African Garden + winter

The Truth About Praire Smoke a/k/a Geum triflorum

My February Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post has caused some confusion due to the aberrant behaviour of one of my Geum triflorum sub. triflorum plants (Prairie Smoke a/k/a Old Man's Whiskers). This native forb is a member of the Rose family, and is found in dry prairies from Northern Canada south into Northern Illinois, Colorado, South Dakota and Minnesota and east through Michigan and into New York. It is a threatened species in the latter two States. In the garden, it is usually not bothered by pests* and is low maintenance, generally succumbing only to winter rot. It is hardy to Zone 3 and can be grown to Zone 7 in well drained soil in full sun to partial shade. The basal, divided, foliage is evergreen and turns red in autumn.

Prairie Smoke forms buds very early, often under the snow. It spreads by rhizomes and seeds, but I haven't had it self-sow in the garden.

In my Zone 5 garden, Prairie Smoke usually blooms in early April, making it one of the earliest of the native wildflowers. I have never had one bloom in February before, although in that horrible drought year of 2005, it had buds as early as February 12th. It is often difficult to determine whether it actually is in bloom or just in bud, as the flowers are pendent closed bells.

It blooms for about two months, and then the seedheads provide interest for another couple of months. It also occasionally sends up another bloom stalk or two during the summer.
I apologize for any confusion. With so many wonderful Bloom Day posts, it is easy to skim through the text and linger over the photos. Geum triflorum is a wonderful spring blooming plant that should be more widely grown.

(edit. 2/17/09, on inspecting the garden after returning from Florida, I have discovered that something has eaten all the buds (save one cluster)! I blame the squirrels!)

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The Truth About Praire Smoke a/k/a Geum triflorum + winter