Monday, June 1, 2009

In the Garden June 1st

It’s June 1 all ready! Pots are planted with a variety of herbs, vegetables, and a basket filled with flowers on the front step. I’m doing a bit of a trial to see if the basket on the front step does as well as the pots in the backyard with shards of terra cotta in the bottom. I’ll be looking into the shards versus no shards a bit more this week.

Living Bouquets
I call containers filled with a variety of flowers, living bouquets. I started by lining the basket with a gray plastic bag and poked holes in it. Next, I filled the container with soil and planted the packs of flowers. The little front porch is in the shade for the bigger part of a day, so I used plants that prefer shade. Double impatiens, lobelia, and dusty miller fill the twig basket, left over from my shop, Windy Corner herbs & flowers.

Two medium sized pots of Johnny jump-ups, still blooming, sitting nearby the basket create a garden vignette. As summer wears on, heating up, the Johnny jump-ups will fade and cast seed to the winds. Hopefully some will fall into the front flowerbed.

*Planting Tip
As much as you may hate it, when bringing home packs of flower seedlings, remove all blosssoms and buds. A healthy plant that puts its energy into growth first will display a plethora of beautiful blooms later.

Columbine (Aquilegia)
The columbine that I first saw growing in front of the step has reseeded in the flowerbed with many new plants growing this year. Considered a perennial, columbine bloom in a glorious spectrum of colors in late spring from a deep purple to a pale pink. Festive bi-colored columbines add surprising splashes of colors to flowerbeds and gardens. Hardy plants from zones 3 to 9, the little lovelies do not make good choices for container gardens due to a long taproot. Plan on watering columbines during the warm, dry months to keep them happily thriving.

Deadheading or removing spent flowers extends the season a bit, but leave a few flowers to form seed heads. The plant will reward you by dropping seed and starting up new plants next year. If you don’t want more columbine gracing your flowerbed, simply remove all spent flowers.

Dainty columbine flowers look especially attractive in flowerbeds, but plant in a large cluster for a show of color and textures. A rock garden is another good location for columbine. Hummingbirds visit columbine in search of nectar as do butterflies, so placing it in a garden for wildlife or a butterfly garden invites winged creatures in spring.

Columbine Legend & Lore
Why columbine has been called granny’s bonnet in earlier times is unclear, but perhaps it’s because the flower, always peering at the ground like an old woman beneath her bonnet, trembles at the slightest whisper of a breeze. In the language of flowers, the 1833 meaning was desertion and a few years later, inconstancy, but yet another meaning, cuckoldry, brings mystery to the plant. When and why columbine came to be known as a naughty rendezvous is uncertain.

According to an article published June 20, 1903 in the New York Times’ archive, once upon a time columbine was called cocksfoot or culverwort. A quote by Erasmus Darwin from the article said, “In the columbine, the necktary is imagined to be like the neck and body of a bird, and the two petals standing upon each side to represent wings; whence its name of columbine, as it resembles a nest of young pigeons fluttering while their parents feed them.” I’ll have to take a closer look of the columbine blooming to discover if I see what Mr. Darwin saw.

The botanical name, aquilegia, means eagle probably referring to the spurs, but the common name, columbine comes for the Latin word, columba or dove. The state of Colorado claims the Rocky Mountain columbine as its state flower.

The beauty of columbine and the history of the plant make it a worthy plant to include in your garden. The ease of growing and self-sowing add two more excellent reasons for starting columbine in your garden.
Now get out there and grow!

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