Nice shot above of cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) and ‘Gateway’ Joe-pye weed (Eupatorium maculatum). More on cardinal flower later….Today was another beautiful one with sunshine and temperatures in the mid 50 degree F. I’m seeing a lot of shorts and t-shirts around town which is sure a sign of spring; as are the motorcycles and guys out on the adjacent driving range. Next week looks quite mild too which will make for some nice gardening weather with a strong focus on clean up and tidying out in the gardens. Big John and Larry moved on to some other projects (both inside and outside) as the Holiday Light Show (HLS) is roughly 97.3% retrieved and packed away. John did a lot of organizing in the Horticulture Center and Larry moved on to some serious pruning on our crabapples (Malus) before they break bud shortly! Janice was in to work on preparations for our Spring Symposium which is coming up soon on March 19th! It’s not too late to sign up for our Plantaholics Retreat which looks like a great event that day. See www.rotarybotanicalgardens.org for more information on this symposium with additional details on how to register. Do it before March 16th please! Kathy and Kay were out tidying in the garden as were Jenny and Dave E. This foursome did a great job and we’re thankful for the “March opportunity” to get out there. Chuck was in for some recycling and Maury ran errands and bought some paint which will be used next week. We also saw Bob K., Mark S., Bill O. and many others today. I worked on a couple projects but my focus is on competing our orders for the Mother’s Day Spring Plant Sale and for the gardens as well.
I’ve always enjoyed seeing cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) at peak bloom as that red is just vibrant. However, we’ve had some challenges growing the perennial forms as they are quite moisture dependent. Native to a wide range of North America, cardinal flower (in the Campanulaceae family) blooms in mid summer with tubular flowers that feature an upper lip (2 lobes) and prominent lower lip (three lobes). Preferring part sun (tolerant of full sun with ample moisture), this hardy perennial (Z3) again prefers rich, humusy, medium to wet soils. It can also be short-lived which is not unusual for this species. Hummingbirds and butterflies enjoy this plant although cardinals are indifferent! There are some fun varieties of Lobelia cardinalis including white blooming forms, pink forms, salmon forms and maroon-leaf selections. The mature height of cardinal flower is related to available moisture but most will range between 24″ and 48″ in height at flowering. In the photos below, note that the healthiest patches are in part shade lowlands with plenty of moisture! There are some interesting hybrids further below and while most are not quite hardy, they can be enjoyed as annuals too. We’ll have both ‘Starship’ selections seen below in our Hummingbird Haven garden this year. Despite the quite specific needs for this plant, the additional TLC and consideration for their happiness will reap some colorful rewards!
Mark Dwyer, Director of Horticulture, Rotary Botanical Gardens
I am the Director of Horticulture at Rotary Gardens (Janesville, WI). Along with a talented grounds staff and dedicated volunteers, I enjoy being involved with this wonderful botanical resource. My educational background is in landscape architecture and urban forestry but it didn't take long to become a plant enthusiast and find a lifelong career.