Saturday, January 24, 2009

On a Desert Island...with my Signature Plant

Some time ago Tina at In the Garden wrote a post about her "signature plant." Several other bloggers took her suggestion, writing about their own signature plants, and I wanted to join in, albeit rather late as always. Just as I was about to finish a post on my signature plant, everybody was jumping on a boat with Shirl of Shirl's GardenWatch to set sail for a desert island. I missed the first boat while I was digging up my signature plant and trying to decide on two others to take. Fortunately, I found a slow dinghy headed the same way, so I hope there's still room for a few more plants on that island.

It's not easy, as everyone has found, to pick only three plants to take with you to a desert island. I am going to assume there are a few trees and some lush vegetation already on the island, so I'm going to stick with flowers. One of them is my signature plant--see if you can guess which one it might be.
One plant I couldn't live without would have to be a rose. Is there any other flower that can rival the beauty of a perfect rose? I think not. The rose would be my muse, because some of my time--assuming I had paper and pen--would be spent writing. A lovely tea rose with large blooms and a delicate fragrance would be wonderful, and it would probably grow in this fantasy world. In reality, though, I have no luck with hybrid roses, so a carefree Knockout Rose like this one from my real garden would be just fine, too.

For splashes of color all around, I would also take some zinnia seeds. These hardy annuals could grow anywhere and give me lots of color to cheer me up as autumn sets in. If I should happen to be stuck on the island for more than a year, I could always collect the seeds for another planting.

And finally, for my third choice I would have to take along some purple coneflowers. I'm drawn to pink flowers, and these tall beauties would definitely make me smile and help me forget my loneliness. Besides, they are bee and butterfly magnets, which would give me some company. Can you imagine the exotic butterflies these might attract on a desert island? Mary recently admitted that she talks to the birds in her backyard; well, I'm sure I would start talking to my winged visitors as well. After all, if Tom Hanks could talk to a ball named Wilson, I could surely talk to butterflies!

So which of these three is my signature plant? Can you guess? You might think it is the rose. After all, that is my name, and it is the avatar I've chosen on Blogger. But most roses are rather fussy about their surroundings and can be high maintenance. I don't consider myself either of those. Or you might think I would pick the zinnia, since I've raved about them since August. But this is the first year I've planted zinnias, so it remains to be seen if this will be a long-term relationship or just an infatuation.

No, the plant that symbolizes me, my signature plant, is the coneflower, Echinacea Purpurea. I extolled its virtues in a Bloom Day post last July, so I won't repeat all the details here, but just give you a recap of the main reasons I am so attached to this plant.

When I first began gardening in earnest, I decided I wanted to plant some of those pretty pink flowers I saw in so many gardens in the area. I didn't even know their name! I dug up my first perennial flowerbed and planted 9 or 10 coneflowers, and lo and behold, they bloomed that first year, thriving and coming back in even greater numbers the next year and the year after that. When we moved several years ago, I left most of the flowers for the next owners, but I did take a few coneflowers for a new garden; they now reside in three of my flowerbeds.

I am a loyal person who enjoys tradition, which is partly why I have a special bond with this faithful plant. Like me, it's native to this area, one species growing here long before any settler set foot upon the Prairie. My ancestors settled here over 130 years ago when the land was still a prairie, and for generations they have worked the soil and conserved it for posterity. Like the coneflower, I have deep roots to this land.

Don't let those pretty pink blooms fool you: this is no delicate beauty fussy about its environment. Because it's a native, it's a very sturdy plant that grows easily here and often reseeds itself, multiplying the number of blooms in my garden. I'm no fragile "shrinking violet" either, and I'm certainly not "high maintenance"! My parents have traced our family tree back to the 1600's without a hint of noble heritage; like the coneflower, I come from sturdy peasant stock:) As for the multiplying, hmm, well, I do have four children . . .

Analogies aside, there are many reasons to love this plant, a major one being its attraction to bees, butterflies, birds, and even the occasional grasshopper. All summer long my garden is alive with humming and fluttering insects, many of whom are so entranced by the large seed-bearing globes that they don't even notice a camera poised nearby. In the fall, once the petals have dropped and the plant dries up, the goldfinches take over, enjoying the seedheads left behind.

We gardeners often talk about "winter interest." What could be more interesting than these tall flowers still standing in the garden with their warm winter hats on?

Faithful and true, strong and sturdy, living in harmony with all nature, echinaceas are more than just another pretty face in the garden. Whether on a desert island or here in the heart of the Midwest, there will always be coneflowers in my garden.


