Q. I saw a rose at a gas station in central Texas last year that had multicolored flowers, and I really liked it. The lady behind the counter told me that it was a butterfly rose. Do you think it could grow in North Carolina?
Butterfly rose, China rose, ‘Mutabilis’ – all of these names are for the same rose, which is a real beauty. And, yep, this shrub rose likes calling North Carolina home. It usually reaches about 6 feet high and wide, but can be restrained with annual prunings in the late winter. This rose blooms from spring until fall, and it puts on quite a show. Young flowers open sulfur yellow and then deepen to an orange or intense pink before finishing in a handsome crimson, giving the effect of multicolored “butterflies” flitting around the bush. Very pretty!
As you could probably guess from seeing it at a Texas gas station, it is a tough rose, too. It is disease-resistant and can be made even more so in this region if you plant it in a sunny spot that is open enough to provide ample air circulation. Although it is not uncommon to find in area garden shops, if you have a hard time locating one, Witherspoon Rose Culture ( witherspoonrose.com) usually has it both online and at their store.
Purple ‘flower’ plagues gardeners
Q. I have noticed low-growing plants with purple flowers in farm fields down from my house. The broad, colorful sweeps they paint across the fields are quite lovely. What they are?
If you spotted these flowers just recently, my guess would be that you were admiring henbit, an unwanted weed (to most folks) that shows off small purple blooms in the late winter to early spring, and, in open fields or disturbed grounds, typically in masses. As a second guess, I will also mention purple deadnettle, which is closely related to henbit and looks similar.
To homeowners in search of that ever elusive goal of pristine swaths of grass-only lawns, the sight of these purple sprites during the dawning of a new spring conjures up far less affectionate names. Gardeners can deal with it by either pulling it up or spraying with a broadleaf herbicide early in the spring.