High 83.2 F
Low 60.3 F
Plant collectors and addicts love the unusual. The sight of an Amorphophallus elicits exclamations of delight! The newest cultivars of Echinacea have been much discussed in the blogosphere. The basic pink and white coneflower cultivars have given way to orange and yellow. If only there were a blue! It is no different with annuals. The commonplace such as the ubiquitous plantings of red salvia and yellow marigolds leave me cold. The daring and the unusual demand further examination. Take for instance
Zinnia elegans ' Cactus Red'
this zinnia observed at Tower Hill Botanical Garden. It is about four feet tall, orange, and makes quite a statement in this vegetable garden. As I mentioned, I am not a lover of marigolds bedded out but I do like this smaller flowered marigold which makes a lovely border plant. I believe it is Tagetes tenuifolia. Here it is bordering Mom's walkway. It has the pungent smell of a marigold with a much finer outline and texture.
Red Leaf Castor Bean, Ricinus communis
Then there are the mighty annuals, one of which is the castor bean plant. I know, it does belong in the 'Deadly Garden' as Heather from Heather's Garden named the future plot, but if you have no children to worry about it is quite an ornamental plant. The Castor bean plant, Ricinus communis, is native to East Africa and is a member of the Euphorbiaceae family. Castor oil, one of the many treats of childhood, is formulated from this plant and seeds of the castor bean were found in Egyptian tombs dating from 4000 B.C. How can it all be bad? The plant produces a fine oil which was used for those oil lamps in days of yore. The beans do contain ricin which is very toxic. I guess the Egyptians knew not to eat the beans or to only serve them to their enemies. The beans each have a unique mottled pattern on them with no two alike. They are about the size of a pinto bean. There are both male and female flowers on one plant. The female flowers are quite pretty, as seen here. The male flowers are seen below the female flowers and are smooth.
While this plant is not native to the U. S. it has become naturalized in many southern areas. Many cultures depended on this plant for the oil which provided both medicine and light. Here, it is a plant which is feared by many, grown by some of us for its' ornamental value but often reviled in the press. What are your thoughts on growing this annual?