Chelone lyonii, Pink turtle head – A lovely native species offering autumn blooms

The beautiful Chelone lyonii ‘Hot Lips’ also goes by the common name of pink turtlehead. It blooms from July straight through to October, so it’s a terrific addition to any garden.

Chelone comes from the Greek word meaning tortoise because each blossom obviously resembles, without too much imagination, a turtle’s head.

A great perennial for late summer colour that doesn’t much like excessive heat, it will tolerate full sun if its feet are kept cool. The flowers are primarily pollinated by bees, but the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds will often visit them as well. The foliage of this plant is known to be bitter so it’s avoided by Deer and other herbivores. In my own experience the deer have yet to touch the Chelone, so this species is something to cheer about by any rural gardener!

Lucky to have this plant in my garden due to a lovely share from another local gardener, in the six or so years since it’s established, the plant has multiplied from one single flowering stem into more than a dozen. With its strong stems, the clump doesn’t flop over after a rainstorm.

It’s worth noting that there’s a white flowering species called Chelone glabra that I’d like to get my hands on! A host plant for the endangered Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly, and like their pink cousin they too will thrive in damp locations and shady glades.

It’s my hope to collect many seeds this year. I’ll be able to offer them online at my Etsy shop. The pollinators did their jobs well, seed heads are forming, and with a little luck the mild weather we’re currently experiencing means they’ll ripen before the first hard frost. Then I can get my hands on some! Culture/Info:

  • Foliage: Herbaceous smooth-textured.
  • Requires consistently moist soil.
  • Propagation Methods: By dividing the root-ball or from seed.
  • Direct sow outdoors in fall or early spring.
  • Stratify seeds if sowing indoors.
  • Seed Collecting: Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds.
  • Non-patented native perennial
  • Height: 24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

Thanks for visiting. Happy Autumn! : )

Flowering Friday – Gladiola

Having worked as a floral designer in Toronto for many years, I developed a love for gladiolas, despite the opinion of many who may look upon them only as flowers for funerals.

These photos were taken at our local farmers’ market a few years ago, back when I was the market manager. Fisher Farms, one of our attendees had several buckets of these beauties in their booth. That glorious group seemed beg me to snap some photos.

My preference is for purple or the light green glads. A vase of a dozen or so look spectacular on our kitchen counter, and as a cut flower they last for ages! Lots of bang for your buck.

Admittedly there were many gladiolas in the garden when we bought our current house. All those spikes standing up like soldiers didn’t endear themselves to me. Not a very welcoming look, so out they went! Just plain bad Feng Shui.. (Plus, they’re not hardy here, and I can be a lazy gardener in my own plot. Who has time to plant the corms each spring and remove them again in the fall? Not me!)  In any case, I’m happy to support local growers and purchase any flowers I prefer in a vase as opposed to my garden, from them.

Lots of colour to share on a monochromatic early spring day! Remember, they’re not just for funerals! Happy flowering Friday, everyone.

Borage – Borago officinalis – A true blue addition to any garden

Borage flowers offer anyone with a discerning eye for colour, a lovely shade of true blue in their garden. But don’t judge it by the star-shaped flowers alone. This herb is not only beautiful, but really useful as well. Seriously, I’ve always felt this plant was underrated in contemporary gardens, unlike the past where its qualities were highly valued.

I can’t help admiring them as one would any living species with such historical pedigree. As an heirloom, cultivated since at least the 1440s, the folklore they encompass states just how much borage was valued as it was said to bring courage to one’s heart. “Borage for courage” as the saying goes…

To further that, the ancient Celtic people believed borage offered courage in the face of enemies on the battle field. How extraordinary! But back to our modern times, its quality as a companion plant for repelling hornworms on tomatoes has offered it a serious, if not fashionable comeback.

Borage is considered an annual herb where I live, but does self seed easily and visibly appreciates the extra warmth offered by the raised beds in our yard, where I might add they have settled in quite happily!

The dainty flowers are edible, described with a slight cucumber-like flavour. Use them in soups, salads and sandwiches, or as a substitute for spinach stuffed into traditional pastas, or just as a pretty garnish. A friend of mine uses them to flavour her pickles and another makes teas and assorted iced drinks with them.

Thankfully Borage is not a fussy plant and grows well in most soils. Like most plants however, it will thrive more abundantly if offered amended earth. I’m also happy to report that the deer avoid Borage like the plague, likely due to its fuzzy leaves, which is a plus in many a gardener’s mind!

Borage seeds are easily harvested if you like to share seeds, which I always recommend. Otherwise, leave them to self sow like I do, and every year you can look forward to these lovelies gracing the garden once again. Those showy little blue star-shaped flowers attract bees, butterflies, and all sorts of good pollinators. They’re a wonderful addition to anyone’s garden!

Note:

  1. When planting Borage seeds, the best time to do this is in spring, after any remaining chance of frost. Soak the seeds first in wet paper towel overnight, and then sow them directly into the garden, but not too deep, as half an inch will suffice. Borage will grow to a height of 2- 3 feet.
  2. The oil from Borage seeds is highly valued and plants are now commercially cultivated for skin care products and other items. It’s one of my favourite go-to ingredients for use in my own products.
  3. If you see some of your flowers are pink, then there is likely a deficiency in your soil. Below is a photo I took a couple of years ago. This is common, I’ve since discovered, when Borage is growing in dry, gravelly soil. To fix this, simply add some triple-mix or compost. However, the pink is actually quite pretty, and Borage may even offer white flowers from time to time.

Perhaps it’s just evolutionary and not the soil?! In any case, Happy Gardening!