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Photo by Jessica Walliser
I’m intrigued by the growth habit of lacy phacelia, which is more well-known on the West Coast than in my area, and I’m going to try to grow it this year.
I’m a serious sucker for interesting plants, especially those with funky growth habits. I’ve recently been introduced to two different plants that have the most intriguing growth habits: the spiral. I plan to incorporate both of these beauties into this year’s ornamental gardens because I find their Fibonacci-inspired blooms to be unbelievably intriguing.
Although you West-coast folks probably are already familiar with lacy phacelia, folks from the Midwest, East and South have probably never even heard of this great plant. It’s a native of southwestern North America, and its common name, fiddleneck, gives you a bit of an indication of what the flowers look like. Small, purple-blue blossoms unfurl from a coiled flower stalk that produces blooms over a very long period of time. The organization of this flower enthralls me every time I see it, and the elongated stamens within each flower extend out, making the uncurling flowers look whiskered and fuzzy.
In addition to their captivating flowers and lace-like foliage, lacy phacelia is a great plant for supporting bees and beneficial insects. It blooms a mere six to eight weeks after germinating, but it doesn’t survive the winter—though it does self-sow. Often sold as a green manure, bee forage and cover crop, lacy phacelia is a very adaptable plant, tolerant of different climates and soil types. Because it grows so quickly, it is a popular cover crop in Europe and is somewhat popular in vineyards and farms in western North America. I plan to grow a stand of it right in my vegetable garden.
Another plant with incredible spiral floral structure is the corkscrew vine (Vigna caracalla). This annual vine is only hardy south of USDA hardiness zone 9, but I’ve seen it flowering prolifically late in the season here in Pennsylvania. It grows upwards of 15 feet in a single season and bears clusters of snail shell-shaped flowers that range in color from lavender and pink to yellow and tan. The vines grow best in full sun.
The greatest struggle in starting seeds of the corkscrew vine is getting them to germinate. They have a hard seed coat that needs to be scored with a metal file before planting takes place. It also helps to cover them with boiling water before filing them. Let them soak in the cooling water overnight before planting shallowly.