Horticulture Supervisor, Kyle Cheesborough
The recently established meadow in Bellefontaine Cemetery’s Evergreen Meadow was seeded this past February with a mixture of native grasses and perennials. Also included are a few annual and biennial species, such as the black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta).
These short-lived plants provide quick color, to distinguish the meadow as a work-in-progress, rather than a neglected or un-mowed area. The black-eyed Susan can be expected to persist in the garden for two seasons – hence the ‘biennial’ designation – but will produce prolific seed if allowed to develop after blooming. The black-eyed Susan is a host plant for checkerspot butterflies.
Evergreen Meadow serves as the cemetery’s dedicated green burial section, and the meadow will provide a serene setting featuring native plants that will attract pollinators, birds, and other wildlife. These landscapes can take three-to-four seasons to fully develop, so be sure to plan multiple visits over the next few years to see what was once mowed turf become a beautiful, prairie-like meadow.
Another, longer-lasting species of Rudbeckia is Sullivant’s coneflower, Rudbeckia sullivantii. An excellent alternative to the oft-planted Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’, Sullivant’s coneflower does not develop the leaf spot issues of its close cousin, ‘Goldsturm’, and will not blacken or die back in late summer. Rudbeckia sullivantii is considered by some to be a naturally occurring variety of Rudbeckia fulgida, but many treat sullivantii as its own, distinct species. Sullivant’s coneflower is incredibly adaptable, taking full sun conditions in moist to dry soils, though very dry conditions may cause wilting and poor flower development. Look for blooms to form in summer and persist through fall, providing a stunning display of yellow, daisy-like flowers with dark brown central disks. Rudbeckia sullivantii provides both nectar and pollen in abundance, so expect to see a number of pollinating insects visiting the flowers.
For the wet site in the garden, false cotton (Hibiscus lasiocarpus) is an excellent performer in mid-to-late summer. A large perennial or sub-shrub, the large, white blooms feature a deep-crimson eye and last for one day. Though the blooms only last for a day, once false cotton begins to flower, numerous blooms appear each day, making for a dazzling display. Hibiscuslasiocarpus can get to six feet tall, so be sure to site it appropriately. The flowers begin to appear in mid-summer and last into early fall, giving way to brown seed capsules. A number of songbirds find the seed delectable, making false cotton a great choice for a moist site in a bird garden. The common name, false cotton, comes from the resemblance of cotton blooms, which are in the same plant family. Hibiscuslasiocarpus is very late to emerge in spring, often one of the last to poke through the soil, so be patient while waiting for it to wake from winter slumber!
compiled by Cara L. Crocker