Friday, March 9, 2012

Gaura lindheimeri

Gaura lindheimeri "Whirling Butterflies"
This perennial plant, a native of Texas and Mexico, has been in the garden scene for a number of years now. It is noteworthy because it produces masses of light and airy white or pink tinged flowers on tall stems, arising from a basal rosette, throughout the summer months. There are a number of cultivars derived from it including a compact dwarf form ,an all pink variety with burgundy leaves called 'Passionate Pink' and the all white 'So White'. In the garden it provides a good contrast with solid dense foliage or garden walls and the flowers appear to dance on air in the slightest breeze.
The down side of Gaura is that it can be a bit weedy especially in sandy soils. It is banned in WA and has been on and off the weed list in NSW. It produces lots of viable seed which is able to germinate anywhere and the plant itself has a tenacious root system . The long tap roots are an adaptation from a dry climate and help anchor the plant and even protect it from grazing animals. It should be cut down to ground level in late autumn before the seed sets to prevent problems.
If Gaura were to be a piece of music it would fit nicely within the framework of a sweet and delicate courtly minuet. Well the flowers would at least but not its root system or bad habits of going weedy. Haydn's String Quartet 'Die Quinten' in D Minor has the appropriate minuet. Its severe style introduces a strict canon ,first between two violins and then between the viola and cello. It is eerie and full of razor sharp tension. The Jerusalem Quartet version is the one to listen to.

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