Here’s what’s blooming in town this week to make your walks more enjoyable
By Laura Eisener
Dee LeMay’s amaryllis which had such promising buds last week has bloomed, and a few bulbs in my house have stalks stretching upward this week. These impressive blossoms are reliable and easy to enjoy from year to year. Since it is still cold outside, the drama and color of these flowers are very welcome throughout the winter months.
Tomorrow is Chinese New Year, and for many people their tradition is to celebrate with food. It is a busy day for the Asian restaurants throughout the town. There are some traditional plants and flowers that are given as New Year gifts. Among these, chrysanthemums are always very popular as they represent good health and longevity. Also popular are peonies, which are symbols of love and prosperity. Branches of blooming peach and plum blossoms represent spring and have long been appropriate for gifts and home decoration at this time of year. A popular New Year houseplant is lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana), although it is not from China and not a bamboo – it is actually in the asparagus family (Asparagaceae) and comes from Africa. It is often said to bring happiness and good luck in general. They may be grown with their stems braided or twisted into shapes – some online floral vendors sell them with stems shaped into hearts. Money trees (Pachira spp.) are also sold as houseplants, often three in a pot with their trunks braided and, as their common name suggests, are believed to bring good fortune.
Since this coming year is the year of the dragon, dragon fruit (Hylocereus undatus) would seem especially appropriate for this year in particular. Many people will be familiar with the reddish pink skinned fruits available in supermarkets, but not with the plant that produces them. Dragon fruit plants are easy to grow as houseplants although they are unlikely to produce fruit on a windowsill. A climbing cactus with soft thorns, it needs sunlight but thrives without frequent watering.
The origins of Valentine’s Day have little to do with flowers, but this holiday is one of the most popular times to send and receive a bouquet of flowers. I asked Andrea Hanafin at Little Brook Florist & Garden Center what flowers are most popular for Valentine’s Day. She said “roses [Rosa spp.] of course, with baby’s breath [Gypsophila paniculata] are always popular, but another good choice is carnations [Dianthus spp.] which last a long time in a vase. Some restaurants give out a single carnation to each of the ladies on Valentine’s Day.” To make your bouquet last longer, Andrea suggests choosing flowers that are still in bud, because if they are in full bloom they will not last as long. Also, don’t forget to change the water in the vase regularly. The shop at Little Brook Florist & Garden Center also has lots of gifts for Valentine’s Day and other occasions.
Artist Jeff Fioravanti, who spent many years of his life in Saugus and often walks through town from his current home in Lynn, has captured the details and complex colors of a rose in one of his recent paintings titled “Each Year The Rose Returns.” It was chosen for an exhibit by Alchemy + Art (44 Main Street in Amesbury, Massachusetts) which runs through the middle of next month. Jeff’s painting is on display through March 13, 2024.
While an individual rose may only last a few weeks, many modern rosebush varieties produce flowers over a long growing season, in some cases from June until December in Saugus. Exactly how long the shrubs continue to produce new blossoms will depend on the variety of rose, the location (the more sun the better) and the temperature fluctuations in any given year. Of course, getting the right amount of water and fertilizer, as well as the gardener’s attention to deadheading the faded blossoms, also play a part in ensuring the flowers perform at their best.
For those who want to celebrate Valentine’s Day with plants that last longer than a bouquet, one interesting “houseplant” is heart hoya, also known as sweetheart hoya (Hoya kerrii). It is a succulent vine with heart-shaped foliage that can be grown as a houseplant here. Often for Valentine’s Day, single heart-shaped leaf cuttings in small pots with well-draining soil are sold. They can live for years as a single leaf and are ideal for small spaces like a windowsill. A few additional names for it are hoya hearts, valentine hoya and lucky heart hoya. Like most succulents, it likes full sun. If you have a whole plant, it may bloom when days are longer with pink or white flowers, but the single-leaf forms of the plant will not bloom nor grow more leaves.
Editor’s Note: Laura Eisener is a landscape design consultant who helps homeowners with landscape design, plant selection and placement of trees and shrubs, as well as perennials. She is a member of the Saugus Garden Club and offered to write a series of articles about “what’s blooming in town” shortly after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. She was inspired after seeing so many people taking up walking.