Still much of the botanical material for my work comes from the market this time of year but slowly now, my garden is starting to provide a marginally modest medley of blooms too for my moody March work.
‘I AM DAZZLED BY YOUR CHARM’
Fields, meadows and grassy places, bristling with golden Buttercups, can be found throughout the northern temperate regions of the world. Look for these lustrous and delicate looking beauties near creeks, ditches, lakes or other damp places. Ranunculus is a genus of about 600 species including the Buttercups, Spearworts and Crowfoots. Anemones, Delphinium and Clematis are also in the Ranunculus genus but that is a whole other blog, so stay tuned for that.
Ranunculus comes from the Latin word ‘rana’ meaning ‘frog’. Some references suggest that the name refers to the damp places Ranunculus can usually be found but I also came across a few sites that credit the name to the likeness of a frog’s foot, when examining the foliage. Whatever the case might be, Ranunculus it is.
In the garden
Only a few of the Ranunculus species have become popular garden flower. They are either surprisingly difficult to cultivate or too easy and become weedy. However some Ranunculus varieties have done well as a garden plants and are widely available in garden stores from Fall -Spring.
Actually a perennial, too much or too little water will destroy this tuberous root and thus Ranunculus are often treated like an annual. Not such a bad strategy as they are such prolific bloomers and will give you many blooms for your buck when you have healthy plants.
Plant the tuber’s claw pointed end down and 1 to 2 inches deep, less in clay soil. Space jumbos 8 to 12 inches apart (at least one tuber per square foot), number three tubers about 4 inches apart two or three per square foot. See Prolific and Terrific Ranunculus.
Although found naturally in damp places, near creeks and such, most hybrid varieties prefer a well drained place in the garden. They need to be watered regularly but don’t want their roots in constantly damp soil. They will bloom for several weeks but when the temperatures rise, production will stop. Stop watering at that time, they need to stay dry when dormant.
Ranunculus is hardy to zone 8, in mild winter climates they can be planted in the fall for March-April blooms but in areas with harsher winters it is best to plant in early Spring for July blooms. Make sure to check for aphids, slugs and snails because Ranunculus are their favorite and try to keep the birds away when they first sprout.
There is much to love and enjoy about Ranunculus in the garden and beyond in the wilder regions of Mother Nature’s reign but nowhere are they better loved than in the cut-flower industry. The best variety for this purpose is Ranunculus asiaticus, or Persian Buttercup.
These beauties take their place right next to Peonies, Roses, Tulips and other Grand Dames of the botanical world. She is a remarkably versatile little lady and in reality not nearly as delicate as she looks. Ranunculus wows future brides with their sumptuous blooms of bountiful, tissue-like petals, swirling around and around like a crinoline petticoat. No one escapes their charm….no one! And for good reasons as they make a great cut-flowers. Stunning in any bridal bouquet but simply dazzling all by itself in a bouquet studded with the blooms.
They hold up in corsages and boutonnieres fine most of the year. I would not really recommend Ranunculus for body flowers in July or August, although I have seen it done and it worked, but it was not such a sweltering day as it can be that time of year.
Ranunculus is phototropic (like many other flower stems) and should be kept upright at al time or their stems will bend upwards to the light and cause the stem to be crooked. If Ranunculus goes limp, you can wrap them in damp newspaper, re-cut on a slant and allow them to stand upright for several hours in warm water and preservative. Their vase life is 6 to 10 days but keep in mind that it is important to keep the water clean.
The newer varieties grow up to 16-18″ tall which makes them so versatile in bouquets and arrangements, what’s not to love?
Ranunculus is available most of the year except maybe during the hottest summer months and they come in a myriad of pinks-, whites-, yellow- , red- and orange tones. Pair them with Forget-Me Not’s, Sweet Peas, Linaria, Snapdragon etc. for a charming and romantic mixed bouquet. For a stunningly elegant bouquet combine Ranunculus with Roses or Peonies, complimenting and repeating the bigger blooms in the bouquet. Your bride will love it, how can she not? She’s Dazzled By Her Charm!
Herbal/ Medicinal use.
