In bloom this week: Flame flower

Our native Standing cypress (Ipomopsis rubra) has some other, more appealing names: flame flower, Texas plume, scarlet gilia. A biennial, it grows wild in our meadow. Its ferny first-year growth flourishes in dry, gravel-y soil; if we get good rains, the bloom stalk can grow to five feet or more. Here in the Hill Country, it grows along the railroad tracks between Bertram and Burnet. The tracks aren’t regularly mowed or grazed, so flowers like these can flourish.

If you live in Southeastern third of the country (west to Texas), you can grow this in your garden–easily, too, for the flame flower reseeds itself generously. Save some seeds and share with friends or plant in other areas of your garden. (Start-up seeds are available from Native American Seed and elsewhere.) The hummingbirds and Sphinx moths will bless you. The tubular blooms and these pollinators are made for each other. Naturally.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, mostly working with my new webwizard, Mark Wiard, who has helped me develop this spiffy new website. This week, Mark and I have focused on creating a new format for “All About Thyme,” the monthly herbal eletter I’ve been publishing since 2006. Peggy, my long-time assistant and webmistress, was a coding whiz, but now that she’s retired (and married and moved to Portugal!), I’m having to learn new ways to get things done. “All About Thyme” will be out on Monday, July 1. If you’re a subscriber, you’ll notice that we have a new look (big thanks to Jen Hancey, at Hancey Design). You’ll also notice that we have a new way of displaying the eletter, thanks to Mark. If you’re not yet a subscriber, now’s a good time to begin.

I’m delighted to announce something that may make you Robin Paige fans smile. The first three books in the series (Death at Bishop’s Keep, Death at Gallows Green, Death at Daisy’s Folly) will be published as audiobooks later this year and early next. Bill and I wrote this series of Victorian/Edwardian mysteries together over a 12-year period (1994-2006). It was recently republished in England, and all 12 are available in both digital and print. Now, having it published in audiobook is a special treat. If the first three books do well, the publisher (Dreamscapes) may publish the rest. You’ll be the first to hear when it’s out.

Reading note. When we save seeds, we are taking history into our own hands. Literally, holding a seed is holding a story that stretches back, sometimes centuries. It’s a story that conjures up over-the-fence seed swaps. It’s a story that speaks to beating the odds, to adaptation and evolution, to finding a niche and holding on tight, just the way a bean tendril does. Seeds also speak of the future, of those untold, unfolded stories, the ones that you and I are shaping this very moment.Rebecca Pastor

16 comments on “In bloom this week: Flame flower

  1. Kathryn, thank you! As an author, I covet readers like you, who read across the whole body of the work and not just in one series. I write because I want to learn something new and different and share what I’m learning. I so appreciate hearing from readers who want to learn, too.

  2. This is a beautiful plant! I love it. I’m going to try growing it here in the northern Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. We have hot summers here and, while I don’t know if it will survive the winter, I’m going to give it a whirl. We have a lot of hummingbirds here and I know of a great place to plant them.
    I have every one of your books and have reread them several times. When I found that our local library did not have your Robin Paige series, I bought them again and donated those to the library. Your books are so wonderfully and knowledge-ably written. Sitting down with one of your books is like sitting down with old friends and finding new joys.
    Your Beatrix Potter series is so fun with all the animals and Miss Potter and the different characters.
    Your China Bayles books are what gave me the impetus to really get into herbs and food grade essential oils. Thank you for that! We eat and treat ourselves differently now.
    We hope to enjoy more of your books. Your Darling Dahlia series brings back many happy memories of visiting my grandmother and her farm in west central Alabama.
    Thank you for sharing so much with all of us.

  3. Patty, we discontinued the series primarily because the research was pretty demanding (this was back in the day before the Internet was as rich as it is now) and because each of us had other things we wanted to do. There are never enough hours in the days or days in the week to do all the things we love!

  4. Just finished the entire 12 books of the Victorian/Edwardian mysteries of Kate and Charles Sheridan.
    Loved them – I won’t lie I was very disappointed that there were only the twelve.
    Why did you choose to stop at that point?

  5. I’m a big fan of that hardware store, Ann. Those guys know what they have and are always able to answer questions. Hope our paths will cross elsewhere some day!

  6. You’re welcome, Laverne. Yes, the Hill Country has its own special kind of beauty–especially those parts of it that aren’t “managed” by people.

  7. When those books were first published, Elizabeth, audio wasn’t widely available–and when it was, it was expensive. When the Robin Paige audiobooks are available (later this year, early next), please ask your library to order them. Love thinking of a listener doing needlework as she listens to the books!

  8. Thanks, Jean. Every plant has a story to tell–and Queen Ann’s Lace is one of the most intriguing. I wonder if it would have spread so far if it hadn’t been for women’s use of it. Just another chapter in the history of our efforts to plan our families.

  9. The wet winter might be difficult for this plant, Becky. But why don’t you give it a try? You could start the seeds in the fall, in outdoor pots with good drainage, then plant the young plants in the garden in the spring. If they flourish, they might even bloom the first year. The trick for you might be starting the seeds in pots, where they don’t get so much winter rain.

  10. Do you think flameflower could thrive in the mild coastal climate of Western WA State? It rarely gets below 25 here in the winter, and summers are fairly dry with temperatures generally between 70-80. It does rain more in the winter, but the plant could be protected from excess rain.

  11. I have read and thoroughly enjoyed the China Bayles series and just finished reading the Crystal Cave books on my Kindle. I have very much enjoyed every one of the Darling Dahlia series and my favorite one involves the CCC camp. My dad was in the CCC’s in the 1930’s, a skinny kid from Jersey City, NJ, who never talked about his experiences in this great public works Depression-era project. However, thanks to your book, I am certain he learned to weld in the CCC’s and he put that skill to work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during WW II and later with his own business. I love all the information you include about plants in both series. Looking forward to the next Darling Dahlia! Thank you for all that you do.

  12. I have just finished “Queen Anne’s Lace” and loved it. It is blooming now in North Carolina and it’s very interesting to think about the backstory of that plant.
    I started your China Bayles series years ago when I found your books in an herb shop not far from me. I have enjoyed every single one! Looking forward to the “Ruby” series now.

    I enjoy your All About Thyme newsletter every month.
    Thanks from central North Carolina,
    Jean Powers

  13. Oh so nice to see an email from you in my inbox. I did read the Robin Paige stories as they were published. I would be very interested in “hearing” the stories again as I quilt and cross stitch.

  14. Years ago I bought a copy of one of the “Death in” books . I liked it so well that when I found another one I bought it & asked my daughter to look for any others in a used book store in her area. With her helping me I found every copy of the series & enjoyed reading every one of them. I enjoy your “All About Thyme” each month.
    My Mother lived in Kerrville for many years & I spent much time with her through the years,. I born & raised in Texas. To me the Hill country is the most beautiful part of Texas.
    Thank you for many hours of reading pleasure.


  15. I so appreciate your diverse interests and the ease with which you share them with us, your readers. Thank you for all of the series and your on-going personable contact with us. I used to live in Bertram and always hoped I’d meet you at Winkley’s, now Bertram Hardware. Now I’m in south Austin, and I still hope to meet you some day.

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