I Spy Coral Flowers in the Garden

Looking around my garden, I notice one of my favorite colors, but in versions with enough shades and hues to make its own Pantone card. Whether you call it coral, peach or melon, it's created by mixing red with yellow. And the results range from relaxing to breathtaking.




Gladiolus 'Starface'
According to world color strategist, the Pantone Institute, the shades created for the fashion and marketing industries are called by a different name every year. Sometimes, though, a flower can have more than one color going on at the same time, or even gradually fade from a saturated hue to a soft pastel.

Like Pantone Peach Echo.  Or its companion, Fiesta. On the softer side, it could be Peach Quartz or Blooming Dahlia. No matter. We know it when we see it, and I'm seeing lots of peach flowers, coral flowers, and even melon colored flowers now in my garden. Last year, I fell in love with Gladiolus 'Starface', with its coral ringed yellow petals.

There is no ignoring it--as bright and bold as a tropical bird, this Gladiolus provides an eye-opening jolt to go with my morning coffee as I stroll through my garden. Sure, these spiky, old-fashioned flowers can be hard to fit into the landscape. They have to be staked, and they don't really last all that long.

But isn't ornamental gardening all about eye candy anyway? If you have a dog, you know the doggie drop and roll, when they suddenly flop onto the ground, their stretched out bodies writhing with joy, their legs straight up but relaxed, eyes rolled back, and mouths shaped into a grin around their lolling tongue.

Summer is a gardener's opportunity to roll in the leaf and petal combinations we've created through imagination, planning, and--let's face it--hard work.
Nasturtium 'Orange Troika'

Sometimes flowers end up orange, but before they open, take on a coral color. I started this Nasturtium 'Orange Troika' from seed, and I haven't decided whether I like its leaves or flowers more. Its color is described as tangerine, and so I'll add it to my list of coral-ish shades.

Early this spring, I received a group of roses to try called 'Sweetspot', one of which is 'Sweetspot Peach', which starts out medium peach with a cherry red center and then fades to pale pink with a paler center. Very colorful and so far, not a spot of disease.

I planted three plants of Digitalis 'Dalmation Peach', one of which is surprisingly blooming. It's a pleasant surprise, because typically foxglove don't bloom when it gets really hot. It's really pretty in a soft and delicate-looking way.

Hopefully it will reseed for next season because I really like where it is in the garden, that spot I'm attempting to populate with pale-colored blooms and plants so that I have a bit of a glow before dark that I can see through the window from my favorite chair in the sunroom.

Saving the most thrilling for last, at last the Scadoxus is in bloom. I've had this plant four at least four years, and this is the third time it's had flowers. It likes it really crowded inside a clay pot.

If I worked for Pantone, I might call the color of the Scadoxus flower something like Hair on Fire or Radioactive Red.

What do you think? 

Want Variety? Plant Zinnias!


Zinnias 'Queen Lime
Red Heart' in a bouquet.
I can't imagine a garden without Zinnias. They're so easy to start from seed, either in April indoors or after the soil has warmed in late May. This year, I started two "batches," the first, called 'Queen Lime Red Heart' sown in early April, and the second, 'Raggedy Ann Mix' started in a container outdoors on May 25. The first group, 'Queen Lime Red Heart', began to bloom just six weeks after sowing. The Raggedy Ann mix is showing several flower buds, and looks like it also will bloom six weeks after seeds were planted.



Zinnia 'Queen Lime Red Heart' is a new one for me. I bought seed from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds based on their great photo and description. The photo shows the variability in color from bright yellow to dusty pink, all with a red center. I like variability in plants--at least in those that I can plant a dozen or so. 


That way, I can appreciate and compare the differences. If I only planted one, or even three, it wouldn't be as interesting. Although it was touch and go for awhile when I transplanted the seedlings to their ultimate homes in the ground, I ended up with exactly 12 plants divided into four different growing areas in the garden. Some have been blooming for a few weeks while others haven't opened their buds yet. 

