Kentucky – our next alphabetical venue – is a huge state. It stretches from the heights of Appalachia in the east to the Mississippi River valley in the West and in between, it boasts the most miles of river, stream, and creek beds than any other state except Alaska. Every one of those valleys and woods and fields between are overflowing with wildflowers. In the Fall and late Summer, the queen of those bountiful open spaces is the Goldenrod – a tall, stately wave of bright yellow framed by blue sky and a bluegrass carpet. The state legislature designated one of the dozens of Goldenrod varieties – Solidago gigantea – as the state wildflower and they made a great choice.
The Goldenrod does not sit alone in her kingdom. In random field wildflower surveys, I have counted over forty other wildflower subjects blooming in the Goldenrod’s court. From the brilliant scarlet of the Cardinal Flower to the royal blue of the Great Lobelia and the striking white of the Snakeroot, the Fall wildflowers abound. But – do not bring her wildflower majesty into your garden! My experience has been that within a few years, she will completely cover your planting area as the Goldenrod spreads by adventurous underground runners as well as fertile seeds. It is almost impossible to remove Goldenrod once it is established as any portion of a remaining runner will quickly sprout come Spring. Keep the Goldenrod a wild Wildflower.
Often rising to a height of five feet, the Goldenrod has several Fall neighbors that will turn any venture into a colorful but challenging journey. The Joe Pye Weed and the Ironweed will sometimes grapple with Goldenrod for vacant field dominance. Usually the Goldenrod wins out but not always.
What about the Bluegrass that Kentucky is so famous? First of all, Bluegrass is always green – unless you don’t cut it and let it flower and seed. Tiny blue flowers, almost imperceptable, will create a bluish haze over a ripe field of Bluegrass which urban and suburban dwellers never see in their closely cropped lawns of green. In fact, I have to really stretch my imagination to turn green into any semblance of blue.
You can’t leave Kentucky without talking about basketball! Whether you are a “Cardinal” fan like me or “bleed blue” like so many, you will live and breathe basketball if you stay in the Bluegrass State for any length of time.
As we reluctantly leave Kentucky and head south to Cajun country, let’s take one more look at the Goldenrod – Kentucky’s state wildflower.