September 11, 2018
Posted in Meadowbrook Farm on September 10, 2018
By Jenny Rose Carey, Senior Director, PHS Meadowbrook Farm
The garden at PHS Meadowbrook Farm in Abington Township, Pennsylvania is full and colorful in the late summer, especially this year with the copious amount of rain that we have had. The plants that I am featuring this month are personal favorites that are native to the East Coast: two species of perennial Lobelias and the Franklinia tree.
Brighten Your Garden
Lobelia siphilitica and Lobelia cardinalis are two upright plants with bright flowers in the late summer garden. They are both native to Eastern and Midwestern North America and are found in nature in moist to wet spots lining streambanks – so site them at the bottom of a slope, near a birdbath, rain barrel or in a rain garden.
Not surprisingly, Lobelia cardinalis usually has bright cardinal red flowers that are a favorite of hummingbirds, although there are some cultivars with white or purple flowers. I was standing by a patch of this Lobelia the other day and a hummingbird came and drank the nectar from every flower on the stem. It was so close I could have reached out to touch it.
Lobelia siphilitica is usually a sky-blue color, but occasionally white. This plant tends to seed around quite profusely, but it is a welcome vertical accent in the late summer garden. It is a great cut flower for arrangements. Pair it with zinnias in a vase and with Begonia grandis – the perennial begonia – in a partly shaded situation in the garden.
The Ben Franklin Connection
The tree that draws most attention at this time of year in the gardens at Meadowbrook Farm is the Franklinia alatamaha or Franklin Tree, named after Benjamin Franklin by William Bartram of Bartram’s Garden. Originally found on a collecting trip in the late 1700s in Georgia by John and William Bartram, it is now extinct in the wild. It is not known how old our tree is, but it is thought to be at least 40 years old and it is about 30 feet tall. The tree is perfectly situated to the right of the driveway in part shade and well-drained soil.
Franklinia has flowers that resemble a rather pretty fried egg. The central yellow cluster of stamens is surrounded by five slightly cupped white petals. There is a soft fragrance to the flower and it is attractive to swallowtail butterflies. In the next few weeks the leaves will begin to turn a bright red and sometimes purple to add yet another season of interest to this fabulous tree. Grow one of these to become part of the Philadelphia horticultural legacy.
PHS Meadowbrook Farm is open Wednesday to Saturday, 12 to 6 p.m., and until dusk on Thursdays, through September 29. View the calendar of events.