I'm really enjoying the different types of flowers that are blooming from one small packet of seed. Some have more red than others on the petals; some are singles while most are doubles. One plant insists on putting out solid green flowers.  




Scabiosa-flowered, or crested Zinnias
didn't quite turn out as expected.
The Queen Lime Red Heart cultivar isn't the only Zinnia I've grown that offers variety. When I found a photo of a Scabiosa-flowered Zinnia a few years ago, I had to try it. It was an adorable little flower with a raised tuft of petals in the center of each bloom. The resulting flowers were cute, but didn't really look much like the photo that coaxed me into growing them. I learned later that only a percentage of blossoms from this type of mix turns out to be crested, and since I only ended up with about four plants, it was somewhat of a disappointment. I'll try them again next year, this time with the promising Candy Mix.

Nearly crested Zinnia.
Closer to crested Zinnia.






I guess the bottom line on Zinnias is that you have to commit to growing more than six plants per season. It took me awhile to learn this lesson, as I'm always so gung-ho to grow as many different plants as I can squeeze into my garden, that I've have to limit duplication. When it comes to growing Zinnias, especially the color mixtures, more is better. Which is why I'm growing another 20 plants of Raggedy Ann Mix. I can't wait to see how they turn out.


New Plants and Old Standards Keep Garden Interesting

After the peonies are deadheaded, the rest of the show-offs come out to play. It's not the same old tired types, although I certainly have consistent favorites - plants that earn their keep, give me the most bang for the buck and blind me with science. These include a couple of Clematis varieties, some perennial Salvia, a few shrubs and a handful of Hostas.

Clematis 'Happy Jack Purple' after three years. It was a
trial plant sent to me by Proven Winners.
The meaty part of the garden comes from the new guys--bulbs, annuals, perennials that I decide to try, sometimes in the dead of winter.

Some seed-grown plants, and all of the shrubs and vines take two years or more before displaying their charms. Clematis 'Happy Jack Purple' is a perky little sprite, playfully winding through the pergola's upright supports and around one of its posts.

And it all began early, starting before the summer containers came to life, yet still going strong to accompany the bush honeysuckle Diervilla 'Kodiak Black' and Hydrangea 'Invincibelle Spirit II'. Both shrubs, though hybrids, are North American natives.

The Diervilla 'Kodiak Black' and Hydrangea 'Invincibelle Spirit II' both were given to me as free trial plants in 2015.
The bush honeysuckle is not invasive, but fills a space nicely with healthy leaves all season long. Its bright yellow flower clusters at the tips of each branch aren't showy, and the leaf color is nowhere near black, which is what it was said to be. As for the Hydrangea, it seems to be standing up well so far, and its flower color will hopefully even out when it is finished opening. It looks like it will be a hardy landscape brightener in its spot alongside the driveway.

Last year's growth of three plants, including a
silvery foxglove.
Digitalis (foxglove) 'Silver Fox' makes a spectacular showing this year.
I'd given up last season on a pot that contained a foxglove I'd started from seed, a tuberose and a rain lily. The only one that bloomed was the rain lily. I stored the pot in the garage for the winter, away from the garage door but with no other protection.

And guess what? They survived! It was a pretty slow process. It was touch and go for quite awhile, but finally, both plants conspired to fill the pot.


The pot, which is around 14" in diameter, is so root bound, it requires daily watering. But I think it's the cramped quarters they seem to like. I hope the same goes for the tuberose, whose foliage is looking good so far.

I imagine that when the foxglove begins to falter from the heat, it will be a call to the tuberose and the rain lily to get their bloom on.

It Takes a Garden for a Full Arrangement.

It would be too late for my peonies, I thought when I volunteered to provide arrangements for my niece's wedding. But I knew I could order some from a grower in Michigan, which is what I did. I could buy flowers from other local growers to add color to the two dozen white peonies that will arrive two days before the wedding.

