Thursday, January 30, 2014

Kudzu, In Disguise?

This past weekend, I attended a seed exchange along with about 150 other people.  I was there as a vendor, selling statuary while most of the attendees came, bringing seeds from their gardens as well as beautiful and well read old gardening magazines and books they could swap for something else to take home to read and pass the wintertime away until the seeds they collected and traded can be planted.

Looks innocent enough until you find out just exactly what Pueraria lobata stands for!
Throughout the day, there was quite a large variety of seeds, spread out in orderly fashion among the tables, in little plastic bags and petite paper envelopes for anyone to choose from.  My friend, Kim, picked up a nicely packaged seed labeled "Thomas Jefferson Vine" Pueraria Lobata, and handed me one as well.  It certainly sounded intriguing as I know there are several vines and flowers here in Virginia and throughout the country that can be credited to Thomas Jefferson and his travels to Europe, bringing them home to plant in his gardens at Monticello.

  Once I got home, I looked up what this particular vine, Pueraria lobata, really is, and oh brother, am I glad I did before I ever had the chance to scatter this invasive weed known as Kudzu!   That's right--KUDZU!!  What in heaven's name would possess a person to bring such an invasive, noxious weed to a seed exchange???  I have a feeling that even Jefferson, himself would not want this particular plant traced back to him, which I'm pretty sure, is not.

Actually, Kudzu, Pueraria montana var. lobata, is a member of the pea family (Fabaceae) and it does have a pretty and fragrant little purple blossom, when it blooms, which is not as often as you might think.  It is native to Asia and is a deciduous twining vine that can grow up to 100 feet capable of choking out surrounding vegetation and girdling large trees, just to mention two things. Even worse, these vines have been known to collapse buildings and bring down utility poles.  Just the word, Kudzu, can strike fear in the hearts of almost everyone, gardener or not, who has heard of it.

Map of the U.S. showing the states combating the very real problem of invasive Kudzu!
   Introduced in the USA in 1876 as an ornamental landscaping plant at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, (FYI to that person who labeled this envelope as Thomas Jefferson Vine--he died 50 years before that!) Kudzu was widely planted, especially in the Southeastern U.S. as a forage crop and for erosion control.  By 1997, it was classified as a noxious weed under the Federal Noxious Weed Act of 1974.

While there are beautiful vines that truly are attributed to Thomas Jefferson and freely reseed themselves, such as Purple Hyacinth Bean, Lablab purpureus, Scarlet-runner bean Phaseolus coccineus, Trailing Nasturtium Tropaeolum majus and one of Jefferson's favorite twining climbers, Snail Flower Vigna Caracalla, none of them are destructive to our environment like the beastly Kudzu.

So, if you go to a seed exchange, be wary of what you may pick up and most certainly do a little research on your choices before you plant those "magic seeds," if for no other reason than to make sure you are putting it in the right spot of your garden or yard.

And, to the person who brought the pretty little envelopes marked as "Thomas Jefferson Vine" Puerarea lobata to the seed exchange--fool me once--and probably a lot of people that day--shame on you.  Full me twice, I think not!

Note to the reader:  The photos of Kudzu were taken from general photos listed on Google.  I Googled "the invasive vine called Kudzu" and was amazed at the amount of pictures out there!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

I'm Going To be Published!

Okay, Okay. Let's not put the cart before the horse just yet, however, Blooming Hill is going to make it into a magazine--in the Netherlands, no less and I am most certainly thrilled!  The name of the magazine is Tuinieren, which means Gardening in Dutch and, if ever there is a country who knows about gardening, loves to garden and is filled with splendid gardens, it is the Netherlands.

Looking at these pictures makes me very homesick for a warm and sunny summer day, since it is only
0 degrees outside today!
How did I get there, you ask?? Well, they contacted me, last fall, after finding my blog on the internet and seeing a picture of the plate garden.  Then, they recontacted me just a few weeks ago and asked for a few more pictures of the garden and an explanation of how it came to be.  You can read about that in my blog entry, "For Love of Blue and White."  

So, if you are interested, stay tuned.  Blooming Hill will have a tiny, little mention in Tuinieren on May 5, 2014.  Cool!

(P.S.  Tuinieren and "For the love of Blue and White" are both linked to their specific websites so  you can click on them.)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Amaryllis, Sparkling Bloomer of Winter

They say that good things come to those who wait.  Consider the amaryllis, (Hippeastrum, spp.) a bulbous beauty of a blossom that seems always to arrive too early for the debutante parties of spring, continually misses the summer regalia's and tends to sleep straight through all of the fall gatherings and holiday cotillions only to wake up barely in time for New Year's. Then, finally this fabulous bloom, with her little sister petals in tow, unfolds her skirts and brightens up the dark days of January and even into February.

Claiming the Andes Mountains of Chile and Peru, and even parts of South Africa, as her native homelands, this flower maiden that comes in brilliant red, soft pink, sparkling white and even variegated color combinations, brings us a breath of fresh air and sunshine just when we might need it most. Outside, the gardens and lavender beds are either under 6 inches of snow or swimming in rain water with plant roots holding on for dear life, thanks to the prevailing weather fronts passing through and something called a polar vortex blowing by.  Inside, the amaryllis, oblivious to all of that, poses dreamily on her platform of soft, supple green and lets her petals drink in the warmth of a cozy home as they slowly open and greet the day.

In the language of flowers, amaryllis conveys splendid beauty wrapped up in an air of timidness--an aura that could be mistaken for pride and haughtiness. I imagine that poor--well, wealthy really-- Mr. Darcy might have given one to Lizzy in "Pride and Prejudice" before they got everything straightened out. The amaryllis is also associated with the zodiac sign of Aries and it's characteristics of passion, enthusiasm and adventure. Perhaps this is why Lizzy and Mr. Darcy seem to have a bit of a tempestuous relationship, of sorts, in the beginning.

Of course, you can't blame the flirtatious amaryllis for sleeping most of the year through.  She is the star of her own show at this time of the year, relishing all of the attention afforded her.  Envision Marilyn Monroe in her pretty white dress standing over a heating grate playfully smiling as her skirt floats and flies all around her. All is right with the world in the mind of this sleeping beauty who daydreams the year away in the cocoon of a brown shell becoming the colorful muse of the winter months.

So, consider the amaryllis. Better still, invite one into your home and watch it come to life before your eyes. This winter bloomer is certainly worth it!