Barbara’s Favorite Flowers: Narcissus

Barbara’s Favorite Flowers: Narcissus

The Daffodil (Narcissus) brings an over the top burst of golden yellow to brighten up our day and mood!

There is something about that warming burst of yellow after the winter grey/brown doldrums that will always make Narcissi a perennial favorite of so many.

It’s an easy flower to grow from bulbs and they naturalize so well with so little effort. They also have the additional benefit of a lovely sweet scent!

The high levels of alkaloid poison, lycorine, found in the bulbs and leaves makes Daffodils unattractive to the squirrel, skunk, mole and deer – another bonus that makes them a spring garden necessity .

The history of the Latin name for Daffodil stems from the myth of a beautiful youth named Narcissus, who upon looking into a pond fell so in love with his reflection that he would not leave it to eat or drink. As the story goes, the gods took pity upon him and transformed him into a flower whose yellow head looks down to always feast upon it’s reflection!. You can remember this tale every time you use the word “narcissist.”  Bottom line, they are gorgeous and supremely mood up-lifting.

Barbara’s Favorite Flowers: Camassia Quamash

Barbara’s Favorite Flowers: Camassia Quamash

Another edition to Barbara’s Favorite Flowers is here! See what she has to say about this weeks entry.

I love blue flowers and Camassia Quamash is a great blue flower for early to mid Spring that can handle a damp, sunny or shady area. I use it in my shade gardens at the Mansion and in marshy meadows at the Vineyard. Meadow gardens are one my favorite natural gardens to design. Nature herself is truly the greatest muse. Wild bog meadows in southern New Jersey are sensual places with sedge, tawny grasses, and seasonal natural flowers like Swamp Mallow, Asters, Clethra, and Joe Pye weed catching the caress of the wind and glistening in warm sunlight offering beauty throughout the seasons. 

The Camassia was originally placed in the Lilliaceae family and was a food staple for the American Indians. The bulb can be roasted and is actually sweeter than a sweet potato. (Yes, I ate one and it was very delish!) It can also be ground into flour.

Camassia is a friendly, easy to grow bulb that naturalizes well and rewards you with ever-larger swaths of brilliant azure blue every year.

Barbara’s Favorite Flowers: Cat Mint

Barbara’s Favorite Flowers: Cat Mint

Cat Mint Nepeta × faassenii ‘Walker’s Low’

This is a great drought tolerant re-bloomer. Blooming starts in May or early June so you can luxuriate in a whole field of glorious purple. The leaves are a great grey-green and heart shaped. I recommend this plant in huge masses to everyone! Cat Mint is super easy peasy and looks good most all the time.  Even though it is in the Lamiaceae family and very similar to catnip, it does not have the same euphoric effect on our feline friends. Beloved by hummingbirds, bees and butterflies, plant to stellar effect in front of borders en masse and rock gardens. Trim back a bit after flowering and you are rewarded with constant blooms! Also used in herbal medicine! The mild sedative effect on humans makes it a wonderful relaxing tea!

Barbara’s Favorite Flowers: Water Iris & Duck Weed

Barbara’s Favorite Flowers: Water Iris & Duck Weed

Iris Pseudacorus – Water Iris – what a phenomenal bog plant to use in the water garden!  This is one of the more robust Iris. The tall, thick leaves contrast well in the spring with tall spikes of bright yellow flowers. This plant grows up to 5 feet tall, with yellow  flowers on stalks towering above.  It’s best to place in the back of the bog with cattails, etc. This picture of the “swamp” at Willow Creek looks like it’s framed by the Black Willow branches. Water iris, is also instrumental in natural water purification systems. The roots then improve water quality by consuming nutrient pollutants, such as from agricultural runoff.

