UM Organic Community Garden


- 1284 County Road 10, Montevallo, AL 35115 -

University of Montevallo Organic Community Garden

- Flowers -


Surely one of the top ten reasons people garden must be to fill an otherwise ho hum space with life. The color bursts of flowers; the exotic fragrances of leaves; the hypnotic effect of arching stems swaying in the wind; the singing of the trees as gentle breezes rattle their leaves; and the intriguing housing complexes, subways, and airports of the thousands of species of miniature life that accompany gardening all contribute to make it the number one hobby in America.


An artistic picture of a field of red poppies.

During the First World War (1914-1918) much of the fighting took place in Western Europe. Previously beautiful countryside was blasted, bombed and fought over, again and again. The landscape swiftly turned to fields of mud, bleak and barren scenes where little or nothing could grow. Bright red Flanders poppies (Papaver rhoeas) however, were delicate but resilient flowers and grew in their thousands, flourishing even in the middle of chaos and destruction. In early May 1915, shortly after losing a friend in Ypres, a Canadian doctor, Lt Col John McCrae was inspired by the sight of poppies to write a now famous poem called 'In Flanders Fields'. McCrae's poem in turn inspired an American academic, Moina Michael to make and sell red silk poppies which were then brought to England by a French lady, Anna Guarin. The (Royal) British Legion, formed in 1921, ordered 9 million of the poppies which were sold on 11 November that year. The poppies sold out almost immediately and that first ever 'Poppy Appeal' raised over 106,000, a considerable amount of money at the time, which was used to help WW1 veterans with employment, housing etc.The following year, Major George Howson set up the Poppy Factory to employ disabled ex-Servicemen and which today, together with the Legion's warehouse in Aylesford, produces millions of poppies each year.
The poppy is:
A symbol of Remembrance and hope
Worn by millions of people
Red because of the natural color of field poppies
The poppy is NOT
A symbol of death or a sign of support for war
A reflection of politics or religion
Red to reflect the color of blood

Wearing a poppy is a personal choice and reflects individual and personal memories. It is not compulsory but is greatly appreciated by those it helps: those currently serving in our Armed Forces, veterans, and their families and dependents.


A picture of a variety of colorful larkspur.

The colorful Larkspur blooms cover a spectrum from white to blue to violet. Larkspur Flowers are irregularly shaped and bloom in a loose, vertical grouping along the upper end of the plant's main stalk. Larkspur is actually a very complex flower consisting of both petals and sepals.Larkspur flowers come in a variety of colors including spikes of red, pink, violet, and white. Larkspur flowers tend to be fragile and relatively short lived in the vase (under 7 days), making production for local markets more lucrative.Larkspur grow to their full potential in climates with cool, moist summers.The Larkspur plant is toxic. The stem and seeds contain alkaloids.
To grow a Larkspur: Sow Larkspur seeds directly in garden in the spring. Sow them in the location you want them to grow as Larkspurs do not like to be transplanted. Larkspur plants should be spaced about 6 to 8 inches apart. Level with the soil surface. Carefully fill in and firm the soil gently. Water the Larkspurs deeply to encourage root development, but be sure the roots do not stand in water or they will be at risk for root rot.


A beautiful banquet of cornflowers in a multiple of colors.

Centaurea Cyanus, the Cornflower, with its star-like blossoms of brilliant blue, is one of our most striking wild-flowers, though it is always looked on as an unwelcome weed by the farmer, for not only does it by its presence withdraw nourishment from the ground that is needed for the corn, 'but its tough stems in former days of hand-reaping were wont to blunt the reaper's sickle, earning it the name of 'Hurt Sickle':'Thou blunt'st the very reaper's sickle and so; In life and death becom'st the farmer's foe.' The Latin name, Cyanus, was given the Cornflower after a youthful devotee of the goddess Flora (Cyanus), whose favorite flower it was, and the name of the genus is derived from the Centaur, Chiron, who taught mankind the healing virtue of herbs. It has long been cultivated as a garden plant, in several colors as well as white. The flowers are the part used in modern herbal medicine and are considered to have tonic, stimulant and demagogue properties, with action similar to that of Blessed Thistle.A water distilled from Cornflower petals was formerly in repute as a remedy for weak eyes. The famous French eyewash, 'Eau de Casselunettes,' used to be made from them. Culpepper tells us that the powder or dried leaves of the Bluebottle is given with good success to those that are bruised by a fall or have broken a vein inwardly. The expressed juice of the petals makes a good blue ink; if expressed and mixed with alum-water, it may be used in water-colour drawing. It dyes linen a beautiful blue, but the color is not permanent. The dried petals are used by perfumers for giving color to potpourri.

Summer and Fall


A beautiful bouquet of brightly colored zinnias.

