Monday, November 8, 2010

Yikes! Spikes!

In the fall, the long lasting, spiky blooms of Red Firespike, Odontonema strictum, and Forsythia Sage, Salvia madrensis, tower above the rest of the shade garden.  Their graceful spires beckon all the flying, flitting and buzzing creatures to come sample their nectar. 

Planting the yellow and red blossoms together was purely happenstance.  Next spring more of this combination will be used around the garden.  Both of these plants root easily from cuttings and both are root-hardy in winter. 

The bright yellow blooms of Forsythia Sage show up really well in the shady corner.  But the square-shaped stems are not quite sturdy enough to keep those spikes aloft without being staked.  This plant will root readily where the stems touch the ground and it sends out suckers from the roots.  A small cutting can turn into quite a large clump by the next season after planting.   

When brushed against, the foliage releases a very unpleasant odor.  The scent is reminiscent of fish emulsion fertilizer.  Because of it's height, this is a back of the border plant so it isn't often that anyone other than the gardener would notice the less than delightful fragrance.

The original Red Firespike is planted with Stromanthe sanguinea 'Tricolor'.  This grouping was purposefully planted.  Since the Stromanthe multiplies nicely and makes it through winter with just minor leaf damage, there are plans for moving divisions of it around the garden in the future.  

These red blooms began showing up in August and now, in November new ones are still blossoming.  The yellow blooms made a late showing beginning late October and should persist for six weeks or so. 

These fall flowers add a lot of color to the shady areas of the garden.  Even though freezing temperatures will kill them to the ground, both of these beauties rebound quickly once warm weather returns.  They both have large green leaves that make a good backdrop for spring and summer blooms.  When fall arrives it is their turn to shine and put up the spikes. 


  1. Oh Nana, these are both great and I have neither in my gardens. I really love the Forsythia Sage. It is such a lovely shade of yellow. I don't think I've seen the FS anywhere, other than online. Enjoy your lovely gardens, hopefully there will be no hard, long freezes this year.

    Have a lovely week ~ FlowerLady

  2. Good morning Kay,
    Those two spikey blooms make a great combination. Do you know the baby red firespikes you gave me are blooming! I am amazed at their vigor being such starters.

    I've never noticed the unpleasant leaf odor on the salvia and I've moved a lot of them around the garden. Hmmmm... will be forcing that issue to check it out. But I have staked most of my VERY tall plantings ~~ which is bothersome but does resolve the problem.

    Your fall garden is lovelier than ever. Great colors together.

  3. Once again, you've highlighted two beautiful flowers I don't grow. I'll probably pass on that stinky sage though. ; ) Thanks for the heads-up! I don't is tempting though. I can just envision those yellow spikes sticking up out of the bird border.

    I remember once having a single specimen of stromanthe. It did so well, I started to divide and conquer. One can't complain about free plants. The eye-popping hues can now be spotted all over the shade garden.

  4. Hi kay...Don't you just love happenstance in the garden? I'm always amazed at how much better plant/color combination that nature puts together than I do. Love all your spikes. That forsythia sage is quite striking. I don't have any of that, but really like it when I see photos of it. And, it looks great next to the red firespike.

  5. That Forsythia Sage looks real beautiful, and it is shame it doesn't have a nice scent. I am loving my firespike too. You are right it is very easy to root since mine started from the cutting earlier this year, and now it is big already.

  6. That's not only a great color combo, but a great echoing of flower shape! I can't wait to see more of that combo planted. Maybe if I find that sage around here I'll give it a shot.

  7. FlowerLady - Both of these are mostly pass-along plants. I got mine from a garden tour put on by a local garden writer. Wish you were closer by, I'd give you a cutting.

    Meems - I'm so glad your firespikes are blooming! I can't believe you haven't noticed an odor from the sage. It's only when touched or brushed against that I've noticed it, but it really stinks to me.

    Floridagirl - Next trip to the mall for you, stop by and grab some Forsythia Sage:)

    Susan - I'm happy to have these blooms this time of year as a lot of things are going to sleep for the winter already. I think this coming spring I'm going to concentrate on spreading around plants I already have that have done well.

    Ami - Don't you just love getting cuttings? I sure do and they have become some of the hardiest and healthiest plants in my garden.

    RFG - I love the way the two flowers go together just as IF I had planned it. Sometimes, we artistically challenged types get lucky!

  8. Kay,
    Yes, I'm loving the blooms on the firespike. Next year they will be so much bigger.

    Call me strange... I like the "earthy odor" the salvia leaves produces. Yesterday I purposely pulled off one of those gorgeous bumpy/fuzzy heart-shaped leaves to get a whiff of the bad odor you described. I liked it. It reminds me of the wonderful scent of tomato leaves just not as strong. Anyway... there you have it! Different noses for different folks.

    We have the same perspective in the blooms for sure... I sure am enjoying all the spikey yellow blooms.

    Have a great day.

  9. My red firespike as performed brilliantly this year. I take cuttings every fall, have some in the kitchen now.

  10. This is a beautifully put together blog about your passion for flowers! Please keep it up. And those red firespike flowers look amazing.

    Growing Orchids For Beginners

  11. What a great combination!I love it when things like that happen.Great post!


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