Whenever I walk through my suburban neighbourhood, I enjoy looking at the beautiful garden and landscaping plants. Many homes, multi-family complexes, and parks grow interesting plants beside the sidewalk, path, road, or grass. I always appreciate the efforts of the planters and planners. I try to travel by some of the sites every day, whatever my reason for leaving my home. In this article, I describe and show five types of flowers that I discovered during the last couple of days.
The purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) has a dramatic appearance when it’s in bloom. The large, red dome in the middle is very noticeable and resembles a cone, as the flower’s name suggests. The pink to purple petals surrounding the dome create an attractive flower. The plant belongs to the family Asteraceae and is a herbaceous perennial. The family is sometimes called the family Compositae because of the composite nature of the flowers in many members of the family.
The purple coneflower is native to eastern North America and can be found in the wild there. The “cone” in the centre of the flower (which is technically an inflorescence) bears small, yellow to red florets. The outer florets that form the rays are sterile. The flowers are fertilized by bees and butterflies. These visitors can be just as interesting as the plants. The plant is said to offer medicinal benefits when prepared properly, though some of the claims about these benefits are controversial.
Sunflowers belong to the genus Helianthus and are native to North America. Like the purple coneflower, they belong to the family Asteraceae. They are tall plants that are annuals or perennials. Their cheerful flower is often reminiscent of the sun. The young plant displays an interesting behaviour linked to its common name. The immature plant bends towards the sun and follows its movement. The behaviour is called heliotropism.
The flower has a composite structure. The disk florets in the centre are fertile and produce the seeds. The ray florets are sterile. The pattern formed by the florets in the disk can be mesmerizing. One sunflower species (Helianthus annuus) is cultivated for its seeds and the oil from the seeds. Sunflower “seeds” are actually a dry fruit called an achene.
The plant above was a rare discovery for me. It was growing in a pot. Its large flower attracted my attention as I was passing by. I’m glad I noticed it.
Crocosmia or Montbretia
The genus Crocosmia is a popular plant in my area this year. I’ve seen it in several places where I’ve never noticed it before. The plant belongs to the iris family, or the Iridaceae. It’s sometimes known by the common name montbretia.
The flowers of the plant are fiery red, orange, yellow, or a mixture of these colours, depending on the cultivar. The leaves are sword-shaped. The pretty flowers backed by the green leaves are an attractive sight. Some of the leaves of my local specimens are upright, but many bend over and create a cascading effect.
The photos above and below were taken under different lighting conditions and in different locations in my neighbourhood. Despite the different lighting, the flowers in the first photo seemed redder to me in real life than the orange ones in my second photo. The plants may have been different species or varieties of Crocosmia. Several types are sold by garden stores in my area. The red flowers on the upper right of the photo below belong to a different species.
The owners of the first flowers has planted them outside their fence, so passers by have easy access to them. People seem to treat whatever is planted there with respect. I took the second photo outside a townhouse complex that is located by a neighbourhood park. The buildings have lovely landscaping outside them. A walking path travels between the buildings and the park. The area is enjoyable to explore.
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) is another plant with a dramatic appearance. The flowers are large and the dark brown center and vibrant yellow or golden petals attract attention, especially when the plants are grown in a group like the ones below. The plants bloom in summer and fall. Like the coneflower, the black-eyed Susan flower is actually an inflorescence with fertile disk florets and sterile ray ones.
The story of the plant’s origin is linked to an old English poem written by John Gay (1685–1732) and entitled “Sweet William’s Farewell to Black-Eyed Susan.” It describes a sad farewell meeting between a woman referred to as “black-eyed Susan” and a man named William, who is a sailor. The meeting takes place just before the William’s ship leaves the port.
Hydrangeas are very popular where I live. The most common type is Hydrangea macrophylla. I see multiple colours of the flowers during my walks. The colour depends on the pH in the soil. Soils with an acidic pH tend to produce blue flowers. The acidity enables aluminum ions to move through the plant, changing its colour by changing the structure of a pigment called delphinidin-3-glucoside. A more basic pH produces red flowers because the aluminum ions join to hydroxide, forming insoluble aluminum hydroxide. The colour change isn’t rapid, however.
Hydrangeas with white flowers don’t change colour based on pH. Anyone interested in controlling the colour of their hydrangea flowers should do some research to get specific instructions about the process.
I took the three photos below in a landscaped area at the entrance to a golf course. It’s an interesting place at any time of the year, especially when the plants are in bloom. The area has a lovely group of hydrangeas in multiple colours.
The climate in southwestern British Columbia is relatively mild in winter compared to that in much of Canada, Many flowers bloom in the fall or continue to bloom after first appearing in summer. The plants that I describe in this article plus some other lovely types should continue to flower for some time. I’m looking forward to making more interesting discoveries during my walks.