I'd bet that for most of you who aren't acquainted with Centaurea montana, you will still find these flowers strangely familiar ... yes, they do resemble those 'Bachelor Buttons' or 'Cornflowers' (Centaurea cyanus) that often take over wildish spots in the garden. For some reason, we've never been able to get Bachelor Buttons to take hold here, and maybe we should just try harder....
When I saw Montana a few years ago I just decided to give it a try, especially since it's hardy in this zone. It wasn't particularly impressive, but did have one bloom to give me an idea of what it could turn into, so I bought it anyway (it was probably discounted).
The first couple of years it really didn't do much of anything, it didn't die, bloomed a little, but otherwise remained essentially the same. Last year it came back a bit bigger, but nothing impressive, but it didn't die! (And it's in a notoriously dry bed in with 2 hibiscus, a Butterfly Bush, some Kniphofia, Asclepias and Coreopsis to compete with.) But wow, this year, this plant is really coming into its own ... it's easily twice as big as it was last year and it is definitely spreading out rapidly encroaching upon Kopper King's territory. Now I know what it was doing all that time I thought nothing was going on ... I read that it's stoloniferous, so it was busy sending out underground runners the past couple of years!
I think I'll just let it spread out a bit this year, since it's blooming so well (and I've even been deadheading it a bit, which seems to spark reblooming). I'll take stock again next spring when it fully emerges and if there's too much, I'll just dig parts and replant them elsewhere in the bed. I would dearly love to have something pretty to give that out of control Coreopsis some serious competition! And the juxtaposition of Montana's oddly multicolor blue with the intense yellow of the Coreopsis sounds to me like it would really be striking! And contrast that with the yellow of the Butterfly Bush, the orange of Asclepias and multicolored Kniphofia ... and throw in a Blue River and Kopper King hibiscus and that's an added bonus of shades of white, pink, red and who knows what else! I can't wait until it really gets going in mid-July, when you'll likely see more of this area, especially with my prized hibiscus in bloom!
A word about those colors ... just standing back on the sidewalk and looking down at this flower does not do it justice. It just comes off as a blue or purple, and seems really insubstantial. But wait until you get up closer and the true genius of this flower comes into view, as these two shots I hope demonstrate. (Taken by Fernymoss on June 24, 2008) We had never imagined the depth and variety of color on the petals, and as for the inner bits ... they're even a bit scary if you zoom in really close on the original shot (this has been reduced) where they look like shiny black claws. I should note that the sun was quite intense when these were taken, so the blue has gotten faded a bit into violet here, but these shots still really portray how it appears up close.
Just another reminder about the photos ... make sure to click through to see a much larger, more detailed version to get the full effect. You can click the image itself, or better yet, using Firefox, right click on the image, select 'open in new tab,' and it will open in a new tab window, saving you from having to hit the back button. Then click the image again to see the original image I have stored on
And ... a few more words about Firefox: there are a lot of browsers out there, and there's life far beyond Internet Explorer to discover ... I started using Firefox about 3 years ago, and I only love it more and more ... it's faster, less clunky than MSIE, it's very customizable (skins, add ons, you name it), and that's just the beginning. It's perhaps one of the best known products from Mozilla (an open source software movement star), and they've recently released Firefox 3.0, which I downloaded and installed over the weekend. I had been rather apprehensive, since I'd read a few articles intimating that it wasn't "quite ready for primetime" (but that was back in April), so I held off until the official release was made available (at the link above). A couple of weeks ago Family Man told me in a comment that he had recently gotten 3.0 (for Linux) and was happy with it, so I took the plunge. And now I can report that so far I'm really liking it a lot! It's been touted to be faster (I think it indeed is), is more integrated and feature rich, which I'm just beginning to discover. One of the other features that was much ballyhooed was the so-called "awesome bar," which, as far as I can tell, is really just a smarter address bar. It is very cool though, because all you have to do is type the first few letters of a site name and it shows you possible sites that you have previously visited, which you can then select easily. Overall, so far I'm impressed. Especially since it didn't have any issues with Vista and installed in less than 5 minutes ... I suspect it might take a bit longer for a new user, but as an upgrade over my 2.0, it was a snap! Ok, that was more than a few words. Sorry, but I'm really an enthusiastic supporter of Firefox ... it's worth your time to at least check it out because it really is much better than MSIE.