the front I planted last year that I’d forgotten about.
  • Symphyotrichum laeve, smooth aster
  • Symphyotrichum novi-belgii, New York aster

Planted in the backyard along the neighbor’s fence where they can fill in and provide background for other plants in the foreground.

  • Carex lupulina, hop sedge
  • Thelypteris palustris, marsh fern

I’ve also got a few more new sedges. I planted these together near the front of the north/serviceberry bed so I can observe them closely and learn how to identify them.

  • Carex appalachica, Appalachian sedge
  • Carex grayi, Gray’s sedge
  • Carex rosea, rosy sedge, curly-styled wood sedge
  • Carex squarrosa, squarrose sedge, narrow-leaved cattail sedge

Finally, two new vines.

  • Dioscorea villosa, wild yam. Planted on our neighbor’s fence along the driveway, near the Clematis virginiana.
  • Vitis aestivalis, summer grape. Planted on an arbor between the two vegetable beds along the driveway. Don’t know if we’ll get actual grapes from this or not.

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Update 2014-11-23:

  • Completed Step #4 today, nearly injuring myself in the exertion. Did I mention that established grasses have deep and extensive roots?
  • Also completed Step #5, replacing the Panicum.
  • Added Step #9. I’d overlooked this shrub, and need to find a place where it can be featured, while still kept in bounds with the garden. I think where the Aronia once stood, a transplant I did in the Spring of this year.

Update 2014-11-10:

  • I’m taking photos as the work progresses. See Before and After below.
  • Reordered based on the progress I’m making. Because the Rhododendron is shallow-rooted, I decided to leave that until the last weekend before Thanksgiving, when I’ll visit my sister and deliver her plants.

It’s a long weekend for me. The weather favors gardening.

I’ve got seven shrubs – and one or two mature perennials – to plant, transplant, and move out. Here’s the plan.

  1. I’m moving Cornus sericea ‘Cardinal’ moving from the backyard, by the Gardener’s Nook, to the front-yard. In the winter this will look great against the red brick of the front porch.
  2. Fothergilla ‘Mount Airy’ moves from being lost beneath the Viburnum and Amelanchier to the nook, to highlight its foliage.
  3. A now-gigantic Hydrangea also came with the house. I’m moving that, as well, to my sister’s. It has to be cut back hard, so we’ll see if it survives.
  4. Next to the driveway, a large specimen of Panicum virgatum ‘Cloud Nine’ flops and blocks passage. I’m moving that to replace the Hydrangea. That spot needs height, and it can flop a little without getting out of hand. A second, smaller specimen of the Panicum is also going to my sister, to replace an ornamental grass she had in the front yard that died on her.
  5. I purchased Prunus maritima, beach plum, at this Spring’s Pinelands Preservation Alliance Native Plant Sale. This will replace the Panicum in the bed along the driveway. This will be easy to prune upright to prevent any obstruction.
  6. I purchased Rosa virginiana from Catksill Native Nursery four years ago. I’ve been growing it in container, and it’s never been happy about it; it’s never bloomed. I’m planting that in the bed next to the new location of the Panicum. It’s going in beneath a window, which I hope will dissuade burglars.

    Catskill Native Nursery
    Panorama: Catskill Native Nursery

  7. A no-name white-flowering Rhododendron came with the house. This has grown wild and rangy, and it’s large leaves are out of scale with the backyard, which is “only” 30’x30′. That’s large for an urban garden, but small for a large-leaved rhodie. I’ll move this to the woods of my sister’s place in New Jersey.
  8. I purchased a Kalmia, mountain laurel, also from the Pinelands Alliance Plant Sale and still in container. This will go where the Rhododendron is. Its finer leaf texture better fits the scale of the backyard than the rhodie.
  9. Somewhere still I need to find a place for Rhododendron periclymenoides, also purchased at the Pinelands sale. Since I saw this on a NYC Wildflwoer Week hike through Staten Island’s High Rock Park, I knew it would work beautifully in my garden. Just not quite sure where yet …

Before and After

The Gardener’s Nook, before transplant
The Gardener's Nook, pre-shrub transplant, November 2014

The Gardener’s Nook, after transplant
Fothergilla 'Mount Airy' newly planted in the Gardener's Nook, November 2014

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Flickr photo set


What’s Blooming

Updated 2014-05-11: At the request of one of my readers, I started adding photos of the flowers.
Retracted Erythronium; I checked, and its petals have fallen. Hoping for seedset; I have plenty of ants to disperse them!

