The Garden Problem Lady Identifies Some Flowers


Can you identify this flower? The stalks are a yard high, with dark green opposite leaves. It seemed like a weed until late October, when tiny scarlet balls appeared at the very top. They were spread out in rounded clusters about the size of my hand. A week later the red balls opened, and tiny five-petalled flowers popped out, all brilliant orange. What a show! and still blooming now — in December!!

Your description is so precise I had no trouble finding it online. Its species name, Asclepias curassavica, tells that its origin when first classified was in Curacao in the southern Caribbean —so far from our zone 7—more like zone 11. It is of the Milkweed family (Asclepiadaceae), a Tropical Butterfly weed, going by many names—Sunset flower, scarlet milkweed, and Sunset flower. It likes full sun, but can thrive in any quality of soil and location, dry or wet. If a bee found it this late, and if it doesn’t snow first, you will see seed pods and silky seeds fly out. Its long tap root will make it hard to transplant, but might help it survive and bloom again. Could the climate be changing this radically?

What is Anemone Blanda? I bought bulbs because of the pretty picture on the label at the Arboretum sale and need to plant this fall.

Let’s hope December is not too late to get your bulbs planted. Please delay no more, since spring bulbs planted in the fall do need roughly three months of cold.

Anemone Blanda (“Blanda” means charming) also goes by the name “Windflower.” Its daisy-like flowers, purple or white, rise in a low spray about eight inches high and bloom in mid-Spring. Then they vanish until next spring. Their little black bulbs come with a suggestion to soak them in water for a day before planting 3″ deep. Add some bone meal in the hole.

I heard somewhere that Lenten rose, also called the Helleborus, is used in alternative medicine to treat boredom, listlessness. Which part of the plant? And how? I often feel very blah in the late afternoon, and wonder if a home remedy is growing out front. 

It was Pliny the Elder, Gaius Plinius Secundus (AD 23 – 79), a Roman naturalist and philosopher, who documented the use of Helleborus for treating emotional problems, and “lassitude.” To boost attention and focus before speeches and debates, Romans drank a tea from Hellebore bulb, roots, and leaves. They also used it as a poison for the tips of arrows. Bottom line, it might work, it might also kill you, and there isn’t enough information to know how hellebores might work medicinally. Try taking a brief nap after lunch instead.

The Capitol Hill Garden Club activities include tours, garden therapy, plant sales, special events, speakers and workshops. The club meets the second Tuesday of the month, but in most of 2020 and 2021, meetings were held on Zoom. For members, the December meeting involves supper while making holiday greens decorations. The club is accepting new members. Dues are $50/year. Meetings are free and open to all. Visit the Capitol Hill Garden Club website with membership and meeting inquiries,