When you look at Godetia, do you see God?
Actually, Godetia is named for a Swiss Botanist by the name of Charles Henry Godet, who lived 200 years ago. But the plant that honors his name is clearly celestial in origin and, as someone by the name of DaisyPlantLady recently commented on a gardening web site (www.davesgarden.com), “When these appear in my yard, I burst into a rousing rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus.”
Just the other day, I came upon a Godetia that did not look real. I had to touch its petals several times to make sure it wasn’t a silk imitation. Recent strides made in the artificial flower industry are truly remarkable and I have been fooled more than once, mistaking fake flora for the real thing.
Another name for Godetia is Farewell to Spring. This name is not strictly related to the time of year that Godetia blooms but rather to the first days of hot weather. Phenology is the study of cyclical events in the natural world — such as bird migration, animal hibernation, onset of flowering, and coloring of fall foliage — as they relate to climatic elements. Plants have a prophetic sort of knowledge in this regard. For example, it is often said that when lilacs first begin to flower, the danger of winter frost is over or, when jacarandas bloom, serious hot weather is on the way.
The scientific name for Godetia is Clarkia. Clarkia honors William Clark who, together with Meriwether Lewis, explored what would become the Western United States. All Godetia/Clarkia species, with the exception of one or two, are indigenous to California and the West, which makes them popular choices for our wildflower mixes. Godetia are famous for their capacity to self-sow and a small planting of mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata), for instance, will take over a large swath of ground if given half a chance. I have seen wonderful examples of this on parkway strips, here and there, throughout Los Angeles.
Speaking of plants that can take over, consider Mexican cardinal flower (Lobelia laxiflora). This plant spreads rapidly by means of semi-underground stems known as rhizomes. Flowering is intense, on and off, throughout the year. It does not need much water to thrive and may even become an invasive nuisance when given more than one weekly dose of water. But for providing simple coverage of the ground or when faced with erosion problems on slopes, you just might want to plant Mexican cardinal flower. Its tubular flowers are an open invitation for hummingbirds to pay a visit.
It seems that whenever I step into a nursery, I encounter a Pelargonium cultivar that I have never seen before. Recently, I was astonished by two ivy geraniums (Pelargonium x peltatum) which kind of took my breath away. For the uninitiated, what we call geraniums are usually, botanically speaking, Pelargoniums. True geraniums are much less planted in gardens than Pelargoniums and that’s a shame, really, since true geraniums — with pink or blue flowers and finely laced or delicately lobed foliage — are the definition of horticultural refinement. In any event, I recently saw an ivy geranium known as ‘Contessa Purple’ or ‘Black Magic’ with flowers of a deeper burgundy than any I had ever seen. I also happened upon a ‘Royal Candy Cane’ cultivar which looks very similar to ‘Freestyle Arctic Red,’ ‘Global Stars & Stripes,’ and ‘Jester Red & White’ ivy geraniums. Because Pelargoniums are so easy to propagate, it is difficult to keep their plant patents in tact. Clones from the same mother plant, taken from shoot cuttings, may soon end up with different varietal names.
Native to South Africa, ivy geraniums bloom non-stop for two to three years before going into decline. While it is tempting to replace these deteriorating plants with more of the same, resist the impulse to do so. Over time, pathogenic fungi build up in soil planted with ivy geraniums so that newly planted geraniums will quickly die. The same phenomenon, incidentally, can be seen in flower beds continually planted with impatiens. After a two or three year run with ivy geraniums or impatiens, it is advisable to replace them with plants from another family. You might consider replacing ivy geraniums with carpet roses or Salvias and, where impatiens have been growing for some time but finally lose their luster, plant dragon begonias and ferns instead.
Tip of the Week: Water lilies are not as water needy as you might think, especially where they completely cover the surface of a water pond so that evaporative water loss is minimized. You can certainly float water lilies in a whiskey barrel or kiddie pool if you want to try your luck with them. They need full sun and fertilizer to look their best and will flower from now until the fall. Cold tolerant water lilies are seen in red, pink, yellow, and white, whereas tropical water lilies also flower in blue.