Duck Weed, Lemnoideae –  Notice, the green plant floating on top of the water ? This is Duck Weed. Many people think that it is algae or something slimy but when you look at it closely you realize it is lots of tiny individual green platelet plants. Duck Weed Lemnoideae is wonderful and many faceted. Duck Weed is an important high-protein food source for waterfowl and is also eaten by humans in some parts of Southeast Asia. As it contains more protein than soybeans, it is sometimes cited as a significant potential food source. I scoop it from the swamp with a pool skimmer, and feed it to my chickens as a great green protein enriched snack.  The chickens love it and return the favor with brilliant orange, super healthy yolks! The tiny plants provide cover for many aquatic species. The plants are used as shelter by pond water species such as turtles and frogs. They also provide shade and, although frequently confused with them, can reduce certain light-generated growths of photoautotrophic algae, which can cause overgrowth problems.

Duck Weed aids in nitrate removal, and are important in the process of biomediation, because they grow rapidly, absorbing excess mineral nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphates. Duck Weed is now touted as water purifiers of untapped value and also may be used for waste water treatment to capture toxins, and control odor. 

If a mat of Duck Weed is maintained during harvesting for removal of the toxins captured thereby, it prevents the development of algae and controls the breeding of mosquitoes, our perennial pest in South Jersey!

Barbara’s Favorite Flowers: Peony

Barbara’s Favorite Flowers: Peony

A plant that is familiar to many is a favorite to Barbara, especially the ones at Willow Creek and Southern Mansion. Here’s why!

My Peony Patch at the Willow Creek Vineyard includes several hundred heirloom peonies, salvaged from a historical West Cape May peony garden on Landis Ave and mixed in with other fabulous hybrids. I remember seeing the “Peonies For Sale” sign off of Broadway for years and buying dozens of them from a delightful little lady in her 90’s. Her son maintained the Peonies for many years later, and finally he offered the plants for sale.  Needless to say, I purchased the entire lot and established them in my Vineyard gardens.  Now as these are old-fashioned peonies, they are more in the anemone, or semi-double style, as compared to the more outrageous, modern, hybridized varieties, but their delicious sweet scent and beauty are unforgettable.

These fleeting, over-blown, decadent blossoms are the stuff of dreams and bridal fantasy.  These are flowers that are purely over-the-top. A huge bouquet of peonies in a crystal vase next to your bed or on a marble counter in front of your bathroom mirror is exquisite. Peony season is short-lived in early May; the Chinese, or tree peony, blooms first. Tree peonies originated in Asia and can live hundreds of years. Certain colors and varieties are in such high demand that they command millions of dollars. The herbaceous peony has a soft stem that comes up from the bare earth every year, but it shares the Asian ancestry and delicious blossoms. Peonies are also very popular motifs in classic Asian art and Museum quality tattoos. They are known as the King of Flowers in China.

Peony flower type varies tremendously as they become more complex in their arrangement of petals. The flower types include Single, Japanese, Anemone, Semi-Double, and Bomb-Double. Herbaceous peonies die back in the winter and regrow in the spring, while tree peonies lose their leaves in winter, but leave woody stems.

I hope you enjoy the gorgeous peonies at Southern Mansion and Willow Creek Winery as much I do!

Barbara’s Favorite Flowers: Platycodon

Barbara’s Favorite Flowers: Platycodon

 

Platycodon grandiflorus, is a great hardy perennial for your garden border. Here is why Barbara loves it:

She reproduces and reseeds well, which is always an added bonus (it produces lots of babies to gift your gardening aficionado friend’s with). In the family Campanulaceae (like several of my favorite waterfall and Canterbury bells), but she is the only member of the genus from the Greek meaning broad bells.

A Native of East Asia, she bears big, blue flowers, which start off in lovely swelling buds that for all the world resemble wonderful puffy balloons.

Medicinally, the root of this particular species is used as the base for many age-old natural, and commercially prepared remedies for colds and coughs. You can also use them in salads and soups!

I hope you enjoy this beauty Platycodon as much as I do!

Barbara’s Favorite Flower: Queen Anne’s Lace

Barbara’s Favorite Flower: Queen Anne’s Lace

Queen Anne’s Lace Daucus carota, a wild carrot, is a wonderful flowering biennial that is native to Europe, but naturalized all over North America. Here is what Barbara has to say about this wild carrot:

Related to carrot (Daucus Carrota) you can eat the root when young, (it tastes and smells like carrot) but it gets nasty and woody as it matures.

