Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good,
She was very very good,
But when she was bad she was horrid. *
Among the more disappointing additions to the garden this year has been Gaillardia x grandiflora ‘Arizona Apricot’. This recent introduction from Benary Seeds is an All America Selections (AAS) award winner (2011) and is claimed to be the first gaillardia to flower the first year from seed**, without the need for vernalisation (winter chilling) to bloom.
Gaillardias are commonly known as blanket flowers, probably because the flowers are naturally in orange, yellow and red shades reminiscent of Native American textiles of they type I wanted to buy when I visited the South west of the USA but couldn’t afford unless I had a miraculous change of luck in Las Vegas or sold my body (always a risk in case I had to give refunds)! The centre of the flowers is also fluffy and blanket-like so maybe that is relevant too. Another version is that the wild flowers are so common they blanket the prairies with their blossoms. Most grow to about 60cm high and are short lived perennials that need well drained soil and full sun. A few years ago I grew the superb ‘Mesa Yellow’ (a Fleuroselect winner) which is pure gold and about 60cm high. I had high hopes for ‘Arizona Apricot’, the latest in the range of this series, and it (about 60 plants) was planted at the border of the iris garden.
Gaillardias are fairly easy to grow from seed as long as you make sure the sowing compost is never wet (I add perlite to it to prevent this happening). The seeds need light to germinate. I transplanted the seedlings into cell trays and planted out the seedlings in late May. It is worth keeping the young seedlings away from frost even though gaillardias are hardy. In fact it is claimed that ‘Arizona Apricot’ is hardy down to zone 2 in the USA – something I find very hard to believe. Gaillardias are tough and drought- resistant but I would never have though they were that hardy.
Anyway, the reason I am less than enthusiastic about this plant is that it is squat. Dumpy, ugly and obese. Even worse, the plants are variable. I do not dislike variability in plants – in fact I usually embrace it. But among these, the best are short and quite pretty, with lots of flowers (very very good) and the worst are squat and so short that the flower stems are barely long enough to lift the flowers above the surrounding buds or leaves (horrid). Some are very broad and flat while others are more mounded. The best are the taller (but still dwarf) ones.
To be fair, the flowers are very pretty with a golden and greenish centre and ray florets (petals) with an orange base and yellow tip.
And butterflies and bees love them.
I do not think I will leave these where they are and may move the best of them to another place to grow for next year. The best time to move them would be spring but I want to get them out of the way so will move them this autumn and if they don’t survive I won’t lose any sleep over it.
Geoff’s rating 5/10
Garden rating 7/10
* Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
** There are also annual gaillardias that will bloom the first year