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Lupines enrich our gardens with beauty

John Zvirovski / The Sun Lupines are seen blooming in a Jamestown Garden this month.

They say there is a plant for every purpose in the natural world. In some cases, we can understand why things grow where they do. Sometimes the soil is rich and full of nutrients, and everything growing in it seems to flourish. Yet in other cases some plants seem to flourish in the worst conditions. It has been shown after a natural disaster such as a volcano, a flood or even a wild fire, that there are some species that grow right away to fill the damage. One of these plants would be the lupine. This was one of the first plants to emerge after the eruption of Mount St. Helens. It is one of those plants that adapt well to poor soil conditions and then provides its purpose to make everything around it a little better.

You see, the lupine is one of those plants that fixes nitrogen in the soil. So lupines actually begin improving the soil in which they live from the onset. Through time the soil begins to improve and become richer. As these plants continue to grow and provide their benefits, other plants start to fill in the spots, thus creating a new evolution in damaged areas.

In the garden lupines have the same purpose, however, we usually plant them to enjoy their beauty. It is always a bonus if they improve their environment by fixing nitrogen into the soil. I would have to admit, lupines are not only attractive plants when they are not flowering, but when they bloom they erupt with color.

They are called the common garden lupine, but I have not seen many around many gardens to call them all that common. They grow 1 to 3 feet in height and have palmate leaves, meaning the leaves have many leaflets all coming from a central point on the leaf. These leaves have an oil base that cause water to bead on them after a rain, and they are furry on the underside.

The plant’s leaves grow from a central crown, and it doesn’t form stalks until the plant begins to produce a flower stem. Once the flower stem has emerged, it will develop many buds that begin to bloom from bottom to top with numerous pea-like flowers above the leaf base. These flowers will range in color from white, yellow, purple, lavender, pink and red, with many variations in between. They will bloom from early to mid-June and are tolerant of many different conditions. The blooming period will last up to three weeks and will result in small seedpods when done.

Lupines look great planted in combination with the iris, peonies, veronica and roses, as their colors look great together.

You can grow lupines either through division or by planting the seed. If you are planting the seed, it is best to soak the seed for 24 hours before planting it in a pot. Once the plant is 3 to 4 inches high, you can transplant it into the ground during the spring.

If you are growing your lupine through plant division, it is best to do that in the spring once the plant is 6 to 8 inches high. Then simply dig up the plant and divide it into segments. Plant these segments at the same level as they were growing and water them well. Plants can also be divided after they are done blooming, but survival rates are higher if the division is done prior to the blooms developing.

Once you have mastered this flower in the garden, it will bloom for many years to come. It will grab your attention with its numerous blooming stalks from quite a distance. One thing to remember with this plant is that all parts are toxic, so if you have pets or children who like to nibble on plants, it is probably not your best choice. I don’t know many children who nibble on these types of plants, but I guess it could happen if you don’t have a watchful eye.

If you happen to be in a natural environment that was recently ravaged by a fire or other devastating event, look to see if you can’t find nature at work restoring what has been lost. It is absolutely incredible and it makes you understand that many plants are more than just a beauty in your garden. Just like each and every person, plants have a distinct purpose in life to make a difference in this world.