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Plains Coreopsis Is the Ultimate Wildflower

Plains Coreopsis Will Not Be Tamed

plains coreopsis, wildflowers

Plains Coreopsis is a reseeding annual. Seeds that fall to the bare ground in the early fall germinate into low rosettes. They stay there all winter, waiting for warm weather in early summer, when they suddenly sprout into four-foot-tall, delicate, airy plants. The new blooms start out as tiny orbs at the tips of the fine-textured foliage, and soon pop out in cheerful circles of bright color. Most have maroon eyes set inside yellow edges, but this can vary. Occasionally, a plant will be solid maroon or solid yellow, depending on the amount of bleed between the two colors. By mid-July the flowers have set seed, and hold their small, round seed heads until fall. Plains Coreopsis has a life cycle that starts in fall, rather than spring, like a typical warm-season annual.

When sowing seeds, be sure the ground is bare. Plains Coreopsis likes to start with a clean slate. If you let Plains Coreopsis reseed on its own, it will locate randomly, scattered in spots not covered by other growth. It likes newly disturbed areas more than established, static plots, so it will never behave in a typical ornamental perennial bed. The stems are so long and thin, it tends to droop badly with the weight of its open blooms, so it will need staking if you want to prevent it flopping to the ground. Bending over to gently drop seed is its way of moving to good soil where it can germinate on bare ground. The seeds don’t need to be buried in soil. They are content to sprout from empty ground. They will self-seed for a few years, declining in numbers unless you provide them with new spots and a change of scenery. Each fall I gather several dried plants full of seed heads and scatter them in various open, sunny spots, hoping they will choose to germinate in at least one or two areas.

Flower Shows

Experiences from an Industry Insider

flower show tips

Flower show are competitive events for displaying floral design, garden design, and horticultural specimens. The National Council on State Garden Clubs continues to be the standard guide for local flower shows. Horticultural society flower shows have regional events with large participation and attendance. The larger shows provide a venue for commercial entities and organizations to create large display gardens. Two well-known flower shows are The RHS Chelsea in Chelsea, London and The PHS Philadelphia Flower Show, in the U.S., both sponsored by horticultural societies. These huge shows require corporate sponsorship and vast venues. They are difficult to stage and finance, and like trade shows, are being superseded by online marketing. A more typical, local flower show is run, top to bottom, by volunteers interested in the thrill of garden design and plant material.

I’ve participated in a few large-scale flower show displays. They showcase green industry design professionals’ abilities and promote new business, promote floral and landscape companies, and provide valuable educational displays. The image above shows the setup and preparation for a display of hundreds of forced daffodils in bloom. The exhibit was built to promote the purchase of wildflower tags to fund the planting of new daffodil plots. It was fun to construct and quite beautiful for the brief moments it was in place. For large-scale flower shows, everything must be set up and taken down within a few days. You need trucks, a crew of heavy-lifters, access to large props, and masses of plant material. After creating a few displays, I have to say, the process not enjoyable, unless you really love to show off. The real fun is in the competitions and seeing the display gardens built by other groups.

Church Floral Decorations

Respectful Creativity

church floral arrangments, church decorations, altar guildDecorating a church service is a careful, respectful process. Before doing anything, you should contact the local Altar Guild to check on specific requirements. Arrangements for the altar require a reservation. There may be height and width restrictions. There may be special, water-proof coverings required. There may be special restrictions on how and where you can place floral decoration. You may not be allowed to hang arrangements on the edges of pews or in windows. There will almost surely be restrictions against using nails or glue to affix items to the structures in the sanctuary! Don’t assume anything.

Most churches frown on the use of artificial material. There are practical reasons Christmas wreaths and garlands must be artificial, since they will be on display from late November to early December, but even when artificial greenery is allowed in certain areas, it may not be in all. Many churches do not allow artificial, taped music, much less silk flowers. Typically, anything beyond the altar rail must be live of dried, real plant material—no plastic!

Lighting and candles can get tricky, too. Most altar guild members have stories to tell about damaged caused by candle wax or flames. The simple act of blowing out a candle can cause molten wax to spew across priceless furniture and expensive fabric. If you plan on using candles or electrical receptacles, check first with the altar guild, and be prepared to explain how you will protect items nearby.

Advent Wreaths

Live Materials Only

advent wreath, advent wreaths

Creating an advent wreath that will last through five worship services over several weeks can be a challenge. An advent wreath has four candles around the perimeter, one for each Sunday in the advent season. A large, central candle is lit on Christmas day. The central candle is white. The four other candles can be purple or blue. Often, the third candle, representing joy, is pink. Typically, the wreath materials beyond the altar rail should be only live greenery, live flowers, or dried material. Because the wreath is used for over a month, the greenery and flowers in the wreath will need to be watered and sometimes replaced as they fade with time.

