Friday, December 6, 2013

Flower Spires Accentuate "The Vertical"!

Today was a cold one with a wind chill this morning of -1 degree F.  I think it warmed up to about 10 degrees F.  It was a cozy day to be inside to be sure.  I did have two slightly imbalanced volunteers that decided to go out in the gardens for some gardening work.  Pat M. went out for some more pruning on our crabapples (Malus) and Bill O. collected more leaves along the Holiday Light Shows (HLS) route.  With impending snow on Sunday, we'll be running the snowblowers on Monday and like to avoid scooping up frozen leaves.  The guys did a nice job though and warmed up as needed.  Dr. Gredler was in for painting and Dave Wanninger stopped by to say 'hi'.  Dave is the Head of Horticulture at Boerner Botanical Gardens (Hales Corners, WI) and used to live and work in and around Janesville in the past.  It was nice to catch up and "talk shop".  I also saw Bill O. (#2), Jim W., Maury and some others today.  I worked on updating plant records, reviewing catalogs, organizing photos and other duties.

I've been recently blogging about flower architecture and thought I'd continue the trend and promote the importance of flower spires as seen in all the photos in this blog.  I define a "flower spire" as a collection of flowers/florets on an upright, vertical stem that overall, has a narrow silhouette.  The 'Flamenco' red hot poker (Kniphofia uvaria) above is a great (and colorful example).  This plant is a tender perennial which we grow as an annual.  Regardless, the basic comment regarding the value of flower spires is that they offer a vertical element that captures the eye as we examine a bed, border, composition or container planting.  As our eyes work horizontally to encompass the garden, vertical elements like flower spires, upright plant forms and "non-living verticals" stop the eye and help add depth and scale to the composition.  They can also make a space seem larger.  Combining different flower architectures creates more interest and drama as well.  Look in the image above as, aside from the red hot poker, there is a 'Fresh Look Red' plume celosia (Celosia plumosa) to the left and in the back right, the 'Strawberry Fields' globe amaranth (Gomphrena haageana) offers a spherical contribution to the composition.  Using annuals and perennials with spires can create focal points and when used en masse (see the lupines directly below) can have a dramatic impact.

lupines (Lupinus sp.) en masse - short-lived perennial
yellow monkshood (Aconitum anthora) - perennial
fairy candles (Cimicifuga racemosa) - perennial
patch of above at Allen Centennial Gardens (Madison, WI)
'The Rocket' ligularia (Ligularia stenocephala) - perennial
'Dark Towers' beard tongue (Penstemon digitalis) - perennial
pink bistort (Persicaria bistortum 'Superba') - perennial
cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) - perennial
patch of cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) at Chanticleer (Wayne, PA) - perennial
'Kobold' gayfeather (Liatris spicata) - perennial
'Pure Silver' speedwell (Veronica incana) - perennial
'Red Fox' speedwell (Veronica spicata) - perennial
culver's root (Veronicastrum virginicum) - perennial
'Archangel Raspberry' summer snapdragon (Angelonia angustifolia) - annual
'Bolero' hyssop (Agastache hybrida) - tender perennial
'Purple Majesty' ornamental millet (Pennisetum glaucum) - annual
'Phoenix Violet' beard tongue (Penstemon hybrida) - annual
'Sally Fun Blue Emotion' mealycup sage (Salvia farinacea) - annual
popcorn plant (Cassia didymobotrya) - annual (smells like popcorn!)
bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) - woody shrub (thicketing!)
chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) - woody shrub (marginal hardiness here)

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