Women have used the seeds from Daucus carota for centuries as a contraceptive, the earliest written reference dates back to the late 5th or 4th century B.C. appearing in a work written by Hippocrates. “The seeds, harvested in the fall, are a strong contraceptive if taken orally immediately after coitus.”  I can not speak to the efficiency but it certainly is interesting historically.

Barbara’s Favorite Flowers: Yucca

Barbara’s Favorite Flowers: Yucca

Yucca is a genus of perennial shrubs and trees in the family Asparagaceae, (asparagus). Yucca, of the agave family, native to the warmer regions of America, has pointed, usually rigid, sword-shaped leaves and clusters of white, waxy flowers. It is also the state flower of New Mexico. They are native to the hot and dry (arid) parts of North America, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean.

A cool fact is that Yucca is known in the United States as “ghosts in the graveyard,” as it is commonly found growing in rural graveyards and when in bloom in the twilight or dark, the flowers appear as a glowing apparition floating.

Yuccas have a very specialized, mutualistic pollination system. They are pollinated by yucca moths (family Prodoxidae); the insect purposefully transfers the pollen from the stamens of one plant to the stigma of another, and at the same time lays an egg in the flower; the moth larva then feeds on some of the developing seeds, always leaving enough seed to perpetuate the species.

Medicinally, Yucca is used for osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, migraine headaches, inflammation of the intestine (colitis), high cholesterol, stomach disorders, diabetes, poor circulation, and liver and gallbladder disorders.

This Yucca gets included in the list of “Barbara’s Favorite Flowers” because I like the exotic tropical edge and geometric height it gives to a garden. It’s pretty maintenance free, though I like to remove the lower dead fronds, giving it more of a palm tree shape. My mother always despised the flowers as she does Hosta flowers. She viewed them as secondary to the leaves. I personally love the huge charge of bellflowers you get two to three times a year when not much else is blooming, and the height is great too.

Barbara’s Favorite Flowers: Aster

Barbara’s Favorite Flowers: Aster

This is fall blooming Aster, Symphyotrichum oblongifolium, (Aster novae anglias). It’s name comes from the greek meaning “star”, which of course the flower shape is reminiscent of. The Aster is yet another easy peasy perennial that grows wild all along my woodland, and wetland borders. As its name implies, the fall Aster blooms in fall providing a colorful and bright lavender display when other flowering plants have run out of steam. They say it needs well-drained soil, but from my personal experience it’s not picky at all, and grows just about anywhere. You can use this in a formal border or a wild garden. It’s a real bonus when there is not much flowering in the garden! So plant and enjoy it!

Barbara’s Favorite Flowers: Saffron Crocus

Barbara’s Favorite Flowers: Saffron Crocus

These are Barbara’s favorite fall flowers, and flowers for her kitchen! The Saffron Crocus (C. sativus), blooms in the fall garden, when there is very little other blooms so differentiating itself from the spring blooming non-culinary common crocus.

Here is what Barbara has to say about her favorite fall flower:

Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, commonly known as the saffron crocus. Crocus is a genus in the family Iridacae. Each saffron crocus grows to 20–30 cm (8–12 in) and bears up to four flowers, each with three vivid crimson stigmas, which are each the distal end of a carpal. The dried stigmas and styles must be hand picked and are known as the “most expensive spice in the world.” Saffron gives the exquisite and unique flavoring and color to delicious Mediterranean, Arabic, and North African dishes.

The Saffron Crocus, unknown in the wild, (it was hand-bred to be a diploid and therefore sterile), most likely descends from Crocus cartwrightianthus which originated in Crete or Central Asia. Saffron’s unique taste and fresh cut sweet grass-like fragrance results from the chemicals picrocrocin and safranal. It also contains a carotenoid dye, crocin, which imparts a rich golden-yellow hue to dishes and textiles. Used as a spice, dye, and fragrance since 7th century Assyria, I think the idea of harvesting ones own personal saffron is incredibly cool (albeit a tad labor intensive)! Time to cook some fabulous Paella and Tagine.