  1. What a lovely post! A bit of a tease too:) And if it had been anything other than the coneflower, it would surely be the rose (in my humble opinion). I seem to remember your header photo of coneflowers, so I always think of them in relation to you. We'll be sure to take you along on the second boat-no problem Rose always room for more. I added you to my sidebar and thanks for the link love. Have the greatest day!

  2. Lovely post, great piccies, sue.x

  3. Nice choices Rose. The coneflower is a great choice. Have you grown the white variety?

  4. Rose .. what a wonderful post you have created ! . I too would have thought a "rose" for your signature plant .. but after reading why the cone flower is really "you" .. it all makes sense girl : ).. but your three choices are very much "you" again .. and there that rose is .. like a few of us we have to have one, don't we ? .. I am really interested in trying Zinnias as well .. Linda over at Meadowview Thymes recommends them highly .. I just don't know whether to try it by seed (which I am supposed to be sworn off of this year) or by plant from the garden centers .. what do you think ?

  5. Ah, Rose, I'm with you on coneflowers...I never met one I didn't adore, although I have met some I've managed to kill!. I'm fascinated the past few days with the fascination for zinnias, which I rarely grow because I only use annuals in containers. But every year I add more and more coneflowers!

  6. Great Choices! Those are three of my favorite perennials as well. If you want to read about more plants for winter interest, check out my blog! :-)

  7. Rose,
    So glad you're joining the party...We are all meeting on the Ledo deck for happy hour and plant talk. I am not surprised that coneflowers are your signature plant or that roses and zinnias would be on your must have list! All are great plants to have in any garden.


  8. Well Rose...I am with you on was you who enticed me with them last year. I have several plants in my garden now and yesterday I found 'green envy'.....It is in it's package at them moment, I shall pot it soon and put in the greenhouse ready for the garden in the summer...

    I love your family history....and your ties with the coneflower....I understand, it is these links that root us......

    I am so glad that you mentioned the bees birds and butterflies......and you have some lovely photographs there.....

    Shall we meet under the palm tree for a nice drink or two??

  9. Great choices to take to the island Rose. Don't worry there is always room for one more.

    Your choice as a signature plant is good too. I just love those cone flowers.

  10. I agree, Rose, that purple coneflowers are your perfect representative. If you were busy surviving on a desert island, you would not want to be fussing with those roses. The conflowers would just faithfully bloom without any effort on your part.

  11. Rose, most people wouldn't consider Echinacea to be elegant or otherwise noteworthy, but it is such a workhorse in the garden and returns are fantastic from such a small investment in money and time. It's an appropriate choice from a true prairie woman for life on a desert island! By the way, I did see your comment on your last post about not being able to comment on my blog. I had some problems with Blogger yesterday, but I think everything is okay now. Thanks for letting me know.

  12. The coneflower is a favourite of mine, too, but it is a delicate beauty in my garden, as I can't keep them over the winter.

    Good choice!

  13. I am so envious of the butterflies pictures. I still haven't managed one yet that isn't smudged!
    The cone flower is lovely!
    I would have thought you'd have chosen a Rose.
    Maybe I would chose a Marguerite! LOL

  14. Tina, I always thought roses would be my signature plant, but realistically I am always drawn to the coneflowers, and they do so well for me. Hope you don't mind me combining the desert challenge with the signature plant, but I thought I'd be repeating myself otherwise.

    Sue, Thank you; the coneflowers are very photogenic:)

    Susie, I haven't tried any of the newer varieties, but I'd like to. The Big Sky series with the yellow and pale orange intrigue me.

    Joy, I do like roses, but I just don't have the patience for the hybrids, plus the Japanese beetles are terrible here in early summer. You can't go wrong with zinnias--I recommend sowing them directly in the ground unless you are better at starting seeds indoor than I am:)

  15. Jodi, I see now there are several of us with coneflowers; that says something about them:) I'd like to try some of the new hybrids one of these days, but I've been too cheap so far. The zinnias work in containers, too, but I loved the ones I planted in a flowerbed.

    Pam, Thank you, and I'll be by for a visit soon.

    Gail, I'm glad I made it just in time for happy hour! This summer I hope to have the Tennessee native coneflowers joining the old standbys.

