Category Archives: Flowers

Plants I Like

From Ancient Egypt

King Tut is alive and well, very well in fact. I’ll cut to the chase: This particular King Tut is a variety of papyrus (Cyperus papyrus) that I planted a year ago in spring. Papyrus doesn’t tolerate temperatures down to freezing, so this far north King Tut is billed as an annual. But rather than let the King die in winter, I was so smitten by him that in autumn I moved him in his pot indoors to a sunny window. There he clung to life and, with warm, sunny weather, got growing again this past spring.

In contrast to regular papyrus, which grows 5 to 9 feet tall, King Tut’s claim to fame is that he’s a dwarf, billed as rising 4 to 6 feet high. My King Tut only gets about 3 feet high. All papyrus have a very distinctive and attractive appearance. The base of the …

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In the Wild

Row, Row, Row My Boat, and Then!

Paddling down a creek — Black Creek in Ulster County, New York — yesterday evening, I was again awed at Mother Nature’s skillful hand with plants. The narrow channel through high grasses bordered along water’s edge was pretty enough. The visual transition from spiky grasses to the placid water surface was softened by pickerelweeds’ (Pontederia cordata) wider foliage up through which rose stalks of blue flowers. Where the channel broadened, flat, green pads of yellow water lotus (Nelumbo lutea) floated on the surface. Night’s approach closed the blossoms, held above the pads on half-foot high stalks, but the flowers’ buttery yellow petals still managed to peek out.

Soon I came upon the real show, as far as I was concerned: fire engine red blossoms of cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis). Coming upon this flower in the wild is startling. Such a red flower in such shade?

So …

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Immigrants Welcomed

Sad to See This One Leave, ‘Til Next Year

“So sad,” to quote our current president (not a president known, so far at least, for his eloquence). But I’m not sliding over into political commentary. I use to that pithy quote in reference to the fleeting glory of Rose d’Ipsahan.

A little background: Rose d’Ipsahan was given to me many years ago by a local herbalist under the name of Rose de Rescht, which it soon became evident it was not. Descriptions of Rose de Rescht tell how it blossoms repeatedly through the season; not my rose. I finally honed down my rose’s identity from among the choices suggested by a number of rose experts based on photos and descriptions I had sent them.

Under any name, Rose d’Ipsahan would be my favorite rose. Without any sort of protection, it’s never suffered any damage from winter cold. Insect and disease pests do it …

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Invaders

Dare I Speak the Name?

As I was bicycling down the rail trail that runs past my back yard, I was almost bowled over by a most delectable aroma wafting from a most despised plants. The plants were autumn olives (Elaeagnus umbellata), shrubs whose fine qualities I’m reluctant to mention for fear of eliciting scorn from you knowledgable readers.

Yet, you’ve got to admit that the plant does have its assets, in addition to the sweet perfume of its flowers. Okay, here goes: The plant is decorative, with silvery leaves that are almost white on their undersides. And the masses of small fruits dress up the stems as they turn silver-flecked red (yellow, in some varieties) in late summer. Those fruits are very puckery until a little after they turn red, but then become quite delicious, and healthful.

(I included autumn olive in my book Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden, and also planted …

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Doing Good with Saw and Lopper

Fruitful Pruning

To begin, I gave the bush in front of me a once over, eyeing it from top to bottom and assuring it that the next few minutes would be all to its good. It was time for my blueberries’ annual pruning, the goals of which were to keep them youthful (the stems, at least), fecund, and healthy.

Blueberries galore

I peered in at the base of the plant, eyeing now the thickest stems. Blueberry bushes bear best on stems up to 6 years old, so the next move was to lop or saw any of these stems — usually only 3 or 4 of them, more on a neglected plant — as low as possible.

