Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Legume Love

I love Lathyrus vernus!
Day 76
The Daily DuBrule
I love legumes. Yes, you could interpret this to mean that I like to eat my beans and peas. That is true. I like ALL legumes, edible, floral, even the weeds. Why? They are just so self-reliant. They take nitrogen from the air and "fix it" in their roots to feed themselves and others around them. How generous. They are drought tolerant and really easy to grow. As a family, they grow in all sorts of places- hot sun, lean soil, dry shade, you name it, there is a legume for that spot.

This thread started out as one of my favorite, and one of the earliest legumes, started to flower. Spring vetchling (Lathyrus vernus) is one very special perennial. Pretty purple pea flowers now, in early April. It grows in dry shade or sun. What more could you ask from a plant. Oh, I know, how about holding onto its leaves after blooming and looking good later in the season. Yup, it does that.

On to sweet peas, one of the prettiest annual vines you can find. Plant them right now and they will flower in June. Most of them are really fragrant and they are classic cut flowers. They are not edible like their kissing cousins sugar snap peas, snow peas, and plain old peas (the kind you shell and cook up fresh, yum!).

Enter lupines, one of the most beloved perennials. Ever read Miss Rumphius? This children's book is about "the lupine lady" who sowed seeds of lupines everywhere. You really must have this book. I was given it as a grownup by a gardening friend and now I sell it at Natureworks. Think Johnny Appleseed but with lupine flowers. 

Baptisia 'Twilite Prairieblues' with irises

Lupines are tricky, but Baptisias are easy. This native flower has beautiful flower spikes for cutting in late May and June. Thanks to the work of the Chicago Botanic Gardens, Baptisias are now available in all sorts of gorgeous colors. Blue used to be the standard bearer for this genus. Not any more! After flowering, they become a 3' wide shrublet of clean, blue-green foliage in the border. Easy, easy, easy and good leaves too. 
Yellow Baptisia with orange iris

No discussion of legumes can proceed without talking about clover. Eek! A weed. Nope. Actually clover was an integral part of lawn seed mixes until the 1940's. Why? It adds nitrogen to the lawn and it stays green in the summer without any watering when lawns don't. At Natureworks, we actually SELL clover seed. Bees love it. It's a very important plant.

Who did I miss? Endamame soybeans, which you can grow and harvest very easily here in Connecticut. Snap beans. Redbud trees.Scotch brooms. Pink mimosa trees. What an amazing, diverse family!

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