Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Etched in Gold




Luezea conifera is a pretty odd and amazing plant for those of us who went so long without knowing of its existance.  These specimens were in Bob Nold's garden in Lakewood (near Denver), a writer of some excellent books and articles, including two that I have on Penstemons and Aquilegias.  I marvelled at how the seed bearing "cones" (techically it is called an involucre) appeared to be spray painted in gold.  Bob allowed me to take a few for seed, and I have to admit to being somewhat conflicted later on as I ripped them apart to harvest the seeds later on, it felt almost sacrilegeous to disassemble such beautiful works of natural art. To add to the effect, their is a mass of ever so soft fluffy fibers in the middle of the cone, which is also attractive when moisture allows the cones to open, rendering the interior fibers visible.   Leutzea conifera comes from Spain and Portugal and the Balearic Islands, so its somewhat of a surprise that is does so well despite Denver's significantly colder winters.  In fact is does well in dry situations, which is more expected for a Mediterranean plant.  From what I can find in references the flower isn't quite as spectacular as the seed heads, it basically looks like a small pale purple or lavender batchelor's button atop the ridiculously large "cone".  I will start some seeds this spring and see how they do outside in NY, it is at least a short lived perennial when happy.  I imagine that our wet winters and humid summers would be the biggest problems for it, but plants often surprise even experienced gardeners, you really don't know if something will work in your garden until you try it yourself (at least a couple of times). 

1 comment:

Acantholimon said...

Love that plant! I grew it for years back in the 80's and 90's: glad it is still around...I think I got it originally from the Archibalds. I may have to beg some seed!