Friday, April 1, 2016

Cardinal Flower Rescue


Native plants hold a particular fascination for us.  Nothing is ever simple and in this case we have the conflict between plants taken from the wild and having beautiful flowers in the garden.  In this case, we bought our first plant so were not directly involved in its possible wild harvest.  Cardinal Flower lends itself to cultivation.  Our plants have been in our garden for at least two decades and number far greater than the single plant purchased so long ago.  It is likely that our first plant was grown at a Sandy Mush Herb Nursery in Asheville, NC.

Various books describe Cardinal Flower as hardy to zone 4.  We have only seen this plant in the wild twice and both sightings were well south and east of our home.  Early spring appears to be an extremely perilous time for this plant.  When the snow cover melts, bright green leaves clearly mark the locations where the plant has grown during winter.  Then the freezes and frosts inevitably occur.  With no protection from location or cover, the plants in the first photo show serious damage.  Overnight temperatures in the teens are forecast for the weekend.  Protective action must be taken now.


This cluster of plants are close to the stone wall that anchors the center of our garden.  Located on the north side of the wall, these plants are shielded from the cold air that pours down from the ridge and sweeps across our garden.  The stone wall also stores heat and that has helped these plants survive to date.  We plan to cover these plants in place with a plastic tub this weekend.  Two bottles of warm water may be placed near the plants.  Chances favor the survival of these plants with help.


Damaged plants that appeared still alive were cleaned up and placed in pots.  These plants will spend the next several weeks on the wall just outside of the basement door.  When severe cold threatens, a quick move into the basement will keep these plants alive.  With luck we will have seventeen lively Cardinal Flower plants to scatter about when the weather stabilizes.

One of these potted plants is not like the others.  Since each mature Cardinal Flower plant should produce six daughter plants, full trays could have been possible.  Faced with one empty square my choice was to disturb an entire cluster for a single plant or pot up the Valerian plant that was already out of the ground.  With its reddish cast and completely different leaf structure, it should be easy to spot!

We have numerous small Gloriosa Daisy plants showing green leaves.  Potting them up is next on the list for today.  Light rain is falling and some might think it strange to see me digging in the garden while getting wet.  One has to take advantage of the conditions each day offers.  Those who know me already find me to be a bit different.  Of course some of those people spend April 1 standing in the rain with cold water up to their waist trying to catch a trout.

2 comments:

PlantPostings said...

I know--this yo-yo weather has been crazy this spring. I'm debating whether to cover some plants tomorrow night when the temps will get down to the middle 20s. They made it through the ice storm last week, but now more of them are blooming. They're near a stone wall, too, so that helps. I'm ready for spring to take control!

Indie said...

I woke up today to several inches of snow. I thought, well at least it will insulate the plants from some of this cold weather! I've never seen Cardinal flower in the wild, but that would be a sight to see! I love Cardinal flower and have a cluster near my greenhouse I've been meaning to divide and spread around. Hopefully they'll be fine after our arctic cold snap.