First dates: Anchusa

 Third in the series “First Dates: Plants I’m Trying This Year.”

When I saw the rich blue flowers of Anchusa ‘Dawn Mix’ featured in the catalogue, I knew I would soon be parted from my buck and a quarter.

Anchusa 'Dawn Mix' blue flower

Anchusa photo courtesy of Pinetree Garden Seeds, http://www.superseeds.com.

Seed catalogue writers and designers know what they are doing. What gardener can resist any blue flowers, let alone those so sumptuously saturated? I am assured of having some pink and white flowers as well (the ‘mix’ part), but it’s the blue flowers that sell me.

Anchusa, or bugloss, is a borage relative native to Europe, West Asia, and Africa. The variety I am growing is perennial, although there are annual and biennial types as well. They grow 4-5 feet tall and are frankly a bit rangy, but like the awkward kid in the elementary school class picture, they can be stuck at the back of the border to peek over the heads of their shorter, more picturesque classmates.

These plants, like their borage relatives, are said to be attractive to bees (they like the blue color), and are a food source for butterfly larva (another good reason to stash them at the back of the border, where any chewed leaves will be less noticeable). Anchusas like it hot and dry, conditions that I can provide in summer, although there is some question as to how well they’ll cope with summer humidity.

As often happens when I research a plant’s site requirements, it seems I can find few definitive answers to my questions. With Anchusa, it appears that some strains of the plant ask very little of the gardener by way of environmental accommodation: Any place with a bit of sun will do. Others seem persnickety, wanting silty, free-draining soil but constant moisture. Some reseed politely, some can only be propagated by cuttings.

It seems like a typical first date: I’m not quite sure what to expect. It probably won’t be anything like what I imagine. It may be better, or it may be worse. I’m willing to give it a little grace, however. All good long-term relationships must begin at the beginning.

 

Preserving the harvest

Humans aren’t the only ones harvesting and preserving at this time of year.

bee collecting pollen from aster tataricus

Bees are taking full advantage of the heavy bloom of asters and chrysanthemums. I watched this one for a few minutes this afternoon.

bee in flight

bee collecting pollen from aster

bee collecting pollen

Those orange bulges on its legs are pollen baskets. The insect presses the collected pollen into these small cavities to transport it back to the hive.

bee in flight flight

 

I hope you get a few quiet moments to observe these fascinating creatures. Happy fall!

Wildflower Wednesday: Joe Pye Weed

I am not going to win any awards for novelty with this post, but I do love Joe Pye weed.

Joe Pye weed, Eupatorium fistulosum

Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium fistulosum) is a plant well worth growing, if you don’t already. An excellent back-of-the-border plant that blooms for months from midsummer to mid-autumn, it asks little of the gardener and provides the nectar of choice for bees and butterflies. My clump is about 6 feet tall and thoroughly sturdy, although it would be smaller if I bothered to cut it back in late spring.  Every day I pass it on my way to the mailbox, and every day it is absolutely crawling with bees. And so far, the deer have left it alone.

Gail at Clay and Limestone hosts Wildflower Wednesdays. 

WebRep
currentVote
noRating
noWeight