Saturday, July 14, 2012
Well, Bust My Blue Buttons!
I attempt to grow only a few annual plants here in Kansas, with the sole exception an annual small bed of petunias that sits in the completely exposed branching point of my oval driveway. I have no great love for petunias to confess, it just so happens that they are about the only plant that will provide continual bloom and color in spite of the blustery wind and lack of water at this site, a fact I discovered after years of trying daffodils and tulips and salvias and other species there. This year, I did experiment with some "companion" annuals in my vegetable garden, marigolds and fennel and dill, in an effort to provide some help with insect control around the brassicas and beans. But that's the normal extent of my annuals.
I dearly love, however, bright blue flowers, and so I have attempted several times over the last decade to develop a decent stand of blue cornflowers, Centaurea cyanus, or "Bachelor's Buttons" as they are known to the unwashed masses. I have also failed several times. I never have understood why; cornflowers are supposed to like full sun and mildly alkaline soil. Perhaps I have just never watered them enough to get them established.
Imagine my delight then, that in this drought-stricken year, when daylilies have deserted me in my hour of need, this miserably hot year is the year that the cornflowers finally grew easily, bloomed spectacularly, and continue to please me as we speak. How restful the sight of all that beautiful blue.
Any reading you might do about cornflower history will expose all the myths and symbolism represented by this flower. It is the emblematic flower of a number of human social constructions, from the Swedish "Liberal People's Party" to the Freedom party of Austria, among many others. It is the national flower of Germany. To the French it is the symbol of the 1918 Armistice that ended the First World War. If you wear one in a buttonhole, as prescribed for young men in love, you should just hope that the flower doesn't fade too quickly, a sign that your love is not returned. I have no idea what it means if it is worn by a young lady and the flower fades.
I, of course, had no idea of the heavy weight laid on the flower by this symbolism. I only adore the color. I already know that my climate makes it impossible to grow the similarly-colored Meconopsis grandis, the Blue Poppy. Do you think that my love for Centaurea is enough to ensure that it blooms for me again in the future, or am I doomed to be "cornflowerless" evermore?