All parts of Ranunculus is toxic to humans and livestock and is known to cause severe blistering of the mouth when eaten by cows or sheep as well as bloody diarrhea, excessive salivation and colic. The taste is bitter so fortunately not many people or animals are tempted to eat it and will stay away from Buttercups. They have also been known to cause dermatitis, so maybe that is one thing not to love about them, but I have had no such problems myself.
Ranunculus is used in herbal medicine. Due to it’s toxicity level I want to stress the importance of consulting with a skilled herbalist or homeopath, which I am not, this is just a mentioning of the wide variety of uses Ranunculus has.
A Modern Herbal by mrs. M Grieve reveals Bulbous Buttercup possesses the property of inflaming and blistering the skin
Medicinal Herb Info. reports under medicinal uses: Counterirritant, anodyne, antispasmodic, diaphoretic; external rubefacient, epispastic.
Here in the Pacific NW legend has it that the mythological creature Coyote was tossing his eyes up in the air and unfortunately lost them to Eagle who flew by and snatched up those beauties in plain sight. Much of this story leaves me with many questions, and alas I can not answer these questions but whatever the case may be; Coyote found himself without any eyes. However he was a clever creature and what happened next: he simply picked up a few Buttercups (which he probably had spotted before he decided to play games with his eyes) and inserted them into his skull exactly where his eyes had once been and Coyote was good as gold again. So there, do not despair when you find your eyes are flying through the air, Buttercups can help you stare and life will be once again be fair. Now please do share.
Sweet Williams (Dianthus barbatus) member of the Caryophyllaceae family is as popular as cut flower as a garden plant. Usually grown as a bi-annual it will grow foliage the first year and then blooms the second year. Sometimes it’s a short lived perennial but when given a chance, it will reseed itself generously and behave like a long lasting perennial.
I have found it fairly easy to take care of this colorful friend which I give a place in full sun. I usually seed them indoors in late winter as they transfer well after all danger of frost has gone. Springs brings plenty of rain here in the NW, so this early summer bloomer only needs a little water during a early, long dry spell. By the time the hottest days or August roll around, my Sweet William has gone dormant after producing copious amounts of seeds.
Possibly because I pick almost all flowers for cutting, my plants tend to bloom for several years in a row, so I leave them overwintering in the hope they will bloom early next year. When some plants turn yellow or look ragged I pull them up and add a little mulch to the area and sometimes seed a bit of Red Clover in these bare spots during the winter. I like using this cover crop, it is so useful as it fixes the nitrogen in the soil so it can be taken up by other crops. Simultaneously they prevent weeds from growing. The beauty of Red Clover in bloom should not be underestimated! Blooming occurs in this cover crop a little before the Dianthus starts to shoot up it’s own blooms, so I enjoy the show of bright red Clover plumes for a little while but I make sure to cut out these plants before they start producing seeds.
Their roots however should stay in the ground for a while as this is where the nitrogen-fixing nodules are located, so let these little stumps die down naturally. You can plant new plants from the greenhouse in-between the clover stumps at this time.
Sweet William originally hails from southern Europe and was cultivated by monks as early as the 1100‘s and in the 16th century Sweet William was used in the gardens of Henry the Vlll’s Hampton Court Palace. It has now widely naturalized in Europe as well as North America. The development of this Dianthus for the floral industry came in the 18th and 19th century.
It was John Gerard a 16th century botanist and herbalist who first referred to Dianthus barbatus as ‘Sweet Williams’ in his 1596 garden catalog.
The name ‘Dianthus’ comes from the Greek, ‘dios’ meaning ‘divine’ and ‘anthos’ is ‘flower’. The epithet ‘barbatus’ means bearded and all sources checked explains that this name refers to the fuzzy or beard-like growth at the flower’s center. However I have my doubts about that concept as this fuzzy growth in the center is nothing else but the stamen of the flowers. I rather think that the beard-like growth that forms as the flower develops, is the root of the name. However I have not been able to find any reference to such a claim.
The petal are considered edible and have a mild clove like flavor. They do well in fish dishes, marmalade and cold drinks, ice cream and more. They also shine in desserts, soups, stews, sauces or tossed in a salads and of course are perfect for decorating or adding to cake.
It is better to remove the white heel at the base of the petal, this part has a bitter taste.