Sammy & me, pruning blueberries

To keep track of the ages of individual stems, I mark off the age of them each year with a Sharpie. Just kidding! The thickest ones are the oldest ones, and …

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Warm, Spring Weather is Coming

Poppies in Snow

Snow today (March 7) — a perfect time to plant seeds outdoors. Yes, really!
Obviously, not just any seed can be sown in snow. The ground is still frozen solid so I can’t easily cover seeds with soil. And cold temperatures are going to rot most seeds before the weather warms enough for them to germinate and grow.

I’m planting poppy seeds. It does seem harsh to sow a flower whose seeds are hardly finer than dust and whose petals are as delicate as fairy shawls. But early sowing is a must, because poppy seedlings thrive during the cool, moist weather of early spring. Covering the seeds with soil? No problem: Poppy seeds sprout best left uncovered. And because poppies don’t transplant well, their seeds are best sown right where the flowers are going to grow.

I’ll be sowing annual poppies, whose petals and leaves are more delicate than those …

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This Bud’s for You

 

Swelling Buds

What an exciting time of year! After a spate of 50 plus degree temperatures, lawn grass — bare now although it could be buried a foot deep in snow by the time you read this — has turned a slightly more vibrant shade of green. Like a developing photographic film (remember film?), the balsam fir, arborvitae, and hemlock trees I’m looking at outside my window, have also greened up a bit more.

Going outside to peer more closely at trees and shrubs reveals the slightest swelling of their buds. Earlier in winter, no amount of warmth could have caused this. As a cold weather survival mechanism, hardy trees and shrubs are “smart” enough to know to stay dormant until warm weather signals that it’s safe for tender young sprouts and flowers to emerge.

These plants stay asleep until they’ve experienced a certain number of hours of cool temperatures, the amount varying …

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Valentinic Communiqués

Be Careful What You Say/Send/Deliver

As you look online or peruse the seed and nursery catalogues that turn up in your mailbox, take note of those flowers that you might need to grow and preserve for the purpose of delivering messages for Valentines Day next year. For this year, fresh flowers from a florist will do. The Household Guide, or Practical Helps for Every Home (including Home Remedies for Man and Beast) written by Professor B. G. Jefferis, M.D., Ph.D. in 1893 serves as my reference on the language of flowers.

“Say it with flowers,” suggests the florist of today. Before presenting flowers, make sure you know what you are saying?

Everyone knows that a rose represents an expression of romantic love. But watch out! According to my little book, you had better heed what kind of rose you pull out from behind your back to present to the one you love. In …

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Orchid Intimidation

Fear Not

I used to find orchids intimidating to grow. Their dust-sized seeds are fairly unique in not having any food reserves so — in the wild, at least — need the help of a fungus partner to get growing. And some orchids (epiphytes) spend their lives nestled in trees so need a special potting mix when grown in a pot. Orchids have above-ground structures called pseudobulbs. And many, especially those that call humid, tropical forests their homes, demand exacting environmental conditions that are very different from that found in most homes. Whew!

So I steered clear of growing any orchid for many years — until a local orchid enthusiast gave me a plant. After a couple of years, that plant, around this time of year, sent up a slender stalk which was soon punctuated with eight waxy, white flowers, each an inch across. For two months, those flowers greeted me each …

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An Early Spring

It could be spring. Now. Indoors, with the sweet fragrance from a flowerpot of pastel colored hyacinths and other spring-flowering bulbs. All it takes is a little bit of trickery. The bulbs don’t have to wait till spring.

Knowing what a bulb is helps understand the trickery. But first: All that we commonly call a “bulb” is not, in fact, a bulb botanically speaking. To conjure up an image of a true bulb, picture a stem that’s been telescoped down from a couple of feet or more long to a fraction of an inch. All the leaves on that bulb also move down and closer together. The leaves, except the innermost ones, are thick and juicy, the better to store both moisture and food reserves. Near the center of the bulb is a sleeping flower bud.

Hyacinths, daffodils, and tulips are true bulbs.

Though often called a bulb, crocus is an example of …

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