Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Be With Nature By The Wild Flower Gardens

By Kent Higgins

A garden of wild flowers can transform a small area of a garden to one beaming with color. Here are a few selections to let nature bring on the color.

The light blue, bell-shaped blossoms of the Greek valerian or Jacobs ladder (Polemonium reptans) are a pleasing addition to the shaded garden or a spot with some sun. The plants I have observed grow eight to 12 inches high though it is reported to grow somewhat higher. As a boy I looked for it in April or May and knew it as the other bluebell. Actually the name bluebell means very little unless we know something of the background of the individual using it.

The Scotchman's bluebell is a campanula, while the bluebell of English poetry is really a hyacinth. The wild flower commonly called a bluebell in this country is known botanically as Mertensia virginica. Also called the Virginia cowslip, it is an old favorite that is easily grown if given semi-shade and a good deep garden loam. In the wild it is frequently found in rich, moist soil along streams. It blooms in May.

A happy accident in our garden last season gave us the combination of wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) and coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens). The honeysuckle was growing on our garden fence with the columbine in front of it. The combination of colors was most pleasing. Actually, the coral honeysuckle is found in the wild only as it has escaped from cultivation. Both plants in our garden are in part shade though both get the mid-day sun. They both bloom in late April or May. The columbine with its scarlet and gold blossoms is one of our loveliest flowers. Easily identified by its resemblance to the cultivated columbine, it is frequently found clinging to a rocky bluff. It reseeds itself readily in the garden.

The last snow bank has hardly disappeared in early spring until we are gladdened by the sight of a drift of bloodroot with its ephemeral white blossoms. In the splendid book on "Wild Flowers of Missouri" it makes reference to the flower buds as being "wrapped in a scalloped graygreen leaf, like a blanketed papoose. Thus protected, it is "pushed up to the sunlight." Though frequently found in open wood, the bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) adapts itself to varying situations. It is easily grown either from seeds or divisions of the fleshy roots. Though the petals fall quickly, the ileaves hold interest through most of the season.

Few wild flowers have the dainty grace of Dutchman's breeches. The low cluster of finely cut leaves surmounted by a flower stalk, six or eight inches high, strung with four to six or possibly eight delicate, somewhat heart-shaped white flowers delight the nature lover in his April or May woodland walks.

Other names that admirers have bestowed on this little flower are bachelors kitten, little boys breeches, butterfiy banners. and soldiers caps. The botanical name is Dicentra cucullaria.

Given good drainage and partial shade such as we find in open woods, Dutchmans breeches is easily grown in good garden soil well supplied with leaf mold. It is frequently found growing in rock crevices mostly in a river rock landscape where the roots may penetrate to rich cool soil formed from the accumulation of decayed leaves. In such a location like the river rock landscape, the lichen covered stones make a perfect foil for this airy little wildling.

It grows from a tuber and is easily transplanted when dormant.

The pleasures of wild flower gardening are as real and satisfying as they are intangible and indescribable. To the wild flower lover a clump of bloodroot in an appropriate setting has an appeal equal to that of a good piece of art on canvas.

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