Sunday, November 26, 2017

Sisters Or Seed

Cardinal Flower has been a prime focus here recently.  How a native plant that is described as hardy to zone 3 can freeze out frequently here in what is now described as zone 5 is a frustrating puzzle.  Late winter hard freezes are the problem.

The first picture shows several sister plants growing around the base of a single stalk that flowered this year.  The single spent stalk marks this plant as a transplant that was set out in the spring.  If these young plants survive, each will send up its lone stalk that will produce flowers.  The resulting cluster of flowers will create an impressive display.  These plants are positioned so that a covering bucket can protect them from late frosts while doing no damage to adjacent plants.

This jumble contains perhaps seven stalks that flowered this season.  Since a single plant can result in six daughter plants, there may be as many as forty-two new plants growing here.  Overcrowding is the obvious result and if left alone next year's plants can not all survive here.  These plants will be transferred to pots just as soon as the soil is workable next spring.  Fall transplants always frost heave and die.  This cluster may well contain more plants than we usually pot up but we have big plans for next year.  It is our hope to find other gardeners who would like to  encourage cardinal flower to grow in it's natural environment.

Cardinal Flower also reproduces by seed.  Garden soil seldom contains enough moisture for successful germination but at time plants from seed are found.  Warm soil is another requirement for the seeds to sprout so plants from seed will not be found earlier than late May.  This plant was found and moved in August.  Notice how much larger it is than the pictured daughter plants.  These will require protection in place from the late frosts and they will surely get it.  Sumac berries are the source of the small red spheres.  Any that sprout will be weeded out.

This is one of three transplants set out at the base of the forest covered bedrock ridge last spring.  We are hopeful that the plants that follow these can survive on their own.  Since over-protection is in our makeup, one plant will likely get a bucket cover when frost threatens while the other two will be left on their own.  Since moisture leaks out from the base of the ridge, seeds dropped here this fall will likely sprout next summer.  Our hope is that a wild naturally perpetuating cluster of Cardinal Flower plants will establish themselves here.

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