I also figure I could fill in with flowers from my own garden. But then the temperatures spiked and chaos ensued. Not chaos on the floral level--they all just do what they do in the heat, which is cycle through their bud-bloom-blast stage quickly--very quickly. When the deep pink lilies began to open, I figured they would make a great accompaniment to the peonies. But just a week after they started to bloom, they're pretty much finished.

 No problem, I thought. There are plenty of Astilbe. But even those have been uncooperative, with the early ones browning up already and the later varieties looking as if they won't be open enough to be popped into the vases for vertical accents.

In addition to the two dozen white peonies, I purchased two dozen pink spray roses, but filled in from my garden with my own peonies that I'd stored in my refrigerator, Itea, seed pods from Oriental poppies, Hydrangeas, foliage of Baptisia, Clematis, ferns, and a few pale pink Astilbe.

There are probably a few I can't remember, but all manner of white, pink, pale purple, silvery and green plant stems were used in two large, one medium and two small arrangements. The day before the wedding I spent four hours putting the arrangements together and enjoying the heck out of the process. The most difficult part was finding storage in a cool area of the house and then transporting them the next day. All turned out quite well, considering it was like creating a painting with just a few color choices.

Peony Bloom Time Makes For Great Anticipations

The first coral varieties arrived around May 18, 2017.
My peonies bloom in stages, extending a beautiful sequence that I hate to see come to an end. I've been picking bouquets like crazy--practicing up for creating a few arrangements for a niece's wedding reception. I plan to buy peonies from growers in the Midwest, specialists who know how to condition and store peonies for later.  
Final bouquet June 8, 2015
Peonies in my garden will be finished blooming by then. I know because I've been keeping track of their first and last bloom dates since 2012, a pretty good prediction as I've only added a few varieties since that year.

There are a few very early varieties I've removed for their lack of stem strength, so my current earliest varieties are 'Coral Sunset' and 'Pink Hawaiian Coral'.
The last peonies to bloom in my garden include a mystery peony that was here when I moved in, and 'Ursa Major', 'Pink Derby' and 'Elsa Sass' (which I no longer have).

I usually put the last peonies blooming in a vase and snap their photos. Sometimes there are small flowers from those I don't disbud, including White Cap, Madame Ducel and 'Chestine Gowdy'. From 2013 through this year, my earliest blooms have arrived in late May; the latest usually three weeks later.
Peony 'Roselette' bloomed around May 15, 2015. Her stems were too weak for my garden.
Elsa Sass June 20, 2013

The sequence could be and has been longer, especially when I grew 'Roselette' and 'Roselette's Child', both of which bloomed by mid-May, and 'Elsa Sass', which often began blooming in mid-June.
Bloom times varied by a week or more from 2013 through 2016. This year, it's too early to know the date of the last blooms, and 2012 was an anomaly, with first blooms coming in April. Variations also occurred with newly-planted peonies and those that had not received enough sun in their previous year.

I really liked the white double variety, 'Elsa Sass' for its late arrival, but her location wasn't the best. It was a somewhat low area in my garden and one late spring "flood" was the last straw. It seems like I give peonies the heave ho in a cavalier fashion, getting rid of them for no good reason. I'll own the failure of 'Elsa Sass', but it turns out late varieties aren't the best choice for a climate that often turns horribly tropical by the second week of June.

Peony 'White Cap' puts on quite a show, with a sequence that include center and surrounding flowers.
One of the most fragrant in my garden is the Japanese form 'White Cap'. This variety has several flower buds per stem, the first to open in the center with surrounding buds opening sequentially after the center flower fades. This serves to extend the bloom and maintain its charm if you remove the central bud after it's gone. Otherwise, it detracts from the show, which includes smaller flowers.

The dates I track and keep a record of are guidelines, but have been accurate each year within a week. It's like getting a glimpse of a gift to extend the sense of anticipation. And for me, it's one of the best things about gardening.




