On this Wildflower Wednesday, I want to promote the sweet genus gaura. G. coccinea, Scarlet beeblossom, is native to many states. Other species of gaura are native to the southern U.S., but there are also gaura selections and hybrids sold in nurseries and box stores. I grow several “improved” selections of this native perennial. Remember G. lindheimeri ‘Siskiyou Pink’ or white ‘Whirling Butterflies?’ I grew each of these once upon a time. Gaura is especially pretty as it emerges in spring because the stems are red. Sometimes, winter is cold enough in my garden that I must cut gaura back to the ground, but in other years, I merely remove dead stems. Dead parts will snap off instead of bending. Also, look for any green within the stem. Green equals life.
There was a time when I wasn’t so fond of wand flower but that was my fault, not the genus’. Because gaura are perennial, I expected them to remain in my garden for years and years. Here, in Oklahoma, they can be short-lived perennials. They start blooming in early summer here and continue throughout fall with hardly a stopping point. However, this summer, with the rain and cooler temperatures, they seemed slower to bloom than usual.
Sometimes, a variety of gaura will stay viable in my garden for years. Other times, they only last a season or two. I decided instead of lamenting this behavior, I would play with their wild and wooly form and put them in places where I don’t mind if they leave. In other words, a place I might ordinarily plant annuals.
Although I haven’t had much luck with G. lindheimeri ‘Passionate Rainbow’ and its variegated foliage, I do like the pink and white blooming gauras. The one below from my garden has a horizontal form that cascades over walls and trails in between plants. I bought it as an untagged plant a couple of years ago. Isn’t it lovely?
One of my favorite gauras this summer is G. lindheimeri ‘Kleau04263’ Belleza Dark Pink. It has an upright growth habit and bright pink flowers. The featured photo at the top of the post is a closeup of this lovely gaura.
Belleza Dark Pink is a European selection with shorter, stockier stems. It may be another example where Europeans took American wildflowers and improved them through hybridization and selection. Sometimes, I think Europeans value our wildflowers more than we do.
I spread these easy plants throughout the garden in tough places that don’t get much water because like many prairie flowers, they have extensive tap roots. In fact, gauras love the gravel paths next my garden beds. Do you have a spot for a plant that looks like it belongs in fairy books? Try our native or a selected version of gaura, also known as wand flower. For more Wildflowers this Wednesday, see Gail’s blog, Clay and Limestone.