Bloom-a-day 7: Jupiter's Beard (aka Valerian)
I'd never seen it before moving here. I first saw it in a neglected planter box growing at the base of a street tree in the middle of the sidewalk in an industrial part of a neighboring town. Delightful and airy, it seemed so out of place in that forlorn and forgotten sea of parched ground, dust, concrete and asphalt that made even the street trees look sickly. It didn't seem to notice.
Sometime the following year, it showed up in our garden. It chose the line of poor clay soil along the base of our picket fence.
"Well, hello!" I said once I spotted the first volunteers, "I recognize you. I'd be happy to have you live here."
And so it did.
I first learned its common name, "Jupiter's Beard". Most of the blooms are a deep dark pink, but there is one patch right under the mailbox that is the purest white.
I've since come to learn that this plant is also known as "Valerian" (the proper name is Centranthus ruber but who likes that name when you can call something "Jupiter's Beard"?).
The hummingbirds and bees don't care what name it has. They love the nectar from the big clusters of tiny blooms. During the day, the fence-line is a veritable buffet for the critters.
In late November when the night air begins to have a chill, the stems will be missing most of their leaves. A few stray blooms will still be reaching for the sun that has slipped low in the autumnal sky. That is when the "Jupiter's Beard" gets a close "shave" as I trim each stem to the ground.
The perennial roots rest comfortably all winter until spring's warmth wakes them. And then they line the base of the picket fence once again.
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