Ranunculus


‘I AM DAZZLED BY YOUR CHARM’

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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. img_1542

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. garden-arrangements-40They 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.

Cut Flower

cc-close-up 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. gera-150No 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.

dscn0446They  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?  dscn3557
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.

herbs

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.

In homeopathy  Ranunculus bulbosus is known to be a painful remedy, affecting nerves341749-homeo-1 muscles, eyes, serous membranes, chest, skin, fingers, toes and left side, according to Robin Murphy, ND

Folklore

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.

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Pollinators

What is your favorite flower?


In the floral industry we get asked that question quite a bit and no one in their right mind will answer with just one favorite flower, simply because in the flower world there is simply too much beauty to behold. The colors, the shapes, the smells, the wonders, the legends, the secrets and promises, the magic of flowers,  they  are like a kaleidoscope of favorites presenting a plethora of beaux flirting with your heart.

However there is one that is on the tip of my tongue, always, even as I swallow the name in order to tell you how this question can not be answered with just one flower.  She is blue and shy, cool and oh so sweet when her racemes uncurl and tiny 5 petaled flowers, carried on even tinier pedicels,  look up and reflect Summer’s happiness in the miniature sky blue umbels. You will not forget her once you’ve met.

picture of Forget Me Not
Forget Me Not

Forget Me Nots or Myosotis sylvatica (meaning Mouse Ear of the wood) is a member of the Borage family  and probably the flower closest to my heart. Her modest demeanor appeals to me. Happy with a place in shade but freely adapts to a much sunnier place as long as Spring rains keep it hydrated. I love this tiny flower mostly I think because it mirrors the blue summer sky like no other flower can. But also poignant in my mind is an long ago conversation I had with my Mother now more than two decades ago. She introduced me to the name and we talked  about the flower’s simple beauty and demure quality. I did not know at the time that it was one of the last flower talks we would have together. She passed away only a short while later but these flower have bloomed, moved with me and re-seeded in my Oregon garden(s) ever since that beautiful day in Virginia, reminding me of my dear Mother who inspired me to love  the flowers.

Forget Me Nots are prevalent with meaning. In the language of flowers they symbolize endurance, fidelity and loyalty. When Henry the IV was exiled  from England he adopted the flower and preserved it until he came back a year later.
Forget Me Nots also signify remembrance during parting and being apart after good times.

forget me not clipart

In floristry the flower is not that commonly in use. A shame really as it can be a very good cut flower when properly conditioned.

picture of a week old vase arrangement with Forget Me Not.
Forget Me Not after a week in a vase.

I pick them when a cluster of tiny flowers have opened, clean off the lower leaves and other debris. When all cleaned up I lay the whole flower in a lukewarm bath properly conditioned with flower food, covering the whole stem and flower for about an hour or two. After which I will put them upright in a jar full of water and arrange as usual,  taking care that the stems do not get crushed by other, more substantial stems in the process. They look great around the neck of a vase or tucked in the middle of an arrangement lower towards the water source where they are a sweet surprise not obvious at first glance.

Picture of vase arrangement including Stock, Chrysanthemum, Muscari and Forget Me Not.
Forget Me Not combined with magenta Stock, Muscari and two varieties of Chrysanthemums.

vase with forget me nots

The blossoms can be added to salads as a garnish and make excellent candied blooms. However, the plant does contain some pyrrolizidine, a chemical not to eat a lot of so use only occassionally and not to excess.

The whole plant is astringent and it has been used in herbal medicine as an effective remedy for several eye conditions, including conjunctivitis. It is also a handy first aid herb to help stop bleeds when applied externally, fresh or in powder (dried).

Forget Me Nots are pollinated by  Lady bugs, small flies and other hymenopterans.

The easiest way to get Forget me Not’s started in you garden is to buy some seeds (available at Petal Passion) and scatter them a few weeks before last frost date (now) in your area for blooms in fall or next spring.  Or scatter the seeds in early fall for spring blooms. Once established they will reseed easily, just make sure you recognize the seedling when you are doing your spring weeding.
Forget me Not’s are also available as a plant ( at Petal Passion available in one gallon pots as well as 4″pots), they are a bi-annual but usually behave as a perennial. In my garden their foliage start appearing in fall and by the end of March I harvest the blooms.

tatoo of forget me nots

There is a story in the name, there always is. This legend tells of a German Knight who was walking along the steep bank of the a river, picking flowers for the love of his life who was accompanying him on this day. The heavy armor he was wearing, (why? The story does not tell) brought him off balance while reaching for the tiny flowers and he fell down to the swift river below that was swollen with spring rains. He threw the Myositis to his lady and shouted: Forget Me Not my love and so this became the name of the Spring blooming Myosotis. After the  knight plunged into his watery grave, the maiden then wept big tears of sorrow onto the soil on which the blooms had landed and from then on the spring blooming Forget Me Nots have forever thrived.

Or maybe before this tragic story even happened, in the beginning of time when the creator gave out names to flowers, one tiny one was forgotten in the shade and she cried out: Forget Me Not, and so the creator said: That shall be your name and so it was. Then a bit later when that creator got around to painting all the flowers he had named, he did not notice this tiny thing in the shade but she was not to be forgotten as her name implied so courageously she brought up the issue with her creator who gladly corrected the matter and went back to the painting shed. But as fortune would have it, no colors were left except a tiny smidgen of blue. For a tiny flower such as the Forget Me Not, not much paint was needed so the creator decided to go with it. He spread out the lick of blue as far as it would go and thus Forget Me Not ended up in blooming in the hue of a the blue summer sky.