My backyard native plant garden is bursting with blooms right now. This is probably the peak bloom for the year. It happens to coincide with NYC Wildflower Week, which started today and runs through Sunday, May 18.

I will double-check this list tomorrow, but I think this is what I’ve got blooming:

  1. Anemonella thalictroides
  2. Aquilegia canadensis, Eastern Red Columbine, Canadian Columbine
  3. Asarum canadense, Wild Ginger
  4. Carex, Sedge
  5. Claytonia virginica, Spring Beauty
  6. Cornus sericea ‘Cardinal’, Red-Twig Dogwood
  7. Dicentra eximia
  8. Fothergilla gardenii
  9. Fragaria virginiana, Wild Strawberry
  10. Geranium maculatum, Spotted Geranium
  11. Mertensia virginiana, Virginia Bluebells
  12. Phlox stolonifera, Creeping Phlox
  13. Photinia pyrifolia (Aronia arbutifolia) ‘Brilliantissima’, Red Chokeberry
  14. Polemonium reptans, Jacob’s Ladder
  15. Polygonatum biflorum, Solomon’s Seal
  16. Podophyllum peltatum, Mayapple
  17. Stylophorum diphyllum, Celandine Poppy
  18. Vaccinium angustifolium, Lowbush Blueberry
  19. Vaccinium corymbosum, Highbush Blueberry
  20. Viola, white-flowering and “vigorously” self-seeding, either V. canadensis or V. striata
  21. Viola sororia, Dooryard Violet, the common “weed” of gardens
  22. Trillium, unsure of species
  23. Tiarella cordifolia, Foamflower

Not all of these photos were taken this weekend, but here are some of the flowers appearing in my backyard.

Aquilegia canadensis, Eastern red columbineAsarum canadense, Wild GingerClaytonia virginica blooming in my urban backyard native plant gardenDicentra eximia 'Aurora'Phlox stolonifera

The Years Have Been Kind

This Spring has been a season of garden anniversaries for me. Six years ago, my partner and I bought our home in Flatbush. In the first month after closing, I began weeding, composting, and envisioning the gardens. Five years ago, I started this blog to document what I was doing and record my explorations.

It’s also been a season to celebrate the gardens. Last month, for New York City Wildflower Week (NYCWW), I opened my native plant garden for a garden tour for the first time. This Sunday, June 12, the gardens will be opened again, this time for the Victorian Flatbush House Tour, to benefit the Flatbush Development Corporation (FDC). And in May, I registered my garden as a Certified Wildlife Habitat (#141,173) with the National Wildlife Federation.

My original vision for the backyard native plant garden is largely realized. I’m close to completing development of the planting beds. The shrubs and perennials have grown and spread; there is little bare ground. Unlike me, the garden looks better than it did six years ago. Take a look, and let me know what you think.


By view of the garden

Entrance from the driveway.
Backyard, view along the back path
Arbor Entrance

View West, toward the back of the house.
Backyard, view toward the house
View West

View North, toward our next-door neighbor.
Backyard, view away from garage
View North

View East, toward our back neighbor.
Backyard, view away from the house
View East

View South, toward our garage. The entrance from the driveway is to the right.
Backyard, view toward the garage
View South

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My Garden


NYC Wildflower Week
Victorian Flatbush House Tour, Flatbush Development Corporation
Garden for Wildlife, National Wildlife Federation

The Plight of NYC’s Native Flora

Local ecotypes – propagated from local sources by the Staten Island Greenbelt – for sale by Oak Grove Farms (now Nature’s Healing Farm) at the Union Square Greenmarket during the first annual NYC Wildflower Week in 2008. I bought one of each; two years later, all are thriving in my backyard native plant garden.
Native Plants at Oak Grove Farms

Earlier this week, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden issued a press release summarizing findings from 20 years of research through their New York Metropolitan Flora Project (NYMF). The results are not surprising, but disheartening nevertheless:

