As something of a house-slattern I am always very encouraged to discover flowers which reward negligence. If you too like to whack flowers unceremoniously in a jam jar and have them look scuptural and all design-y on your bench for week upon week with nary a change to the water then these Anthuriums are your babies.
On the other hand with a little care, the odd stem snip and a change of water you might just have them forever. I’m never going to know for sure. Let me know if you find out!
They’re also known as ‘flamingo flower’ or ‘boy flower’ due to that rude single spathe, which you will note I have positioned tastefully downwards in my portrait. Anthuriums come in a range of gorgeous colours, from the fresh lime and chartreuse flower you see before you, to pinks and fiery reds.
These fellas are part of the South American arum family which include the tough office survivor the peace lily and the semi invasive (and thus highly rewarding) arum lily, which you often see in the middle of farm paddocks in NZ, untouched by the animals for good reason. Again with the hermaphrodites, the flowers are both male and female. So handy on the evolutionary front I imagine. Flowers are about sex above all else.
Older people often shudder when they see arum lilies inside the house because they have been traditionally associated with funerals. But their low maintenance nature and highly graphic profile means they’re also irresistible as a cut flower. The simplicity also appeals to a certain type of minimalist hipster which has lead to a renaissance in interior design use. My current favourite is ‘Marshmallow‘ pictured with its lovely glowing soft pink throat.
I have always been attracted to the robust graphic profile of echinacea purpurea, which for a long time I knew simply as the purple coneflower. It’s a tall perennial prairie plant with tough leaves and a spiky orange haloed cone which becomes more pronounced as the season grows longer.
My grandfather came from the prairies of Canada and although he was first and foremost a tree man, flowers like these and black eyed susans remind me of him. I couldn’t possibly cast suspicion on a man who is no longer here to defend himself but I strongly suspect some of the flowers in his Central Otago garden may have entered the country illegally in a Harris tweed pocket. Man was a walking biohazard.
This flower was a little past its best, with its petals slightly askew, which makes for a more interesting subject to paint.
Echinacea is traditionally used as as a tea or supplement to support immunity and help prevent colds and flu. I haven’t yet tried this with flowers from my own garden, I like to look at them in the garden too much. The dried cones also make a nice textural addition to a bunch of flowers when the rest of the garden is otherwise getting sparse.
The lovely white form called ‘White Swan‘ has hints of fresh lime about the petals, but much as I’d love to be one of those tasteful gardeners with a restrained palette, I just can’t say no to other colours. In general the original forms generally tend to be a little more vigorous and that’s a useful thing for the lazy gardener.
I have been oddly slow to incorporate perennial plants which have the miraculous trick of renewing themselves each year. Bit by bit, I am trying to wean myself away from seductive charms of the blowsy and expensive annuals which flirt with me at the garden centre. If this blogpost has a moral it must be: focus on the long term relationships in your life and your garden!
Do you have a favourite perennial?