    Cheryl, I remember your buying the coneflowers this summer; watch out, you might get hooked on them, if you haven't already:) There were other plants that attracted the bees and butterflies, too, but they eventually always stopped for a photo shoot on the coneflowers. Tea or a drink sounds lovely:)

    Lisa, I kept thinking this was going to be a deserted island, but it sounds more like a girlfriends' getaway:)

    Joyce, Well said! I wouldn't have pruners or gardening gloves handy, and I'd probably get an infection from the thorns on those roses:)

    W2W, I didn't want to call them common or ordinary, because they are so beautiful, but coneflowers certainly aren't exotic. I'll back over to visit to see if I can leave a comment this time.

    Mean Mom, We have very cold winters here, so maybe that's what the coneflowers like. I usually mulch them with leaves.

    Maggie May, I think I picked the coneflowers partly because the butterflies always landed there and let me get a photo. If you want to see some fantastic butterfly shots, check out Robin's Nesting Place (on my sidebar; I don't know how to do a link here).

  16. What a wonderful, fun post Rose! Coneflowers are a great favorite of mine too, although they don't seem particularly happy here with as little sun that they get. There are lots of good reasons to love them though, and roses and zinnias too.

  17. Hi there Rose, my island ship keeps stopping as I pass by the islands and it has taken me a while to get here ;-)

    Ah… as Jodi said the zinnias have been popular (some packets of seed sneaked in) but so have the roses and the cone flowers too so you are right in there with the most popular plants :-D

    I never got to the signature plant myself and am heading for a bird count next posting (an annual thing here in the UK). I love your signature plant and all the reasons behind it. I’m now hoping the slow dingy got you to your island safely - but if not send out a flare and my island ship will pick you up ;-)

  18. Three good choices. Lovely photos to back up the choices as well.

  19. Hi Rose, what a fun post! I also would have thought Rose would be your signature plant. Zinnias are so colourful and I like coneflowers too.
    Hope you're having fun on the island. An island full of flowers!

  20. A smart move-not minding at all.

  21. Well done! I enjoyed reading this. I love coneflowers, too.

  22. Such a lovely post! I can see why you have chosen this lovely plant, though I'm with you on the Rose also (particularly the fragrance of rose). I hope you do not really end up alone on a desert island,though it would be lovely to be there sometimes, just for some occasional solitude :)

  23. Great post Rose! I didn't expect your signature plant to be the coneflower either. But then like Tina I remembered the header photo from summer. :) You picked wonderful plants to bring to the island.

  24. Hi Rose, HA, multiplication R us! I love your choice, but would have thought the rose, maybe too obvious though. I am so glad you decided to hitch a ride to the island, we would miss your loyal traditional self and your wonderful writing. And we would need a good teacher to keep order and learn us a thing or two!

  25. Excellent choices to take to our desert island. It's hardly a desert now that all those lovely flowers, shrubs and trees are there. And you very deftly shoehorned your signature plant into this post too. Well done! ;-)

    BTW except for my water feature and 3 choices of plants I intend to bring all the members of the Bliss team to our island as well. Life without cats? I think not!

  26. That really was a tease, as Tina points out. I fell in love with coneflowers after seeing so many varieties of it at Linda Lunda's! See you soon in the island with my choices! I'm yet to make it...

  27. Hi Rose~

    I love all of your choices! Three of my favorite flowers. I've seen such a variety of plant picks from so many bloggers that it makes me think this island would be the most beautiful place on the planet.
    Thanks for commenting and coming by to visit my blog!

    Have a great day~

  28. Mine would be white pine, hollyhock, and pansy. I'm a no-nonsense kinda gal! Do you happen to know if the seeds arrived at Beckie's yet?!

  29. I, too, love the purple cone flower and they are still in the garden even as I type! nice post today Rose.

  30. Dear Rose,
    I also love the cone flowers. A wonderful signature plant for sure. Your connection to the prairie pulls my heart strings..I too am a prairie girl.
    Not only do the Butterflies and the Finches love the cone flowers but the roots are used for healing teas...
    Come spring I think I will do a little something about my signature plant. It is a lovely way to know someone!
    I realy like the way you combined these two memes... very creative!
    Stay warm.

  31. Linda, I do have lots of sunny spots, so the coneflowers seem quite content here.

    Shirl, Thank you for sponsoring this; it was fun! My dingy did arrive safely, but I was surprised to see so many people:) Looks like there will lots of roses and quite a few coneflowers on the island as well.

