Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Hardy Quinine

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Hardy Quinine, Parthenium integrifolium, is an American native that really did provide a substitute for quinine during World War I when foreign sources of the quinine plant, a tree native to South American, were disrupted.  If you were as much a chemistry geek as I am a plant geek, you could probably isolate its quinine and use it as flavoring in tonic water.

 

On the other hand, that might mean you'd have less of the plant to enjoy in your garden. 

 

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With its unique pearl-white and tapioca-sized flowers, in huge clusters that look more like cauliflower than actual flowers, Parthenium is a singular Summer excitement.

 

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What garden doesn't need more bullet-proof perennials that flower for months and don't look like anything else in the neighborhood?

 

 

Here's how to grow this tough, Summer-showy perennial:

 

Latin Name

Parthenium integrifolium

Common Name

Hardy Quinine

Family

Asteraceae, the Aster family.

What kind of plant is it?

Hardy flowering perennial.

Hardiness

Zones 4 - 8.

Habit

Clumping and upright.

Rate of Growth

Fast.

Size in ten years

A colony to four feet tall and five or more feet wide.

Texture

The thick and sandpapery basal foliage is nondescript but dense enough to work as groundcover.  The large heads of flowers, like innumerable small bright-white pearls, have the startling and vivid look of heads of cauliflower on two- or even three-foot stilts.

Grown for

its rarity in the cultivated landscape: I myself hadn't known about this East Coast native even after thirty years "in the business" until I was stunned by mysterious large heads of tapioca-sized white flowers, visible at hundreds of feet, in the gardens at the High Line in New York City.

 

its unique and very long-lasting display of Oxydol-white flowers, each looking, even under magnification, more like a kernel of tapioca instead of what it actually is, a compound flower like that at the center of any aster.  There are almost no petals, though, but not only does this lack not cut down on the showiness of the display, is increases the intrigue of the plant's entire presence.

 

its toughness, thriving in full sun in almost any soil with reasonable drainage.

 

its unpalatability to all herbivores, thanks to the sandpaper feel of the foliage.

 

its flowers' appeal to an immense range of insect pollinators.

 

its ease of use with almost any companion color, from palest pinks to smoldering reds and oranges.

Flowering season

Summer: June to August.

Culture

Sun and any reasonable-to-dry soil with average to good drainage.  Very tolerant.

How to handle it

With thick carrot-like roots, site Hardy Quinine for the long-term.  Plants survive transplanting but prefer to avoid it.  This plant is shorter and sturdier in leaner and drier soil; my colony's leaning stems are from the rich water-retentive soil.

 

Parthenium clumps increase in width steadily but not alarmingly.  In a mixed planting, you'll need to take a shovel around the perimeter to chop back the outliers. 

Downsides

I haven't yet seen self-seeding, but it's probably inevitable with such a tough and tolerant native.

Variants

Partheniums occur world-wide, but few have found their way into gardens. P. hysterophorus is a dangerously aggressive self-seeder in Asia and Africa.  P. argentatum is a native of Mexico that has been an alternate source of latex; unlike latex derived from rubber trees, it's hypoallergenic, so is of renewed interest.

Availability

On-line.

Propagation

By division in Spring, or by seed.

Native habitat

Parthenium integrifolium is native to the Eastern United States as far west as Wisconsin.

 
 
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