Open Thread

Sunflowers and Spring
Design for a Wall Decoration
Peacock, Cranes, and Sunflowers
for the Restaurant in Hotel Langham (Paris)

Artist: Emile Hurtré (French)
Artist: Jules C. Wielhorski (French (?)
1896–98
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Spring appears to have arrived in my neck of the woods so I am planting flowers this week. Our usual spring profusion of flowers didn't occur because we haven't had enough rain and some of our flowering plants jumped the gun in February by starting to put out their blooms early, only to find they were hit by a polar vortex and zapped. Too bad.
Now our pollinators don't have that many blooms to munch.

Sunflowers are on the menu. In the past, I've had luck planting an annual variety. This week I'm planting a perennial variety called maximilian sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani). A long cold period is a pre-germination requirement so I kept the seeds in the fridge over the winter. This perennial spreads by runners, so I'm hoping to set up a permanent place for it. Apparently it can become invasive...I have been warned.

Some sunflowers form a tuber that is edible..." and provided a food similar to the Jerusalem artichoke for Native American groups such as the Sioux".
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helianthus_maximiliani
My favorite gardening book says that... "the tubers of Maximilian and Jerusalem artichoke taste like water chestnuts. They are delicious and can be used just like potatoes.
Texas Organic Vegetable Gardening by J. Howard Garrett and C. Malcolm Beck

A stylized depiction of artichokes

My go-to online resource for native plants is the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Here is a portion of what the Wildflower Center has to say about the maximilian sunflower;

The several tall, leafy, unbranched stems of michaelmas-daisy or maximilian sunflower grow to a height of 3-10 ft. These perennial plants can form large colonies.

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry , Moist
Soil Description: Prefers moist clay-like soil, but tolerant of a wide range of soils including Limestone-based, Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay.
Conditions Comments: A native prairie perennial, this sunflower is a desirable range plant, eaten by many livestock. A heavy crop of seeds is produced, thus it is also a valuable plant for wildlife.

Use Ornamental: Showy, Attractive, Color, Pocket prairie, Perennial garden, Wildflower meadow
Use Wildlife: This species is palatable to deer and numerous species of birds who eat the seeds. It is also a useful wildlife cover plant. Nectar-Bees, Nectar-Butterflies
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Attracts: Birds
Nectar Source: yes
Deer Resistant: Moderate

I also have several seed packets of Helianthus annuus aka the common sunflower. It is supposed to attract native bees, which is a big plus and is the reason to bother with planting them. This sunflower is the state flower of Kansas but occurs all across the country.

The common sunflower has some interesting properties that were utilized by indigenous peoples.

The plant has been cultivated in Central North America since pre-Columbian times; yellow dye obtained from the flowers, and a black or dull blue dye from the seeds, were once important in Native American basketry and weaving. Native Americans also ground the seeds for flour and used its oil for cooking.

The plant was also used for medicinal purposes. Flower heads with bracts removed were boiled to make a remedy for pulmonary troubles. Poultice of flowers were used for burns. Roots were chewed and applied to swollen area of rattlesnake bites after venom was sucked out. American Indians used flower tea for lung ailments and malaria. Leaf tea was taken for high fevers; a poultice was placed on snake and spider bites. Seeds and leaves were useds as a diuretic and an expectorant.

It was believed, in the 19th century, that plants growing near a home would protect from malaria. Seeds from cultivated strains are now used for cooking oil and livestock feed in the United States and Europe.

https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=hean3

I have also added some blue mist flower, some cenzio, Shasta daisies, Salvia, Plumbago, and some skullcap. Hopefully that will help the little critters out somewhat. Not sure we can prevent ecocide, but we can try.

What is everyone planting? Or what is everyone planning on planting when the weather cooperates?

Helianthus maximiliani at Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota, (USA National Park Service)
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Helianthus_maximiliani_NPS-1.jpg

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Lookout's picture

We normally direct seed zinnia, cosmos, coneflower and such in and around the garden.

My favorite sunflower is the swamp sunflower. It is bright and showy.
https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/helianthus-angustifolius/

The Jerusalem Artichoke is a sunflower too, Helianthus tuberosus
https://morningchores.com/growing-jerusalem-artichokes/
Some folks have trouble digesting the high inulin tubers. I buy inulin powder made from them as a yogurt additive (1 teaspoon/ qt jar) to promote my bacterial culture.