Try Gardening with Foliage First

I've taken a page (actually, several pages) from Gardening with Foliage First by Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz. If ever there were a recipe book for a huge array of plant ingredients, this is it. The authors include plants most of us would never have thought of using together. I particularly love the one entitled "Bad Hair Day," named for the tufted topknots of the pineapple lilies and the tousled petals of a cactus Dahlia.  But the flowers wouldn't shine so brightly if it weren't for the connectors in the form of a wine-colored barberry and golden Korean fir.

These ladies have thought of everything, including the consideration we often don't take into account--how the design grows. Each combination is considered for its seasonal sequence, or how each plant comes into its prime at certain times in the season.

A container filled with plants that include a shrub, a perennial and several annuals is meant to last the majority of the season, its colorful and textural foliage working wonders to brighten up a semi-shady corner. With only two flowering plants included in the seven-plant combo, it's good to have foliage that carries the color through summer. Consider the impact of:

  • Lamb's ears 'Bella Grigio' with long, arching, silvery, nearly-white leaves
  • Aeonium 'Sunburst' offers succulent foliage that's pale green striped with cream
  • Sedum with deep purple leaves provide a perfect foil for the lighter colored plants.
  • Fountain grass 'Fireworks' is slender and variegated hot pink-green-burgundy-white.
  • Deutzia 'Creme Fraiche' is a hardy dwarf shrub with pale green edged with white.
  • Fan flower 'Pink Wonder' is an annual flower with pink flowers on stiff stems.
  • Bacopa is a trailing plant with the bonus of tiny white flowers. 
I love the idea of separating the combinations into early to mid-summer and late summer to fall. The categories are further separated by their preference for full sun or part shade. The authors have even devised combinations that change color, hold their own while you're on vacation, and examples of pairing plants with sculptural elements, from vases to figurines. 

Gardening with Foliage First by Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz is the perfect kind of book--it's great for just leafing through for the great photos, but it's also easy to pick up and pick out a few eye-catching designs to try in your own garden. 

Mixed container for sun
Mixed container for shade
Inspired by the book, I tried my own version of mostly foliage in a few of my humongous planters. In one I combined plants with great foliage like Coleus, Alocasia (elephant ear), and creeping Jenny, but I added a couple of Pelargoniums (annual geraniums) with bi-colored leaves. Included in the mix are partially grown bulbs of Ismene 'Sulphur Queen', which is commonly called Peruvian daffodil. This is a pale yellow variety of the fragrant, summer-blooming bulb, and I can't wait til it blooms. I have to just make sure that the bulbs have enough room to stretch up and out when it comes time for them to bloom.

Bloomers, along with the Pelargoniums and the Peruvian daffodils, include a shrimp plant (Justicia brandegeana), which might get quite tall, but is easy to pinch. The big guy toward the middle is Alocasia Gageana California, a dwarf elephant ear that grows to just 4 feet tall.
I'll have to keep an eye on it though, as its leaves tend to droop and cover the plants surrounding it. Until the companion plants beneath it grow large enough to hold their own, I'll be selectively removing its lower leaves.

The entire container doesn't look like much now, but the photos will serve to remind me what I planted, so if any of the residents start to muscle in on its neighbors, I can rescue them by doing a bit of pruning. And I always warn my plants that if they really misbehave or even disappoint me, I'm not afraid to get out the shovel.

I think I'll be much happier with these "mostly foliage" planters. They'll be colorful even if they don't have flowers.





What's In Bloom This Week?


I like to create bouquets from whatever's in bloom in my garden. The list below has some links to help determine what's what. Here's what's in this vase, created on May 12, 2017:

Magnolia sieboldii
Centaurea montana
Silver bells Ornithogalum nutans 
Aquilegia ‘Winky Double Red-White’
Candelabra primrose Primula japonica
Spiraea x van houtteii 'Pink Ice'

Making the Prettiest Container Combinations

The other day I accompanied my husband on a trip to the local garden center to buy bird seed and dog food, and upon his urging, picked up a six pack of annuals to go.