At least 50 varieties of native plants are locally extinct or nearing elimination, say project scientists. Nuttall’s mudflower (Micranthemum micranthemoides), last collected from the region in 1918, is likely extinct throughout its former range. Scarlet Indian paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea), pennywort (Obolaria virginica), sidebells wintergreen (Orthilia secunda), and sundial lupine (Lupinus perennis) are among the wildflower species to have seriously declined in the region. Black crowberry (Empetrum nigrum) is locally extinct, without a trace of a population remaining today in the New York City metropolitan area.
– Some Plants Native to NYC Area Have Become Locally Extinct As New Flora Has Moved In, Finds Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Press Release, 2010-04-05

The story has been widely covered in blogs and other media, including New York Times Science. I’ve included the complete press release below for reference.

I first wrote about NYMF in June of 2006, shortly after I launched this blog, four years ago next month. I’ve written about native plants countless times (see: , ). I have a lifelong interest in the nature around me, especially that which is right around me, where I live. Learning about and understanding the ecosystems where I live is part of finding my place in the world. I come to feel this connection deeply. Without it, my life is impoverished, and I am lost.

The greatest threat to native plants, and the ecosystems they support, is habitat loss. The second is competition and displacement, and further habitat loss, from invasive species, whether they be insects, infectious organisms, or other plants. Roughly half of invasive plant species were deliberately introduced, through agriculture, for civil engineering purposes such as erosion control, and for horticultural purposes.

Some plants native to the region, like Britton’s violet (Viola brittoniana), are now rare in their natural habitats but thrive when brought into cultivation in the metropolitan area. Some non-native cultivated plants, such as Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii), can escape from cultivated landscapes and overrun natural areas, where they thrive and spread, crowding out more fragile plants.

Choices we make as gardeners affect the future of regional and local biodiversity. I’ve chosen to gradually transform the dust bowl that was our backyard when we moved into our home in the Spring of 2005:

Backyard, view away from garage

into a native plant garden:

After transplant
Wildflowers near the Gardener's Nook
Native Shrubs and Wildflowers

I’ve been rewarded with visits from dozens of other natives: bees and other pollinators, birds, even raccoons and opposums. (I still long for some native reptiles!) Although our local biodiversity is threatened, it is far from lost. If only we create a home for it, it can still find us.

The place name “Flatbush” originates with the old Dutch “vlacke bos”: the wooded plain. As I continue the transformation of this garden – this guided succession from dusty, barren wasteland to a small patch of forest – I am reconnecting with the genius loci, the spirit of the place. In this process, my spirit also finds a place, a home, in the woods I recreate.

Press Release

Brooklyn, NY — Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) announces findings from the most comprehensive study of plant biodiversity ever undertaken in the metropolitan New York area.

New York Metropolitan Flora Project (NYMF) data, gathered over the course of the last 20 years, provide the first hard evidence of how native species are faring—and how non-native species are spreading—in counties within a 50-mile radius of New York City. The area of study includes all of Long Island, southeastern New York State, northern New Jersey, and Fairfield County, Connecticut.

While much of the botanical science community concentrates on researching and tracking the threats to biodiversity in the tropics, scientists at BBG have chosen to undertake an unprecedented study of their own region.

At least 50 varieties of native plants are locally extinct or nearing elimination, say project scientists. Nuttall’s mudflower (Micranthemum micranthemoides), last collected from the region in 1918, is likely extinct throughout its former range. Scarlet Indian paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea), pennywort (Obolaria virginica), sidebells wintergreen (Orthilia secunda), and sundial lupine (Lupinus perennis) are among the wildflower species to have seriously declined in the region. Black crowberry (Empetrum nigrum) is locally extinct, without a trace of a population remaining today in the New York City metropolitan area.

“In many areas, the snapshot this report provides is startlingly different from the printed maps, plant manuals, and landscape shots of just 40 years ago,” says Dr. Gerry Moore, director of Science at Brooklyn Botanic Garden and coordinator of the New York Metropolitan Flora Project. “A number of invasive species introduced from distant areas that have climates similar to ours—such as parts of Asia, Europe, and the southeastern United States—are newly thriving in the New York City area. For example, camphor weed, native to the southern United States, is common in Brooklyn now; however, at the time of the Garden’s founding a century ago, it was considered to be quite rare.”

