A Surprise Splash of Sunshine

January 25, 2011

Once a week, an email from Better Homes & Gardens lands in my mailbox and offers me advice. It could be about organizing my kitchen, decorating my bathroom or most importantly, growing things in my garden. There are garden designs, there are suggestions about shade or sun perennials, hardscape ideas – all kinds of information about anything outdoors.

If something catches my eye, I click on the link and scan through the information. Sometimes it’s very useful, such as when they posted plans for butterfly gardens and one happened to be almost exactly the size and shape of the bed I was planning. I downloaded it, printed it and that plan turned out to be a thorough blueprint for my butterfly bed. Of course, as there were tweaks that needed to be made as asters were plotted all over the original bed. The Damn Rabbits don’t give asters a snowball’s chance in hell in my yard. (BH & G is also the source for a detailed plan for a long, rather narrow sun bed that will be perfect as a division between our yard and Gwen’s yard. The plan sits in my 3-ring binder for “someday.”)

This time, the email included a link to “Perennials You Don’t Have To Water” and I clicked. I passed through Lavender and Yarrow and then oh my goodness. There they were. The yellow flowers that come up every year around my pond, those happy, happy, bursts of sunshine.

I have gone through book after book, year after year, trying to identify these. I’ve never seen them in anyone else’s yard, never in a nursery – they have been the Ultimate Mystery Plant. Last spring, the gardener at Sunrise looked at the picture I brought and dubbed it “Anathera.” Well, I should say that “anathera” is what I heard. I’ve searched and searched for it for nearly a year now. I’ve done more book research, googled seventeen different spellings and still no luck. I figured I misheard her.

Turns out that it wasn’t my ears, it was my visual perception of how it was spelled. This flower, which BH&G told me is know as sundrop or suncup – how appropriate – is named Oenothera. So I googled the proper spelling and lo and behold! Photos by the hundreds, even a Wiki article!

Well, I’ll be darned. I find out that this flower, an evening primrose, is very common in the Southwest and the Rockies rather than the Midwest, which explains why no one else seems to have these in their landscaping around here. What I can’t figure out is how they got here to begin with. These are “shared flowers,” originally gifted from Karen’s garden to my mom’s garden in the late 1970’s. Karen was the original perennial gardener, digging plants up from anywhere – the side of the road, ditches, you name it – whenever she saw a beautiful bloom.

Were the seeds carried by birds and just happened to land in the perfect place for germination – and then at the perfect time Karen passed by and dug them up? How perfect is that.

We’ve called them buttercups, “those yellow flowers” and “Karen’s flowers.” My mom and I have always wondered what they really were – we knew they had to have a name. Now, more than 30 years later, we know it. It’s like meeting a new friend all over again.

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