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Hardy Volunteers Welcome Here!

October 6, 2009

Tradescantia bloom (photo credit: Jean Potuchek A couple of days ago, I was walking by my living room window and noticed a spot of intense blue-violet color outside. When I went to check it out, I found a little volunteer tradescantia blooming in between the flagstones in the front walk. Now, mind you, this is October – in Maine! It’s a minor miracle that we haven’t had a killing frost here yet. (I haven’t figured out how we escaped that morning about a week and a half ago when the thermometer on my deck read 25 F.) Most of the foliage on my plants, like the foliage on the trees around my house, is turning to shades of yellow, gold, russet, and red. So this isn’t a time when I’m expecting to find new plants coming into bloom.

Volunteer tradescantia (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) I should explain how a volunteer tradescantia comes to be blooming in such an unlikely spot. The front walk is bordered on one side by the iris bed, which has blue siberian irises and blue tradescantia planted in it. By late summer, the plants tend to be drooping out over the front of the flower bed onto the front walk, where they drop some of their seeds.  Nevertheless, the walk Volunteer siberian iris (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)itself is not a very hospitable environment for seeds to germinate and grow; it’s a rudimentary affair consisting of flagstones, set in a layer of wood chips, on top of black plastic, which covers thin, sandy soil. But these are very hardy little volunteers. (Yes, that’s a volunteer siberian iris seedling growing between the flagstone and the front steps.)

Since my philosophy of gardening includes paying attention to plants that tell me they want to grow here (see Love the Plant You’re With), I often dig out these volunteers and try to find a more suitable location for them. I have a nursery bed tucked away in a corner of the garden where I can put plants temporarily while I’m waiting to see if they’re garden-worthy or until I find the right permanent home for them.

Last year, I took one of these volunteer tradescantia from the nursery bed and planted it in the new fence border. Volunteer tradescantia thriving in the garden (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)This year, it grew up into a big, healthy plant that has been blooming continuously since mid-June. Here’s how it looks today.  It has flopped over a bit this late in the season, but it is still going strong. These hardy volunteers are definitely welcome in my garden!

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. October 6, 2009 4:15 pm

    I love your concept of Love The Plant You’re With, and I agree that plants often know best.

    Tradescantia is a little too self-willed in my garden. And a bit too floppy. I have to be sure it only grows where it has a fence for support, or it tends to smother anything in its path once the top-heavy stage begins. The flowers are pretty, though. I especially like a large-flowered white variety my sister has, with luminous blue stamens. But these special cultivars are rarely as tough, don’t you find?

    • Jean Potuchek permalink*
      October 6, 2009 5:04 pm

      I have heard about tradescantia not being a good garden citizen, and I’m trying to keep an eye on my volunteer seedlings in case they revert to bad habits as they get further and further removed from their cultivar parents. I have a couple of white ones I love, but they both have yellow stamens. One, ‘Danielle,’ is pure white; another, ‘Osprey,’ has pale blue at its center. I sometimes use peony hoops to contain the floppiness of tradescantia.

  2. October 7, 2009 12:17 am

    Tradescantia seeds about, yes. Flops, too. I move the seedlings to a better location or discard.

    I have an island bed with spiderwort along the back side. It blooms in the spring before much else but daffodils are blooming. By the time it flops, many others have started up and I cut that tradescantia to the ground. it will come back, neater and better behaved for the rest of the season.

    • Jean Potuchek permalink*
      October 7, 2009 10:22 am

      I’ve read about cutting them back to get a new round of bloom, but I don’t think it works as well this far north, where we still have snow on the ground in April and these plants don’t bloom until June and frost sometimes comes in late August. Some of mine flop and some grow straight and tall, and I haven’t figured out how to predict which will happen.

  3. October 7, 2009 2:41 am

    What a beautiful delicate flower. It doesn’t look like tough little plant, but I am glad it is still here even though it is autumn.

  4. October 7, 2009 10:05 am

    I’m often surprised at plants that manage to seed between paving cracks, particularly perennials. Many do really well in a minimum of soil. Perhaps any rain is channelled there to compensate for lack of space. Who knows!

  5. October 10, 2009 4:26 am

    Tradescantia is a reliable plant in my garden. It’s still blooming now, in October. It grows in a flower bed, but yours is a fighter!

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