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April 22, 2017

Saturday Gardening Thread: Bloomin' Mysteries [KT]


Clue to Mystery Flower #1 is The Platypus.

Animal: Wide bill. Plant: Wide ____.

Happy Saturday, gardeners and garden watchers! Today, we have three mystery flowers plus additional content! Only the most nerdish gardeners in The Horde are expected to come up with the correct species identification for our first mystery today without looking it up. I do not know the identity of our second Mystery Flower. Maybe together we can figure out what it is.

Garden Photos by the Horde

California Girl's Mystery Flower #1

Just by looking, do you know the species name of this flower? It was photographed in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where it gets really, really cold in winter. Note the happy bee:

I like taking photos of flowers, but I rarely know what kind of flower it is. I took a trip to Nebraska , Colorado , and Wyoming and have lots of photos of plants. This particular flower was in front of a lovely Catholic church.

balloon 2.jpg

The species grows on grassy hillsides and mountainsides in Japan, China, Siberia and Korea. The Japanese have been breeding garden forms for a long time. I'm not wild about the double ones. Though some of the semi-doubles are interesting. I guess I'm not the only one who feels that way. Sakata may have dropped their Astra doubles for semi-doubles (and singles). 'Sentimental Blue' (next page) is a genetic dwarf, even shorter than the Astra series.

I like the pink ones, including the compact Astra Pink, in this video. The one below is 'Fuji Pink', which is taller (and apparently grows in Canada).

fuki pink.jpg

This plant seems to bring out either whimsy or a little bit of obsession in some people. A European site is dedicated to basic information about this genus. There is an unusually single-minded video by Frau-Doktor about white balloon flowers at the link.

Donkeys do not make the best assistants when planting balloon flowers. Incidentally Rabbits eat them, too. This makes me skeptical of reports that they are deer-resistant. Gophers love the fleshy roots.

Speaking of whimsy, the cultivars 'Misato Purple' and 'Komachi' retain the hot air balloon shape (seen in the buds of most cultivars) as the flower matures.

The most exotic Balloon Flower yet, Komachi resembles a mass of blue umbrellas seen from above, something like Renoir's famous painting Les Parapluies.


These plants are pretty tough as long as they get good drainage. They have a long, fleshy taproot and resent transplanting once established, but are generally long-lived. They are usually propagated by seed rather than by division, an indication that the plants do not have invasive roots.

Balloon flowers have a very wide climate range, though the dwarf ones may not be quite as tough as the tall ones. They can be grown as winter annuals in the low desert, though. The dwarf ones are marketed as annuals everywhere. Maybe partly because people accidentially dig them up in spring because the plants emerge late after dormancy. Any ideas on how to mark where you planted balloon flowers to avoid accidentally digging them up in spring?

As an indication of how tough Balloon Flowers are, one blogger moved some seedlings from Illinois to Austin, Texas, where she grew 'White Fuji' and a lavender-blue cultivar called 'Miss Tilly' in her flower borders. You can keep a balloon flower blooming for a couple of months by deadheading. Don't cut the entire flower stems down.

California Girl's Mystery Flower #2

This is what's blooming now. I have no idea what it is, but it's been here for almost 20 years. It grows in my front flowerbed, in the one sunny corner away from the shade trees.

cg mystery.jpg

Can you identify this flower?

Illiniwek's Mystery Flower

Remember the lovely photo last week of Illiniwek's pond in spring? Here's a different view in the fall.

These are the mystery yellow flowers that bloom for a week or two in fall. They came up volunteer and dominate the pond edge, except for the cattails. Not bad but I'd like some variety, and color the rest of the year.

mystery f.png

Illiniwek's Pond in Autumn

They looked nearly like some perennial I had in the garden, and I wondered if I got some wild cross. But they are nice.


Mystery Flower at the Edge of the Pond

At first, I thought the Mystery Flower might be a Coreopsis. Bet that's the perennial that was in Illiniwek's garden. Many garden cultivars have a heritage in America's wild lands. A good topic for a little later. I thought about some other possibilities, too.

But now I am pretty sure that the Mystery Flower is Helenium autumnale. It grows throughout Illinois in wet places. Illiniwek's flowers have a shorter cone and shorter petals than the one pictured at the link, but the same gaps between the petals and serrated or scalloped petal tips. Leaves are similar.

The genus Helenium contains upwards of 40 perennial and annual species, all of them native to the New World; only a handful, however, have made the leap from the wild to the garden. . . . Of these 40, the most important is the highly variable perennial H. autumnale, an inhabitant of moist soils over a huge stretch of North America, from Quebec to British Columbia and from Florida to Arizona. Growing anywhere from two to five feet, it bears narrow, toothed leaves and one- to two-inch-wide deep yellow flowers. Its horticultural significance derives not from its own fairly modest charms, but rather from its status as the primary ancestor of the dozens of opulent hybrids currently available. . .

