Sunday, June 28, 2015

Plant Story--Beautiful Blanket Flower, Gaillardia

Blanketflower, Gaillardia, is a native you probably know as a garden flower. Native garden flowers are not all that common.
blanket flower, Gaillardia

Recently, talking and writing about garden flowers, I looked at the origins of common garden flowers and noticed that only a few of them are native to central North America. The simplest explanation is time. Europeans first encountered these American plants in the early 1800s, so that's the earliest that they might have been considered for European-style flower gardens. In contrast, many European and Asian plants have been grown in gardens for 2,000 years. The consequences of long periods in cultivation include familiarity--how often do we favor the plants we grew up with? In addition, cultivation changes plants to make them more attractive in gardens, creating multiple colors, multiple sizes (for example, dwarf varieties), doubled flowers, high and predictable seed germination, good survival of transplanted cuttings. It reduces undesirable characteristics such as spines and aggressive spreading. Roses, lilies, most iris, crocuses, peonies, dahlias, daffodils and narcissus, tulips, and lilacs--to name a few--are all from Eurasia.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Visiting Taiwan--Flowers, Sheep and Lanterns


My wandering took me back to Taiwan in February 2015. 

The plums and cherries were in bloom, attracting people with cameras. 

cherries, Taiwan

The Lunar/Chinese New Year started relatively late compared to the western calendar's year 2015. Consequently February '15 fell within the first month of the New Year and people still had their decorations up while I was there. Traditionally Lunar New Year celebrations included holidays at both the beginning and the end of the month. Since it was the Year of the Sheep (or ram, or goat or lamb or kid...the Chinese term, yรกng, is ambiguous) there was ample opportunity for people to make creative displays.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Plant Story--Abronia fragrans, Prairie Snowball, Lovely and Elusive

Abronia fragrans is a plant I would like to grow. So far, no luck!

Abronia fragrans, prairie snowball

My common name for Abronia fragrans is prairie snowball, but the USDA website prefers snowball sand verbena and the Flora of North America calls it fragrant white sand-verbena. It is a small perennial plant in the family Nyctaginaceae (the family of four o'clocks and bouganvillea), native to the central U.S. plains (Distribution link).

I first encountered it at the University of Nebraska's Cedar Point Biological Station north of Ogallala, NE. We'd play volleyball after dinner beside the dining hall. About the time we were quitting one evening, I smelled a lovely scent. I circled our sandy playing field and found a scruffy little plant with long tubular white flowers. The scent reminded me of lilacs.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Plant Story -- Iris, All the Colors of the Rainbow

Iris is a common garden plant all around the world.


The genus Iris, in the iris family, Iridaceae, has about 280 species, distributed all around the Northern Hemisphere, from Alaska eastward to Japan. People have been attracted to iris for a very long time--Pharoh Thutmose III had irises that he brought back from his conquest of Syria (1479 BC) painted on his tomb.