red flannel pantry

creative pursuits in the kitchen, garden, library and sewing room

Archive for the tag “flowers”

paper lanterns

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Last fall my friend, Jackie, admired my arrangements of Chinese lanterns (Physalis alkekengi), both on stems in a vase and the seed pods displayed in a glass pumpkin jar.

Since I didn’t get my act together for her birthday this summer, yesterday, as a belated birthday present, I gave Jackie a jar of Chinese lanterns I collected. They make a lovely fall decoration and keep for several years.

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I cut them from their stems, set them on a rack in the garage, and let them dry for a couple of weeks. I am a sucker for their vivid orange hue and delicate papery husks. Be warned, however: this plant is highly invasive. Accept divisions at your own risk!

blooming and ready to eat

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These lovely Japanese white iris are front and center this week. I like their upright regal posture and elegant delicate blooms.

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Now that the white Festiva Maxima peonies have faded, the pink peonies get their turn in the spotlight. Although they have no fragrance, they are beautiful. Like the Festiva Maxima, they are from divisions taken from the garden at our old house. I don’t know this variety’s name.

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Their frilly blooms seem to float above the foliage.

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This purply-blue salvia is a great dependable perennial. The leaves have a minty aromatic scent, it’s drought tolerant, and butterflies and hummingbirds are fond of it–need I say more? After the first flush of blooms fades, I will cut them back and be rewarded by a second blooming later in the summer.

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I am psyched to see that the white milkweed will be blooming this year!

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Although I am not keen about their lipstick-red color, these knockout roses always make a grand showing.

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The purple flowers are a perennial wild geranium. Their common name is bloody cranesbill (because of the flower’s color and because the seed heads resemble little cranes). In researching this particular variety, I learned that it is called New Hampshire Purple, which makes perfect sense: I was given this plant as a division by my friend, Ken, who is from New Hampshire. I need to find out if he brought the original plant from home. Again, butterflies love it, and if it is cut back, it will rebloom–bonus!

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I picked a load of radishes this morning. My husband brought them to work to share.

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I also harvested the first round of mesclun and lettuce–yum.

Chinese lanterns

While working in my garden this weekend, I came across these skeletonized remains of a plant I call Chinese lantern (Latin name: Physalis alkekengi). Also known as winter cherry, Chinese lantern is a member of the nightshade family, which includes tomatoes and potatoes, and is considered toxic if eaten.

Several years ago, someone brought a division to my plant swap party, and I, unaware of its invasive nature, planted it in my garden. I have struggled to contain it ever since. Like mint, it spreads through its root system, growing sneakily underground and then popping up sometimes far from its source.

As a green, flowering plant in the spring and summer, the Chinese lantern is nondescript and weedy, with jointed stems and teeny white flowers, weaseling its way unwanted throughout the garden. However, by the fall, the little white flowers morph into glowing orange paper globes that when exposed to the elements decay to reveal hidden orange berries.

It is such an elegant, clever and aesthetically lovely design that in the end I have to marvel at its tenacity and admire its beauty. So Chinese lantern and I have come to a truce. It is now allowed to thrive on the garden edges, and this time of year I reap its gifts.

Some years I harvest the lanterns when they are whole and unblemished and display them in glass containers. Although delicate and fragile, they will keep for years.

monarch caterpillars on milkweed

While mowing the lawn yesterday, Daughter #2 made an exciting discovery: eight monarch caterpillars munching away on the swamp milkweed!

We watched them for a long time, marveling at their ability to eat while suspended upside down and admiring their vivid tiger stripes.

When my kids were younger, we would sometimes put a monarch caterpillar along with a short stick and some milkweed leaves in a mason jar with holes punched in the lid. We would watch the caterpillar form its chrysalis, which looked like a little green jewel case. After about two weeks, the chrysalis would begin to darken and we knew to unscrew the lid–the butterfly was about to emerge.

This time though we are leaving them be, but we’ll watch for their chrysalises around the milkweed.

milkweed feast

Today I saw a monarch butterfly feed from our marsh milkweed (asclepias incarnata) for the first time this season–it was lovely. Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed and then their larvae eat it. Last fall I blew the silky seeds from the pods, thinking they’d take root all over the neighborhood. Nope–they had a different idea. They sprouted in the front of my garden beds, so I now have these 4-foot-high milkweed plants bobbing and waving in the wind like those blow-up guys in front of car dealerships. I didn’t have the heart to tear them out, so I have let them be–I will transplant them after they bloom.

Because of the proliferation of Monsanto’s RoundUp-ready genetically modified crops and milkweed’s susceptibility to glyphosate (generic name for RoundUp), milkweed is being eradicated from millions of acres here in the Midwest, causing a decline in the monarch butterfly population.

I have had this pink marsh milkweed, which is now a well-established clump and multiplying, for a couple of years. I bought a white variety this spring at Garden Heights Nursery and put it in a different part of my garden. Although the plants are doing well, no flowers have appeared yet.

My friend, Anne, encouraged me to plant “Dallas Red” lantana in my pots, saying it would attract hummingbirds and butterflies–what a great recommendation! The traffic around these pots has been nonstop.

Other butterfly attractions in my garden that have done well despite the drought are bloodflower (an annual milkweed–asclepias curassavica–that reseeds, another Anne recommendation), butterfly bush, cardinal flower, liatris, coneflower, and zinnia.

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