Friday’s Flower: Jack in the Pulpit

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The woodlands produce many interesting and unusual plants.  Due to the lack of sun, the flowers are often small or drab in color.

 The Jack in the Pulpit has some unusual-looking flowers that you might walk by without noticing.

 The flower consists of an upright trumpet-shaped flower topped with a “hood.”  Inside the flower is a spadix or floral spike that stands tall.  Altogether, it resembles a religious figure about to give a sermon while standing at it’s pulpit.

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 The flower is usually green and sometimes has maroon stripes inside.   After blooming, it produces a clump of scarlet berries.  Keep in mind that the berries are poisonous.

 The leaves could be mistaken for poison ivy – if it grew in an upright fashion.

 This is definitely a plant to consider for your shade or woodland garden.


Friday's Flower: Ghost Lamium

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If you’re looking for a striking and hardy groundcover, then you should take a look at Lamium.  This evergreen perennial has lovely variegated heart-shaped leaves.

 Deer and most other herbivores will ignore this plant, making it even more desirable. 

 As with other Lamiums, the Ghost Lamium  prefers somewhat shady, dry conditions.  It produces blossoms beginning in the spring and continuing throughout the summer months.

 Its draping habit also makes it great for containers.

 It grows to be about a foot tall and spreads to be 1-2’ across.

 Keep an eye on this plant as it can travel to places where you may not want it.  If it gets into your lawn, it will return after you mow it down. 


Friday's Flower: Baptista

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False Indigo is a great go-to plant.  Not only is it extremely hardy but it makes a striking backdrop for your garden.

The flowers grow on spikes similar to the Lupine plant, reaching up to 4’ in height from the mounded plant.  The seed pods give added interest through the fall and winter, hovering over the darkened foliage.

While we usually think of indigo with blue flowers, Baptista varieties also produce flowers of purple, yellow and white.  Both Native Americans and colonists used the flowers were used to dye fabric.

They are resistant to diseases, pests and deer too!

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Friday's Flower: Rose Campion

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Rose Campion is something special.  Between its fuzzy silvery foliage and striking magenta blossoms, it’s a true standout in the garden, adding color and texture whether or not it’s in bloom.

 This is a fairly easy plant to grow as it likes dry, poor alkaline soil.  It is also hardy up to zone 4.

 They bloom best in their second year and after that, the flowers become sparser but they make up for it by reseeding themselves every year so you always have a new crop on its way.  At the end of the blooming season, remove any mulch so the seeds will hit the ground as they drop.

 With regular deadheading, you’ll have a long crop of flowers – from May to July – but don’t forget to let those late season blossoms go to seed for next year.

 In olden days, the leaves were used as wicks for oil lamps in their native regions around the Mediterranean Sea. 

 The plants can grow up to 3’ tall and up to 1.5’ across.    They are deer-resistant and generally insect- and disease-resistant also.

 If you’d like some variation in color, varieties are available with solid white flowers or white with pink centers.

 Bring this little plant into your life for some bright color and beauty.

Friday's Flower: Irish Eyes Black-Eyed Susan

If you like something a little different, take a look at this green-eyed beauty. 

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Like other Rudbeckia Irish Eyes is a daisy with yellow-orange petals and a cone-shaped center, but unlike most of them this flower has a green center.  It is a striking compliment to other flowers in your garden.

Irish grows between 2-3’ tall and needs full sun.  It is drought-tolerant as long as you water it occasionally. 

The 4-5” flowers come out from late spring through mid-fall with fragrant blossoms that attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

They are hardy through zone 5 but may not survive an exceptionally harsh winter.  They make up for it by self-seeding.

If you need a long-blooming plant, this may be the one for you.

Friday's Flower: Santolina

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Santolina’s nickname “Lavender Cotton” comes from its cottony appearance with narrow leaves that resemble lavender.    Its aroma is enhanced when the leaves are bruised, but handling the bruised leaves could irritate your skin.  The scent is reminiscent of pine.

 This small evergreen shrub comes from the western Mediterranean area and is related to chamomile and sunflowers.  It can be as small as 4” and grow up to 2’ in height.  It is admired for its foliage which is usually silvery-grey, but can also be green.  As a bonus, it gets yellow or white flowers during the summer.

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 The beautiful mounds are drought-tolerant and like poor soil, making them easy to grow.  Once they’re established, keep them relatively dry to avoid fungus and rot.  They will root wherever their branches touch the ground, helping them to spread slowly.  This works as a lovely ground-cover.

 It is hardy to zone 6 and tolerant to zone 2.  In the colder regions, it may not retain its foliage through the winter but if the roots survive, the plant will return.  Prune the dead wood and deadhead the flowers for the best appearance.

 When santolina is planted in a dry, sunny and well-ventilated area it will thrive.  It is relatively disease-resistant, repels deer and attracts birds.

 The dried leaves are used in sachets to repel moths from clothing.  Santolina has also been used as a Bonsai plant.  The plant oils have also been used for several medicinal purposes.

 Overall, this is a great plant to add color, texture and a little bit of everything to your garden.

Friday’s Foliage: Ferns

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There are over 10,000 species of ferns worldwide and about 380 in the U.S.  Ferns have been around longer than land animals, dinosaurs and most other plants.

 Ferns vary in size from about 2/10 inch up to about 66 feet in height.  The largest ferns in North America can reach about 6 feet tall.  Most of the larger species grow in tropical climates.

 They are delicate and need to live in a moist environment.

 Ferns reproduce by spores which develop on the underside of their fronds.  The growth stages and physiology of a fern is different from other plants.

 If you have a shady, moist area, ferns would be the perfect landscaping plant.  Some varieties can grow in full sun as long as the soil remains moist.  They add a lovely shade of green as well as texture to their environment.  Since there are so many types, there will always be a variety that has just the right look for you.

 Some are even edible.  In the U.S. we eat the early spring fronds of the Fiddle Head fern.  Fiddle Heads refer to a number of varieties, but the Ostrich fern seems to be the most popular.  If you can’t find them in your local grocery store, you can grow them yourself.  They are called “Fiddle Heads” because the shape of the curled frond resembles the scrolls on the end of a violin or other “fiddle” instrument.

 There are many ways to cook fiddle heads.  Just cook them thoroughly as they contain an enzyme that will reduce your Vitamin B.  This enzyme is destroyed during cooking.

 The Cinnamon fern sends up fertile fronds that turn brown and are very interesting to see.  They are great to use in home crafts.

 Some ferns come in colors other than green, adding an interesting color palate to your garden.  Check out the Rosy Maidenhair Fern, Autumn Fern, Japanese Painted Fern, Ghost Fern or any of the other colorful varieties.


Friday's Flower: Joe Pye Weed

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If you’d like to plant something dramatic and have room for something VERY tall, consider planting Joe Pye Weed.  It’s not elegant or refined but you may fall in love with it regardless.

 This member of the sunflower family can grow to 8 feet tall or more.

 A Native American shaman and herbalist used this plant to stop a typhus epidemic and so settlers named the plant after him.

 If you like it but don’t like the height, there are other varieties such as “Baby Joe” or “Little Joe” (2-1/2’ to 4’ tall.)  There are also varieties with foliage and blooms in different colors, but the standard is a medium green foliage with mauve flowers.

 It is a food source for butterflies and hummingbirds so if you like to keep the winged wildlife around, this is a great option.