He handed me the receipt on the way out and asked me to look it over because, "I think they may have overcharged us." After giving the bill the once over and telling him it all looked kosher, he still wore that "I've been fleeced" look.

"How much did you think the plants cost," I asked.
This is what $38 looks like 

"Oh, I don't know--$1.99?"

I had to laugh. It had been awhile since he'd gone plant shopping with me. (Actually, it was just last year on our Ohio Plant Odyssey, but I'd managed to lull him into vacation mode so he didn't notice.) Some garden centers are pricier than others, and this one was on par with low to mid-range, charging $5.99 apiece for 4-inch pots that are actually about 4.25 - 4.33 inches in diameter.

It's so tempting to put together a little "outfit" that goes so well together, which I did with my feed store/garden center purchase. But it's certainly not complete. The creation cries out for some spillers and even another thriller. The Calla will mostly likely finish up its bloom, as will the other flowering plants, so I'll be left with the Salvia 'Cathedral Purple' for color, and a bunch of leaves from the other plants.

With the weather somewhat unsettled over the past week or so, I've been planting those plants that have been hardened off, or acclimated to the outdoors. I leave room for additions as they come in. It's not a bad idea to go on at least two shopping expeditions for the best combinations.

I'd love to capture the look of this gorgeous combination
At Thursday's plant shopping extravaganza I'll be looking for tall plants with a narrow shape, perhaps some grass-like tropicals. I'll also search for some spillers, as they're so versatile for softening the edges of the pot.

I will strive to capture the exuberance of this container combination on display last year at River Street Flowerland in Kalamazoo, MI.

I'd purchased several blooming Begonias on our first plant shopping trip, along with several other flowering annuals, but once again, I'd ignored the importance of foliage for a cohesive and exciting combination.

So today, I'll be taking stock of what I've bought so far and perhaps even snapping a photo or two so that I can create some combinations that might have the impact of the one I'd seen at the garden center I'll be visiting tomorrow.

It's a sickness, I know...

Flowers for Spring Bouquets: You Can Grow That!

The Pooley Puzzle combines flowers
that wouldn't get along otherwise.
It's slightly possible I have more vases than most people. I don't spend a lot of money on them because I find many of them at my local resale shop and at other bargain-hunter haunts. Those I buy typically come from public garden gift shops, and at clay artists I find while on vacation.

Whenever I have a few flowers blooming in the garden, I start bringing a sampling in for a stint in a vase. It doesn't matter if their stems are just 4 inches long--I have just the right vase.

Narcissus are famous for fouling the water the're in. Their stems give off a substance that will shorten the vase life of other flowers. It's recommended they have their own separate vase. But I love them mixed with other flowers.

One of the little combination vases I have is the Pooley Puzzle, which features a clutch of tubes that allows you to put different types of flowers, no matter what their vase life or reputation. In this vase, I was able to mix small and large-cup daffodils with blue and white Muscari and Grecian windflower (Anemone blanda).

A short-stemmed clutch of daffodils.
Luckily, I have hundreds of daffodils throughout all of my garden beds so I can cut lots. I've found it takes quite a few stems to fill a vase. I have a little pitcher that works well for holding shortened stems of daffodils. To make them look like a full bunch, I cut the stems around 6 to 8 inches long before arranging them in the vase.

Narcissus 'Berceuse'
Whether you like to cut bouquets or enjoy the flowers in the garden, make sure to choose early, mid- and late-season varieties. I have a few new varieties, including Berceuse, considered a mid-season variety, this year opening around mid-April.
This arrangement includes Hellebores, two types of Fritillaria, Viburnum and Epimedium.

