Monday, June 1, 2015

Cardinal Flowers

A couple years ago I discovered the red cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) at Gardens Oy Vey in Arlington. Exploring the gardens there, I was surprised to find a magnificent stand of brilliant red flowers on deep green stems blooming in a shady area. I don't know if it was the intensity of the red flower or finding it flowering in a shady area that surprised me more. I bought some for my garden and the next spring I was rewarded with several additional plants. This spring I was happy to see that the number of plants had doubled again.

I really love the red cardinal flower and would like to add blue cardinal flower (Lobelia syphilitica) to my garden. But apparently blue cardinal flower does not love me. I've planted the blue one on two different occasions with no success, in spite of the fact that I read it is "tried and trouble free." If anyone has been able to grow these, please share your secret.

Last week at the Dabney Nursery my eye was caught by a bronze-leaved cardinal flower and I couldn't resist buying one for my garden. This is a Lobelia hybrid called  'Vulcan Red.' I've read conflicting information about whether the bronze color will persist through the summer--I hope so. Also, being a hybrid, I wonder whether it will produce seeds, and, if it does, if they will have bronze or green leaves.

Lobelia speciosa 'Vulcan Red'

Last year, I had a few cardinal flowers planted outside my kitchen window with a few 'Black and Blue' salvia. It seems the hummingbirds enjoy both kinds of plant, and I enjoy sitting at the kitchen table watching them. I happened to be sitting at the kitchen table one morning with my cellphone within reach and was able to catch one of the little guys visiting. You'll have to look closely at the flowers just outside the window to see him. On this particular day, the salvia were clearly his favorite.

This year, both the salvia and the cardinal flowers have spread in that bed so I'm hoping he'll be back and bring all his friends!

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