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Archive for ‘July, 2016’


Noteworthy Characteristics:

Nodding Wild Onion has erect, smooth flowering stalks that rise above the basal leaves. The stalks range in colour from light green to light red. The basal leaves are linear, flat and have parallel veins. The stalks produce nodding clusters of flowers. Although the flowers are not noticeably fragrant, the foliage, when crushed, gives off an onion-like scent. After the blooming period, the flowers give way to seed capsules.


Hardiness Zone: 4-8

Height: 1-1.5 feet; 0.3-0.45 metres

Spread: 0.25-0.5 feet; 0.08-0.15 metres

Sun: Full to part sun

Water: Medium

Wildlife: Various bees and some butterflies are attracted to the flowers of this plant.

Bloom Colour: Pink

Tolerates: Dry soil, drought

Culture: Prefers moist to average moisture soil consisting of rich loamy, rocky, or sandy soil.

Nodding Wild OnionNodding Wild Onion is a must-have for any garden. It is drought tolerant, thrives in compact soils, and grows in tidy, short clumps, making it ideal in a mixed perennial border or rock garden.

In mid-summer each clump produces several inflorescences, or scapes, topped with a nodding umbel of pale pink flowers.

Nodding Onion supports a variety of generalist pollinators including native bees.

This species is a wild relative of the culinary onions, garlic, chives, leeks and shallots.  The leaves and flowers are edible, and taste much like a green onion. They can be eaten raw, but are a bit tough unless sautéed.

Nodding Onion is rare in Ontario, growing only in alvar habitat on Pelee Island.


To inquire about availability please call 1 866 640 8733 or email sales@stwilliamsnursery.com

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This month’s Ask An Expert Question is:

“Native plants don’t seem to be as showy and colourful as the plants I see at garden centers.  Are there more colourful plants?  If so, what are they?”

Special thanks to St. Williams Nursery & Ecology Centre’s own Stefan Weber – Ecologist & Seed Lead for providing this month’s answer.

Dense Blazing StarThis is something I hear a lot. The truth is, native plants can be just as showy as horticultural varieties, however the showiest native plants tend to bloom outside of typical gardening season, May-June. Many of these are prairie  species, and have massive showy flowers, but bloom July-September.  If you’re unfamiliar with the plants, you may not ever see them bloom,  and overlook them while planning your garden in spring.

Some of my favorites are Dense Blazing Star (Liatris spicata), Grey Headed Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata), Great St. Johns Wort (Hypericum ascyron), Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis), Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa), Sullivant’s Milkweed (Asclepias sullivantii), and Swamp Rose Mallow (Hibiscus moschuetos).

Great St Johns WortSome of the most popular garden centre plants are tropical and/or annuals. The strategy of an annual plant is to “live fast, die young, leave a beautiful corpse”, so tend to flower profusely all summer until they fade. Perennials, on the other hand usually have a shorter bloom period of a few days or weeks. To achieve colour and beauty all season with native perennials, we recommend planting a wide diversity of complementary species that bloom in different seasons.

Also keep in mind that the standard horticultural varieties have been bred by humans specifically to have larger and more showy flowers, whereas wild plants have been naturally selected over time by pollinators to look the way they do.

Swamp Rose MallowSo when you look at a native plant, you’re seeing what the pollinators prefer to see. In fact, many cultivars have been altered so much, in an effort to have larger and more colourful blooms, that the flowers are no longer attractive to any pollinators, even if they are more attractive to us. Many of these varieties do not support wildlife. In a recent study on flower preferences, pollinators nearly always chose the unaltered wild-type version over the highly modified cultivar. Often the quality of nectar and pollen resources are higher in wild-type plants as well, when compared to their varietal relatives.

Butterfly Weed 1Native plants don’t really have familiar shapes and growth habits. There’s nothing quite like a Tulip, or Peony or Hosta, but using familiar design techniques can help ease into the sometimes wild shapes and habits of native plants. Try planting in groups, or series. Use pattern, repetition and contrasting leaf sizes and textures. Remember to plant for the mature size of the plant, with larger species in the back. Early bloomers can be planted closer to late bloomers; as one fades, another replaces.

Thanks for the great question!

If you would like to submit a question, please email us at info@stwilliamsnursery with the subject line: Ask An Expert or post your question to our facebook page.

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