Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Cup plants in bloom

We only went to the store once, about five years ago or more, and I keep wanting to go back. The place specializes in native wild prairie plants of Wisconsin, like the cup plant.

I was charmed by the story of the cup plant, so named because the cup-shaped leaves hold water after a rainfall, providing a source for insects and other beasts. The late-summer blossoms were a bonus.

The cup plant planting was the most successful among the flora we brought home that day. I planted about six of them along with about six of another, red-flowering plant, but I didn’t notice that the cup plant grows to about 6 feet tall, and the other plant did not, so the smaller flowers got overwhelmed.

The original planting is in the upper left-hand portion of the photo. Over the years seeds have slowly allowed the plants to spread, until now we have a veritable grove of cup plants. Red the gardener is tempted to cut them back, but I am the Wildflower Man and defend their right to migrate.

This is my favorite time, when the cup plant flowers begin to blossom, although it alarms me a bit because it hardly feels like “late summer” at this point. Actually, I have a new favorite time.

That day we also brought home a couple of scrubby little things called compass plants. For three or four years, they dutifully issued forth some interesting but inauspicious green leaves every season, sort of like elongated oak leaves close to the ground. But two summers ago, one of the plants shot up an incredible, 7-foot-high stalk that broke out in yellow flowers, and the next summer the other plant did the same. It was like the ugly duckling of foliage, producing not much to look at until suddenly one day a swan.

The compass plant stalks are up; one is at least 7 feet high and the other about 4 feet. One of these days soon, the flowers will emerge. I can’t wait.

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