Monday, July 14, 2014

Flower flop

Alas, the flowers I was so delighted with just a month ago have now fallen down on the job. Literally. The first time we had a really strong storm, all those tall blue cornflowers flopped over forwards. They eventually righted themselves, but the next storm sent them tumbling down again, and this time they didn't bounce back. And because they're all bent over forward, most of the shorter flowers (including candytuft, California poppies, and the new rose mallows that had just started to appear) are now largely buried.

I Googled the problem and found that this isn't unusual behavior for cornflowers. This gardening guide advises putting "peony cages" over them while they're still small to keep them from falling over. I doubt that would have been feasible in this flowerbed, with so many of them growing so close together, but in any case, it's a bit late late to try it now. Other sites recommend staking them, but I don't think it would work in a bed this size with lots of other flowers. An article in the North American Farmer says planting them in "mixed plantings" will help give them support, but it didn't seem to help in this case because all the other flowers in the bed were shorter. Maybe once some of the the taller flowers (such as cosmos, chrysanthemums, and coreopsis) have reached their full height, they'll help hold up the bachelor's buttons—but how to keep the bed from looking scraggly until then?

So far, all I've been able to think of is to go along the bed, trimming all the spent flower heads that I could easily reach off the stems to reduce their weight. (This is something the garden guide says you should do anyway to "prevent seed production and self-sowing while also encouraging the plant to produce further blooms.") It seems to have worked, sort of; at least, some of the bachelor's buttons are now standing upright again. Unfortunately, others are still lying down, which means that the bed as a whole looks more haphazard than ever. But perhaps after the next thunderstorm (which is expected to strike some time this evening) they'll all bounce back within a reasonable time. And if they don't, maybe I can try physically pulling them back with a rake—much like a mother trying to discipline her child's unruly curls. (Hmm, maybe what I really need to hold the plants in place is some sort of giant barrette.)
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