Monday, April 27, 2009

I'm getting a little tired of all this bursting into bloom around here

Rhodedendron
56. Rhododendron
Already knew: I always spell Rhododendron wrong. I want there to be an e instead of the second o. Rhododendrons are a bush that does well in acid, shady, wet soil. As such, they do extremely well here. Different colors seem to bloom at different times. In my neighborhood right now all the pink and red ones are in bloom, but the white and yellow ones are still budding. It has long slender, leathery leaves, that look rather like bay leaves, and it's evergreen. The flowers grow in clusters on a central stalk. It will stay in bloom from mid spring most of the way through summer, if you deadhead the flowers. You will also get more flowers on your bush if you deadhead at the end of the season, but I don't bother with that. The Rhododendron is the state flower of Washington.
Recently learned: There are over 28,000 cultivars in the the International Rhododendron Registry. This variety is actually the Pacific Rhododendron. It's mainly coastal, and extends from Monterey Bay in California through Southern BC. Each leaf has a life span of 2-3 years. It thrives in disturbed soil, so it would be good to plant after construction, say along freeways, instead of letting the next plant in this post take over.
Ragweed
57. Ragweed
Already knew: On the one hand, this is a horrible invasive weed that is one of the major causes of hay fever (along with grass), and it should be pulled out wherever you find it. On the other hand, you have to admire something that is happy to grow where there's an excess of car exhaust, although since it has a relatively short period of growth, it probably doesn't do as good a job sucking carbon out of the air as trees do. This appears in early spring mostly along the roadside when they don't bother to plant anything else there. It has small yellow flowers on dark spiky stems.
Recently learned: Ragweed is related to the Sunflower. It prefers dry, sunny, sandy soils. This is Common Ragweed, which we can all be glad grows to only about a meter tall instead of the 13 feet that Giant Ragweed can grow to. More pollen is produced during wet years, but it doesn't spread as well then, so it's less of a problem for allergies. It also produces more pollen in places where there's high levels of carbon dioxide, which is why it's so happy along the highway. Reading the control and eradication section of Wikipedia's entry on Ragweed is depressing me, so I'm going to move on now.
Tulip
58. Tulip
Already knew: Tulips grow from bulbs, and have one upright flower per bulb. They come in a very wide range of colors and petal configurations due to their immense popularity. They have been widely traded and hybridized since the 1600's. They are most associated with Holland, and the majority of the world's Tulips still originate there. You can find many stunning pictures of Tulip fields on the internet.
Recently learned: They originated in Persia and were introduced to Europe in 1554 by Suleyman. Tulips need a period of cold dormancy to grow, so you should plant the bulbs in late summer, early fall.
Forget Me Not
59. Forget Me Not
Already knew: Forget Me Not is an herbaceous plant with tiny, flat, blue flowers and sage green colored leaves. It is invasive in our climate, although not wildly so, and pretty enough that most people forgive it. It likes to grow in shady, rocky places. It blooms in spring.
Recently learned: The latin name is Myosotis from the Greek word for mouse ear. The flower is associated with romance and tragic fate and gets it's nickname from a variety of legends involving drowning and things being lost or forgotten. It is often used in weddings as a sign of faithfulness and enduring love. The Forget Me Not is an emblem of the Masonic Lodge, and also the Alzheimer's Society of Canada. It is worn by Newfoundlanders on July 1st to commemorate those who died in the first world war.

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