Monday, July 21, 2008

The Bachelor's Buttons


The morning sunshine was more a theory this morning than actual blazing rays of orange and gold. A quick check of the forecast (where every day in the coming week had been wet with rain a day ago) revealed now only a "chance of a shower" today, and as there'd been no rain in the night, or at least very little, I went about the usual routine.

Unexpectedly, the overcast mornings are often when you get the best garden photographs. After all, you don't have that brilliant light directly on your subject, but a nice strong bright light, naturally diffused by the clouds. Of course, there was a strong breeze continuing. This is comforting, in light of the recent humidity, but it does make it more difficult for the subjects of the photo to sit still, especially if they are thin stemmed, as the bachelor's buttons are. I imagine it's a lot like trying to take class photos of kindergarteners.

Still, I managed some nice shots in between gusts...tho I can assure you there were plenty of misfires deleted from my memory card in addition to these three sweet shots.


I just love how easy it is to grow these little guys. Because they are lovers of full sun, I haven't had the pleasure nearly often enough. But whenever I have, I've had nothing but praise for the show they put on, in exchange for some commitment to deadheading.

Curt asked about the story behind the name, bachelor's buttons (Centaurea cyanus) and so I did a bit of checking around. They are so named because, as they are small (an inch and a half across at their fullest), and hold their shape well out of water, they became a popular choice as a bouttonniere. According to the Victorians' Flower Code, bachelor's buttons symbolized solitude. (So if Superman had landed back then, he might've had a Fortress of Bachelor's Buttons instead, which might've looked pretty cool! Hmmm...)

Since the blue ones (originally the only color) grow wild in the fields of England, they are also known as cornflower, for their appearances amongst the corn stalks there.

I'm sure the way they bend and bounce on the breeze works to their advantage as far as getting their seed flung as far as possible. I'm always fascinated with the devious and delightful ways plants have for reproducing, on the pollination end and the distribution of the resulting seeds.

This is my sixth gardening location on Cape Cod--nine if you count workplace gardens--and I imagine it won't be the last, either. It makes me happy to work with plants who I suspect may carry on after I've moved on to my next bit of earth.

The flowers only last a couple of days at best, but each plant will flower all summer as long as you continue to snip off the fading flowers. I don't have any problem letting them drop down into the bed of the garden as I do snip them, since they will re-seed nicely.

If you have a small patch of bare earth that you want to dress up real simply, I think you couldn't pick an easier (and relatively quick growing) combination of seeds than bachelor's buttons, cosmos (they'll be blooming shortly, I think...) and allyssum.

As an added bonus, at the end of the season when I do let them go to seed, they will be popular with the local finch populations. I remember the first time I saw a tiny goldfinch perch on the flimsy stem of a bachelor button plant...and it was a great insight for me into the tiny bird's weight that the plant didn't drop to the ground like Charlie Brown's Christmas tree.

Not that I'd thought birds were heavy exactly, that would make no sense as far as the Flying thing goes...but it just wasn't something I'd really given any thought to before, and really, it was just idle musing as I watched the miniature acrobatic show as the finch feasted on all the seedy past flowerheads. I know there are goldfinches hereabouts on Not Wisteria Lane, so hopefully we'll see that show again here, too.

While I love the true blue of the originals for their cooling of the oranges and yellows I enjoy so much, I've quickly become a big, big fan of the different colored hybrids...particularly this purple one. I wonder if they will come true from seed or revert back to the original blue? Either way, I think I win.


One more thing I almost forgot to tell you about bachelor's buttons: they are an edible flower! I've not tried them yet, but I've read that they bring a nice spicey note to a salad. Can't think of a more fantastic garnish for anything, though!

These smaller variety sunflowers are certainly doing their thing in a strong way. This is the first plant to bloom and the new flowers just keep on coming. The best part is that, while the current crop is distracting me with their commanding floral presence, I can see the later successions growing taller and fuller in my peripheral vision.