Dianthus species contain flavonoids in their petals.
Medicinally Dianthus barbatus is used in Homeopathy as well a Chinese herbal medicine as a diuretic for urinary tract infections.
The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, lepidoptera such a Moths and Butterflies.
For the florist Sweet William can be stored at 34-36F for 7-10 days, both dry and wet storage can be equally effective. Sweet William makes a perfect mass or filler flower in many bouquet combinations. Pairing them in a seasonal bouquet with Snapdragons, Foxglove or Lupines and Allium, Roses and/or Peonies is always a winner. They might not play a mayor role but their intense colors stand out brightly while offsetting the focus flowers with gusto. Their intricate flower clusters will draw you in for a closer look and then the faint clove like fragrance starts playing with your senses and all you can do is surrender to their charm.
Florists like to include Sweet William not only to express finesse or gallantry but Dianthus barbatus also asks subtly for a smile, which surely will be granted, how can it not?
Was is smiles that Cate Middleton hoped to see at her marriage to Prince William or was the inclusion of this flower a nod to her gallant prince William? Who knows? The duchess of Cambridge has not elaborated on her choice of bouquet flowers. However we can conclude that she likes to keep the season, Lilly of the Valley as well as the Sweet William, was certainly in season that April in 2011.
Sweet William can be propagated from seed, cuttings, or division, but keep in mind that seeds of cultivars will not breed true but can turn out to be a different color or pattern altogether. However Dianthus varieties do cross pollinate easily and hence many new hybrids have occurred over time.
Seed in your garden in late summer for blooms the next year or seed indoors in tray or small pots in late winter and plant after last frost. These plants may or may not bloom the first year.
Sweet William likes a place in in full sun to part shade, plant about six inches apart, in loamy, slightly alkaline soil. You can crowd them a little but not too much, else they become leggy. A good tip is to add some lime into the planting soil for stronger plants.
Winter hardy to USDA Zones 3-9.
Well that’s all for now folks, go out there and pick a few flowers.
One of the very first plants to find a place in the ground for Petal Passion’s 2016 season is Sweet Peas Lathyrus odoratus, a cool weather annual native to Sicily, souther Italy and Aegean islands and I expect them to be blooming late May to early June, maybe longer if I get the successive plantings done in time. This year I am growing Royal Wedding and April in Paris.
Both of these cultivars were developed by the New Zealand flower breeder Dr. Keith Hammett who was able to combine the haunting perfume of old-fashioned Sweet Pea types with the taller varieties of Spencers, which feature the larger elegantly ruffled blooms and have a more the vining nature.
I can hardly wait to fill my buckets with these fragrant flowers that are so popular for June weddings. They instantly give bridal bouquets a whimsical and romantic look with their curly tendrils and ruffled lines but they also work fantastically well in a slender, glass vase featuring just a single stem or display an abundance of them, as nothing brings back memories of Granny’s place like a bunch of these ‘Butterfly’ blooms in a wide mouthed mason jar.
In the language of flowers Sweet Peas indicate shyness in some instances but also ‘bliss’ and ‘delicate pleasure’. She is a symbol of departure after good times. With the scent of orange blossoms and honey, Sweet Peas make an excellent choice for a nosegays or Tussie Mussies.
I usually start my seeds in January, in my greenhouse. I have tried to seed in situ in fall but I find that the seeds get eaten, so therefore I germinate them in the greenhouse and plant them out as soon as I have a few inches of growth. This has worked well for me, making sure to plant them in full sun no later than early March as they like all the sun exposure they can get while the hot and scorching midsummer sun has not materialized yet.
Although all parts of the edible pea can be consumed including the blossom, the blossoms nor any other part of the Sweet Pea is edible.
Local & seasonal flowers continue to be the hottest trend in the floral industry—check out this new book, Fresh from the Field Wedding Flowers which featured designs by Petal Passion. http://freshfromthefieldweddings.com/
Interested in using bulk flowers from Petal Passion for a DIY wedding or special event? Be sure to get a copy of Fresh from the Field Wedding Flowers which includes great photos plus video tutorials on creating corsages, centerpieces and more: http://freshfromthefieldweddings.com/