Among all of these extraordinary delights of the garden, a very familiar flower always sparks oohs and aahs of admiration, from veteran horticulturists and casual passersby alike. The zinnia planted solely to brighten up our garden never fails to cheer us with its brilliant blossoms that open continuously from midsummer all the way to the first hard frost. But zinnias earn their place in our garden (and hearts) for more than their good looks.
You, too, will love growing zinnias because of all they have to offer: 1) A rainbow of color options. Zinnias come in every eye-catching hue except true blue, so you can match them with your favorite perennial or annual flowers, foliage plants, and herbs. 2) A height for every site. Want tall, back-of-the-border plants with huge, Dahlia like blossoms? Need a low-growing flower with simple yet colorful petals? Zinnias fill the bill in both cases and in so many other situations. 3) No fuss, big payoff. If there's a flower that's less demanding of your time and attention than zinnias, please tell us, because we need to know about it. 4) A banquet for birds and butterflies. Plant a patch of zinnias and watch your yard come to life with the entertaining activity of wildlife on the wing. 5) Never-ending bouquets. The more blooms you snip from zinnias, the more they produce. Every week, you'll get a fresh bouquet that no florist could match.

Blanket Flower

An artistic picture of a single blanket flower.

If you're looking for a perennial with a long season of bloom, blanket flower is a great choice. The daisy-like flowers are produced from early summer to early fall in shades of orange, red and yellow, adding sizzle to the garden and attracting nectar-seeking butterflies.Produced above a clump of hairy, narrow, gray-green leaves, the blossoms of perennial blanket flower have petals that may be solid colored shades of yellow, wine red , orange or peach, or may be banded in combinations of red or orange with yellow. The petals of some are frilled, while others have a unique, tubular shape. Sizes range from 10-12 inch high dwarfs to selections as tall as 24-30 inches. All are easy care plants with few insect or disease problems and most are hardy in zones 3-9. There is also an annual blanket flower that is easy to grow from seed. Start seeds early indoors 4-6 weeks before the last spring frost, transplanting to the garden when the weather has warmed. In warm-winter areas, sow seeds directly in late fall or very early spring. Varieties are available with single, double and semi-double flowers. Besides attracting butterflies, blanket flowers can be grown in containers and the taller cultivars make nice cut flowers.
How to grow: Container grown plants can be set out throughout the growing season, but spring or fall planting is ideal. Space dwarf cultivars about a foot apart; taller varieties should be set about 18 inches apart. Prepare the garden bed by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, then mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost. Dig a hole twice the diameter of the pot the plant is in. Carefully remove the plant from its container and place it in the hole so the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface. Carefully fill in around the root ball and firm the soil gently. Water thoroughly.

Mexican Hat

A picture of a bee on top of a Mexican Hat flower.

This drought-tolerant US-native perennial blooms through much of the summer, with bright coneflowers appearing in profusion on tall stems. The flower clearly inspires the common name ,Mexican hat, as it consists of a long central cone surrounded at the base by drooping petals reminiscent in shape of a sombrero or 10-gallon hat. Attracts bees and butterflies with its flowers and birds with its seeds. Deer resistant. Grow in full sun. Unfussy about soil type, but needs good drainage. Tolerates moist or dry soil. Highly drought tolerant owing to its long taproot. Provide supplemental moisture in late summer to extend flowering into fall. Easy to grow from seed; direct sow in fall or spring. Blooming may not occur in seed-grown plants until year two. Naturalizes easily by self-seeding and may overtake weaker plants in a garden setting. Excellent for meadow gardens, natural areas, containers, mass plantings.

Black Eyed Susan

A close up picture of a black eyed susan.

Black-eyed Susans are native to North America and one of the most popular wildflowers grown. They tend to blanket open fields, often surprising the passer-by with their golden-yellow beauty. Members of the sunflower family, the black eyed is named for the dark brown-purple centers of its daisy-like flower heads. The plants can grow to over 3 feet tall, with leaves of 6 inches, stalks over 8 inches long and flower diameter of 2 to 3 inches. Butterflies, bees and a variety of insects are attracted to the flowers for the nectar. As they drink the nectar, they move pollen from one plant to another, causing it to grow fruits and seeds that can move about easily with the wind. These plants bloom from June to October. Note that they can be territorial in that they tend to squash out other flowers growing near them.


A beautiful picture of a group of brightly colored lantanas.

If you have a hot, baked spot, lantana is your answer. This hardworking plant not only thrives with little moisture and in full, unyielding sun, it does so with ease. In fact, lantana is a flower that seems to have it all: It produces an abundance of brightly colored flowers all summer and fall, and it's a magnet for butterflies (hummingbirds like it, too). It's easy to grow and a great choice for containers. Plus, if you have a sunny spot indoors, you can grow it as a charming indoor plant. Lantanas grow to be from under 6 inches to 8 feet and up to 4 feet wide. The color can range from blue to orange, red to white.

