Gardens Ablaze

Goldenrod
And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
- Genesis 1:29

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All of us have noticed Goldenrod (Solidago) growing on the roadside whether or not we were aware of the actual name of the plant at all.  Growing freely in disturbed areas and woodlands, a field of Goldenrod is really a beautiful sight, and despite some drawbacks, this plant has many desirable features that the home gardener might find useful.  Many blame Goldenrod for seasonal allergies, but in fact, the only way to become allergic to Goldenrod is to bury your face in it, because the plant is not designed for wind pollination.  Its big bright yellow flowers in the fall are gorgeous and make wonderful, long-lasting cut flowers.  Any insect that is interested at all in flowers will come like a magnet to Goldenrod flowers, and because of the intensity of activity around the plant,  birds will be abundant in the area too.  This plant is a bird, bee, and butterfly bonanza. 

The downside to the familiar Goldenrod that grows on the side of the road is that it is quite opportunistic and doesn't much care about fussy soils or weekly watering, growing robustly in all but the worst conditions. Some types drop seed and some spread underground, making them a scary proposition for all but the most dedicated gardener.  Many are tall and bend down to near the ground once the flower heads are mature because of the weight of the flowers, making them a bit unkempt for all but the most natural gardens.  However, in North America there are over 100 different species due to their ability to cross-pollinate, and a well-chosen type certainly has the potential to become a favorite of the late summer and autumn garden.

Goldenrods are  winter hardy perennials, and many types will come back reliably from zone 3 up.  They grow from about 2 - 8 feet tall depending on the type, and have hairy stems and lance-like leaves with pointed tips.   The leaves smell like licorice when crushed, and make a nice anise-flavored tea.  Flowers are unusual, and are borne in clusters only on top of the stems, followed by gray seed heads.  All above-ground parts of the Goldenrod are safe for ingestion, and the plants have been used for centuries in herbal healing.  Tests reveal that regardless of the species, all Goldenrods contain more or less the same medicinal compounds. For more information see Medicinal Uses of Goldenrod.

Goldenrod will grow in full sun or partial shade, and does well in dry sandy or clay soils.  Obviously, it does appreciate high living in a cultivated and regularly watered garden, but it's definitely not a plant you have to worry about when you go on vacation. It can be started from seed or by root division.  If started from seed, baby the seedlings for a while until the plant is strong enough to take the rigors of the garden.    Plant no deeper than the seedling was in the pot or the stem may rot.  Fertilize sparingly, if at all.  Too much fertilizer will result in all stem and few flowers.

Suggestions for gardening include adding to naturalized gardens, backyard habitats, meadows, wildflower gardens, and herb gardens. Please see the links at the top left for more information on uses for Goldenrod.    

 

 

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