Offering a precise map of as many as 3,000 plant species, the NYMF project findings are vital reference points for those involved in environmental efforts like conserving rare plants, planning parks and greenways, repairing degraded habitats, and designing home gardens.

Although agencies and municipalities may wish to restore native species to particular habitats, the NYMF findings suggest that some native species can no longer survive in their native region. “How do you, say, restore the flora original to a coastline, when you know that the sea level is rising each year?” asks Dr. Moore.

Some plants native to the region, like Britton’s violet (Viola brittoniana), are now rare in their natural habitats but thrive when brought into cultivation in the metropolitan area. Some non-native cultivated plants, such as Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii), can escape from cultivated landscapes and overrun natural areas, where they thrive and spread, crowding out more fragile plants. Efforts are now underway to better recognize and manage for invasive plant species, which can be particularly disruptive when introduced to a new habitat due to the absence of the insects, diseases, and animals that naturally keep its population in check in its native region.

Dr. Moore notes that changes to plant biodiversity also affect insect and animal life, as well as other aspects of the local ecosystem.

The mapping phase of the NYMF project is now concluding, and steps are underway to create manuals in collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service.

“The NYMF project is a model, not only for gathering data over time, but for applying that data in a precise and visually-oriented way,” says Scot Medbury, president of Brooklyn Botanic Garden, who notes that data from the research project will be shared with Federal and State governments, as well as the New York Flora Atlas, published in partnership with the state’s Biodiversity Research Institute. “Studying the vegetation changes in highly populated areas is critical to understanding the future of biodiversity in our rapidly urbanizing world,” Medbury notes.

The study of native plants has long been a core mission at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which celebrates its centennial this year. In BBG’s early years, botanist Norman Taylor intensively studied local flora by walking nearly 2,000 miles over Long Island, mapping locations of plant families. Taylor then published a book on flora of the region, providing as clear a picture as was possible at the time of the state of native flora.

Today, many new plants are present in the area. Some have been intentionally cultivated, while others have moved here inadvertently: brought in with soil, animals or people. “NYMF has identified entire plant communities that would have been unknown to Norman Taylor and his colleagues a hundred years ago,” says Medbury.


Related Content

Local ecotypes available from Oak Grove Farms, 2008-05-11
Growing a Native Plant Garden in a Flatbush Backyard, 2007-08-06
Web Resource: New York Metropolitan Flora Project (NYMF), 2006-06-02


Some Plants Native to NYC Area Have Become Locally Extinct As New Flora Has Moved In, Press Release, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 2010-04-05

Go Native, BBG

Staten Island Greenbelt
Nature’s Healing Farm (previously Oak Grove Farms)
NYC Wildflower Week
Natural Resources Group, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation
Torrey Botanical Society

After a 20-Year Mapping Effort, Hoping to Save Dozens of Native Plants, New York Times, 2010-04-02

Monobia quadridens, Mason Wasp

Monobia quadridens, Mason Wasp, male (I think), on Aster novae-angliae ‘Chilly Winds’ in my backyard native plant garden this afternoon.
Monobia quadridens, Mason Wasp

Today was my first full day home since last Monday, and I was sick for nearly a week leading up to that. So I took advantage of the beautiful weather in NYC and got out into the garden. The weeds had gotten away from me, and I spent most of my time dealing with them, at least a little bit.

I then turned my attention to the center of activity in the backyard: the massive specimen of New England Aster that just started to bloom in my absence. It’s a selection of the species I ordered from Seneca Hill Perennials, which specializes in New York native plants, a couple years back. It didn’t do much at first. In the full sun it’s enjoyed since I had to take down the last of the weedy maples last year, it has grown to shrublike proportions – 5′ wide and high – mocking the meager 1-2′ spacing I provided between it and the plants around it. Today’s pollinator activity concentrated on just the handful of open flowers. It has hundreds of buds. When it’s in full bloom, the activity will be audible.

I was watching for bees, and there were a lot of different species visiting. This wasp was the most striking visitor. It’s Monobia quadridens, the Mason Wasp. From the antennae, I think it’s a male. Thanks to tangledbranches for the ID!

