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Blue Sunshine and a Freak Show

What glorious weather we have had this week! Sunny and 60 plus degrees four days in a row counting today. Wednesday night I started telling people we had already experienced three days like that. It was so nice Tuesday and Wednesday that I forgot Monday was cold, cloudy, windy, and never even made it to 50. That’s what beautiful weather will do for you, make you forget all the bad stuff.

This weather has so many horticultural events happening it feels like I could blog every other hour on something new. Today I first want to talk about a little “Blue Sunshine”.

What do I mean? Well, what I am actually talking about are some so-called minor bulbs with blue flowers. They just make me happy like spring sunshine. Only they’re blue.

Anemone blanda (Grecian windflower) has beautiful daisy shaped blossoms. They come in white, pink (more or less) and of course, blue. These come from strange little corms (bulbs) you plant in the fall. It’s kind of hard to tell which end is up so plant them sideways, like putting a quarter in the slot machine (Oh yeah, I know your dirty little secret). Soak ‘em for a few hours or overnight too. In a location where they are really happy they will self sow. Like most spring blooming bulbs the foliage dies away so you want to plant them with other perennials or a groundcover.

The Iris histrioides, I. reticulata (reticulate iris), and their hybrids are early bloomers also, mostly in shades of blue plus purples. It’s hard to tell the different species or hybrids apart really so they all go by the common name of reticulate iris. I’ll show you some pictures of ‘Harmony’, a lovely hybrid blue cultivar blooming in the Overlook.

The markings on the petals actually guide bees to the pollen and nectar so the plants are more easily pollinated.

And here’s a bee hard at work.

Now for the freak show.

We grow Petasites japonica for its huge leaves which can get over 2 feet across. Okay, we also grow it because the common name is butterbur. Anyway, in ideal soil and light, very moist organic soil and dappled shade, it can get a little aggressive so may need to whack some parts off every year. And there is a lovely yellow variegated selection called of all things, ‘Variegata’. The stems are also eaten as a vegetable (fuki). I have not tried them. But this time of year I love it for the bizarre flowers that appear out of nowhere. They belong in what I call “My Star Trek Collection”. These are blooms that in my opinion are so freaky it would be natural to see them in a pot or vase on the Starship Enterprise or even on one of the worlds they visit. Some Petasites are right along the road in Hosta Curve. Don’t park in the road to view it. You make me crazy when you do that. Park in the main lot or the greenhouse lot and take a walk. There are a million other things for you to see anyway between your car and these plants. Take the time to see them. Plus you have sat around enough this winter. Get some exercise.

Here’s a bud shortly after emerging from underground.

Here it has opened some. See the individual flowers?

Here is one even farther along. Freaky.

Don’t cha wish your plant was a freak like Petasites? Don’t cha?

Filed under: Horticulture

6 Responses to “Blue Sunshine and a Freak Show”

  • avatar
    Vicki Says:

    This article superceded even the soul-warming experience of a “teasingly” springing March day! With each sentence I waited with baited breath, fearing a stark tumble from the prosaic pinnacle I was streaking towards. (All fears were graciously ungrounded!) Noted observations were to only be resoundingly brought to fruition by the true definition of grand finale – a Spongebob sing-a-long! Ahhhhh, sweet bliss….. Thanks, Irvin!!!! the intertwined harmony of verbiage, nature and humour propels a sustained uplift :)

  • avatar
    cindy Says:

    I saw the butterbur while walking with my two month old on tuesday… It was so unusual I stopped to take a photo! How glad I was to read your description here… ItLs like you were reading my mind!

  • avatar
    irvin Says:

    Thanks Vicki! Glad to lift you up. The Sponge Bob was quite an unexpected find.
    Cindy – reading minds is one of the things that Horticulturists do. Just comes with the green thumb. Glad I could tell you a little more about the plant. And keep walking that baby right here at the IMA.

  • avatar
    mrak911 Says:

    On what CMS your blog works? In advance thanks for the answer.

  • avatar
    Rob Says:

    As a Newbie, I am always searching online for articles that can help me. Thank you
    Wow! Thank you! I always wanted to write in my site something like that. Can I take part of your
    post to my blog?

  • avatar
    irvin Says:

    Rob – you can certainly include a link to the blog. I’m not sure of the policy on using actual parts but if you give credit I would think it acceptable.
    Good luck with your own. All I think to say is just let it be you.

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