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“Wildflowers” on our highways. October 31, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, wit and wisdom.
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When our friend Ben and Silence Dogood visited West Virginia a couple of weeks ago, we were shocked and appalled to see great drifts of cosmos blooming merrily in the median strips of the highways. We probably don’t have to tell you that the scenery in West Virginia is spectacular, and we were lucky enough to be there during their peak fall foliage season.

From the trees and shrubs along the roads to the mountains rising on every side, we were surrounded by the glorious reds, scarlets, oranges, golds, yellows, and purples of autumn foliage. We would have liked to see those colors reflected along the roads rather than the soft and hot pinks and cerise of the cosmos, which struck us as jarring, sort of like ordering chocolate mousse and seeing a carrot sticking out of the middle of it.

We also feel that it would be far more appropriate to plant our roadsides with native wildflowers rather than fake “wildflowers”—garden annuals like cosmos introduced from other parts of the world. Real wildflowers and grasses would be easier to care for, too. Rather than having to be replanted every year like the cosmos and babied along all season, once the natives were established, they’d just have to be mowed each fall.

We would have loved to see a colorful mix of asters, goldenrods, black-eyed Susans (rudbeckias), purple coneflowers, and grasses like bluestem (andropogon) brightening the roads with their fall-friendly hues. But Silence raised a good point. We both have backgrounds in horticulture. “If typical drivers and passengers saw this cosmos, don’t you suspect they’d just think ‘How pretty’?” she wondered.

Just two days later, we had our answer when we went to the Tamarack crafts center with the Hays family. As we passed yet another strip of cosmos, Cindy Hays exlaimed delightedly, “Look! Isn’t that beautiful!” 

Hmmm. We still think garden flowers belong in the garden and our beautiful native wildflowers and grasses belong on our roadways. What do you think?