Our ancestors must have had a good time naming their plants. Not the scientific ones but the fun ones.  Sometimes it was something they saw in the flower, or the root, or even the leaf.  One that is easy to grow in Nebraska is “Love in a Mist” (Nigella damascena). In some places its name is “Devil in a Bush”. Found in the Mediterranean and North Africa comes in blue, white, pink, or yellow.  The name could come from the stringy, hair like growths that surround the flower.  Only about 20 inches high, it looks good in the middle of a bed.  The seed pods could also be responsible for the name. They are inflated capsules with small spikes that look good in dry arrangements.  Easy to grow from seed, in full sun in well drained soil, they will re-seed themselves somewhat but not invasive.  You can prevent this by deadheading, but I like a surprise here and there.

          I was introduced to “Cup and Saucer” Vine (Cobea scandens) by a friend who had it growing up a brick garage wall. It looks like its name.  Coming from Mexico it has tendrils with little hooks that helps the plant climb as much as 20-25 feet. The saucer is a pale green calyx holding the purple cup.  The vine is also called Cathedral Bell.  Here in Nebraska it is an annual.  It needs full sun and rich soil that is moist. The seeds are large with a hard outer shell.  Directions with the seed say to soak it in warm water several hours and plant on the side as they rot easily if kept very wet in the soil. Some authors recommend filing the outer shell to let moisture in to speed up germination.  I have had it grow well on a chain link fence.  Don’t try to rush those seeds. Sometimes it takes a month to get started.

          Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis) looks like its name.  Each flower hangs down from a stem coming out of the center of the “heart” and then hanging from the pointed tip is the “dripping blood” usually white. The stems are long and slender so in a breeze the flowers will all move slightly.  They start up early in the spring, reddish in color, and grow up to 2 1/2 to 3 feet here in Nebraska .  There are about 20 species, some of which are natives of the United States .  Some may reach 4 feet.  The plants come as a fleshy, brittle root so be very careful as they snap easily.  This is true if you try to divide your plant after it goes dormant.  They like shade, so too much sun or too little water or a very hot summer will see them start to turn yellow and turn black.  But they will be up again the next spring.  If you decide to divide or move your plant, do it while you can see the yellowing leaves to mark the spot.  Dig carefully around the outside of the area as any part you break off will shrink the size of your plant.  They will seed in a long summer but the new plants may not be an exact copy of the original.  Compost is probably the best fertilizer you can give.  Dormant roots need some moisture so do not let your area get desert dry.

          Bloody Sorrel (Rumex sanguineous) is so named because its veins are red. It is a Dock so any part may cause a stomach upset if eaten, and some people’s skin is irritated by the foliage.  Bloody stays down fairly low so makes a nice edging plant in sun or part shade. It is listed as a perennial but for me seldom lasts more than 2 years.  The seed is not always easy to find as most people have not seen it but when I do it is usually in the herb section.  It does re-seed itself after the second year but rather sparsely so I hunt for “lost” seedlings in the area and move them where I want them to be. They move very easy. The flowers are so small you will probably not see them, but the leaves are gorgeous, up to 18 inches long with the wild red veins.  Some years I direct seed them and others start them easily under lights.

          The Star Flower, also known as (aka) Star Cluster (Penta lanceolata), fits its name with a cluster of 5 point pink, red, or white flowers-1/2 to 1 inch across. There are some who grow as tall as 6 feet but seedlings one gets in Nebraska in the spring usually get between 2-3 feet depending on their summer.  They are shrubs in Africa and hardy only to zone 12-15 so don’t expect them to do much until our hot days arrive.  Butterflies love them and they will grow well in pots.  They do their own deadheading. First the spent flowers turn green and seem to disappear with the leaves dropping off later. They do well in bouquets with their clear bright colors of stars. Sometimes they are not easy to find so keep your eyes open.  Since my Grape Hyacinths are trying to “take” my yard, I plant the Stars by pulling a few Hyacinths.  The bulbs around will reproduce and the Pentas cover their dying foliage.

Copyright 2009





1.       To continue flower production of Christmas Cactus, continue growing conditions of no extra light at night along with cool night temperatures in the 50’s

2.       Move African Violets to the brightest window to continue flowering during winter.  African Violets bloom in relation to the quality and quantity of light which they receive. 

3.       Remember our feathered friends, especially with all the snow we have had. Feed the birds in your garden with a bird food specifically blended for species of birds found in your area. Also remember, some will eat from large feeders, some from platform feeders, and others, like Junco’s, like to feed off the ground. Do not let sunflower seed hulls collect under your feeder as they are toxic to the soil if allowed to accumulate.