Saturday, January 16, 2010

Paintbrush Observations

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Seems like I have been awake too long this morning although it's only 5:15. One of the sounds of autism woke me just after 4 AM as Alex was experiencing some night tremors which are kind of super bad dreams that keep rolling along. He's been good for quite a while but when these occur, you awake in shock thinking someone has broken into the house. I spoke to him quietly and he roused enough to come around and get back to sleep. For me, staying up was the only plan.

Currently it's the warmest we have seen this year. 34 degrees with a 2 mph wind is warm and we like it. It's never warm enough to forget lugging more wood for the wood stove or the howling wind chills of 25 below a couple weeks back but it's still nice. It was 40 in Burlington yesterday and those temperature spikes make good gardeners and those with first gardening aspirations turn to the Internet, encouraged to think of flowers.

I absolutely love the Internet and it has become my teacher. Today is a good example. Any gardener can get confused at times but the web and a few searches can bring things around. Here's an example. This morning, Alice, a new Facebook friend from San Francisco, wrote about Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja affinis. She maintains a blog, Bay Area Tendrils Garden Travel and just wrote a piece on this flower. Just the mention of Indian Paintbrush brings a picture of a daylily by that name front and center to me but Alice wasn't talking daylilies.

As I read on about Castilleja, my memory lapse struggled to recall the name of the wildflower that flows across fields of poor soil in Vermont. I was thinking about Devil's Paintbrush but had to turn to Vermont author Kate Carter's book, Wildflowers of Vermont, to set myself straight. Devil's Paintbrush is also known as Hawkweed and it belongs to the aster family. It grows in the 12" height range, has prominent leaf and stem hairs but the beauty of a colony in bloom masks the invasiveness that bothers people around the world. Wikipedia's listing for pilosella aurantiaca should help fill in a description for you. As you read that you'll notice that both use the common name Indian Paintbrush, hence a partial excuse for my confusion.

So I went from Indian Paintbrush, a west coast wildflower, Castilleja , to Indian Paintbrush (pictured up top), a dormant tetraploid daylily registered in 1979 by Griesbach-Klehm to Devil's Paintbrush, the noxious wildflower that I forgot to take pictures of this summer. I once heard someone call this Internet behavior bunny hopping, the act of bouncing from one web page to another. And bunny hopping is what sometimes keeps me from getting to item number two on the day's "to do" list. Guess I better get hopping!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where today's chores include throwing some more firewood into the cellar to get us through the rest of Winter 2010. By the way, if you have Devil's Painbrush growing in your area, pay attention if you happen to encourage young children--anyone--from picking it for neat little bouquets. It has a milky sap and some other attributes that puts Gail into a serious "help, I can't breathe" shock. Don't know how frequent that reaction is but regardless, a word to the wise. Anaphylatic shock is not something you want to experience....or spell.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm A nice website I am reworking. It's fully functional and changing each day. Visit if you have a minute.


Salix said...

Hi George
Always enjoy your posts - and looking at your web-site I always wonder how those beauties survive the deep freeze you have out there. What zone are you in? Your growing season seems very short, maybe because of the mountains?
And today, I hope that you'll have a chance for a nice afternoon snooze!

Mother Nature said...

I love it when I'm inspired by someone's blog into research mode. Your website is coming along nicely.

lynn'sgarden said...

Hiking through trails in Montana was the last time I saw Indian Paintbrushes...such a beautiful wildflower! And I did remember your daylily by that name! On my 'wish list'! Heading up your way in a few days ;)