Geography Lessons in the Garden, Part 1


Geography Lessons in the Garden, Part 1

A good mixed perennial border is like a trip around the globe. Let’s start up north and work our way south, as wise migratory birds and human snowbirds do before winter sets in. This particular migration takes us from the world’s largest island to the USA.

Polemonium boreale ‘Heavenly Habit’

The specific epithet is the ticket. “Boreal” is Latin for north, as in the Aurora borealis, a.k.a. the northern lights, a common sight in this plant’s native Greenland. The common name “Jacob’s ladder” is inspired by the foliage. Arranged like the rungs of a ladder, the opposite fernlike leaflets reminded someone of the prophet Jacob’s dream of a ladder between earth and heaven.

‘Heavenly habit’ produces clusters of violet-blue, bell-shaped flowers. It’s happiest in part shade, 12-18” tall, and hardy in Zones 3 – 9.

Fun Fact: North wasn’t always synonymous with up. For centuries, maps were drawn with East at the top, which may explain the word “oriented.”

Baptisia australis

Is it from Down Under, mate? No! This all-American perennial is native from Pennsylvania to Tennessee. “Australis” means southern, as in Aurora australis, a.k.a. the southern lights, which you definitely can’t see from anywhere in the US.

Beautiful blue flower spikes rise 3 – 4’, followed by attractive black seed pods. Both can be used for cutting. Hardy in Zones 3 – 9.

Fun Fact: This was America’s first subsidized crop. When war cut off England’s supply of prized blue indigo dye from the tropics in the 1700s, the Crown paid colonists to grow this native as a substitute.

Great plants come from all over. Keep your passport handy for more “Where In The World?” garden journeys from Emerald Coast Growers – the easy choice!