Sunday, August 26, 2012

Flossy perfection: the hunt. The story.

You know the drill: first you see it...and then you notice it. Finally you realize how special it is. You begin to fret a bit...why didn't I know about this earlier? Where on earth did it come from? Who is responsible for it? That's what I have been going through the last few years with the silvery Vernonias that have suddenly graced a very few fortunate gardens (not mine, incidentally). This one (Vernonia lindheimeri) is in Mike Kintgen's wonderful private garden (which is filled with unique and special treasures). There are some equally spectacular specimens of this at the Gardens at Kendrick Lake...but this should convey the silvery, silky majesty of foliage and graceful form. And those rich violet-purple heads of bloom? This constitutes perfection! And it is not mine! Is there justice in the world? The answer is...until I possess this and grow it at least half as well I shall not rest content!

You know you have a wonderful plant when it looks good from far away, and still looks good as you come closer. Silver leaved plants in our climate are a dime a dozen--tansies, Senecios galore, grizzly bear cacti, artemisias and antennarias all glisten and shine and shimmer, This one seems to hold up to any of them, which is saying a lot....and that purple is just the right "je ne sais quoi"...

Perhaps it is the hunt: the way that something enters our consciousness.  As steppe creatures--Steppenwolves as it were--we espy our prey from afar and stalk it (Google search and the internet have made the search almost too easy)...and soon we are filling in our credit card number--and then it's just a matter of time.

Although being from Texas, this might best be planted in spring. This year has coaxed it into such early bloom, perhaps it shall produce viable seed (most years it gets frosted first)...Perhaps we shall be able to grow hundreds or thousands: I want to see the world peopled with Vernonia lindheimeri!

We find ourselves researching in floras, looking through reference books (precious little on this gem, I must say)...and then another goal comes into view: How can I juggle my schedule and see if one day I can track it and find it growing in the wild?

This process of discovery, familiarity, and ultimately cohabitation--this sort of horticultural don-juanism--is an affliction all plantsmen have experienced endlessly.Unlike Don Juan, however, we do not move on and cast our conquered loves aside for a new one--we carry our loves around like an ever expanding posse--or harem, loving them all endlessly and forever!


  1. I grew a Vernonia for The Flower Bin this year, but a green, one not this gorgeous silver one. Is there a seed source?

  2. Alas, Ann. I know of no commercial source at present---but who knows? We may have some ripening locally after all! Stay tuned.


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