Butterfly Bushes

A picture of a brightly colored butterfly bush.

One of the greatest treasures for providing life in the garden is the Butterfly Bush. Hummingbirds and beneficial insects, as well as butterflies, are seduced by the nectar rich flowers of these bushes. Stunning colors paint lengthy bottle brush like flowers in dazzling hues that complement most every garden color theme. Many of the Butterfly Bushes here at Mountain Valley Growers are planted in naturalized settings. These are allowed to grow in their normal rampant manner. While Butterfly Bushes have many virtues, their one main flaw is that the dead flowers are never dropped. Underline NEVER. From a distance, this is not so noticeable. In colder climates, the bush takes care of this by dying back to the ground, but in the warm, 20 degree winters here the plants remain evergreen and ever holding these spent blooms. As with most plants we grow, good drainage is important for Butterfly Bushes but rich soil is not necessary. A 2 3/4 inch pot placed in the ground in early spring will grow to 3 or 4 feet in one year, and as much as 8-10 feet the following year. This makes these shrubs perfect for naturalizing vast areas or covering hillsides. Providing quick shade for hot summer spots in the landscape, they also make beautiful covers for fences, arbors or buildings. Their fast growth also makes them a perfect choice for patio planters. Small pots can be transplanted into 5 gallons and enjoyed a season or two before they grow too large and need a much larger pot or a home in the garden.


A close up picture of a light purple zalvia.

Salvias, also called sages, are easy to grow, bloom abundantly, and great looking in the landscape. Salvias are some of the most versatile plants around. Most varieties are wonderfully drought tolerant and feature beautiful flowers with pleasantly scented, attractive foliage. Plus, deer, bunnies, and other garden pests typically ignore the plants. The key to success is knowing which varieties are right for your yard. A relative of the familiar kitchen sage, flowering salvias produce spikes of small, densely packed flowers atop aromatic foliage. These heat- and drought-tolerant beauties bloom from early to late summer in shades of blue, violet, red, pink, and white. Plants grow 18 inches to 5 feet tall, depending on the variety. Use care when choosing salvias, because not all plants are hardy in all regions.
How to grow: Plant in spring, spacing plants 1 to 3 feet apart, depending on the variety. Prepare the garden bed by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, then mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost. Dig a hole twice the diameter of the pot the plant is in. Carefully remove the plant from its container and place it in the hole so the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface. Carefully fill in around the root ball and firm the soil gently. Water thoroughly.


A single marigold flower.

No annual is more cheerful or easier to grow than marigolds. These flowers are the spendthrifts among annuals, showing a wealth of gold, copper, and brass into our summer and autumn gardens. The flower's popularity probably derives in part from its ability to bloom brightly all summer long. Marigolds have daisy-like or double, carnation-like flowerheads and are produced singly or in clusters. Marigolds have been stereotyped but they offer tremendous variety; some have fantastic aroma; all marigolds are good in containers and provide long-lasting cut flowers.
How to grow: Marigolds need lots of sunshine. Though they grow in almost any soil, marigolds thrive in moderately fertile, well-drained soil. Sow them directly into the garden once the soil is warm, or start seeds indoors about a month to 6 weeks before the last spring-frost date. The seeds germinate easily, but watch out for damping off if you start them inside. Separate seedlings when they are about 2 inches tall. Plant them in flats of loose soil, or transplant them into the garden. Space tall marigolds 2 to 3 feet apart; lower-growing ones about a foot apart. If planting in containers, use a soil-based potting mix.

Pineapple Sage

A close up picure of a single pineapple sage.

Named for the uncanny pineapple scent of its foliage, pineapple sage is worth the wait. It is a seasonal treat that gives gardeners a sense of anticipation. A small plant set out in spring after the danger of frost has passed will grow into a branching plant 3 to 4 feet tall and nearly as wide by the time it blooms. It will then sprout spires of cardinal-red blooms in late summer and fall, just in time to refuel hummingbirds and butterflies for their fall migration. If you live in an area that does not freeze, blooms will continue all winter and sometimes all year. Although cold hardy to about 20 degrees, pineapple sage is worth planting each spring in areas where it fails to return for another season. Try growing pineapple sage in sandy or otherwise sharply drained soil, which may allow it to tolerate colder temperatures by going dormant and sprouting new growth in spring. Pineapple sage requires a place in the sunshine where the soil is well drained but moist and rich enough to support its rapid growth. Space plants 24 to 36 inches apart, and be sure not to plant them in front of other, smaller plants, as pineapple sage will grow large enough to block them out!

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