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Posts Tagged ‘Centaurea’

I think it is time once more for a walk through some local gardens to see what’s blooming. It is still very dry here so I’ve seen a lot of wilting, but most plants seem to be holding on. I liked the pattern on this cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum ) bud that I saw in a local park. It looked almost reptilian, I thought. Cup plants are tall native perennials that can reach 8 feet. It’s called cup plant because its leaf pairs-one on each side of the square stem-are fused together and form a cup around the stem. This cup usually has water in it. Fused leaves of the cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum. ) These leaves join around a perfectly square, hollow stem.

 Cup plant flower. This plant produces resins that smell like turpentine. It was used medicinally by Native Americans.Liatris (Liatris spicata) is a native plant that I grow in my garden. When found in the wild it is often called blazing star or marsh blazing star. In my garden it is in a spot that gets hot afternoon sun and is quite dry, so I’m not sure how well it would function in a marsh. In any case, no matter what it is called, it’s a beauty.The deep magenta color of this rose campion (Lychnis coronaria) was amazing, and seemed much darker in person than it does in this photo. This plant was recorded in English gardens in the 1500s and when the English crossed the sea, so did this flower. Other common names for this old fashioned favorite include Bloody Mary, Bloody William, Dusty Miller, and Mullein Pinks. I saw this plant growing at a local farm supply store as I was driving by. Its silvery foliage really makes it stand out from other plants.Outside of the garden Centaurea (Centaurea) is known as knapweed and is detested for its invasive habit. Inside the garden it is prized for its unusual flowers and is often called perennial bachelor’s button, cornflower or star thistle. It comes in a large variety of colors including deep blues, lemon yellows, pinks, maroons, and purples.  Some are native but most originated in Europe. This is a large family of plants that contains over 300 species. This plant gets the name Centaurea from Chiron of Greek mythology, who was a half man- half horse centaur. Chiron is credited with teaching Achilles about the healing properties of herbs.It is hard to match the blue of the Balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus) in the garden. Since it is in the same family as bluebells and lobelia its beautiful color shouldn’t come as any surprise. This plant gets its common name from the way the flower buds resemble a hot air balloon before they open. Nobody seems to be able to explain exactly why the plant’s buds swell like they do, but children are fascinated by the process. This plant is all about the number 5; 5 petals, 5 stamens, and 5 stigma lobes-5 of everything. Until, that is, plant breeders got ahold of it and created a double flower, which has 10 petals and which appears in the above photo. I believe the variety is “Astra Double Blue.”All of the petals are fused together in a Balloon flower bud until they open. Balloon flower is another easy to grow perennial. I planted one many years ago and haven’t touched it since. Balloon flowers also come in purple, pink, and white.This peach colored daylily (Hemerocallis) is a welcome sight in my garden each summer. I grow several varieties of early, midseason and late daylilies so there seems to always be at least one daylily in bloom no matter what month it is. Growing globe thistle (Echinops) is another excellent way to introduce blue into the garden.  This plant will bloom for weeks and also makes an excellent cut flower. It likes full sun and doesn’t mind dry soil. Cooler night time temperatures bring out a deeper blue in the flowers. Globe thistle will readily self-seed so the spent blossoms should be cut off if more than one plant isn’t wanted.  I think their shape as well as their color adds interest to a garden. What would a perennial garden be without tall garden phlox (Phlox paniculata)? This pink one is one of several that I grow.  I have it planted under windows so its fragrance can drift into the house. Phlox is another flower of fives and has 5 fused petals, 5 sepals and 5 stamens.  It is native to the Americas and in Peru one species is known as the sacred flower of the Incas. The word “phlox” comes from the ancient Greeks and means flame. So far this season I’ve shown white, pink and yellow yarrow (Achillea millefolium,) so here is a purple one to go with them. At least, I think it is purple-it could be a deep pink. Now if only I could find a red one to show you. In Greek mythology Achilles was taught the medicinal properties of Yarrow by the centaur Chiron. (See centaurea plant above) Once he had this knowledge Achilles was able to heal his wounded soldiers, but why this plant was named for him and not Chiron is anyone’s guess.  Yarrow is a very pungent herb and if cows eat it their milk and anything made from it, such as butter or cheese, will taste like the plant. 

Black and brown eyed Susans are rudbeckias. Here is another rudbeckia, and it’s called “Autumn sun.” There is a new, cherry red rudbeckia with a brown center that I’m kind of anxious to see. It’s called “cherry brandy” and I keep hoping I’ll see it in one of the various parks that I visit but so far, I haven’t seen it. Rudbeckias are an excellent choice for the garden because they bloom in hot, dry weather when many other plants aren’t blooming.Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)  is also called yellow buttons, because that’s just what these flowers look like. Knowledge of this plant goes back a very long time; the ancient Greeks cultivated it and it has a long history of being used as an insect repellant. Recent research shows that tansy repels ticks, moths, and other insects.  This plant has also been used in the past for embalming -probably due to its strong, pungent odor more than for any other reason. Tansy was introduced from Europe and though it has escaped gardens it isn’t often seen in the wild.0 This is one view of a local park I often visit. Though there are mostly balloon flowers blooming right now you can see some yellow helianthus and white Queen Anne’s lace.

