Barbara’s Favorite Flowers: Black Cotton Plant

Barbara’s Favorite Flowers: Black Cotton Plant

Here’s what Barbara has to say about the Black Cotton Plant, Gossypium herbaceum, ‘Nigra’!

This ornamental cotton is in the hibiscus family, but has eye-catching deep black/purple maple shaped leaves, stems, and at 24-30’’ tall adds unusual and unforgettable color, height and interest to the garden.

She starts with Hibiscus like deep hot pink/burgundy flowers, followed by walnut size seedpods. Then wow! They split open exposing white fluffy balls of cotton contrasting against the darkest of leaves and stems. STUNNING!!!

The G. herbaceum cotton species is also called Levant cotton and is native to the semi-arid regions of sub-Saharan Africa and Arabia, where it still grows in the wild as a perennial shrub. 

Cotton wants a warm soil to germinate and grow, and make sure not to over water after plants have germinated. Grow in full sun and in a rich soil. It will grow in most soils as long as they are well drained. 

I plan to plant the black-leafed cotton as a specimen plant in containers, beds and borders. Maybe I will contrast it with silver lams ear, dusty miller plants, silver artichokes, purple fountain grass, yellow lantana or Cleome. In the fall, the cotton bolls can be picked off the plants and arranged into wreaths, or the plants sans foliage used as display. I feel confident that many of my gardening aficionado friends will be hot to trot for these seeds!

Barbara’s Favorite Flowers: Cyclamen

Barbara’s Favorite Flowers: Cyclamen

Barbara’s list of favorite winter blooming flowers for Willow Creek Farm & Winery and Southern Mansion gardens includes Cyclamen. Here’s what Barbara has to say:

Several years ago, I became all atwitter about winter gardening; having flowers blooming year round even in November through February.  For several seasons in a row, we had been blessed with mild winters, and I was feeling rather pleased with my gardening prowess. Having overwintered Gloriosa Rothschildiana, and numerous Dahlias, I was confident that I was up to the task. Unfortunately my sin of superbia was about to become all too apparent when Outer Coastal Cape May was thwacked with a couple seasons of bitter, windy, wet, and cold weather. Oh well, this seasoned plantswoman is used to getting her comeuppance on occasion, and being perennially optimistic I started planting something new, and questionably hardy, as soon as I had the chance. But as brainy, is of course the new sexy, it’s really just as well, and at the very least not boring.

Many of you are familiar with the florist cyclamen (frost tender), with their brilliant hot pink, fuchsia and white reverse lipstick colored flowers, wonderful lovely dark green often heart shaped leaves delicious with white marbling. Easily attainable at the local market, we purchase and place these Cyclamen in pots as decorations inside our homes.

Each flower is on a stem coming from a growing point on the circular flat tuber of the Cyclamen. In all species, the stem is bent 150-180° at the tip, so that the nose of the flower faces downward. Flowers have five petals, are bent outwards or up, can sometimes be twisted, are connected at the base into a cup, and have five sepals behind the cup.

What I focus on here is the hardy winter bloomers such as c.coum. Cyclamen are a genus of twenty species within the family Primulaceae, which originates in the Mediterranean areas (Turkey, North Africa etc.). I had received my first hardy cyclamens from Sunshine Nurseries’ Barry Glick. There is something really fabulous about seeing a brilliant hot pink flower poking out of the dull brown ground when the skies are despondently cold and gray. I find it a tremendous pick me up in the short days of late fall and winter, especially in those deepest days right before the winter solstice. Also, it really does give you a sense of accomplishment to summon forth such a burst of happy color this time of year, whilst in the spring and summer it’s rather a tad redundant.

Covet, plant, and enjoy the Cyclamen in all their frivolous forms!

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