One of the longest-lasting bouquets for mid-spring contains Epimedium, Checkered lily (Fritillaria), Lenten rose (Hellebores) and Viburnum. The first to burst its flowers was the Epimedium, but I just snipped the stems off and left the leaves, which remained as perky as the rest of the stems in the vase for a solid week. I changed, or at least topped off the water every two days.

Still on the plant, this stem consists of both fresh
and spent flowers, i.e. flowers that have dropped their
stamens.
Hellebores that are freshly opened don't last very long as cut flowers. I made sure to pick the those that had already dropped their stamens, after which they typically take on more of a green hue, but they're just as pretty. One thing I learned is that if you pick a stem of Helleborus that includes a spent flower and a bud, the bud opens slowly in the arrangement and stays fresh for a few days rather than several hours.


Think Ahead to Zinnia Season

It's as green as a cartoon frog. Wind is wet and cold. And it's going to change. Just a typical springtime in the Midwest. Or, more specifically, at the southern tip of Lake Michigan. Other than the sound of the wind, it's been quiet. Even the two rival birds seem to have moved on. A wren and a sparrow have been engaged in a turf war over a bluebird nest box. Each time I look, there is either a wren or a house sparrow standing guard on the nearby fence, its posture peppered with as much threat as it can muster. Kind of hard when you tip the the tiniest scales at around an ounce.
It's possible they've moved off, or one has given up. We've been checking on the box, and there is the same half-built nest, consisting of a few twigs, since a month ago.

Zinnia 'Queen Red Lime'
Three tables full of plants anxiously await their release from indoors, while the other dozen--perennials--have been set free to go forth and be hardy, come what may.

I started a whole flat of Zinnias from seed and they've been doing quite well. They're all of one variety, Queen Lime 'Red Heart', another in the Queen Lime series after Queen Red Lime and Queen Lime. I grew 'Queen Red Lime' a few years ago, and loved them.

Zinnia 'Queen Red Lime' just starting to open.
Before growing QRL, the cactus types were my go-to Zinnias. But once I saw this variety, it's hard to be without it. If you think Zinnias are easy to start from seed, you'd be right. But I learned that you've got to treat seedlings with respect. It's hard this time of year to just set them out and be done with it. This "let them fend for themselves already" attitude is one I've adopted on several occasions. But I recently found that the best success comes when you set out seedlings that have really bulked up. I'm talking Kyle Schwarber strong--compact and sturdy.

To get them that way, I've been feeding and pinching, turning and lighting the seedlings to make sure they have what it takes to take up positions in my tiny but sunny cut flower field.

Based on a recommendation from a friend, I've been using the one-two combo of Dyna-Gro Grow 7-9-5 plant food and Superthrive. For each gallon of water I'm adding 1/4 tsp of Superthrive and 1 tsp of Dyna-Gro Grow formula for every watering.

I used two types of pots to grow the zinnias--coir pots made of coconut husks, and regular plastic pots of the same size. The reason for this is that I'd learned zinnias have a difficult time re-acclimating to in ground planting, and am hoping the coir pots will help to ease their transition. However, I think that since all of the zinnias are bulky and healthy with good root systems, they will have a leg up already.

The Zinnias have another couple of weeks to grow healthy roots; some already have flower buds, most of which I've pinched off. As soon as I get them out into the garden, I hope to start another batch--this time Raggedy Anne mix from Renee's Garden.




Anticipation: Someday the Warmth Will Come

My mind is clogged with songs I can't seem to get out of my head. Words and melodies ping pong between It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year and Anticipation. It's not anything new--it's the time of year I budget for starting around Christmas.

I've been checking with my neighbor to see where we should go first on our plant crusades. Our mission: to bring back plants we know and love, those we've never tried, and repeats of those that might have died on our watch. Our first stop, Sunrise Greenhouse in Grant Park, IL is always the biggest. I came away with nearly a dozen hardy perennials, lots of Begonias, and assorted others that I'll play around with when it's warm enough to put them in the large planters on the patio.

