Plants Jefferson Grew that We Grow at Talking Leaves
by Donald Burger, Attorney at Law

American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana). Our plants are about 3 feet high. They have rather long, arching branches. Do not prune. The plant is not bothered by insects. Drought tolerant. Glossy purple fruits in rows on the branches in the fall. Purchased in March 1995.

Bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis). Annual. This is a tough plant to grow in Houston, but not impossible. It was probably tough to grow in Virginia, too. Jefferson got his seeds from the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1807. Jefferson even sowed this seed in the vegetable garden, for its legume qualities. In Houston sow seeds in fall for spring blooms. Wildseed Farms (800-848-0078) sells the seeds in bulk for reasonable prices. I first seeded bluebonnets in 1995.

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) Perennial. Prefers moist soil and shade, or at least afternoon shade. It is reputed to not like heat but mine has done fine. Jefferson first planted seeds at Monticello in 1807. We purchased our first cardinal flower in September, 1997.

Cherokee Rose (Rosa laevigata). This old garden rose blooms only in the spring. It is extremely thorny. It has often been used as a living fence. It gets quite large and is no fun to prune back.

Cypress Vine (Ipomoea quamoclit). Fast growing annual. I was very surprised to see cypress vine at Monticello when I visited. There it is allowed to grow along the ground (as opposed to on an arbor or trellis) and it makes an interesting low (12 to 15 inch) hedge. This is a wonderful vine. I planted one on our arbor in May of 1998 and it practically took over the arbor by September! It has a airy, fern-like look with tiny star-shaped red flowers. It is a great plant for an arbor. No thorns, very prolific, disease-free and cute flowers. Try it.

Larkspur (Consolida ambigua). This is a hardy annual. First planted in spring of 1998. Jefferson planted seeds along his roundabout flower border in April of 1810. He probably grew Consolida orientalis, a precursor of the delphinium, which would be introduced later.

Johnny-jump-ups(Viola tricolor). Annual. Six inches high. Small flowers resemble pansies. These plants self-seed readily, and once you plant them you will have them coming up at random locations. The flowers last till the heat gets them. Jefferson grew this plant.

Pyracantha (Pyracantha koidzumii "Victory"). Jefferson used this plant, athough we do not know the specific variety. His granddaughter, Cornelia Randolph, noted that the pyracantha made a low hedge so thick nothing could get through it. Anyone having a close encounter of the pointed kind can understand the usefullness of pyracantha for living fence. This plant can be easily trained to a trellis, if you wear thorn-proof gloves. This is an elegant plant. Ours is approaching 8 feet high. In the late summer it produces berries. They start out yellow and turn to a deep red. Allow plenty of room for this plant.

Red Bud (Cercis candensis). This is a great tree for the Houston area because it provides beautiful pink blooms in the spring and the leaves turn red in the fall. Although I do not know which variety Jefferson grew, we grow the variety "Oklahoma." It is also a host plant for the butterfly Henry's Elfin.

Snap Dragons (Antirrhinum spp.). Annual. This is a cool weather plant in Houston. Plant in early winter and they should last until the temperature warms up in the spring. Great front bed plant. A healthy stand of snap dragons is very impressive. Disease free. Squeeze the flower to make the dragon's mouth open.

Last revised November 1, 1998

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