Wild Plants in Urban Landscapes
It's testimony to the resiliency of nature that even in the most urbanized environments, plants spring up in the smallest of nooks and crannies. Many are named as weeds, but even these can be appreciated for the life they add to landscapes of concrete and asphalt. For those who'd like to identify and learn more about these sturdy plants, Peter Del Tredici of the Arnold Arboretum in Boston has written Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast: a field guide (Cornell University Press, 2010, $29.95). Well illustrated with photographs both of plant parts and plants in the city landscape, along with descriptions that include information on their ecological functions and cultural significance, this guide will help urban explorers gain a new perspective on the natural world around them.
Favorite or New Plant
'Henry Eilers' Sweet Coneflower
I'm always on the lookout for easy-care, late blooming plants. One of the newest to my garden and already one of my favorites, Rudbeckia subtomentosa 'Henry Eilers,' also called sweet coneflower, is a native plant with flowers that set it apart from the many fall "daisies." Looking like something out of a Dr. Seuss illustration (one catalog describes them as "asterisks"), its 2-inch wide blossoms consist of rolled, quill-like petals in a distinctive, dusty yellow with a brown eye. Hardy in zones 4-8, sweet coneflower reaches 4-5 feet tall on sturdy stems that don't need staking. This prairie plant does best in full sun and average soil and is drought-tolerant once established. My plant began blooming in mid-August, complementing a nearby mahogany red helenium; soon the blue Aster laevis 'Bluebird' will add to the picture. I can't wait!