Zinnias are ready to go.
The nights are still too cold for many of them though-- getting down to around 40 degrees F--and rainy. Springtime rain is probably one of the biggest threats to tender plants.

Plants you purchase at the nursery are (hopefully) pot bound, or at least their roots fill up the pot. If the roots are healthy, they've found their way into all the pot's nooks and crannies.

Plants with substantial root systems get thirsty when they're outside in a sunny, windy environment. In order to acclimate, or harden off, my plants, I put them outside in the shade for the first couple of days, gradually moving them into a partly-sunny location that gets maybe two hours of direct sun. If the plants' requirements include full sun, I'll move them further out into the sun every couple of days until they're out where they'll be on the patio, or otherwise getting a similar amount of sun as they'll get when they're planted.

Hardy and tender plants are huddled up near the house in anticipation
for when the temperatures warm up.

I've got to remember not to water them late in the day. I imagine swimming all day in the hot sun, becoming exhausted from the exertion, and then coming out of the water when it's about dark. As kids, we would finally come out and shiver, our teeth chattering to the point we couldn't catch our breaths. I picture my plants doing the same thing, only it's their roots that can't catch a breath because they're encased in cold damp soil.



One of the pots I kept in the garage over the winter is rewarding me with hope for flowers and possibly even growth from a tropical plant in the center. I started a foxglove--Digitalis 'Silver Fox' from seed last year, but it never bloomed. I'd combined the foxglove with a tropical plant, some rain lilies and something else, but I'm not sure yet what that is. I kept the pot in the garage for the winter, not expecting much. But I'm really excited to see the plants have survived!

All in all, I'm anticipating a new and colorful season of plants from last year, this year, and even many years past. It really is that most wonderful time of the year.

Of Naked Ladies ... Worth a Peek


"Naked lady" cover art by Linda Fraser.

From the back story of the Hydrangea named Annabelle to the tongue-in-cheek tagging of the obedient plant, Armitage has corralled some quirky stories in this portable paperback.

 Of Naked Ladies and Forget-me-Nots contains snippets of history that, at the very least, leave you wanting more. But that's a good thing. For such short stories in so small a book can be digested a snippet at a time, stretching out the the delicious stories that likely will bring on more than a few "aha!" moments.

When I read about the forget-me-not flower becoming the symbol of the Freemasons in Europe, I wanted to know more about WWII Germany.

I loved the story of the Verbena Armitage introduced to culture, and how it got its name: 'Homestead Purple'.

There are three stories about Epimedium, AKA horny goat weed, AKA barrenwort, AKA bishop's hat. I like the one about horny goat weed best. But take a minute or two to read them all for yourself as they are covered in just three photo-filled pages of the book.

If foxes wore gloves...
I passed along the story behind Queen Anne's lace while on a staff tour at the arboretum I worked for, encouraging one employee to take a close look at the center of the flower botanically named Daucus carota ssp. carota. But I still enjoyed reading Armitage's story about the queen and her tatting.

Don't miss the story behind foxgloves, in particular the one that starts with "Once upon a time,..." Although the etymologists can't seem to agree on how the common name for Digitalis came about, it's still fun to read.

I hated history in school. It was all a bunch of boring events with dates you had to memorize. And if the teacher left you snoozing, it was even worse. I wish I'd learned about John McCrae, the doctor and poet who connected poppies to Flanders fields and WWI and penned In Flanders Fields.

Or Moina Michael, the teacher from Georgia who campaigned to choose the red Flanders poppy as the flower of remembrance.

And how about the first subsidized crop in the U.S.? Not tobacco or even hemp, but a plant the British Empire coveted for its dye properties. (Find the answer on page 71.)

 Of Naked Ladies and Forget-me-Nots: The stories behind the common names of some of our favorite plants is filled with tales favored by fairies and old wives, but it also contains historical background information that is actually fun to read. It definitely sets this gardening wordsmith's heart aflutter. It's a good thing I grow foxgloves. And that's a big LOL.