20 July 2012

centaurea montana

My mom grew this in a partly shady garden next to the stone wall on the south side of our yard, and I remember vases of the blooms on our dining room table when I was growing up. The flower always seemed a little odd to me, a little vulnerable, vague, and sparse. I wanted more petals. They're such an intense blue, but I thought there were too few of them. It's a pretty flower, but not in any usual way.

Mom must have moved the plant to her garden at the lake house where she and my dad spend most of their summers these days, because she still cuts it for her flower arrangements. And I have remained ambivalent toward it.

This means that I've never asked my mother for a piece of her plant to put in my garden, and when I've seen it or its gold-leaved cousin at nurseries, I've thought, Oh, I should buy that because it reminds me of home, but I never have.

Then last summer, my friend Pam offered me a piece of her plant, and I thought, Oh, all right, let's try it. She told me not to be sad when the leaves disappeared after I put it in the ground. "It'll do that, and you'll think it's a goner. But then it will send up new leaves and maybe a bloom or two, and you will be happy." Well, it did send up a bunch of leaves last summer, but it didn't flower until this spring. And when it did, all my ambivalence disappeared.

The sparseness of the petals seems delicate and elegant to me now. The plant is huge and has been in continuous bloom since May, a real plus in my gardening book. The blue is gorgeous, and by happy accident my Eryngium 'Sapphire Blue' is planted right next door, so that the interplay of these two odd birds is kind of wonderful. I'm such a fan that I'm considering buying the gold-leaved version, too, and, in fact, I did buy another centaurea this spring, Centaurea macrocephala. It has a yellow, thistle-like flower that makes it look like C. montana's football-playing older brother.

I'm glad I got over my reservation about this wonderful plant. I don't know why it took me so long to decide to grow it up here on the hill, but I'm happy I finally came around. I feel like I should tell my mom that I get it now.

And thank you, Pam!

1 comment:

  1. The flower is gorgeous! And upstate NY is gorgeous! I interned there one summer a few years back. Thanks for sharing!