Sunday, July 6, 2008

Asclepias tuberosa: flowers

Asclepias tuberosa, known in English as butterfly weed, butterfly milkweed, butterfly flower, pleurisy root or glory flower (the last is an apparent marketing ploy to win over gardeners who won't grow "weeds"), and in French as asclépiade tubéreuse, is a perennial native to eastern North America. Although related to the common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, butterfly weed lacks milky sap. The leaves are narrower than milkweed, dark and glossy, and the flowers are a vivid orange (there are yellow and red cultivars available). Like milkweed, butterfly weed (indeed, all of the Asclepias species) is a larval host for the monarch butterfly.

I purchased the plant in the photo from Real Canadian Superstore in 2007. It didn't bloom at all the first year I had it, or show much growth at all. I was pleasantly surprised in 2008 when it emerged at least three times as big as the year before and with lovely blooms.

Monarda didyma 'Jacob Cline': flower

Monarda didyma, known in English as bee balm, bergamot, Oswego tea, or firecracker plant, and in French as monarde, thé d'Oswego, bergamote, or mélisse d'or is a perennial in the mint family native to much of eastern North America, and also the northwestern United States. Its flowers are very unusual and hard to describe—some say they look like jester's hats or fireworks; and are a lovely red. They are said to attract hummingbirds, though I haven't witnessed that myself.

The plant photographed originally came from the local Valumart, and was grown by President's Choice. PC called it a "really easy perennial" (or something like that) and it certainly was; I just planted it and it grew rapidly and was covered with long-lasting blooms.

The leaves smell like Earl Grey tea.

Hemerocallis fulva: flower

[Photo: Hemerocallis]Hemerocallis fulva, known in English as orange daylily or tawny daylily and in French as héméocalle fauve or lis d'un jour fauve, is a perennial native to Asia with showy orange lily-like blossoms. Daylilies are not true lilies; true lilies have shorter leaves than daylilies in whorls around the stem whereas daylilies have longer leaves all springing from the ground. Each flower of a daylily lasts only a day, hence the name. According to Invasive Exotic Species Ranking for Ontario (PDF), Hemerocallis fulva is a Category 4 Invasive (do not pose a serious threat to natural areas unless directly competing with more desirable vegetation). Still, I wouldn't recommend it, especially for Torontonians lucky enough to live near wild spaces. A native alternative is Canada lily (Lilium canadense).

Lavandula angustifolia: flowers

Lavandula angustifolia, known in English as true lavender or English lavender and in French as lavande vraie is a small (in Toronto, at least) perennial shrub native to the western Mediterranean, especially northern Spain. It is famous for its fragrant greyish-green foliage and small light purple flowers.

Although lavender can grow to be 1 or 2 metres high, here in Toronto I find that it dies back quite a bit each year and is seldom as tall as 50 cm. It is considered evergreen but in Toronto the foliage, while it stays on all winter, dies and turns grey.

Lobularia maritima: flowers

[Photo: lobularia maritima flowers.]Lobularia maritima, known in English as sweet alyssum or sweet Allison and in French as alysson maritime, alysse odorante, or corbeille d'argent, is a hardy annual native to southern Europe. Alyssum grows rapidly from seed sown directly in the garden in early spring (or even in the fall: it will self-sow) and is soon covered in tiny, four-petalled flowers, usually white or purple but there are pink, pale yellow, pale blue, and peach cultivars available. In our yard alyssum was still blooming well into autumn; it was the last flower to disappear.

Alyssum makes a nice flowering groundcover for sunny areas with a lovely honey fragrance.

Tropeolum majus: flowers

Tropeolum majus, known in English as nasturtium and in French as capucine is a fast growing annual native to the Andes with flowers in orange, yellow, red, or cream. The distinctive parasol-shaped leaves have a spicy flavour; the flowers are edible as well. Because the whole plant is edible, the seeds are large and easy to handle, and the plants grow rapidly and are undemanding (they prefer poor soil), nasturtium is a good first plant for children and other beginning gardeners. Nasturtiums don't like being transplanted, so sow them directly in the garden after the last frost.
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