Archive | October 2014

Disk and Ray: Delving into Composite Flowers


“The neighbor across the street, who is a know it all and a Master Gardener,  said that coneflowers are a single flower. I thought they were a lot of little flowers. Am I remembering incorrectly from biology class long ago or is my neighbor a plant idiot with a big title? Just wondering.  Thank you! Jordie”

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Prairie Coneflower

Hi Jordie,

Thank you for your question. Good news: you are right.

As a horticulturist, I interact with folks that garden with various levels of knowledge.  However, I think the thing that is most detrimental to gardening the gardener that *believes* they know everything because they are a Master Gardener.

Don’t get me wrong — the Master Gardener’s program is great and has made a lot of advances in educating people. But, as with any subject, you will always have a few bad apples that will are the overly-puffed up ‘expert’ that knows ‘everything’, but really knows nothing. Generally this comes from insecurity and the need to be the best and brightest in the room, no matter what. And deep down, they truly believe they know it all.

What is funny is when you have a conversation with folks like this and they assure you that they know more than you because they are Master Gardener (and have taken 8-18 weeks of training), while you have a Master’s Degree (and 9 years of post-secondary education).  You can read more of my thoughts regarding Master Gardeners here.

But I digress. Let’s get back to composite flowers!

Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) are a member of the Aster Family (Asteraceae).  The is one main key feature to the family: they all have composite flowers.  A composite flower seems to be a single flower, but is actually a cluster of many smaller flowers that work together to look like a single large one.

A great example of this is the sunflower (Helianthus annuus).  If you look at it closely, you will see that the large ‘center’ of the flower is actually comprised of a ton of little flowers. These flowers are called disk flowers. Each has 5 tiny petals that are fused into a cup-like structure, 5 stamens, and a pistil.  Each disk flower makes one seed.

On the outside, in the area that most say are the petals of the ‘single big flower’/composite flower, are the ray flowers. These flowers have all 5 petals fused together to make one huge petal. They also have 5 stamens and a pistil. Like the disk flower, each ray flower makes one seed.

Each species within Asteraceae varies in the amount of disk and ray flowers it has. Because of this, the family is broken down into two subfamilies. In the Dandelion subfamily, you have composite flower that have ray flowers overlapping each other all the way to the center. In the Aster subfamily, you have more traditional composite flowers with the ray flowers at a minimum on the outside.  However, the lines between the two subfamilies have been blurred with the advent of plant breeding and the selection of plants with less or more ray flowers, respectively.

Of course, I am sure your Master Gardener friend would poo-poo what I have said because of all the sepals around the underside of the coneflower — surely that would make it a single flower and not a composite flower.  Ha! Wrong again.  Those are not sepals!  They are bracts!  Bracts are modified leaves that surround the composite head. A great example of bracts at work are found in artichokes — the bract is what you eat.

If you wish to find the sepals, you would have to look at the ray and disk flowers under a microscope, as the sepals are reduced to hairy pappus (small scales) or are not present at all.

I hope this information helps you out. Please feel free to share this article with your neighbor.

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© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Transplanting Rhubarb in the Autumn


“I want to transplant some of my rhubarb in South Dakota.  How do I transport the roots (it is 12 hr drive)?  If I can not get them in the ground before it freezes how can I keep the roots safe and get them ready for spring?  How long do I have to get them in the ground – before the ground freezes?

Thanks,

Lynn”

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rhubarbHi Lynn,

Thank you for the email regarding your rhubarb.  We are getting into the time of year when it is not best to move the plants — long or short distance.

What you want to make sure of before the plants are moved is that they are completely dormant but before the ground freezes.  Once dormant, dig up the roots.  If you are moving them a long distance, they can be put into a brown paper bag with moist sphagnum moss.  This bag is then incased in a plastic bag so you won’t get your car wet.

When you are ready to plant, make sure to put a little sphagnum moss in the hole.  The acidity is okay because it will help the rhubarb to have a nice red color and it will maintain the moisture during the dry times in autumn.

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.

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© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Pruning Columnar Apple Trees?


“I bought columnar apple trees a few years ago. This year they had a few branches come off the main stem. Should I prune the branches, leaving only the main stem, or are branches good to keep around for more fruit? If I should prune them, is fall the best time or should I wait until spring. Thanks.

David in Denver”

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Hi David,

Thank you for contacting us in regards to your columnar apple tree. The
tree should have small branches coming off of it. These branches are called
“spurs” and are where your blossoms and fruits will form. After a spur has
produced for a few years, it will naturally die back and fall off. More
spurs will continue to grow as the tree matures and has the potential to
bear more fruit.

Columnar Apple Tree

I hope this information helps you out. If you have any other questions,
please feel free to ask.

American Garden Award winners announced


Reprinted with Permission of the National Garden Board:

 

American Garden

Award

2014 Winner

Announcement

DOWNERS GROVE, IL, October 1, 2014 – Five months of very active voting have just concluded and it’s time to announce the 2014 American Garden Award Winners! 2014 concludes the sixth year for the American Garden Award flower popularity contest and 2014 featured four beautiful flower varieties chosen by their breeders for their excellent garden performance. Once these varieties were planted and put on display at the thirty-two participating gardens across the U.S. and Canada, the general public was invited to vote for their favorite using one of several voting methods…and vote they did! With over 7,000 votes, the first, second and third place winners are ready to be announced. Breeders, brokers, distributors and retailers are encouraged to use the AGA logo when promoting these three winners as this logo designates these flowers as a consumer’s choice.

The three top winners, based on online voting, in-garden votes and text votes are:

Most Popular! Grand Prize Winner
Foxglove Digiplexis™ Illumination® Flame
By Cultivaris, Inc.

With a mother from the Spanish Canary Islands, this incredible new foxglove hybrid produces a stunning summer-long display. Incredible Red-Pink flowers with flaming orange throats are produced in classic foxglove style from May to October. Great in pots or borders, it is long-lasting as a cut flower too!

Second Place Winner
Petunia Sanguna® Radiant Blue
By Syngenta Flowers, Inc.

This stunning new hybrid petunia packs a punch! With a bicolor flower pattern, Sanguna® Radiant Blue gracefully adds beauty to any container. While creating standout pots for porches & decks, it also performs well in garden beds. The possibilities of this flower will provide many options to decorate garden spaces.

Third Place Winner
Celosia Arrabona Red

By PanAmerican Seed Inc.

Masses of striking red plumes will last all summer long! Easy care, drought tolerant and loves the heat, Arrabona’s fiery beauty looks gorgeous in both borders and containers.