I love the window. I had a good buddy who built those large Tiffany style windows here in our little town. They were expensive (like 50k per window), but took him a year to build. Lots of work cutting and beveling glass. Sadly he died of lung cancer several years ago.

Well hope everyone has a sunny pleasant day. Pretty cloudy here, and tomorrow they're calling for another round of tornadoes mainly in west Alabama. We cruised through last weeks batch without even losing power. Hope the same is true tomorrow.

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

@Lookout , or coneflower or cosmos. I don't even really know what they look like. I don't know much about most flowers since it is only in the past several years that I've taken a broader interest. I have a lot of catching-up to do.

From the website I often use to identify flowers that might work in my corner, I found a zinnia that sounds like it would fit in well. Zinnia grandiflora.

Use Ornamental: Showy, Erosion control, Rock gardens, Perennial garden, Border, Rocky hillside
Use Wildlife: Rocky Mountain zinnia attracts butterflies. Flowers-Butterflies & moths, Flowers-Syrphid flies, Pollen-Butterflies , Pollen-Moths, Pollen-Bees, Nectar- bees, Nectar- butterflies, Nectar-Moths,
Nectar-Butterflies, Nectar-Bees
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Deer Resistant: High

https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=zigr
It's really pretty as well. I'll keep my eyes open for some seeds. Anything that can be directly sown and have a decent germination rate always makes me happy.

Coneflowers and cosmos are now on my list to research. TY

The swamp sunflower is very nice, I see it grows in TX.

Interesting about the inulin powder and yogurt. I have not made yogurt in forever. I have developed a preference for the very thick Icelandic yogurt that is also full fat. I don't think I could duplicate that.

I never knew stained-glass was so expensive. Your friend must have been very good at his craft to be able to charge that much. I suspect his work was beautiful.
The piece of art at the top is actually of pen and black, blue, and metallic ink, watercolor, over graphite. It does look though as if it could be stained-glass.

Hope your weather is not bad and it gives you a reasonable amount of rain. Have a good one.

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QMS's picture

yesterday (sunny and 60) gathering pollen from the crocus. Encouraging.
Black sunflower seeds are a staple we feed for the Chickadees, Nuthatches, Titmouse, sparrows and other songbirds. Even the wrens like them. The rabbits and deer seem to get the sunflower plants we grow. Popular plant.
Thanks for the OT Rand!
Enjoy the day.

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@QMS
Seems to coincide with the rise in landscaping/grass cutting contracts. Bumblebees and mason bees doing fine.

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I've seen lots of changes. What doesn't change is people. Same old hairless apes.

@QMS , you had some warm weather, nice. Good to see the bees.
Our sunflower seeds go to cardinals, sparrows, dove, titmouse, wrens, and chickadees. They go through a lot of seeds.

It's time for the army worms to descend from oak trees here which happens every spring. They hang from webs and are also called web worms. The birds all feast on them. Every time you walk outside you have to pick a caterpillar or two off of you. I used to (inadvertently) take them to work with me.
Have a good one.

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Jen's picture

I have been cleaning my flowerbeds out this past week. Getting all the leaves and weeds out. If I could snap my fingers and be rid of all the crabgrass, monkey grass, and wild violets, my job would be a lot easier. I am thoroughly convinced that grass is the ugliest and most useless weed in the world.

In the front flowerbed, I have some veronica (speedwell) blooming. My m-i-l called it a weed, but I think it's just a pretty ground cover. Also have some candytuft that I planted 2 or 3 years ago blooming. It has more than tripled in size since I planted it.

I got both of those plants and more from a local guy that sells all kinds of flowers and bushes for $6 each. Only open on Fridays and Saturdays because his place of business is also his home and his whole family helps out. https://whistlehillnursery.com/
I'd much rather give my money to a local small business than to give it to Walmart or Home Depot.

On my back porch, I have some catnip growing for Harley. She rolls around in it whenever I let her come out with me. My daughter and her boyfriend think it's weird that my cat comes outside on the back porch with me and doesn't even try to run away.

I also have miniature daffodils, hyacinths, pansies, primrose, and ranunculus blooming on the back porch. My miniature rose bush is growing new leaves and the chives and rosemary are doing well in their third year.

