Summer is here!
Perennial lupine plant has the strangest flower shape of almost any plant. "Why does it have this shape," I ask myself when it flowers. water beads up on the leaves like sparkling diamonds in the sunlight on a plant that likes good soil, full to part sun on a 15" plant. Lupine is a reliable perennial, coming back every year to delight.
Tree peonies differ from perennial peony plants in a few ways. Perennial peonies die to the ground in the fall, Tree peonies do not. Tree peonies have an above ground stem structure that persists all year long, with new growth in the spring popping out of these stems. Tree peonies also do not seem to get the blackish leaf fungus that perennial peonies get, with their soft green leaves making it through the summer unmolested. Mature tree peonies are a show stopper, and can be cherished by family members throughout the generations.
Trollius is one of my favorite perennials not just because of the unique flower color, but also because of the symbiosis it has with a fly that it evolved with in the steppes of Russia. Years ago, as I watched a bumblebee vibrate it's way up inside a foxglove flower, I realized that the bumble bee was uniquely suited for the foxglove flower. The bee fit snugly in the flower, and the hair on the bee's back aligned itself with the pollen structures inside the flower. In order for the bee to get the prize at the end of the flower, it had to pollinate the floret- effortlessly. I also realized that the flower's shape kinda prevented most other insects from entering, and I wondered why. I walked away, thinking about the thousands of other plants we had, all evolving through the millennia in symbiosis with insects so that everyone wins. When I looked at trollius (^), I understood the function of all of the flower parts except the vertical cage-like bars. They looked like jail cell bars. I looked it up online, and found a russian study that showed that these bars exclude all but one species of fly from entering the flower to pollinate. The jail cell bars allow this one fly inside the flower to pollinate and lay it's eggs on the seeds of the flower, with the larvae taking 40-60% of the seeds for the baby flies to eat. In return for this donation, the plant gets pollinated and gets 40-60% of the seeds to distribute. I still don't understand why the plant allows the fly to have any of the seeds, but there must be a reason that mother nature knows about and isn't sharing her secret.
So it is with a botanical and evolutionary interest as well as an aesthetic and low maintenance reasons that I adore Trollius, and I hope that you will too. We usually have them in the spring only, Full to part sun, seems deer proof, no insect or disease pests, Nice geranium-like leaves. Returns reliably every spring.
I've been selling this unique plant for decades. Daylily-like foliage on a 12' tall plant pushes up these strange flowers almost all summer long. See the tiny flower petals at the very bottom of the picture on the right? THAT'S the flower, pollinated by the smallest bees I have ever seen, about as big as a grain of sand. Until I saw these bees, I wasn't aware that there are thousands of bees that live in Connecticut, and most people are only aware of the two or three most well-known ones. Anyway... the deer-proof red hot poker plant is deer proof, fungus-free, disease-free for full sun and good soil. It will live for you for decades, toiling away for you effortlessly without any help at all. Not available in great quantity this year. Goes really well with violet blue colors.
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