Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Glimmer Of Goldenrod - Solidago

Solidago rugosa 'Fireworks'
The Glimmer Of Goldenrod - Solidago

Across the meadow in brooding shadow
I walk to drink of the autumn's wine­
The charm of story, the artist's glory,
To-day on these silvering hills is mine;
On height, in hollow, where'er I follow,
By mellow hillside and searing sod,
Its plumes uplifting, in light winds drifting,
I see the glimmer of golden-rod.

In this latest comer the vanished summer
Has left its sunshine the world to cheer,
And bids us remember in late September
What beauty mates with the passing year.
The days that are fleetest are still the sweetest,
And life is near to the heart of God,
And the peace of heaven to earth is given
In this wonderful time of the golden-rod.
L.M. Montgomery (1874-1942), In the Days of the Goldenrod

Goldenrod is of the genus Solidago (pronounced so-li-DAY-go). Solidago includes about 100 species mostly distributed throughout North America. Some are found in South America, Mexico and Europe. When goldenrod blooms, know that summer's end is near. It conjures a pensive mood in me.

The name, given by Linnaeus in 1753, comes from Latin, meaning "to make whole." Undoubtedly, he knew of its time-honored medicinal uses. Ailments treated included arthritis, tuberculosis, bladder inflammation, kidney stones, gout, colds and allergies, bronchitis and asthma.

Solidago was once considered as a possible source for rubber by Thomas Edison. The Edison Papers at the New York Botanical Garden tell the story. During World War I, Edison expected that rubber would be a very valuable commodity, began to search for latex sources in readily available plants. Edison's winter estate was in Ft. Myers, FL, just across the street from Henry Ford, so they and another friend, Harvey Firestone, began collaborating on the research project. The Edison Botanic Research Corporation of Fort Myers was formed. After many plant trials, they concluded that Solidago leavenworthii was the best source. Though they were able to produce very durable rubber, they were unable to do it on a large enough scale. The company was dissolved. Ford moved the solidago to his mansion near Richmond Hill, GA for awhile. The project was finally abandoned.

Interestingly, the Ford Motor Company has never given up on the idea of readily available plants. The company is now partnering with scientists at Ohio State University in an attempt to produce significant amounts of rubber from Russian Dandelion (Taraxacum kok-saghyz).

Most Solidago species thrive in USDA climate zones 3 through 9. Average garden soil with pH ranging from 6.1 to 7.8 is fine. Solidago is drought-tolerant, deer resistant and rabbit resistant.

Perennial borders, hummingbird gardens and butterfly gardens should include Solidago. Appropriate theme gardens would include medicinal, herb, historic and native plant gardens.

If you would like to grow Solidago, choose a site in full sun to partial shade. Take a soil sample to your local Cooperative Extension Service office for analysis. You will pay a small fee. If your soil is not friable, cultivate to a depth of 8 inches. Add fertilizer and other amendments as recommended. Remove all traces of weeds.

Water the plants in their pots. Allow them to drain. With a garden trowel, dig holes twice as large as the pots. Space the plants about 18 inches apart. (Larger growing species can be planted farther apart.) Remove the plants from their containers, add water to the planting hole, fill in around (not on top of) the root balls with native soil. Water again. A light top-dressing of mulch may help to retain moisture and discourage weeds until your plants are established.

Include Solidago in your garden. Toward the end of summer, its plumes uplifting, in light winds drifting, you'll see the glimmer in the wonderful time of the golden-rod.


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