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts ~ Rachel Carson

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I thought I’d show a few more flowers that grow in my garden and also some interesting ones that I’ve found in local parks.Last year I spotted this meadow rue (Thalictrum aquilegiifolium) at a small greenhouse in Northfield, Massachusetts. The owner said they didn’t have any for sale right then. He must have sensed that I was disappointed, because he divided one of his own and gave me a piece of it. What you see above is why I wanted it-such an unusual flower and quite larger and more colorful than the meadow rue I find growing wild. This plant is very unusual in that it doesn’t have a flower petal on it. The flowers in the photo are made up completely of male stamens. I grow this in my back yard in front of an old piece of picket fence because it gets so tall that I was afraid I might have to tie it to something. Butterflies love this plant. I know-it has been done to death and has become a cliché but this pink rose grows next to the meadow rue and it had just stopped raining when I took the picture. Here is the same rose fully opened on a drier day. This goat’s beard (Aruncus dioicus ) grows in a shady corner of my yard.  This plant was just planted last year so it hasn’t reached full size yet. When it does it will be a large, 3-5 foot tall mound with feathery white blossoms reaching up above the leaves. This is another unusual native plant that should be used in gardens more than it is, because it does well in shade. Insects swarm over it. The rhododendrons have come and gone quickly. I saw this white one in a local park and went back a week later to find it without a blossom on it. I think the early heat made short work of flowers that usually appear when it’s cool.Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) is an evergreen plant that many believe is in the rhododendron family, but it is actually more closely related to blueberries than rhododendrons. Though I saw this one in a park Mountain laurel is native to the east coast and soon the woods will be full of their white, pink or red blossoms. If you look at the back of a mountain laurel blossom you can see 10 depressions or pockets that the flower’s 10 anthers bend over and fit into. When a pollinator lands on the flower the anthers spring out of their pockets and bang against the insect, dusting it with pollen. This plant is extremely toxic and has killed livestock. The leaves are said to have been used by Native Americans wishing to destroy themselves. This plant is also called Lambkill, Spoonwood, and Calico bush. This plant goes by many common names but I’ve always called it peached leaved bluebells (Campanula persicifolia) which comes from its leaves resembling those of the peach tree. It is very easy to grow-literally a “plant it and forget it” perennial. I planted one in my garden years ago and not only is it still growing, but many seedlings from it are also growing all over the property. I usually give several away each summer to family and friends, but I’ve given it to so many people that now they say “no more.” It’s a good choice for someone just starting a garden.This is a very unusual plant that is seldom seen in the garden. So unusual in fact that I don’t think it has a common name. Its scientific name is Rogersia pinnata, variety “Elegans.” This plant likes it moist and shady but will grow in sunnier spots if it is given plenty of water. it is useful around ponds and other garden water features. I took this photo on May 27th just after it began to bud so as to show the unusual leaves.  The leaves turn a beautiful red / bronze in the fall.Here is the flower of Rogersia pinnata. It is quite tall-about chest height-and the plant is close to 2 feet across, so it needs plenty of room. The one shown here grows in the shade of trees in a local park.The feathery petals of the perennial bachelor’s button (Centaurea montana) add interest to a garden. This is another plant that is very easy to grow. It prefers full sun but can stand partial shade. These plants self-seed easily and before long will have spread to all beds in the garden.  Deadheading will prevent this, or any other plant, from self-seeding. Some call this perennial cornflower.  Another plant that isn’t often seen is the penstemon (Penstemon digitalis) or beardtongue. I grow the variety pictured, called “husker red,” more for its deep maroon leaves than the flowers. This is yet another plant that is very easy to grow. The one pictured here grows in a park, but I planted it at home years ago and have done virtually nothing to it since, other than keeping the bed it grows in weeded. It likes full sun and dry soil. Hybrid cultivars like husker red were developed from the native penstemon. This bearded iris is so old that it has no common name. It is one of the plants that live far back in my earliest memories because it always grew on a corner of our lawn when I was a boy. It is a tough plant-quite often in winter the snow plows would tear it out of the ground and in spring my father (after considerable grumbling) would stuff it back into its hole and stomp on it a couple of times. (My dad wasn’t known for his gardening abilities!) After a short recovery period it would grow and bloom as if it had never been touched.  The one in the photo grows at my house now and isn’t near enough to the road or driveway to be plowed up. Many years ago a lady I gardened for gave me a sucker from her mock orange (Philadelphus.) I plunked it down in the shade near the outside faucet when I got it home, thinking I could keep it watered easily until I found a place to plant it. Well, I never did find a place to plant it until last year, when I rolled the 12 foot tall, 6 foot wide plant onto a tarp and dragged it across the lawn to its new home. Whew-was that heavy! But it was worth it because now it can be seen from several locations both inside and out, and this year is blooming better than it ever has. Mock orange is one of our most fragrant shrubs, and its citrus-spice fragrance can’t be matched. It is a great choice for someone who doesn’t want to fuss with their shrubs. When I was a boy we had a hedge of pink / purple Rugosa roses which were so fragrant that you almost couldn’t stand it because they were all you could smell for weeks. Scents can be very powerful things and can evoke strong memories; even more so than sight or sound. This is called involuntary memory, or the Proust effect.  I now have white rugosa roses growing outside my office and when I open the windows memories come floating in with the scent and transport me back in time to a place where life went by at a much slower pace and summers seemed to go on forever.

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order~ John Burroughs

I hope you enjoyed seeing a few flowers that grow in gardens for a change of pace. Thanks for stopping by.

 

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