BLESSINGS IN BLOOM: The Golden Banner of Easter
Kerry Peetz
/ Categories: Opinion, Commentary

BLESSINGS IN BLOOM: The Golden Banner of Easter

By Kerry Peetz

All Sundays this April are named Easter — Second Sunday of Easter, Third Sunday of Easter, Fourth and Fifth Sundays of Easter. It’s a Christian’s dream, a continued celebration that Christ is Risen! He died for our sins and really, what more could we ever ask for? As humans, it seems, there’s always more to ask for. Some of our “asks” are very serious: “Please God, send a cure for cancer.” “Please God, forgive me.” And others are less serious but still important. For Colorado gardeners, a common petition is, “Please God send us rain for our gardens.”

Golden banner — “Thermopsis divaricarpa” — is a great native choice for most landscapes in our diocese. You may not find them potted up in our local nurseries, but dropping a hint to the attentive garden shopkeeper might prompt a crop for next year. Seeds are available online. 

There are many benefits to using Colorado native herbaceous perennials in our home landscapes. They are naturally adapted to Colorado’s climates, soils and environmental conditions. When they are correctly sited, they make ideal plants for a sustainable landscape. Native herbaceous perennials require less work such as watering, fertilizing and pruning.

Golden banner is a perennial and grows to 11,000 feet. It has a long bloom time — from March to July (sometimes August) — and thrives in sun to part shade. The plant has yellow showy spikes of pea-like flowers in terminal spike-like short-branched flower heads; seed pods are spreading and slightly curved; stipules (leafy growths) at the base of the leaf stalks are relatively wide, and oval in shape.

This plant is rhizomatous and spreads from 18-24 inches. When happy, it can spread vigorously and will fill a good-sized space. Height can be up to 39 inches. Well-drained soil is a must.

Native plants can often be successfully grown in unamended soils. Most natives do not require nutrient rich, high organic-content soil, and in fact they can often become overgrown or short-lived in such soils. However, many of the plants native to Colorado require well-drained soils.

To help soil with drainage issues, amend clay soils by adding 10 percent compost and 15 percent small aggregate, i.e., pea gravel or squeegee gravel, by volume to clay/clay loam and incorporate into the root zone. (Squeegee is larger than sand and smaller than pea gravel but can be used like pea gravel. It also offers a great option for walkways, paths and as decorative stone.) Creating a small berm and planting on the top can also be helpful to improve drainage. To amend excessively well-drained sandy or rocky soils, add 3 percent compost by volume.

A variety of native herbaceous perennials plantings can support a wide range of wildlife throughout the season. Leave vegetation standing after the first hard frost to provide over-wintering sites for beneficial insects and birds.

Using native herbaceous perennials offers many benefits in addition to reduced maintenance. Once established, native plantings can help conserve water. Our native plants make Colorado uniquely distinct from other parts of the country.

During these joyous days of Easter may our hearts be ever grateful and our woes be nonexistent. This is the season of the resurrection — the resurrection of Jesus.

“Gather gladness from the skies; Take a lesson from the ground; Flowers do ope their heavenward eyes. And a Spring-time joy have found; Earth throws Winter’s robes away, Decks herself for Easter Day.” — excerpt from “Easter” by Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1866.

Another planting season is close by. Thanks be to God!

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