Monday, March 17, 2014

Shamrocks Seem Appropriate!

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all!  Above are some "ornamental shamrocks" (Oxalis) that I'll talk about a bit later.  Janice shared a St. Patrick's Day joke today which goes, "Two Irish guys walked out of a bar....".  That's the joke.  We had a very productive day primarily inside although Pat (seen below) was outside in the gardens for a bit as well.  The weather has cooled back down a bit but isn't as disheartening as it was a month ago.  Pat, a true Irish lad, had the holiday covered today and I did my part as well (although not to the same effect...).   Pat worked mostly on retrieving and processing more Holiday Lights Show (HLS) items as he has done all winter.  Gary B. was in for painting and helped Pat later in the morning.  Gene worked on a carpentry sealing project and Gary S. cranked out more labels for our new perennials arriving this spring.  We try to stick to the policy of having the label ready for placement at the time of planting.  Our memories are not what they used to be for sure!  Ron Y., Dave T., Jim and Vern continued on their carpentry projects and are sizing up how to secure our colorful doors and windows out in the upcoming Jungle Garden theme.  Dick H. worked on various projects and Janice came in for some office work.  Dr. Gredler was in for painting and we also saw Mark S., Lloyd, Jenny E., the friendly FED-EX guy and many others today as well.  I'm done ordering seeds and most of our plants for the season.  I'm not short of work and am getting all our seeds organized for our growers (delivery at the end of the week) and am preparing for our spring events (compost sale, Spring Plant Sale, etc.).  Check out our website ( for vegetable and herb listings for the sale keeping in mind that we'll also have oodles of perennials, woody plants and bagged mushroom compost.
I remember as a kid looking for a four-leaf clover in our lawn and I think I found one or two over the many years of searching.  Clover, incidentally, is great for pollinators (when in bloom) and enjoyed by diverse wildlife as well.  My back yard is almost 50% clover and I don't mind at all.  But, I digress.  While many of us spend time and money to rid our lawns of clover (Trifolium) there are some wonderful ornamental shamrocks (primarily the three-leaf kind) that will offer interest in our gardens.  Ornamental shamrocks (Oxalis) are selected for showy flowers and/or colorful foliage.  Above is the 'Burgundy Gold' shamrock (Oxalis articulata) with showy flowers.  There are over 900 species of Oxalis in the wood-sorrel family (Oxalidaceae) and I was amazed to see the world-wide use of many species as a source for food and medicine.  Many have tuberous root systems that include rounded bulbils that allow for widening growth, relocation and transplanting.  Dig one up some time and examine the interesting root system.  While most are not hardy in our winters, their summer appeal can be quite significant in a container, hanging basket, bed or border.  We typically purchase a couple hundred of the more colorful varieties (for foliage) with the flowers being a secondary asset.  I've included photos of some of my favorites but this is not an all inclusive listing of what is out there.  There are many green-leaved selections with huge leaflets and maroon markings.    Many species and varieties can be purchased as dormant bulbs and potted up in advance of the spring.  Some of our volunteers have taken specimens home in October as frost approaches and have kept these as house plants.  While the majority of species are adapted to full sun, they also do well in part sun locations.  Adequate moisture is important.  Leaf size may vary (as seen directly below) and leaflet count might be variable as well.  See some of my favorite "go to" ornamental shamrocks directly below.
leaf of Oxalis hybrida 'Charmed Wine' on foliage of Oxalis vulcanicola 'Molten Lava'
clumps of Oxalis vulcanicola 'Molten Lava' (part shade)
flowers of Oxalis vulcanicola 'Molten Lava'
late summer tinting of Oxalis vulcanicola 'Molten Lava'
early October tinting of Oxalis vulcanicola 'Molten Lava'
Oxalis vulcanicola 'Molten Lava' with Oxalis hybrida 'Charmed Velvet'
Oxalis hybrida 'Charmed Wine'
Oxalis hybrida 'Charmed Wine'
Oxalis vulcanicola 'Zinfandel'
Oxalis vulcanicola 'Zinfandel' in basket
perennial four-leaf water clover (Marsilea quadrifolia) - quite aggressive (and actually a fern!)

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