Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sanctuary

I've seen this plant - Verbena bonariensis, Brazilian verbena or purpletop vervain - in many places, most recently at Chanticleer, but really, all over the place - and I keep meaning to get its name. Finally did, on vacation, at this most amazing place: Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary, north of Boston, run by Massachusetts Audubon Society. It's 2,265 acres, Mass Audubon's largest sanctuary - 10 miles of trails, woods, ponds and, of course, the river, which is loaded with otter, fish, turtles and other wildlife. We stood in silent awe watching several painted turtles and a few huge snappers feeding and chasing each other in a pond on a lazy sunny morning. There were but a handful of other human visitors, but this place was a human sanctuary, too. Much needed. Back at the visitors' center, we came upon this lovely, wild-looking butterfly garden, loaded up with Brazilian verbena and the predictable butterflies and bees. This plant is a self-sower, and a lot of gardeners complain about its invasiveness. Others love it, and welcome its pushy habits. I have to say, it's outstanding when mixed with butterfly bush, goldenrod and Queen Anne's lace in a smorgasbord for critters. The fields at this sanctuary were filled with more butterfly-friendly milkweed plants gone to seed. Walking through them was an experience. Cardinals and other colorful birds swooped in front of us. Bees and cicadas were humming and buzzing so loud it was smile-inducing. Imagine the sounds at night! My garden is as critter-friendly as I can make it, but I would like to get some of this verbena. It's tall, lacecap-topped, great purple color, likes heat and looks so elegant with its long, stiff stems. Hope it takes. It'll be a reminder of a pleasant interlude, a safe sanctuary, from the summer of 2009.

Sanctuary

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Rosa 'All Ablaze' blazes cherry red in Burke Brothers' Tuscany exhibit, accenting classic Italian elements with bright flowers. (Ron Tarver / Staff photographer)
Rosa 'All Ablaze' blazes cherry red in Burke Brothers' Tuscany exhibit, accenting classic Italian elements with bright flowers. (Ron Tarver / Staff photographer)

I've seen this plant - Verbena bonariensis, Brazilian verbena or purpletop vervain - in many places, most recently at Chanticleer, but really, all over the place - and I keep meaning to get its name. Finally did, on vacation, at this most amazing place: Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary, north of Boston, run by Massachusetts Audubon Society. It's 2,265 acres, Mass Audubon's largest sanctuary - 10 miles of trails, woods, ponds and, of course, the river, which is loaded with otter, fish, turtles and other wildlife. We stood in silent awe watching several painted turtles and a few huge snappers feeding and chasing each other in a pond on a lazy sunny morning. There were but a handful of other human visitors, but this place was a human sanctuary, too. Much needed. Back at the visitors' center, we came upon this lovely, wild-looking butterfly garden, loaded up with Brazilian verbena and the predictable butterflies and bees. This plant is a self-sower, and a lot of gardeners complain about its invasiveness. Others love it, and welcome its pushy habits. I have to say, it's outstanding when mixed with butterfly bush, goldenrod and Queen Anne's lace in a smorgasbord for critters. The fields at this sanctuary were filled with more butterfly-friendly milkweed plants gone to seed. Walking through them was an experience. Cardinals and other colorful birds swooped in front of us. Bees and cicadas were humming and buzzing so loud it was smile-inducing. Imagine the sounds at night! My garden is as critter-friendly as I can make it, but I would like to get some of this verbena. It's tall, lacecap-topped, great purple color, likes heat and looks so elegant with its long, stiff stems. Hope it takes. It'll be a reminder of a pleasant interlude, a safe sanctuary, from the summer of 2009.

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About this blog
Ginny Smith, a Philadelphia native, joined the Inquirer at 1985. After stints as both reporter and editor in the city and suburbs, she’s been happily writing – and learning - about gardening full time since 2006. She’s won two silver medals of achievement from the national Garden Writers Association and in 2011, Bartram’s Garden honored her with its Green Exemplar award for her stories about “the region’s deeply rooted horticultural history, cultural attractions and bountiful gardens.” She plays in her own – mostly - bountiful garden in East Falls. Reach Virginia A. at vsmith@phillynews.com .

Virginia A. Smith Inquirer Staff Writer
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