Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
October, 2010
Regional Report

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This lovely goldenrod is the perfect companion to autumn asters.

The Glory of Goldenrod

What a glorious time of year this is! Some of my favorite fall plants are the goldenrods. These are the yellowy-gold and sometimes even white flowers that are in full bloom right now. They range from only a few inches tall to four or five feet, and almost any field that hasn't been mowed in the last few months will be awash in gold beginning around the autumnal equinox.

Goldenrods tend to have a bad reputation because they begin blooming just as the ragweed surfaces. Ragweed is the noxious weed that gives so many of us the itchy eyes and sneezy noses in fall. The ragweed flowers shed tons of pollen grains that catch the wind and float gently into your sinuses where they wreak havoc on
the immune system. These tiny pollen grains look like spiky balls and cause your body to produce prodigious amounts of histamines which cause allergy symptoms. Ragweed flowers hang upside down and have no petals, so are not the least bit showy.

Goldenrods, on the other hand, have beautiful petals and large bushy bunches of golden blossoms. Their pollen grains are heavy and sticky so they simply fall to the ground or move around on pollinators' bodies. They do not cause allergies because they seldom get in your nose, even if you sniff them closely.

So we should enjoy them instead of fearing them. Did you know that there are over 14 varieties of goldenrod that are native to Wisconsin? We have goldenrods with fluffy rounded bunches of flowers and dramatic arching panicles of blossoms. Some resemble asters, and some look like brooms. The leaves are mostly similar- oval to rounded, matte green and plentiful.

Goldenrod is also a plant in the natural healer's arsenal. It has been used for years as a topical application to heal wounds, and it also a diuretic which help rid the body of fluids. In fact, the name Solidago, the scientific name, means to make whole.

There are several goldenrods that have been hybridized for perennial garden use, with larger flowers and more dramatic colors. A favorite that has been around for a long time is 'Fireworks'. As its name implies, it has arching sprays of golden-yellow flowers that look like the trails from an exploding skyrocket.

Goldenrods are the perfect Wisconsin plant because they offer beautiful color in fall and are unassuming the rest of the year, requiring little care. They tolerate drought and poor soil, and are not impolite in the garden by seeding themselves into every nook and cranny. They combine beautifully with the asters, Michaelmas daisies and grasses of autumn. Check your garden center for showy goldenrod or Canada goldenrod. You won't be sorry.

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