Grumpians, what six plants if eliminated from the Universe would drive you to the brink of despair? That is the monumental question I and other bloggers from around the country wrestle with this week. Read my list below, then click on the links to read the other blogs. Don’t agree with our choices? Tell us yours!
1. Native Azaleas—Evergreen azaleas from Japan and China may be more popular than federal bail-outs, but give me our deciduous native azaleas every time. Each spring, I marvel at their grace, beauty, range of flower colors, and sweet fragrance. If God has made better plants, I have yet to meet them.The flowers shown above belong to Piedmont azalea (Rhododendron canascens), which is quite common in our Alabama woods. My garden also contains Florida flame azalea (R. austrinum), Alabama azalea (R. alabamense), Oconee azalea (R. flammeum), and the summer-blooming plumleaf azalea (R. prunifolium). Go native, Grumpiana!
2. Narcissus—Tulips may be gaudier and come in more colors, but daffodils and jonquils are the best garden bulbs for the South — period. They come back year after year, rodents don’t eat them, and many naturalize and spread to form drifts. Because they live so long with so little care, many become heirlooms passed from generation to generation. You can’t say that about tulips. And the simple fact is this — no other plant signals spring is nigh better than the earliest, cheery yellow daffodils. On my list of favorite Narcissus — ‘Avalon,’ ‘Bell Song,’ ‘Falconet,’ ‘Geranium,’ ‘Hawera,’ ‘Ice Follies,’ ‘Intrigue,’ ‘Jetfire,’ ‘Minnow,’ ‘Quail,’ and ‘Trevithian.’
3. Spanish moss—Like gray shawls draping the shoulders of old women, the long, airy beards of Spanish moss are the South’s most iconic symbol. I remember growing up in Maryland and returning with bags filled with with this ephiphyte from our trips to the Carolinas. We knew Spanish moss wouldn’t survive winter up there and also needed moisture to survive, so we hung it in our laundry room. Too bad we forgot it also needs light. Spanish moss loves the lowlands and always grows its lushest near the water where the air hangs heavy like wet towels. It prefers certain trees over others — you often see it dangling from branches of live oaks, magnolias, and cypresses, but hardly ever from pines. Thanks to global warming, it’s now thriving in a neighbor’s tree in Birmingham.
4. Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis)—This is one of those plants I love because it gives me what no other plant does — about two months of blooms beginning in early February. Eat your hearts out, Wisconsin cheeseheads! Hybridizers have come up with a dazzling array of new colors and floral patterns, but I’m content with the simple white and rose. The evergreen foliage is pretty year-round, the plant is carefree and tolerates drought, and seedlings provide many new plants. In my opinion, this and hosta are the top two perennials for shade. But since everyone (including bin Laden) grows hostas, I’m picking this.
5. ‘Antares’ mum—Haven’t heard of this flower? There’s no reason that you should. It’s an old, unidentified, passalong mum that I named for the first-magnitude, red giant star in the constellation Scorpio. It’s a tall, floppy mum that will grow up a trellis if you let it and it also spreads by roots. It blooms very late, often not until mid-November. My father got it from his cousin, Welcome, many years ago in Maryland. Then I transplanted a clump to my house in Alabama. Each time it blooms, I remember where it came from. Wherever I end up, I’m taking it with me. My wife can come too.
6. Kudzu—Maybe I was wrong about Spanish moss. Maybe this vine is the South’s most iconic symbol. It grows over a much wider range. Heck, it grows over just about everything. Brought to the South for erosion control, cattle feed, and shade for porches, kudzu (Pueraria lobata) has been much reviled for covering the world like Sherwin-Williams. But it has its good side — every part of the plant is edible and you just haven’t lived until you’ve relished some deep-fried kudzu leaves. Kudzu is so ingrained in the Southern environment and culture that if it disappeared tomorrow, we wouldn’t recognize the place. I mean, what would we use to cover old school buses, rusty propane tanks, and abandoned houses? Kudzu, we need you now more than ever.
Check Out These Excellent Blogs for More Plants Folks Can’t Live Without
Defining Your Home Garden. Written by Cameron in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Digging. Written by Pam in Austin, Texas.
Diggin’ It. Written by Judy in Boston, Massachussetts.
Fairegarden. Written by Frances in somewhere in Tennessee..
Fresh Dirt. Written by garden editors at Sunset in California and Washington.
Gardening with Confidence. Written by Helen in Raleigh, NC.
Hoe & Shovel. Written by Meems in central Florida.
Sweet Home and Garden Chicago. Written by Carolyn in the Windy City.
Mea culpa! Some of you have written asking what happened to Jim Long’s list. It’s totally the Grump’s fault. I neglected to send him the correct date for the blogathon. You can still read Jim’s list in the comments below. Sorry about that, everybody!