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E-Garden Almanac: Shooting Stars: Not the Galactic Kind

E-Garden Almanac

The E-Garden Almanac is the push-button, real human journal of Kelly D. Norris. All errors, grammatic grievances, and opinions are that of the author. Kelly is a freelance writer and Master Gardener from southwest Iowa. His passion and obsession with horticulture, plants, and gardening embodies nearly every function of his life. The E-Garden Almanac serves as the web extension of his columns, articles, and lectures.
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Sunday, May 03, 2009

Shooting Stars: Not the Galactic Kind

I never was big on watching the skies as a kid. Sure I stayed up and froze my butt off one December morning around 4:00 AM as I watched the Leonids trek across the sky (actually burning up in the atmosphere on their wayward traverse of the universe), but that was for extra credit.

But I've always been fascinated with shooting stars, just not the galactic kind. Members of the Primulaceae, the primrose family, the 14 species of the genus Dodecatheon qualify as some of the coolest damn plants alive. Seriously, who can beat petite, pendulous, pointy flowers with colorfully vibrant and reflexed petals? Plus they aren't so small that you need a magnifying glass.

I'm up to six or seven species with a few cultivars thrown in the mix for fun. They're perfect (absolutely perfect) companions for miniature dwarf and standard dwarf bearded irises. They bloom together and light up that garden with an ephemeral energy not possessed by anything else in the rock garden. The cultivar pictured above is a hybrid of unknown origins called 'Aphrodite'. Discovered in the Netherlands in 1990, its flowers are larger than most clones of any of the species in the trade. Let's put it this way--hybrid shooting stars don't happen every day!

Even with so few species in the genus, most haven't been grown in gardens or evaluated horticulturally. Names like D. frigidum (Latin for "damn cold" referring to its native home of Alaska and Siberia) and D. conjugans (Latin for....let's not even go there) top my list, though in southwest Iowa I doubt I can keep them all happy. All plants won't do well in all places, you know. But just because I can't grow all the shooting stars doesn't mean I'll stop reaching for them.


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