Miss Floribunda: Gathering Granny’s nightcap

Dear Miss Floribunda,

I just came home from a “green” wedding. It wasn’t just that the bridesmaids wore green: the vegan cake was made from organic carrots and nuts; everything in all the other dishes were probably free-range; the decor, dishes, table cloths and cutlery had been made from recycled material, etc. But what was really sweet were the flowers.They were all native wild flowers in bloom, and they gave a fairyland look to the wedding. I almost expected to see flower fairies peeking between them. After the reception, all the plants were given away as favors. I took home a pot with a ferny thing dangling red and yellow flowers. The curved-up edges on the flowers made them look like the hats of court jesters. Can you tell me what it is, where to plant it and how to take care of it? Also, where can I get more? I also saw white fluffy flowers and some incredibly tiny blue flowers that I’d like to know the names of. The bride would know, but she’s away on a honeymoon.  

Enchanted on Hamilton Street

Dear Enchanted,

The plant you brought home is not hard to identify from your description. It’s a wild columbine, popularly known as Granny’s nightcap (The Latin name is Aquilegia canadensis.).  A woodland plant, it does well in shade and thrives on neglect. You can get more of them at the Hyattsville Elementary School PTA’s Native Plant Sale on Saturday, May 20, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The plants will be labelled and arranged by category on tables in the school’s gymnasium, accompanied by pictures of them in bloom and instructions for their care. Native-plant experts will be present to help you with your decisions. The address is 5311 43rd Avenue between Jefferson and Gallatin Streets. Check out this web site to see the many choices offered: hyattsvillees-pta.org/native-plant-sale/.  

Despite the fact that a wide range of native plants will be offered at this sale, I’m not sure the other flowers you mention will be among them. They are less easy to identify for one thing. Since they are blooming now, the possibilities are narrowed down quite a bit. I suspect that the plants with the tiny blue flowers were bluets (Houstonia caerulia), also known by the demure name of Quaker ladies. The white fluffy flowers may have been heartleaf foamflowers (Tiarella cordifolia). These and many other native plants — some quite rare — will be available  at the Chesapeake Natives Plant Nursery public sale on Sunday, May 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The sale will take place on the grounds of the beautiful Mount Airy Mansion in Rosaryville State Park in Upper Marlboro. Here is the web site: chesapeakenatives.org/. There you may meet such Hyattsville Horticultural native-plant experts as Wendy Wildflower, Dave Greenfingers and Aunt Sioux, with whom you can consult.  Because native plants do not as a rule bloom continuously, you will probably want  to learn how to select and arrange them to provide continuous color interest throughout the growing season.

While it’s marvelous that you are susceptible to the charm of native plants, you can also congratulate yourself on having found a simple, easy and ecologically friendly way to garden.

Native plants thrive without poisonous insecticides or fertilizers that leach into our waterways.  They provide a safe habitat for bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects.  

There will be no meeting of the Hyattsville Horticultural Society (HHS) in May. On our usual meeting day, HHS members will be arranging flowers for the homes opening their doors for the Hyattsville Preservation Society’s annual Historic Hyattsville House Tour. The tour takes place on Sunday, May 21, from 1 to 5 p.m. This is a wonderful opportunity see some of Hyattsville’s most beautiful and historic homes and gardens. Tickets are on sale now at Franklin’s Restaurant and the Hyattsville Municipal Building.