Judging from the photos on its BugGuide page alone, this is a common species with a wide distribution. It’s native to eastern North America. From a gardener’s perspective, this is a beneficial insect. It provisions its young with caterpillars in nests burrowed into the ground or bored into wood; it’s also known as a Carpenter Wasp. I’ve never noticed it before. I hope to see more of it as the Aster comes into full bloom.

Monobia quadridens, Mason Wasp Monobia quadridens, Mason Wasp Monobia quadridens, Mason Wasp

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BugGuide page

Wildflowers in a Flatbush Backyard

Last week was NYC Wildflower Week. Appropriately, here are some wildflowers blooming over the past week in my backyard native plant garden.

Wildflowers blooming near the gardener’s nook in my backyard for last May’s Garden Blogging Bloom Day.
Part of the Native Plant Garden

  • Aquilegia canadensis, Eastern Columbine
  • Chrysogonum virginianum ‘Allen Bush’, Green-and-Gold
  • Dicentra eximia ‘Aurora’, White-flowering Eastern Bleeding-Heart, Turkey Corn
  • Iris cristata, Crested Iris
  • Phlox stolonifera
  • Viola striata
  • Zizia aurea, Golden Alexanders
  • Brunnera macrophylla, Large-leaf Brunnera, Siberian Bugloss

Aquilegia canadensis, Eastern Red Columbine

Somehow, I have no photos of this from my garden in Flickr. Yet it’s been a favorite of mine for decades.

Native range is eastern North America. Widespread in New York state. Native to all five boroughs of NYC.

Aquilegia canadensis, Eastern Red Columbine, 2006-05-31


Chrysogonum virginianum ‘Allen Bush’, Green-and-Gold

Chrysogonum virginianum

A great groundcover for partial shade. Several cultivars are available. To my eye, all vary only slightly from the species, though I haven’t grown them side-by-side.

Individual flowers look like shaggy sunflowers.

Chrysogonum virginianum

Native range is Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States. Native to only one New York upstate county. Not native to NYC.


Dicentra eximia ‘Aurora’, Eastern Bleeding-Heart, Turkey Corn

Dicentra eximia 'Aurora'

A white-flowering cultivar of the native Eastern Bleeding Heart. Not every white-flowering form of a plant is successful. This is one that is equally lovely as the species, bringing its own graces to the structure of the inflorescence and individual flowers. Also a good choice for the shady white garden.

This plant is maybe three years old now. Not only has the original plant spread in size each year, this Spring I’ve noticed little seedlings cropping up around the mother plant. I’ll be curious to see how these develop, and what the flower color wil be in the children.

Dicentra eximia, Bleeding-heart, 2006-05-22
Dicentra eximia, Eastern bleeding-heart (Flickr photo set)


Iris cristata, Crested Iris

Iris cristata

Really beautiful, if a bit of a finicky grower. It seems to be at its best when grown on a slight slope with ample mulch. The stems trail through the mulch, the fans oriented down-slope. Sulks during the summer. Needs consistent moisture during the hot summer months and good drainage during the winter or it will disappear. Where it’s happy, it makes a great groundcover.

Native to Mid-Atlantic and interior Eastern United States, but not New York.


Phlox stolonifera, Creeping Phlox

Phlox stolonifera

One of the best wildflower ground covers you can grow in the garden. In the trade, you’re more likely to find cultivars selected for flower color – such as ‘Bruce’s White’ and ‘Sherwood Purple’ – rather than the unqualified species. They all seem equally fine to me. (Mine is also a cultivar, but its name escapes me at the moment.) The flowers are usually fragrant, reminiscent of grape jelly.

Native range is most of Eastern United States, but only found in two upstate New York counties, not NYC.


Viola striata, Pale Violet, Striped Cream Violet

Viola striata

The “oldest” plant in this post, this population came from my second city garden on 5th Street in Park Slope. The original plants were given to me 8-10 years ago by a gay couple who lived across the street. They have a beautiful shady backyard garden growing many wildflowers collected from their home in upstate New York.

Native to Eastern North America. Native to several counties in New York, but not NYC.


Zizia aurea, Golden Alexanders

Zizea aurea

This plant is a recent discovery for me. I had never heard of it before picking it up from Gowanus Nursery last Spring. Now I see it all over the place, and it’s a fine groundcover. You can’t see it in this photo, but the foliage is also handsome.

