My (current) Favourite Flower

I’m sometimes asked what my favourite flower is. I bet you’ve been asked the same question, but unless you have a sentimental or emotional attachment to a specific bloom, I wouldn’t be surprised if your answer is similar to mine: ‘It depends on what’s blooming right now.’ The Lens-Artists photo challenge this week is to show some photos of your favourite flowers and mine, right at this moment, are strawflowers.

Orange and pink Strawflowers

Xerochrysum bracteatum (known as Helichrysum bracteatum until 1990), sometimes called Golden Everlasting, in an annual in my Southeast Ontario gardening zone, but in its native Australia it’s considered a perennial. Cultivars can be short (45 cm) or tall (my tallest this year is about 1.5 metres), and they come in colours like pink, red, orange, yellow and white. What look like petals on this flower are actually ‘bracts’ – modified leaves. The flowers are the tiny yellow things (florets) in the centre. It’s the bracts that inspired the common name because they are very thin, very papery and very dry, like straw.

They’re very easy to start indoors – just press the tiny seeds onto the surface of a seed-starting mix and keep warm and moist – they need light to germinate – then thin to give each plant room to grow.

A very pale yellow strawflower

There are probably at least four good reasons to grow strawflowers:

  1. They will last a long time as fresh cut flowers in a vase
  2. By cutting them before fully open then hanging them upside down in a dark spot, they can be dried to use all year around
  3. They are incredibly photogenic! Here’s a post from a few months ago to demonstrate just how much they love the camera!
  4. They’re heat and drought tolerant

Despite being native to Australia, which in this northern hemisphere resident’s mind means it’s warm all the time, these plants are also very cold tolerant. We haven’t yet had a frost this autumn but there have been some very chilly nights, with lows to near-zero degrees Celsius. Yet the flowers till grow – bracts opening with the sun, and closing at night or when it’s very cloudy.

Strawflowers – my (current) favourite flower!

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