Grow for the Green

Nicotiana alata - 'Lime Green' @DBG 19sept05 LAH 405
Green-tinged Nicotiana (Flowering Tobacco)

When you think of flowers, you might imagine a red rose, yellow daffodil, or purple iris. But how about green? On March 17 we will celebrate Saint Patrick with green eggs, green beer, and parades. Being a gardener (and in honor of an Irish ancestor), I want flowers to get equal time.

So I’ve been hunting for green flowers. I don’t mean the dyed carnations we can buy this time of year. Those are easily created by placing the stems in a vase of green-colored water (remember the celery with the red xylem?). I’ve been looking for flowers that are green because nature (or the plant breeders) made them that way. Well, there are more than I expected. From daylilies (‘Working with Green’) to dianthus (‘Green Trick’), I was astonished at how many flowers are available in green.

Green chrysanthemums are widely available. ‘Anastasia Green’ is a spring-green mum especially popular in Great Britain. Appletini is a dahlia-type mum with pale green flowers. Other green mums include the pom-pom types ‘Yoko Ono,’ ‘Green Tea,’ and ‘Kermit.’

Lisianthus is another popular cut flower. They’re annuals, so hardiness isn’t an issue, but unless you use (or grow your own) transplants, they’re unlikely to mature in a short season area. Some white cultivars have a pale, lime green tint to them. Look for ‘Cinderella Lime,’’Arena 1 Green’ (with double flowers), or ‘Mariachi Lime Green’ for starters.

Gladiolus bulbs aren’t hardy here in Colorado, but for milder climates there are a plethora of green cultivars. Some are solid; others are bicolored, with red or maroon-to-purple edging and centers. I’m not sure how I like the lime green and chartreuse color combination, but you sure won’t miss it in the garden!

Orchids frequently come in green. Those pictured here were growing in the W.W. Seymore Conservatory, in Tacoma, Washington.

orchids-001Euphorbia_PtDefiancePark-Tacoma-WA_LAH_0628Many times, what we call flowers are actually sepals (aka bracts). The true flowers may be tiny—so small that we may not even notice them. Euphorbias (right) are one group of plants with showy sepals. And sometimes these sepals are green.

Hellebores (Lenten Flowers) have naturally green sepals. Newer cultivars have been bred to remove the green color, allowing flowers to be totally pink or white, but I actually prefer the green ones. I found these on a trip to the Puget Sound area, where they thrive. Sadly, they aren’t quite hardy enough for my zone 5 garden here in Colorado.

helleborusHydrangea_DBG-CO_LAH_6560Hydrangeas are another plant whose sepals we admire. For a while, the pink or blue pigment in the sepals is dominant. However, as they begin to fade, the sepals take on a pale green hue. ‘Limelight’ is one cultivar bred especially for its lime green color. Most hydrangeas are only hardy to zone 6, so choose carefully.

Some plants are wind pollinated. Their flowers don’t have to be attractive to bees or other pollinators. These blossoms are so inconspicuous that we may never notice them, at least with our eyes. However, these are often the species that cause great misery to hay fever sufferers.

Because they’re not trying to grab our attention, many of these wind-pollinated flowers are green. After all, why not add a little chlorophyll and get some added benefit from the additional photosynthesis?

So it turns out that green flowers aren’t exactly common, but they’re not rare either. It’s a shame that none of them will be in bloom next week, in time for some St. Patrick’s Day bouquets.

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