Native to NYC, but not Brooklyn.


Brunnera macrophylla, Large-leaf Brunnera, Siberian Bugloss

Brunnera macrophylla

Okay, Brunnera is not a native wildflower on this continent – it’s native range is Eastern Europe – but it is blooming in the backyard and it’s so pretty I had to take a picture of it. This plant is a refugee from the sideyard of Frank, a neighbor, professional gardener and fellow garden blogger at New York City Garden.



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Growing a Native Plant Garden in a Flatbush Backyard, August 6, 2007

Viburnum dentatum, Arrowwood

When we moved to our new home in Flatbush four years ago, my garden moved with me. Rather, the plants from my garden. All were planted hurriedly, with the intent of moving them “later in the season.” In some cases, “later” has become four years later. Case in point: Viburnum dentatum, Southern Arrowwood. (Some botanists recognize a separate species, V. recognitum, Northern Arrowwood, for variants with smooth twigs.)

Viburnum dentatum, before transplant

Very handsome, but not what I thought I had acquired. This individual was supposed to be V. dentatum ‘Christom’ (Blue Muffin®), a dwarf cultivar reaching 4-5 feet in height and 3-4 feet in breadth. (The species is highly variable, height can range from 3 feet up to a maximum of 15 feet.) It’s now over 6-1/2 feet high and has extended across the narrow concrete path at its feet. So I can be forgiven some poor planning on my part that the plant has far exceeded its expected bounds.

I needed to move it from this location because it was blocking the path. However, in this location it was doing an excellent job of screening some “necessaries”: cans and bins for garbage, recycling, and composting. And that suggested I could solve two problems at once by transplanting it to the backyard to screen the gardener’s nook from the street.

Folks walking by on the sidewalk get a straight view into this corner of the backyard. I want this to be an intimate, sheltered location.
View to gardener's corner

When I did the garden design for my backyard, I doubled the depth of the bed along the north edge of the property, visible on the left of the photo above and the plan below.
Final rendering, backyard garden design

Earlier this season, I executed that part of the plan. On the right, the gardener’s nook is located where the deck will extend to accommodate a bench, as shown on the upper left of the plan above.
Gardener's corner

I transplanted the Viburnum to roughly the location indicated by the shrub marked “L” in the plan. I had specified Lindera benzoin, which I don’t have, for that location, but the Arrowwood should do as well there. You can see that it does a great job of screening the view, even though it hasn’t fully leafed out yet. During the summer, the nook will now be completely shielded from the street.
View to gardener's corner, after transplant

It also dramatically changes the character of the space. Compare these before and after shots. The backyard now has a sense of enclosure it didn’t have before, even within the parts of the backyard that are not visible from the street. This validates a key strategy of the design: enclosing the space with shrubs to create the feeling of being in a woodland garden.

Before transplant, lateral view

After transplant

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Woodland Garden Design Plant List, 2009-02-18

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Viburnum dentatum

Connecticut Botanical Society

V. dentatum ‘Christom’


Woodland Garden Design Plant List

Over the weekend, my Twitter stream reflected the progress I was making on my final class project for the Urban Garden Design class with Nigel Rollings at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Despite battling a wicked head hold and racking cough, I put the finishing touches on my design late Monday night.

A cultivar of Lonicera sempervirens, the native Trumpet Honeysuckle, growing on a metal arbor at the entrance to my backyard. The specific epithet “sempervirens” refers to the evergreen, or nearly so in my Zone 7a/6b garden, foliage.
Lonicera sempervirens

In last night’s class we each presented our designs. There was a lot of warmth, humor, and enthusiasm among the class. Not to mention wine (though not for me). The night ran late, so there wasn’t time for close inspection of all the designs.

Some of my fellow students wanted more information about my plant selections. Here is the plant list, without further explanation for now, that I used in my design. Most of these are shrubs. Many of these I’ve collected over the past several years, and some are now several feet high and wide. Many, but not all, are species native to New York City. The most precious to me are those that have been propagated from NYC-local ecotypes.

