Petunias. Marigolds. Ditch Lilies. Red Salvia. Ageratum. Portulaca. Geraniums. What do these flowers have in common?
Your grandmother probably grew them. Maybe your mother, too. When you walk into a garden center, do you stop and ooh and ahh over them? Or do you do like I do and give them a cursory glance and walk right past them?
Somewhere along the way, petunias and marigolds became boring. Ditch lilies got taken for granted. Red Salvia and purple Ageratum became cliché. Portulaca, or Moss Rose, perhaps bears too much resemblance to its cousin, that persistent weed, Purslane. Geraniums, which aren't really geraniums at all, but Pelargoniums, have just graced one too many window boxes.
But really now, how DID these plants become so overused and landscape abused? Just why did Grandma plant them every year? For as despised as some of them are, they are also:
- Easy to grow
- Heat and drought tolerant
- Readily available
- Generally pest-free
When we look at what we want to grow in our gardens, aren't these characteristics the ones we want in a plant? But familiarity breeds contempt and while we may grow these in our own gardens, they aren't high on our list of favorites and they aren't the ones that we drag garden visitors over to see.
"Oh, come look at these ditch lilies! Don't they just have the most perfect blooms you've ever seen? [and they do] And look at that orange - so pure and bright! [and it is]"
There are new cultivars being introduced all the time. There must be a gazillion different petunias out there, and with the introduction of 'The Wave' petunias, they're gaining new respect. But I say, respect your elders and the flowers they grew.
It's time we quit trash-talking flowers. Grow the latest and greatest things in your garden - I do. But don't forget these tried and true oldies! They're part of our history and they've earned and deserve a spot in everyone's garden.
Grow some Ageratum and get down on your hands and knees and marvel at their intense blue-purple color and their fuzzy flowery finery. I'll bet when you visited Grandma's house as a child, you thought they were cool. That's because they were. And they still are.
Make new friends,
but keep the old.
One is silver,
the other is gold.
Photo Credits: Salvia from Texas A&M; Portulaca from Sunrise Seeds; Ditch Lilies from Gardeners Network; Ageratum from Alan's Flower Farm.