Though many are cross-species hybrids, these plants are often still sold as H. autumnale. The garden forms generally bloom longer than the species. They generally come in shades of yellow, copper, rust and red. I like the yellow ones. There is a fine tall yellow called 'Butterpat'. Here's a new one called 'Double Trouble.' It is reportedly not as attractive to insects than the singles, because it produces less pollen.


More nice photos at the link

If you scroll down at the link above, there is a photo of 'The Bishop', another yellow bred from a Western native, H. bigelovii. It blooms earlier than most cultivars. Starting in June in Portland. It may not be as hardy as some of the others. Some of the earlier-blooming hybrids will re-bloom if deadheaded or sheared after bloom.

Helenium was named after Helen of Troy, the most famous adulteress in history. The legend is that the flowers sprung up where her tears fell. Though it is news to me that she ever got to the New World.


Anybody seen this movie?

The plant is toxic to livestock, but normally they won't eat it unless it is chopped up with other plants. One common name is "Sneezeweed", from the plant's former use as snuff. You can decide for yourself if pioneers used it to induce sneezing or Native Americans used it to expel evil spirits.

I am not real wild about some of the bicolors. I do think this example of "Red Shades" is quite fetching:

helenium r.jpeg

There is a new "Mariachi Series" - compact plants bred in the Netherlands. "Mariachi", "Compact" and "Netherlands" just don't go together in my mind, but that's marketing. A deep red one is called 'Ranchera'. It is bluer than the type in the photo above, without that thin yellow edge. The pure yellow one is called 'Sombrero'. Scroll down at the link to see other Helenium cultivars with different petal and cone colors.


Mariachi 'Salsa' (left front)

An enthusiast in the UK has put together a nice website on Helenium with information on wild forms and named cultivars. There is a (relatively) complete list of cultivars. The site includes nice details like when different cultivars flower. In the "History" section, there is some information on a German breeder who emphasized heat and drought tolerant cultivars. Not that any of them are "xeric" plants. I like the one at the bottom right, Feuersiegel.


Four relatively heat and drought tolerant selections

You can also grow Helen's Flower from seed. Strains include 'Sunshine Hybrid', and 'Helena'. There is also a generic 'Red Shades'. They need light to germinate, so they are surface-sown or barely covered. They may bloom the first year if started early.

Gardens of The Horde

Cthulhu sends in a great tip to go with last week's segment on Wisterias:

Wisteria are deciduous. It's tempting to fertilize them in Spring when their sap rises and they start to bud. Never do this -- for both Chinese (bloom, then leaf) and Japanese (leaf, then bloom) wisterias, any nitrogen fertilizer before the bloom is done will swamp the blossoms with leaves. Your vines will look lush and green and vigorous, but there's plenty of time for that without the blossoms.

Absolutely true. In fact, if the plant is too happy growing leaves, it might not even blossom at all for several years. Some people go to the drastic step of root-pruning to scare their plants into blooming.

And you may not want to encourage the "swamping" tendencies of wisteria by fertilizing with nitrogen. If properly inoculated, a Wisteria can produce some of its own nitrogen. Once again, be careful growing Wisteria on a building. Here's a blogger fascinated by Wisteria's stranglehold on a dead conifer.


Things are happening in colder-winter areas now. Duke Lowell, in Northern Illinois, sent in photos of his magnolia:

. . . the color isn't as bright this year. Maybe the warm up and then subsequent freezes? Here is the tree as well as close up of the blooms. Usually it's much brighter.

redbud pear.JPG


That tree is beautifully shaped. And the setting is wonderful. It is hard to say what the color of the blossoms is "supposed" to be, because there are so many hardy deciduous hybrids available. I like the coloration of the blossoms up close, though.

Has anybody else seen faded blossom color on a magnolia this year? I wouldn't be surprized if warm weather followed by freezes could have an effect. I saw photos of one magnolia with blossoms marked in pink when it first bloomed (before leaves opened), but then with almost white blossoms during a second bloom (a sparser bloom, with leaves). The blossoms from the first bloom had been shredded by a storm.

CBD sent along America's Ten Best Spots for Viewing Wildflowers. They're not all in the West. And some of the flowers are on shrubs. Up for a trip? Already been on a trip? We will be discussing more American wildflowers in the future. Including some shrubs, perennials and annuals currently being grown by members of The Horde. (Thinking of you, Kindltot).

We have had great weather for gardening in the San Joaquin Valley - sun some days, a little rain others. A little too much wind a couple of days. We finished a major clean-up project this week and are ready to turn more attention to our plants. Bought some Cosmos and Dianthus this week. The Dianthus is deep red, complementing my Roger's Delight Geranium (well, O.K., Pelargonium), which has scented leaves and medium-sized Martha Washington-type blooms. It is the oldest plant I have.

Got our first three ripe SunSugar cherry tomatoes. Delish. The Garden Kitties brought us parts of a giant rat and a big gopher. Not appetizing at all.

Anything going on in your garden? Hope you get a chance to spend some time outdoors this week.

If you would like to send information and/or photos for the Saturday Gardening Thread, the address is:

at g mail dot com

Include your nic unless you want to be a lurker.

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posted by Open Blogger at 12:07 PM

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