I love flowers but I didn't have very many last year. The year before last, I had the back porch crammed full of all kinds of flowers. Hoping to have a lot this year but maybe not as crammed full where it's hard to get to them all.

I did not mean to make such a long comment. I can really talk about flowers though. Hope everyone has a good day. Smile

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Is it great yet?

@Jen
Years ago I had a catalog from from a grass seed company in Kansas. I expected lawn grass seed but instead it was pasture seed. A very interesting catalog. Different varieties had notes like "cows love this" "best for sheep". I never knew those animals had taste preferences! In fact, the catalog says the cows hate Kentucky bluegrass and will only eat it if nothing else is available. Who knew?

Along those lines, I had rabbit damage high on my mini-trees due to deep snow cover. Interestingly, I have a Quince growing between two M-27 apples. Both apples were chewed on but the Quince was not touched. In another part of the yard I have several apples and an Asian Pear. Again, the pear was not touched. I had always read that rabbits chewed bark in winter because they were starving, but not hungry enough to eat pear bark or quince bark? at least when apple bark is available.

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I've seen lots of changes. What doesn't change is people. Same old hairless apes.

Jen's picture

@The Voice In the Wilderness I am not a cow nor do I have any cows. I wonder how much they'd like this awful crabgrass. I think that's the only kind of grass in my yard, along with an equal amount of clover. Also patches of wild onions and wild violets, a few dandelions here and there and other "weeds" that I don't know the name for.

But I'm just concerned when it spreads to my flowerbeds. Anywhere else and it's anything goes grows.

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Is it great yet?

@Jen
And rabbits love dandelions and other weeds (aka native plants).
Wild dandelion is bitter to my taste. I once bought cultivated dandelion at an Italian deli for our domestic rabbit. It was rather bland but she ate it. She ate that bitter wild dandelion enthusiastically. Our domestic rabbits are the descendants of European wild rabbits (cottontails are separate species). dandelions are also a European import. Without native predators or diseases they (danedelions) spread like wildfire. Like rabbits in Australia, North America didn't have that experience because there already were placental predators (coyotes, foxes, wildcats..) that preyed on cottontails and jackrabbits.

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I've seen lots of changes. What doesn't change is people. Same old hairless apes.

@The Voice In the Wilderness . The rabbits always eat it. I've had to resort to planting it in pots so as to keep the rabbits out.

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@The Voice In the Wilderness today that we had removed from our garden. They were in hog (cow) heaven.

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@randtntx

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I've seen lots of changes. What doesn't change is people. Same old hairless apes.

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@randtntx

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I've seen lots of changes. What doesn't change is people. Same old hairless apes.

@Jen , I just only got back home a while ago but am going to look up the ground covers you mentioned as I have not heard of them before.

I feel the same way as you about supporting local nurseries. I never buy plants at the big box stores primarily because they don't really sell natives or the plants that do best in everybody's very specific ecosystem/community. Also a big yes to supporting the local plant guy, that is awesome.

We have what is called nutgrass here. It is so difficult to get rid of and loves to encroach on any and every piece of ground one clears. It seems as invasive and irritating as the grasses you mentioned. I know what you mean, "...if I could snap my fingers". Today I spent almost a full afternoon clearing out clover from between onion plants. The clover had taken over the onion bed but we couldn't rake it up or mow it down because we had to gently remove it from between the onions. Our fault for letting it get away from us but it sure did.

Here is an interesting story about Catnip being used as an insect-repellent. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/03/210304145425.htm
Apparently it is effective. I might have to get some, that is one herb I don't have. (I don't have a cat either.)

Your list of flowers sounds so great. I bet you have a beautiful garden (and back porch). Hopefully it will turn out just as you want this year. I'm hoping the same for here. I have to start over with my rosemary because the freeze got to 3 out of my 4 plants. My chives though....they never die...nothing can kill them.

Have a good evening Jen, thanks for stopping by.

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@Jen I'm with you on the crab grass etc. (don't get me started on ridding my garden of bermuda grass, grrr.
However...

I am thoroughly convinced that grass is the ugliest and most useless weed in the world.

A fun fact I learned recently: good old corn and bananas are both grasses.

