New plants to try: Ceratotheca triloba

My visit this fall to Montrose hasn’t stopped inspiring me. Ceratotheca triloba, also known as South African foxglove, is an unusual annual plant that thrives in gravel soil.

Ceratotheca triloba

Ceratotheca triloba

It looks a bit like a cross between a salvia and a foxglove. Like foxgloves, it grows 3-6′ tall, attracts bees and hummingbirds, and gently reseeds itself to spread gracefully around the garden. At Montrose, it grew in the pathways.

Ceratotheca triloba

The front of the blossom looks very much like that of a foxglove. (Unfortunately, I couldn’t photograph the flower’s face without stepping in the borders.) I imagine it looking most attractive in the company of Salvia leucantha, Papaver ‘Lauren’s Grape’ and Callirhoe involucrata. 

I think I must get the rest of my cyclamen sown, and quickly.

A garden miracle: A sweet pea flower.

What’s Blooming Today?

I’ll tell you what’s blooming: my very first sweet pea.

sweet pea Lathyrus odoratus

I can’t believe it.

Sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus) are enchanting flowers, but at least for me, they have been impossible to grow. Sweet peas need a long period of cool, damp weather to grow well, and we don’t see those conditions frequently. It’s more typical that we get two weeks of relatively pleasant weather, then a few scorching days that blast the sweet peas into oblivion.

This one is climbing on a rose bush that I moved to make way for my rain garden. I noticed the sweet pea foliage sprouting up when I moved the root ball but assumed it would peter out as it always has done. I haven’t given it (or the rose, sadly) any particular attention this spring, but the weather has been more than accommodating, with deep soaking rains.

Tuesday morning I took a short stroll around the garden to deadhead what I could. As I passed by this little garden room, I thought, “What on earth is that pink thing? More campion?” (The campion is everywhere.) As I got closer, I was absolutely astonished.

sweet pea Lathyrus odoratus

It has a light but spicy scent.

The thing that intrigues me most about this occurrence is that I planted the seeds last year, or perhaps even the year before. They are supposed to be annual flowers. The vine grew a few inches last year, then collapsed in the heat of summer. But I suppose the soil conditions were adequate for the roots to continue growing. I will be interested to see if I can gather any seed this year. I don’t imagine it will perennialize–it’s not an actual perennial, but many annuals will act like perennials in certain situations, because they reseed themselves without the assistance of the gardener–but if I do get any seed I will try planting one or two in the fall, and the rest in late winter to see what I can make of them.