Veronica Salpiglossis, the Greek goddess of Gamble Garden

From a visit to Palo Alto’s Gamble Garden yesterday: two striking flowers I have never grown, though they are common ornanentals: Veronica spicata, or spike speedwell; and Salpiglossis sinuata, or painted tongue. In the garden (photos by Juan Gomez):

(#1)

(#2)

Trips to the garden are a combination of visits to old friends — I get to say, those seedlings in that bed are zinnias, those seedlings in the next bed are chrysanthemums, those plants climbing on the wooden teepees are sweet peas (Lathyrus), those huge silver-leaved plants are arthichokes, and on and on, with anecdotes about the plants and my experiences with them — and discoveries of plants I know by reputation but not experience, or, even better, plants that are brand-new to me (like the Echiums I’ve posted about recently, Pride of Madeira and Tower of Jewels).

Veronica / speedwell and Salpiglossis / painted tongue are reputation but no experience plants for me, but the painted tongue in #2 (the variety Chocolate Royal, I think it is) is a discovery: I had no idea this species came in such amazing intense colors. And they take us back into the Solanaceae / nightshade family (as in this posting from yesterday)

Pretty in pink. And other colors too, some of them intense, as in the varieties Royal Candles and Red Fox:

(#3)

(#4)

From Wikipedia:

Veronica is the largest genus in the flowering plant family Plantaginaceae, with about 500 species; it was formerly classified in the family Scrophulariaceae. Taxonomy for this genus is currently being reanalysed, with the genus Hebe and the related Australasian genera Derwentia, Detzneria, Chionohebe, Heliohebe, Leonohebe and Parahebe included by many botanists. Common names include speedwell, bird’s eye, and gypsyweed.

… The genus name Veronica used in binomial nomenclature was chosen by Carl Linnaeus based on preexisting common usage of the name veronica in many European languages for plants in this group. Such use in English is attested as early as 1572. The name probably reflects a connection with Saint Veronica, whose Latin name is ultimately derived from Greek, Berenice. [Note the Greek connection.]

… Several species of speedwell are weeds that outcompete lawn grasses. Some of the more common of these are Persian speedwell (V. persica), creeping speedwell (V. filiformis), corn speedwell (V. arvensis), germander speedwell (V. chamaedrys), and ivy-leaved speedwell (V. hederifolia). It is often difficult to tell one species from another. There are five to seven species of speedwell in Michigan alone that are easily confused.

As far as I know, our lawn in Columbus, which was a giant web of ground covers and pretty plants many people despise as weeds, in a matrix of conventional grasses, was free of weedy speedwells.

Meanwhile, the ordinary garden variety (which comes in purple, blue, pink, red, and white) is V. spicata, spike speedwell.

In the background in #1. On the right, a bed of foxgloves (mostly white ones) coming to the end of their blooming season; I looked at these plans in a 5/9/17 posting. They are now truly gigantic, looming over me, most over 6 feet tall. On the left, an assortment of larkspurs (in pink, white, and blue); there’s a section on larkspurs in a 8/22/15 posting.

Stick out your tongue. On to #2. From Wikipedia:

Salpiglossis [Gk. ‘trumpet tongue’] sinuata [Lat. ‘bent, curved’, referring to markings on the petals], the painted tongue, scalloped tube tongue, or velvet trumpet flower, is a flowering plant in the family Solanaceae, native to southern Chile.

Salpiglossis sinuata is an annual or short-lived perennial herbaceous plant growing to 60 cm (2.0 ft) tall, rarely up to 1 m (3.3 ft) tall. The leaves are 4–10 cm (1.6–3.9 in) long, elliptic to lanceolate, with a wavy, lobed or toothed margin.

The flowers have a five-lobed funnel-shaped corolla, up to 7 cm (2.8 in) long and 5.5 cm (2.2 in) diameter, each lobe with a notched apex, velvety in texture, either violet or orange, and have contrasting darker stripes along each petal.

The hybrids embrace a huge assortment of colors, a few illustrated here:

(#5)

Bonus: smoke ’em if you got ’em. Now that we’re back in the Solanaceae, I go on to another versatile ornamental flower in the family, one that we did sometimes grow in the Columbus garden. From Wikipedia:

Nicotiana is a genus of herbaceous plants and shrubs of the family Solanaceae, that is indigenous to the Americas, Australia, south west Africa and the South Pacific. Various Nicotiana species, commonly referred to as tobacco plants, are cultivated as ornamental garden plants. N. tabacum [with light pink flowers] is grown worldwide for production of tobacco leaf for cigarettes and other tobacco products.

… The word nicotiana (as well as nicotine) was named in honor of Jean Nicot, French ambassador to Portugal, who in 1559 sent it as a medicine to the court of Catherine de’ Medici.

On the ornamentals, from the Swallowtail Garden Seeds site:

(#6)

Nicotiana [hybrids] produce deliciously fragrant flowers that bring hummingbirds and spectacular moths into your garden. The low maintenance plants tolerate both heat and humidity.

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