So, I guess one could say.."not all grasses". Wink

Your flowers sound lovely, a good reminder to me to help out my eyes and mind (and the pollinators) and plant more flowers. I tend to get overly pragmatic in my plantings (planted a peach tree last year instead of the magnolia that I had initially planned etc.). I'm pretty limited in space, but you and rand remind me that flowers don't take up so much. Thanks to you both.

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Reading what everyone is planting or has planting sound like it would be beautiful to see! My weak excuse is the transient nature of my existence at the moment but did buy some basil, chives and spicy oregano for my bucket planter that I can carry with me on my transiting between places.

Rand, you mentioned the Wildflower Center and I have been thinking about riding out to there and check out the condition of the trail the last mile or so. My sister in law lives in neighborhood where we can ride from her house via roads to Violet Crown Trail, a 13 mile trail running from Austin Zilker Park to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The last 1/2 mile of the trail is still a very rough mountain biking section that drops you out onto the Veloway that has existed in Austin since the 1990’s but now is surrounded by a very upscale neighborhood. From there short ride to the Wildflower Center.

We have talked about going to look at plants during their sale since all of their 40+ year old plants froze in greenhouse when power was lost during the storm that hit Texas. They have decided to focus on herbs and veggies only and what few plants that are emerging from the detritus.

On the recent bike rides, been seeing bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush along the path as well as other native bloomers. Very nice for riding now.

Hope everyone has a great day! Thanks for the OT Rant, a great topic and I love to read about people’s gardens.

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Life is what you make it, so make it something worthwhile.

This ain't no dress rehearsal!

@jakkalbessie . What I most dislike about buying herbs at the grocery store is that I usually don't use the whole bunch and oftentimes the rest is wasted. If you have your own little mobile garden you can always pick just the right amount you need. Very neat.

As far as having a beautiful flower garden Jb, I have only just begun and have a long way to go. I don't have much experience with flower gardening having always left that kind of work to the flowering shrubs, trees, and perennial wildflowers. It's only in the past several years that I have tried to cultivate them (with the exception of sunflowers, and some wildflowers, which I have done before and truly enjoy).

Your bike-riding excursion sounds fabulous. I hate to say it, but I have never been to the Wildflower Center. I only know it through their online presence and I appreciate that very much.

It's so sad about your SIL greenhouse and loss of 40+ year-old plants. We lost some plants as well but I don't think to that extent. It must be very disappointing after having cared for and cultivated them for so long. I'm trying to choose the hardiest plants I can to fill in the gaps of what was lost. I have been watching and waiting to see what might still be alive and emerge. The gardening experts have been counseling patience before you get scissor happy and cut/saw things down. I have been so happy to see a few things come back that I initially didn't think would make it.

The wildflowers in my yard and neighborhood are on the sparse side this year. Today though, we went about 40 miles south of town and the wildflowers were really prolific...just plain fantastic.

Have a good evening, thanks for stopping by.

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is running slow as molasses this morning. We are getting a spit of rain in my area and perhaps more in nearby locales. Sometimes that is enough to cause problems for my connection.

I am off to do some planting of vegetables about 40 miles south of town where they have actual soil (!!) instead of a bed of limestone like I have here. I will be planting in the mist which is fine (as long as it doesn't start to pour) because the ground is already prepared.

Hope everyone has a good day. I see the first three interesting comments down below and I really want to answer them but my planting partner is chomping at the bit to go and things are moving slowwww. Will check in later.

I should say I see the first four interesting comments above. Thank you all. I can't wait to get back and talk flowers. So much to say!

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magiamma's picture

Thanks for the ot. Love the image of the peacock and cranes.

Sunny here now for weeks maybe so it’s time to water again. I planted a great number of pink ladies along the edge of the preserve. So far they are doing well. They should be quite striking when the leaves die off and they bloom.

Good luck on your plantings this morning. Have a good one.

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@magiamma , very cool. They sound beautiful. I never thought I would be such a sucker for flowers, I always thought the effort of planting them a bit silly. I have 100% changed my mind though. My great-grandmother had a fabulous flower garden. I could really use some of her experience and tips right about now.

We are short on rain here. It seems it rains all around us but we keep getting the short end of the stick. I think I'll be watering everything tomorrow as well.

Speaking of water, the articles you posted on the widespread inability to afford water was really amazing. I didn't know it was already that bad. I'm going to have to go back and read that again.

Take care magi, have a good evening and thanks for stopping by.

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