I still have sky-scraping high hopes for some of those Russian Gray Mammoths. Who knows what August may bring?

Here's a great shot of the marine heliotrope. Two of the plants have been cut back after their blooms faded, as they were a little leggy when they came home from the nursery. I see all kinds of side shoots forming on them now, so the Cropping was a wise choice.

Meanwhile, this one, which hadn't been blooming when it came home has now begun scenting that corner of the lamp post bed with its distinctive, but hard-to-describe scent of intoxication.

As you can see, the latest seeding of allyssum has come in nicely in the background there. This morning, I got out the edging shears and tidied up the outside of the beds, and was somewhat stern with the earliest allyssum plants, as well. While they were still flowering, they were doing so on stalks that were now going on four or five inches long.

I cut them back in patches, so that some remain, which I'll deadhead a little later on. That way I should have a nice staggered cycle of blooming from them for the rest of the season. The dianthus are picking up a little slack along the lowest edges of the garden and the pansies are still blooming their happy little heads off.

As Jenn pointed out the other day, the Midnight Garden is also a Learning Place, and so, while we continue to learn about the blooming habits of the hens and chicks, I present to you the first flower on that stalk I've shown you in previous posts. As you can see, it looks to be one of many and I'll do my best to show you the full glory of it all.

As I mentioned before, the sunflowers really have been going to town and are forming the framework of the garden "wall" which is slowly rising all along the fence.

The daisies, I'm sad to say, are requiring deadheading at a faster pace, and for them, this doesn't always bring reblooming. Perhaps we love their joyfulness all the more for it's brief stay.

But the cosmos will be coming into their own shortly and the Queen Annes lace (there are more than I remember transplanting, which is by no means a complaint) have just exploded into clouds of those distinctive and detailed flowerheads, each one like a giant snowflake floating at the top of a stem.

While there's obviously no lack of flowering to hold my interest in our front yard, I'm also happily drawn around the block to all of the beautiful things happening in everyone else's yards.

There was a stand of deep purple astilbes blooming around the corner last week, but they didn't last particularly long...at least not long enough for me to remember to bring my camera along on our nightly walks.

This blue hydrangea across the street caught my eye this morning and drew me over for a closer look. I do miss the hydrangeas we had at the old place, but they were too large to move and really at home where they are. But I don't mind not having too many of them here, as the mid-cape area has been known for hydrangea-nappers.

I know, it sounds ridiculous, but almost every August since I've lived here, there's been a news story about police arresting someone with their cars loaded with trashbags full of cut hydrangea stems harvested from people's homes, businesses and condos. Apparently, a single stem can be sold for $4 or more each, because of their popularity in flower arrangements for weddings. Crazy world, isn't it?

Not that I'm in any way trying to devalue the flower's beauty. Sigh. It just feels wrong to put a price on it.

Tomorrow, I will have to pay some attention to the cleome flowers, as they continue to bloom as their stalks climb, but they leave long seedpods hanging out from the stalks where the previous flowers were. You can see one of them here, in the lower right.
I haven't grown these in a while, so I'm putting out the call for advice here. (Lost, you know these guys, right?) The seedpods are a pretty distinctive look as the cleome gets taller, but should I remove them in order to keep the flowering going?


A few new evening primrose flowers had opened this evening, as I went about lighting the candles along the fence at dusk.

I would've taken the time to sniff for their scent, since that is surely how they attract the night-time pollinators, but I'd forgotten to douse myself in OFF and as the breeze had become more occasional, I was swarmed with mosquitos and so kept my time out there somewhat brief.



But I did notice that, in the section of garden underneath this particular coreopsis plant, there was an unseen cricket tuning up for an evening's outdoor concert in the park.

Our temperature at 10:15 is 74 degrees and I'm enjoying the cricket's debut summer concert through the window as I write this.

Anyone else a fan of this book?

9 comments:

lostlandscape said...

