Monday, February 21, 2011

Glaucium grandiflorum rosette, Eranthis hyemalis, Euphorbia characias, and Hedera colchica 'dentata variegata' in late winter

Or is it early spring? As of today, we have 11 hours of sun, well, except for the uniform overcast. Tomorrow we'll add 2 minutes and 24 seconds, the next day 2 minutes and 25, then 26, 26, 27...; life is good. Still, it's supposed to sleet/snow/rain tonight and tomorrow followed by a quite cold night. Still, temperatures in the 60's and 70's last week thawed the ground and the geophytes of spring, following the groundhog's example, are nosing out, and, finding things to their liking, are continuing upward. Not that they really had the groundhog's option of returning to their burrows. Once they're out they're out. Evolution has given them the ability to absorb some pretty frightening weather and flower unscathed, much worse than we'll be getting this week!

I guess I'm easy; I love roses, hydrangeas, lilacs, lilies, all the classically beautiful and showy garden flowers in fact, but on a dreary day teetering somewhere between winter and spring, it's good to be able to walk through the wasteland that is the garden and be delighted by small things. The rosette on Glaucium grandiflorum, from Annie's Annuals and Perennials, has stood bravely all winter, beginning to grow a bit this past week. It is an orange/red flowered species, otherwise similar to the more common G. flavum. I see they now list an unidentified species from Iran with ridiculously crimson flowers. I suppose I'll have to have than one too; they describe it as an annual which must mean it's even shorter lived than the others! I imagine it makes plenty of seed though.

I suppose the Eranthis is hyemalis; there are a handful of species and while I received this with a name, who knows? I love the intrepid little devils, but they make me wonder about the definition of "weed". The common field buttercup, Ranunculus acris, seem to me to be a much more beautiful plant but it's universally considered a weed. Both are...aggressive; maybe we like hyemalis because it goes toe to toe with winter.

I let Euphorbia characias ssp. wulfenii have free run of the garden. It does seed about but it's such a distinctive plant, so easily seen, that unwanted seedlings are readily removed. For us it's totally evergreen. The worst winter has done to it in 20 odd years is to break a stem here and there. Through the years I've grown a variety of other shrubby euphorbias but none have lasted more than a few years. In the bed by the street though, one seems to have left it's mark in the form of red stems on what are otherwise perfectly typical E. c. wulfenii.

Considering how much time I've spent in my life removing Hedera from my own gardens, or professionally (Amanda and I removed some Ivy last week from the Asian Collections), my fondness for this plant seems odd. It's such a beautiful variegation though. The vine wanders around under the front stairs edging into a small bed beside the walk so that a sprig or two appear at eye level as you walk down the steps under the side deck. I keep it small by cutting it back every couple years, though, honestly, it's shown no signs of attempting to escape.

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