Thursday, September 15, 2016

A 50-year-old perennial flower keeps on going


Today is my beloved mother's birthday.  She was born in 1910 and lived until just shy of her 97th birthday.  I can't grieve too much for her, although I miss her and can always conjure up her lovely voice.  Instead, I am grateful each day for both my parents, for a happy childhood and for so many opportunities they provided for my older brother and me.  I marvel now at the amount of energy they had.  I am lazy in comparison.

I don't know where my mother got a start of the flower above, but I do know it has come up and bloomed for well over 50 years - right in the same place.  It's tall - maybe to four feet - but does not need staking.  That's surprising because the stems are so slender.  Maybe I've seen it blown over by a huge rain or wind, but I don't really recall that happening.

I wrote about it a couple of years ago, and at the time, I wasn't really sure about its identity.  I knew it was either a heliopsis or Rudbeckia laciniata.  Someone from Africa saw it and set me straight.  I now know, after being corrected, that it is indeed the latter.

My mother loved this flower.  It grew right under the breakfast nook window.  Hummingbirds and butterflies loved it, too. Mother would cut a big bunch and plop them in a vase with some zinnias.  This combination reminds me of fried chicken and sweet iced tea - staples of my mother's summer meals.

Here in Atlanta (actually, this flower is at the farm in Chattahoochee Hills), it blooms in late July and August.  It's over now, and even though no one has been taking care of it since 2007, it flowers on.  Over 50 years is a good long run for a perennial that seems slender and vulnerable.  Rudbeckia laciniata is, in this case, one tough and long-lived plant.