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Prairie Wildflowers for Twilights, Butterflies, & More!

Black Swallowtail relishing Phlox blossoms in the cottage garden

Prairies are filled with forbs of all heights and colors. Grasses, sedges and rushes intermingled with forbs make an exquisite mosaic of colors and textures in a prairie.

Replication of a prairie design in a garden is rather easy, given how many new varieties of forbs are in the market. A cottage garden filled with forbs (wildflowers), a painters dream pallet of colors, free form, mixed textures and colors, is a true magnet for pollinators and also one that easily transforms summer twilights into something magical.

"The word 'forb' is derived from Greek phorbḗ, meaning 'pasture' or 'fodder.' In addition to its use in ecology, the term 'forb' may be used for subdividing popular guides to wildflowers, distinguishing them from other categories such as grasses, sedges, shrubs, and trees. Some examples of forbs are clovers, sunflowers, daylilies, and milkweed."

Three of my favorite and most recommended wildflower forbs are: Verbena, Joe Pye Weed and Helianthus (sunflowers). Many wildflowers have varieties that are well adapted to a cottage garden. One of the new award-winning Verbena varieties blooming by the visitor center at London Town currently, comes from the prestigious AAS (All American Select) seed collection. Verbena bonariensis 'Vanity' is deep purplish-blue flower, compact enough for a cottage garden.

Verbena bonariensis 'Vanity'

"Vanity prides itself on performing well in hot dry conditions while remaining a showy garden plant. Vanity is also the recipient of the Fleuroselect Gold Medal award for performance in European trials"

Yellow Swallow Tail and Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium fistulosum) painting a 'prairie' prefect picture!

Joe Pye Weed is another stunning plant that attracts a variety of pollinators but is also a must for all cottage gardens, given its color contrast and height. Blooming currently in the ornamental and rain garden at London Town, Joe Pye Weed is attracting butterflies and bees all summer.

Ever wondered where the name 'Joe Pye' came from? "One enduring legend is that this plant was named for Joe Pye, a tribal herbalist who befriended New England settlers and shared his knowledge of herbal medicines with them. He became famous for using his weed to treat typhoid fever."

Between the colors of purplish-blue tones of Joe Pye Weed and Verbena, add some white and blue phlox and you have a prairie forb trio to cherish all summer long! Great contrast of height, complementary tones and these three are some of the best pollinator magnets.

Wildflowers planted in a garden paint a natural picture of a woodland prairie grassland instantly. It is good for the butterflies, very good for the environment and simply splendid for the garden soul!

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