As I discussed in Adventures in Creating a Native Garden back in June 2013, Id planted some rayless sunflowers (Helianthus radula) as part of the native garden. Now that they are blooming, I have to say that Im a bit underwhelmed. Their beauty is too subtle to enjoy from afar and they do not stand out in this bed.
I do like the look of this native bed in this fall. The Elliots love grasses (Eragrostis elliottii) have filled in, blue curls (Trichostema dichotomum) are dazzling in the mornings and the volunteer goldenrods (Solidago spp.) provide an excellent backdrop.
The Florida flame azaleas (Rhododendron austrinum) that had six-inch root balls did not do well. I watered them extensively for several weeks, but then we were away during the heat of the summer. Id hoped that the summer rains and our area-wide irrigation would keep them going, but one is dead and the other may make it, but its lost all its leaves and has leafed out again on some of the branches. So Ill try again with a native azalea or two later this fall.
Rayless sunflower (Helianthus radula) is unique among Floridas many sunflower species because its missing the showy ray florets that look like petals. While these flower heads may not be especially attractive to us, you will find that they are attractive to butterflies, native bees, and other pollinators. To them, nectar is much more attractive than physical beauty. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Rayless sunflower occurs throughout Florida in a wide diversity of habitat types; from well-drained sandy uplands to seasonally wet pine flatwoods and savannahs. They do best in open areas with ample sunlight.
In addition to Florida, the rayless sunflower is also native from South Carolina to Louisiana. So if you garden in the deep south, add these carefree pollinator plants to your native garden spaces.
Be sure to visit my June post, Adventures in Creating a Native Garden, for how I removed a 12 x 14 foot section of lawn to build this beautiful and effective pollinator garden. But of course, the pollinators dont care if I think its beautiful; from their compound eyes it is.
Fall is a great time for gardening projects like removing lawn, so what are you waiting for?
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