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I love growing plants with history, and an old-fashioned annual with a good story on my “hot" list is Gomphrena, commonly called globe amaranth. It’s been cultivated in European gardens since the early 18th century.  

Thomas Jefferson planted seeds of this perky, heat-loving annual in his childhood garden in 1737 and he also grew it at Monticello. Today it’s still a staple in his estate's gardens as it’s one of the few annuals that can take the blistering heat of summer and continue to bloom all season. 

Gomphrena was originally available in pink, white and a vivid magenta, considered quite jarring by many in the old days. But some 30 years ago, a gorgeous new hybrid became available and got lots of attention. Those crimson red flowers of Gomphrena  haagiana ‘Strawberry Fields’ were stunning additions to our orange and yellow stand of Bidens, Zinnia ‘Zahara’ and marigolds  last summer in the OPC display garden in Rochester. 

A new selection, ‘Las Vegas Purple’, a vivid plum purple sporting small round flowers on a plant that has an upright growth habit, rising to 18 inches in height, is on my wish list.  Though the flowers are relatively small and ball shaped, they attract attention because of  their neon color. 

These and other Gomphrena are popular for use as cut flowers and are easily dried for use in wreaths and other everlasting arrangements that will last for years. 

New this season is a vegetative selection of Gomphrena,  ‘Truffula Pink,’ from Proven Winners. It's  a compact grower that produces bright pink flowers similar to the tall, bright pink see-through plant Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ that also starred in the OPC display garden last season.  Rising to 18 to 24 inches, it works well in garden plantings and containers and garnered rave reviews in trial gardens last year.   

Gomphrena thrive in full sun and hot weather and grow best  in moist but well-drained soil. They don’t tolerate wet soil and are best watered at ground level. 

Appearances:  Join me and celebrate the arrival of spring at English Gardens’ Garden Party Weekend . At 10 a.m. Saturday I will present “What’s New in the Garden” at Royal Oak. At 1 p.m. I will be at the West Bloomfield store and at 4 p.m. I’ll speak at the new store, English Gardens Plymouth Nursery. 

On Sunday at 12 p.m. I will speak at Clinton Township and at 3 p.m. I’ll be at the Eastpointe store. All programs are free. For addresses and information check the English Gardens website: englishgardens.com and click on events. 

 

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to Yardener.com and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at detroitnews.com/homestyle.

 

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