I'm not going to be much help on the cleome plants--my main experience with them was trapsing through acres in bloom a decade ago. My little garden with its space for a shrub here and there couldn't begin to give me the same sensations, and my one attempt to grow them ended with a heat wave and two people saying, "um, I thought you watered the garden..." (I'm great with getting the benefits from O.P.F. (Other People's Flowers)!) But that said, I'm sure deadheading couldn't hurt. There'll still be plenty of seeds in the ground for next year's crop even if you do.

Butch said...

I'm beginning to sound redundant, but this entry is beautiful. Quite a variety of flowers you have. Your garden has a magical look about it. ( Now, if only your house were made of ginger-bread just think of the possibilities.) Now add the ice-cream truck. I think one would have a close depiction of what heaven could look and taste like. ;-)

Word Verification: mewppi
Does one need a cat box to go along with this word?!

Birdie said...

Hey, I'm beginning to connect flower names and appearances! This from a garden newbie, clean slate a couple of months ago. I sure do enjoy these morning walks with you.

dykewife said...

one flower i've not heard you mention at all is the nasturtium. i love their rangy stems and bright peppery flowers. they're great in salads and for freaking people out on the bus when you nosh down on their flowery goodness.

my mom had hens and chicks all over the place but i never saw that stem thing and the bloom..ever..in her garden. now, since reading your blog and seeing pictures of them, i've been seeing them all over the place. funny how things go like that.

Patrick said...

I LOVED A Cricket in Times Square, and the sequel, Tucker's Countryside. I've had some book loving youngsters enter my life recently, and it's meant I keep rediscovering favorites like this. I must go find copies of both those books today! I think my young friends will enjoy them too. Thanks for the reminder. I've toyed with the idea of buying crickets at the pet store (where they're sold as snake food) and keeping them in an aquarium as pets. My brother-in-law the entymologist says he sees no reason why they wouldn't be happy enough to sing under the circumstances, but I haven't put it to the test yet. I'm sure if I explained the "saved you from being snake-food" part, they'd work up at least a few ditties for me. I can't wait to hear crickets this August, in Indiana.

Greg said...

Ah, well, Lost. I hope you'll enjoy the cleome here, then! (Cringing at your watering misadventures...been there!) I'll experiment with different treatments for different plants and see what works the best!

Butch, that sounds more like Wonka Drive than Not Wisteria Lane to me. And having just quit smoking, I'd hate to be relying on an edible house for shelter. No one's that strong.

Do you ever get that thing where you're trying to sort out the word verification and your computer tries to autocomplete for you? That's just weird.

Birdie, I'm so proud of you!! Before you know it you'll be stopping to sniff them! I'm all warm inside...

DW, nasturtiums are just one among many of plants who didn't make the final casting for this year's garden. They would be totally rocking the sunshine, I know that. There's always next year!

Patrick, of course you would be the one who would also remember Tucker's Countryside!! How I loved that story...I remember it made me cry. I think I've loathed land developers ever since! ; ) I'll bet you and a little cricketer would be the very best of friends.

MartininBroda said...

It seems you're in a friendly mood and the issue of nicotine disappears, that's good and it seems babelfish dont work in german here now, it was so funny, sorry, false hope indeed, but Douglas Adams was even translated into German disturbingly funny. I enjoy your garden still almost every day.

Curt Rogers said...

Well, sir, you've done it again, winning another award. Check out While Walking Duncan to see what surprise awaits you!

Thanks for everything, Greg!

afod said...

The colorful rainbow flags are starting to lose on the competition of standing out the most amongst the flowers. The flowers have their own displays which are "weeding out" the flags.

The Queen Anne's Lace has such a soothing, cooling color. When I'm deadheading, I'm more the type to through the dead heads as far into the yard as possible so that the lawnmower will "pick them up." I may just keep them in the garden now after deadheading.

"I still have sky-scraping high hopes." Beautiful prose!