    IGW, This gave me an excuse to find all those butterfly photos I took on the coneflowers last summer:)

    Wendy, It's snowing today, so I definitely would like to be whisked away to a tropical island right now:) The rose seemed a logical choice for my signature, but since I can't grow many of them, the coneflowers made much more sense.

    Sue, Thanks; coneflowers seemed to be a popular choice.

    Suburbia, A tropical island sounds wonderful right now! I'll take a bouquet of roses any time, but in the garden I prefer coneflowers.

    Racquel, You and Tina are observant--and have good memories:)

    Frances, I think the island is going to be full of beautiful roses:) Forget the grammar books, I'll be relaxing on that island!

  32. Yolanda, I think this island is going to be a garden of paradise! Glad you're taking along the kitties; I think I'd have to bring mine along as well.

    Chandramouli, We'll be waiting for you...I can't wait to meet you and see what you will be bringing from Plantville!

    Karrita, I was going through the list at Shirl's and visiting as many as I could, and was so happy to find you again! I remember reading your interview with Tina last week. Very enjoyable!

    Monica, I like your attitude! I'm all for low-maintenance myself. I don't think the seeds have come in yet, but it's been a few days since I talked to Beckie.

    Neva, Thanks. The coneflower seedheads will stay till this spring, when I'll sprinkle them around the garden again, hoping for a few more seedlings.

    Sherry, Thank you; I'm interested in knowing what your signature plant might be. It was interesting in reading different posts on this meme how many people chose plants that attracted butterflies and bees. It just shows how many gardeners are interested in all of nature, not just the pretty blooms.

  33. Very nice ones, and a great article you have there.
    I've also written a similar article on Flowers Meanings.. You can find lots of photos there..

    Good Luck

  34. I guessed right, what do I win? ;^) You've put a lot of thought into your signature plant, while I still can't decide on mine. Coneflowers are wonderful plants. Your other deserted island plants are also good choices.

  35. A very good idea to combine these memes. I enjoyed the reasoning behind each of your pick, but I honestly thought you would have your blue salvis in there somewhere. I know it's hard to chose-I haven't been able to yet! :}

    All these posts and pictures of beautiful flowers is making me log for spring to hurry up.

  36. Mustafa, Thanks, and I'll be by to visit soon.

    MMD, This is one of those contests where the reward is intrinsic, just the satisfaction of knowing you were right:) Picking the coneflower was easy--when Tina posted her signature plant, the coneflower immediately came to my mind. Picking the other two was much harder, and today I probably would have picked something else.

    Beckie, I thought about the blue salvia; if I had posted today, I probably would have included it. Any luck in finding your camera yet?

  37. I would have guessed zinnia. You are the one who convinced me to buy more zinnia seeds for the coming spring. Actually, I think all three of your choices are good ones.

  38. I just knew your signature was a Rose! Like the Saint says, you are not always right. I argue with him on that one but today, I am not right. Arggg... I think your choices will be perfect on the island. And what is wrong with talking to the birds? I talk to them and everything else that visits my yard. Heck, I even talk to my beloved Skeeter that is in the ground under the shade trees! Yep, I am glad I live out in the country because city folks may not understand me talking in the yard all the time with no one around. lol. Now Tom and Wilson the Ball, that is another story. I need to get some pink coneflowers...

  39. Roses would be my secnd group of picks, Zinnia's are very popular on the island. I like the coneflower for it's helpful herbal side.

  40. Marnie, I'm glad to know you are going to plant zinnias this year! I think they would look great in your garden.

    Skeeter, We live in the country, too, so I can talk to the birds, the bees, the flowers, and anything I want without the neighbors thinking I'm too strange. Of course, when I talk to myself in the house, my husband and daughter become a little worried about me:)

    Dawn, I've purchased echinacea in capsule form before, but I've never tried to harvest my own. I think the more native variety is better suited to herbal medicine, which I don't have.

  41. What a wonderful tale of your signature flower. Just perfect.

    Although the perfume of a rose is just wonderful to the senses.

  42. As an Horticultural Creative Critic, I decided to have a signature garden,
    not just one or a few plants.

    One can do that if collecting avidly,
    avoiding at all cost the common place, bush,plant,tree,lawns.

    Lawns when maintained traditionally
    require gas, oil,trimmers/lawnmowers,herbicides,
    pesticides,insecticides,fertilizers and fungicides. All in detriment of nature to have a desert/sterile

    There is noise, air,water,soil pollution and the irritable inconvenience to nature/neighbors.

    My signature garden has eighty species, in the Caribbean context.

    Excellent blog...Until next


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