Halloween Decorations


Halloween decorations, holiday yardsMy neighbor goes over-the-top with his Halloween decorations. He does such a good job, adjacent homeowners get a bit nervous! The all-out, outdoor display includes a large cemetery, Frankenstein, Dracula, Witches, Werewolves, Zombies, and Children of the Corn, all life-size in carefully authentic depiction of horror. People drive from far and wide to slowly cruise past the elaborate, “dead-like” light display, complete with dancing skeletons in the windows and singing pumpkins. My neighbor passes out free candy and collects money for his favorite charity each Oct 31st.

Garlic Chives

Architectural Flowers

garlic chives, architectural flowers, herbsGarlic Chives are very useful. They come back year after year and provide clean, white blooms, clustered at the top of strong (relatively), single stems in late summer/early autumn. They can be used for cooking. They can be easily seeded to fill in empty spots in a perennial bed, and they make a perfect, knee-high edging plant for a long border. They are architectural because they have strong structure and the blooms remain a reliable, uniform height.

This is an easy-care plant. It can tolerate Zone 3 cold, and will remain evergreen in Zone 8. Even though it is invasive in Australia, you can control it without much trouble. The seed heads open late in the season. They are held compactly at the top of the stems. If you catch them before the seed clusters dry and the large, black seeds start popping out, you can control its spread. All it asks for is sunshine and water.

Making Sweet Grass Baskets

sweet grass basket how-toLeave it to the Experts

When I visited the open market in Charleston I was drawn immediately to the sweet grass basket weavers. The stacks of baskets next to the women had a refined quality not present in any other hand woven basket I have seen. The wrappings looked like strips of veneered wood and the bundles of stems they secured had smooth uniform diameters. Picking up and handling the baskets was a surprise. The feel was solid and strong. Then I noticed the prices. Yikes! $50 for a medium sized basket and $25 for a token souvenir. I left without a basket.

Later, I found out that the baskets are made with common marsh grasses that grow in the swamps. Very few people sell the finished baskets online. When they do, the prices are sky high. I also learned that the swamps were full of alligators. The extreme prices began to make sense to me!

I have since seen exquisite examples of sweet grass basket weaving. The beauty of the contrasting light grass bundles and dark, woody windings appealed to me. I began to so some research, hoping I might be able to make a basket on my own. I wanted to duplicate the examples or even create innovative new containers using the same technique.


Promise of a New Year

winter blooming perennial

At just about the time I have given up on life and the land, the Hellebores begin to perform. How does such a broad-leaved species not wither in the deep freeze? Instead, the foliage takes on new life and sends out blooms! No wonder it is called a Lenten Rose. My faith in a returning spring is renewed.

If you are lucky enough to have a few Hellebores plants, save the seeds to make even more next year. Because new plants can be easily grown from seed, you need to be prepared for variations in the results, from deep purple to almost white. More is better, because you will want to use the flowers in arrangements. The purple-tinged chartreus blooms go with every color scheme. The flowers are long-lasting and substantial in size and turgidity. The weight of the blooms causes them to nod on their stems.

The blooms hide from you, hovering under the foliage. It is such a nice surprise to discover them each January or February! The foliage is evergreen in the south, staying under two feet tall.

There are a lot of hybrids that offer reliable color choices. 

What to Do with Old Holiday Lights

Continue the Cheer Year-round

old holiday light sets reusedDo you have a bunch of old, outdoor holiday lights that are languishing in boxes? It’s hard to throw them out, isn’t it? You can give them new life as an outdoor light sculpture. String them along a garden fence to turn them from obsolete to artistic—your own light-infused Jackson Pollock! Use chalk to draw your lines and wrap the strings around screws or nails to create cheerful, linear, garden illumination. Tuck away and secure any sections that won’t light (That’s probably why they were stored away in the first place). Run only a few sets per extension cord to avoid blowing fuses. Creating an outdoor light sculpture gives useless, old strings of light a new purpose. The wires remain untangled, in case you ever decide to use the light sets again, and they are no longer taking up space in closets. When the time comes, and it will, when the final bulb fades to darkness, you can throw the sets away guilt-free, knowing you have used them to their fullest potential. Recycled lights can have one last moment of glory as free-form fence art.  what to do with old holiday lights