H. Perennial & Old Fashioned Garden Plants & Flowers by John Wood
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Harpalium Rigidum - Hardy Perennial
Author: John Wood
Harpalium Rigidum Described.
Harpalium Rigidum - Syn. Helianthus Rigidus—Rigid Sunflower; Nat. Ord. Compositæ.
One of the most effective and beautiful flowers to be seen in autumn; it would be hard to mention another at any period of the year that gives more satisfaction and pleasure than this does, either as a decorative plant or a cut flower. A bold specimen, 4ft. through, is truly fine, and not only those who seldom visit a garden, but amateurs well versed in flowers, are alike charmed with its rich and stately blossoms. Most people know what a Sunflower is; many of them are coarse and almost ugly; but though the present subject is of the family, it is supremely distinct; it is without the formal character in its ray, and also the herby leafiness of many of its genus, its large, clean, shining, golden flowers, mounted on slender, ruddy, long, and nearly nude stalks, not only render it distinct, but impart an elegance to this species, which is all its own. It grows 4ft. high, is a comparatively new kind in English gardens, and comes from North America; still, it has become widely known and appreciated, in fact a universal favourite, so much so that, although it increases fast, the demand for it is not yet satisfied; it is, doubtless, a flower for every garden.
The flowers are 4in. across, glistening golden yellow, and formed of a deep ray and small disk; the florets of the ray are 1½in. long and more than ½in. broad, they are incurved at their points, but reflexed at their edges, and are handsomely ribbed or pleated; they are arranged in two or three rays in each flower, and irregularly disposed; the florets, being well apart, not only seem to give the bloom body, but also an artistic informality and lightness. The florets of the disk are chocolate colour, whence issue twirled filamentary forms, which impart to the centre of flower the appearance of being netted with a golden thread. The scaly involucre is formed of numerous small members of a dark olive-green colour, neatly arranged and firmly clasping the whole flower. The pedicels are long, round, covered with short stiff hairs, and thickened at the involucre; the stems are very rough, rigid, hard, and brown or ruddy on the sunny side, sometimes twisted and nude, with the exception of a solitary rudimentary leaf. The main stems have many axillary branches. The leaves of the root are few, 5in. or 6in. long, and oval. Those of the stems more lance-shaped, sessile, and slightly dentate, or toothed, lessening in size as they get higher; all the leaves are very thick, three-veined, and remarkably hispid, being almost as coarse as sandpaper to the touch. I have also observed another peculiarity about the leaves, when they have been taken from the plant for an hour or more, i.e., they have a most elastic property. Very often the leaves may be seen in trios, whence spring three side branches, surrounding the upright and central one. The habit of the whole specimen is very rigid, with the exception of the flowers, which are slightly nodding; the tallest growths need no stakes, and the species enjoys a happy immunity from insect pests, probably by reason of its hispid character. As already stated, as a garden subject this is one of the most useful; it shows grandly in front of evergreens, and associates well with lilies. In borders of tall perennials, or in conspicuous but distant situations, such as are visible from the doors or windows of the house, or as isolated clumps, on or near the lawn, this fine Sunflower may be planted with satisfactory results; in fact, it cannot be planted wrong, provided it is kept away from small subjects. In a cut state it is of such value that it cannot be overpraised—a branch with four fully blown flowers and others nearly out, requires no assistance as a table decoration. Its blooms have the quality of keeping clean, doubtless from the smoothness of the florets.
The cultural requirements are few. Any garden soil will do for it, but if deeply dug and well enriched with stable manure, so much the better; it should have a fairly open situation; it is not only a Sunflower in name and form, but it enjoys sunshine. It is self-propagating, and runs freely at the roots, immediately under the surface; the thick stolons form knobby crowns at their extremities, out of and from under which the roots issue, going straight and deep down, and so forming an independent plant.
Flowering period, August and September.
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