Ongoing Programming and Projects at the Growing Center
What's in Bloom? Documenting the Growing Center's Flora
In the spring of 2021, Growing Center volunteers began a project to help document the plants blooming in the garden. Our goal for this project is to create resources so that all of our visitors and fellow garden volunteers can be more familiar and knowledgeable about the plant life in the garden.
Bloom Time: Mid-spring
Grape hyacinth is a perennial bulb in the squill subfamily Scilloideae of the asparagus family Asparagaceae (formerly the lilies, Liliaceae) and is not a true hyacinth (Hyacinthus). Grape hyacinth, depending on species, is native to Asia Minor, southeastern Europe, and the Mediterranean. They do well in average soil conditions in full sun or partial shade, and will tolerate wetter wintertime soils than many bulb species.
Narrow, linear, green basal leaves emerge in spring, followed by the flowers on 4-8” stalks. Stalks have 20-40 tightly-packed, bell-shaped flowers with a mild fragrance. Flowers resemble an upside-down cluster of grapes. Naturalized flowers are often cobalt blue with white fringe. Foliage dies back after flowering, but begins to grow actively in mid-fall. Grape hyacinth is propagated by separation of bulb offsets, or seeds.
Bloom time: Late-spring
Location: Just below the herb garden
Roundleaf groundsel is an herbaceous perennial plant in the Asteraceae (Aster) family. Other flowers in the Aster family include marigolds, zinnias, chrysanthemums, and many more. Groundsel is native to Eastern North America and prefers moist soils and full to partial sun, usually inhabiting moist meadows, wooded hillsides, and stream banks. The nectar and pollen of the flowers attract small bees such as Halictid and cuckoo as well as pollinating flies and beetles.
The leaves at the base are oval, spoon-shaped and dark green. The stems reach between 10-15 inches tall and branch out to hold many flower heads which are bright golden-yellow in color.
Groundsel is rhizomatous and stoloniferous, meaning that roots and shoots of one plant can form new, connected plants nearby, eventually covering the ground with its own kin. Each flower head is actually a collection of many individual smaller flowers (50-70+ florets). There are two kinds of flowers that make up an individual flower head. Disc florets make up the center of the flower and each can produce one seed. Ray florets are at the outer edge of the flower head and make up what look like the ‘petals’ of this flower.
Bloom time: Early to Late-spring
Tulips are a perennial bulb in the Liliaceae (Lily) family and are closely related to onion. They appear to be native to central Asia, but have a long history and wide distribution. They were commonly grown in the Ottoman Empire more than 500 years before their popularity in the Netherlands (where they set off “tulip mania”). They perform best in full sun, and tolerate a wide range of soils, as long as drainage is good.
In early spring a shoot will emerge and form a basal rosette. Leaves are blade-shaped, narrow, and erect. They are alternate and have a waxy coating. Flowers usually occur on a single stem arising from the rosette. They become dormant in summer after flowers and foliage die back. They are propagated through bulb offsets, seeds, or micropropogation. Tulips are horticulturally organized into 15 different groups based on flower shape, bloom time, and size of plant.
Dwarf Crested Iris
Bloom time: Late-spring
Location: Pollinator area
The dwarf crested iris is a perennial plant in the Iridaceae (iris) family. This plant is native to the eastern half of the United States from Georgia to Pennsylvania extending westward to Oklahoma. They can be found in peaty woodlands, rocky slopes, bluffs, and stream banks. They prefer drier and slightly acidic soils in somewhat more shaded areas. The dwarf crested iris attracts hummingbirds and bees.
The leaves are green and their shape is narrow and pointed. The stems are short, reaching 3-6 inches tall. The flowers are a beautiful pale blue, lilac, and lavender in color with golden orange-yellow crests sizing at about 2 inches in diameter. The shape is distinct with three sepals that hold the yellow central crests, and three petals alternating one after the other going around the flower.
The dwarf crested iris easily spreads via branching rhizomes that connect plants just below the ground, making them one of the only irises that can form a low groundcover. After the flowers fade, the leaves grow 6-8 inches in height and hide the production of seeds from where the flower used to be. The name Iris comes from the Greek goddess who represents the rainbow.
Bloom time: June
Location: Pollinator area
Common milkweed can reach five feet in height on thick stems. It sends out rhizomes and will cluster. Leaves are 6-8 inches long and 2-3.5 inches wide and are oval in shape. Leaves are fairly thick with a prominent midrib beneath. The top surface is light to dark green while the underneath is lighter. Broken foliage exudes a sticky, milky, latex sap. Small, star-shaped flowers are clustered in spheres (umbels) at the top of the plant, usually with 2-5 clusters on each plant. Flowers are pinkish, but can tinge green to purple, and have a sweet scent. Fruits (pods) are about four inches long, horn-shaped, and covered in little flexible spikes. Pods are green, and turn brown as they mature. They split open revealing 50-100 seeds each with a white, fluffy floss that allows wind dispersal. It is widespread, opportunistic, and weedy in nature and appreciates full sun, though it will grow with light shade.
The genus name refers to Asklepios, the Greek god of medicine, as it has a long history of medicinal use. The sap was used to treat warts, roots chewed to aid in treating dysentery, leaves and roots infused for coughing, asthma, and typhoid fever. Fibers are tough and can be used to make rope. Floss—or seed fiber—was used as an alternative stuffing for life jackets in WWII, when there was a supply chain breakdown.
Milkweed is an important plant to many types of animals, but is most known for its relationship with monarch butterflies. They are able to synthesize the cardiac glycoside compounds which are toxic to most animals, and use this as a defense.