This is just a candidate list, not a final one. As I mentioned in last night’s class, I’m not satisfied with the planting plan. I would like a couple more evergreen plants; I’d really like an Ilex opaca, but the native form gets too large for my site. There are many plants in this list that provide winter interest, in bark, form, berries, and so on, including some that are semi-evergreen. I want to place more vines in the design, and I already have some ideas for where to do that. And I didn’t spend much time specifying perennials. There’s still plenty of room for them in this design; there are at least a hundred to select from, and I just ran out of time to specify and draw them all.


  • Sassafras albidum, Sassafras. This would become the focal point of the garden; the design “rotates” around it. This will be a canopy tree, providing primary shade to the house and garden.
  • Amelanchier arborea, Common or Downy Serviceberry. This is an understory tree from the Rosaceae, the Rose Family, tolerant of the shade the Sassafras will provide. In my design, its placement will also grant it direct afternoon sun from the West during the summer months, which should help in fruit-set. It’s a “replacement” for the old apple tree that grew on the other side of the fence on my neighbor’s property, which they had to take down last winter. I miss that tree; it was a bird magnet. This tree is a better selection, better placed, and with fewer maintenance issues.
    All Amelanchier species, commonly known as Serviceberries, are desireable landscape trees and shrubs and provide food for wildlife, especially birds. Alternatives to A. arborea are A. canadensis, Canada or Shadblow Serviceberry, or Shadbush, or A. laevis, Allegheny or Smooth Serviceberry, which is recommended for its human-edible fruit.
  • Prunus variety. This is an existing tree, the only one remaining from the eight trees that were in the backyard when we bought the property four years ago. It’s healthy, and adds some interest to every season, so I’m happy to keep it as long as it does well. But my design doesn’t depend on it, so when the time comes and it needs to go, the design will remain whole.

Geothlypis trichas, Common Yellowthroat, one of the avian visitors to my neighbor’s apple tree which I hope will be enticed to return by the Serviceberry.
Common Yellowthroat in Apple Tree


  • Lonicera sempervirens cultivar (existing), Trumpet Honeysuckle. Semi-evergreen, twining vine. Flowers best and grows densest with full sun. Grows well, just less vigorously, in partial shade. Mine is visited by hummingbirds every year, but they always seem disappointed by it; it’s not the Hummingbird magnet I hoped it would be. I suspect I would need a local ecotype, one adapted to the phenology of hummingbird migration through this area, to attract hummingbirds well.
  • Parthenocissus quinquefolia, Virgina Creeper. deciduous vine, climbs by holdfasts to any vertical surface; can also grow as a groundcover. A native alternative to P. tricuspidata, Boston Ivy. Deciduous. Brilliant red color in the fall. Fruit are an important food source for birds.
  • Vitis labrusca, Fox Grape. Deciduous vine, climbs by tendrils. One of several native grape species, this is the source of the Concord Grape.

I also have an existing small-leaved Aristolochia, Pipevine, but I couldn’t place it yet in the new design. I want to add more vines, including the big-leaved Pipevine; I just need to think more about their placement and function.


  • Aronia arbutifolia ‘Brilliantissimum’ (existing)
  • Clethra alnifolia ‘September Beauty’ (existing)
  • Cornus sericea ‘Cardinal’ (existing)
  • Ilex verticillata cultivars, male and female (existing)
  • Juniperus horizontalis
  • Kalmia latifolia ‘Minuet’ (existing)
  • Lindera benzoin
  • Myrica pensylvanica
  • Prunus maritima
  • Rhododendron viscosum NYC-local ecotype (existing)
  • Rosa carolina (or R. virginiana)

Several shrubs I already have did not make it into this design. I’ve collected them over the years without a plan, based more on their availability and opportunity to acquire them than anything else. Unless I leave no space for people, there simply isn’t enough room for all of them in my 30’x30′ backyard, which is already quite expansive by NYC, even Brooklyn, standards. That gives me some flexibility in the planting plan, as my first choice is to go with plants I already have, but some will eventually have to live on somewhere else.


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Growing a native plant garden in a Flatbush backyard, 2007-08-06


Ilex verticillata, Wiinterberry (Flickr photo set)
Lonicera sempervirens, Trumpet Honeysuckle (Flickr photo set)

Flickr photo set of my backyard