Sunday, August 15, 2010

Prospecting in catalogs

I remember running across Tradescantia tharpii in a flora once decades ago, and wondering if I would have to trudge out to the Ozarks personally to collect the little bugger since I'd never seen it offered in a catalog. Years went by, and I saw it at the Dyck Arboretum outside Hesston and a year or two later found it in a Bluebird Nursery catalog.
I eventually got several plants from Harlan, and here are the two that I've grown for years in my home garden. I need more. They have put up with a great deal of abuse (I've sprayed the grass growing with them with weedkiller for instance) and carried on: unlike other dayflowers, these will not spread all over your garden and become a menace. They are demure and comely, covered with silken hair when they emerge, and blooming for weeks on end in early summer. Who could ask for anything more? (Far more deserving of the GCA Freeman medal than the recently awarded Spigelia marilandica, which is a fussy woodlander for humid, mild microclimates).
I shouldn't be telling you about this, since I have decided come hell or high water I'm going to order a whole flat of them next spring (they are incredibly inexpensive) and plant them everywhere in my garden. Bluebird has been selling these for years, but I have yet to see them in a garden center, or in another garden (aside from Dyck and a few not too happy tufts I planted at DBG) for that matter. Bet you don't have it!
It is truly strange to me that this, one of America's most glorious native wildflowers, can languish (as it were) while the unwashed masses positively gush over all manner of technological devices, media nonsense, SPORTS (for Heaven's sake) and the usual glut of consumer crap that clutters the airwaves and mucks up our otherwise meaningful lives. I betcha Brangelina has significantly more Google hits than tharpii. Helllooooow? Perhaps that's why we are so cheerfully going to hell in a handbasket?


  1. I love this species! I've grown it in the scree here in our hot and humid Kentucky garden for 10 or more years. Larry Vickerman, former head of the Dyck Arboretum, now at at DBG Chatfield, took us to to Mushroom Rock, Kansas where it was growing in some inhospitable soils - well, that's what every dry land looks to an easterner.

  2. Aha! Should have figured you'd have it in that magnificent scree garden! I wonder what else you have tucked away in there...

    I gotta get Larry to take us out there too: sounds like a marvellous place.

    You now comprise the third garden where I know it grows.

  3. As a 2003 introduction by the Great Plants for the Great Plains people, you got to wonder why this plant is not more widely distributed in the gardening trade. Does Bluebird still have their once-a-year open to the public offering?

  4. Good point, Mr. Anonymous (You must be the clever one who had the info on SE slopes?). Plant Introduction programs are not all equally efficaceous.

    I think they always have a big open house in July: but they are very workable. Just have your local nursery order a few flats.

  5. I love the drama PK!


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