I worked all week on a Power Point presentation for last night’s Central Oklahoma Hemerocallis Society meeting; so, if you don’t mind, I’m going to post the following article I wrote for the Oklahoma Horticulture Society’s newsletter last month.
Cover the Summer Garden with a Blanket of Color
Previously published in Horticulture Horizons Aug./Sept./Oct. 2008
In planning your garden next spring, don’t slight the humble Blanket Flower, a/k/a Indian Blanket, Gaillardia species. Not only is G. pulchella Oklahoma’s State Wildflower, and therefore should be included for that reason alone, its relatives now come in varieties other than the standard orange and yellow. A genus of the sunflower family (Asteraceae,) Gaillardia was named after M. Gaillard de Charentonneau, an 18th century French magistrate who was a patron of botany.
Blanket Flowers can be planted as container specimens or by seed. Seeds take awhile to become established, so you may want to start them indoors for earlier bloom. Being impatient, I usually start with purchased container plants. Gaillardias are either annuals or short lived perennials that often perform as annuals by blooming hard all summer and then completely dying out in winter.
As seed heads mature, I scatter them across the ground. By doing this, I often get varieties not true to the original hybrids, but I enjoy the change. Who knows, maybe, I’ll find a new variety blooming in my garden someday. G. ‘Dee’s Impossible Dream’ anyone?
Blanket Flowers like full sun and well-drained soil. Don’t plant them in the richest areas of your garden as they will become leggy and have fewer blooms. In mid-summer when many plants are nearly bloom free, the various Blanket Flowers provide nonstop color. If deadheaded regularly, they will bloom until frost. Flowers should be given an inch of water a week until well established. Later, when the foliage droops in the heat, it’s again time to water.
When I decided to turn part of my vegetable garden into an experimental flower meadow, I added several different containers of Gaillardia varieties to the area.
I knew I would be hard pressed to water this bed as frequently as other parts of the garden, so they were an obvious choice because of their drought tolerance and heat resistance.
Some of the best performers this summer were G. ‘Fanfare’, G. ‘Red Plume’ and G. ‘Yelllow Queen’. I also grew G. ‘Arizona Sun’ and the native G. pulchella which were great too.
If I haven’t convinced you that Gaillardias are a great addition to your garden, let me add one more incentive. They are butterfly magnets. Being an important nectar source, one plant will often be covered in butterflies and various species of bumblebees and honeybees. The humble Gaillardia is an important part of the ecosystem. Growing it can be one contribution you make to the planet and its smaller creatures.