Richard Bogren, Owings, Allen D. | 3/20/2015 9:53:15 PM
News Release Distributed 03/20/15
By Allen Owings
LSU AgCenter horticulturist
HAMMOND, La. – The National Garden Bureau has named 2015 the “Year of the Gaillardia.”
Native to the U.S., about 23 species of gaillardia are scattered across the Americas with the heaviest concentration in the southwestern United States. Closely related to the sunflower family, gaillardias also are called blanket flowers.
The first gaillardias collected in the United States were in Louisiana by Auguste Dennis Fougeroux de Bondaroy, the first botanist to describe them. He worked from specimens of a lovely, knee-high annual wildflower. In 1788, he named it Gaillardia pulchella – gaillardia after the French naturalist Antoine Rene Gaillard de Charentoneau and pulchella after the Latin word for “pretty.” Its 2-inch, red flowers typically have yellow tips on their rays and a much darker-red central disc.
In 1806, Lewis and Clark collected a perennial gaillardia in Montana. This plant was later scientifically named Gaillardia aristata and is commonly grown today.
Why are they called blanket flowers? Legend has it that a Native American weaver was so good at her craft that when she died, her grave was blanketed with flowers colored as brilliantly as the blankets she had made.
The 3-inch, daisy-like flowers of modern gaillardia varieties sold in Louisiana are followed by globe-shaped seed heads offer a superior presentation of color that continues throughout the summer. The brightly colored flowers are rich in nectar and will attract butterflies. Especially notable is the improved plant habit of today’s varieties, like Mesa, which don’t get tall, loose and floppy. Individual plants are neat and mounded – reaching about 16 inches tall and about 20 inches wide.
The Mesa series – with bicolor, peach and yellow varieties – have been named Louisiana Super Plants. Depending on your location, they can be short-lived to long-lived perennials in the bayou state.
If you want to plant gaillardias, consider the Mesa varieties. They can be planted in spring or fall and are generally in good supply in Louisiana garden centers in both seasons. Plant them in full to part sun 15-18 inches apart in well-drained soil. They’re adaptable to small-space gardens or any type of container. When planted near the edge of a container, they will cascade down the side.
Planted in early spring, they produce flowers through fall. Planted in early fall, they give fall flowers as well as flowers the following spring and summer.
Mesa gaillardias will attract beneficial insects and pollinators such as bees and butterflies to the landscape. They are relatively maintenance-free because they are drought-tolerant and not prone to insect pests. You only have to deadhead old flowers through the season and fertilizer at planting with a slow-release product and then repeat fertilization as needed depending on plant performance.
In addition to Mesa, other gaillardia varieties you will find in Louisiana garden centers include Arizona, Gallo, Sunset, Oranges and Lemons, and Fanfare.
The National Garden Bureau provided much of the information for this article. You can see more about the programs and plants of the National Garden Bureau at www.ngb.org.
You can see more about work being done in landscape horticulture by visiting the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station website. Also, like us on Facebook. You can find an abundance of landscape information for both home gardeners and industry professionals at both sites.Rick Bogren