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Godetia - Satin Flower

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Godetia 002-230x153The Satin Flower, Godetia grandiflora, Godetia amoena, or Clarkia amoena, is a late Spring bloomer, or ‘transitional’ bloomer, as suggested by its common name, “Farewell to Spring”. The Godetias include at least 25 species.

Plus many hybrids of these near-arid and desert Annuals native to North America’s West Coast.

Some species are found growing wild from California to British Columbia mostly on hilly coastlines, mountain slopes and drier, sunny and well drained arid regions. In such places they often blanket the fields and slopes with vivid colour.

Their original botanical name and the wild species still cultivated today, Clarkia, was named in honour of Captain Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expeditions that explored and opened settlement in Western North America. These pretty wildflowers were first viewed there were they blanketed the landscape in spectacular ‘satin’ fields.

Today the hybrids produced from the original most variable Clarkia species wildflowers have been altered to such a degree that they are now classified as distinctly different species known as Clarkia and Godetia. So in today’s ‘modern’ garden world we now have Godetia grandiflora, the Satin Flower, and its many variable hybrids. Plus Garden Clarkia and upward of 40 closely related species all classified as ‘Clarkia’ which have advanced from a common ancestry! Garden Clarkia is now a branching form with somewhat more diminutive flowers appearing up a branching stem in single and double forms.  While Godetia grandiflora is now the much more spectacular upward-facing Satin flower in a wide variety of flowering colours and forms.

The showy 7-12cm/2.8-4.8inch cup-shaped flowers of Godetia grandiflora, the Satin Flower, resemble those of Evening Primrose (Oenothera) and are closely related. Unlike Evening Primrose, these satin, silky blooms stay open continuously. The Blooms tend to cluster atop 12-24inch/30-60cm stems. Some taller species reach 1m/3.34ft. In most species long and narrow, pointed buds split open from near the top 1/3 of the stem and open upward to create a short spike with many blooms fluttering at the top. These occur in many glowing forms and shades from softest pastels and sheer satin white to remarkable bi and tri-colour combinations in vivid apricot, carmine, lavender, mauve, orange, pink, purple, red petaled blooms in double, ruffled, smooth double and single forms. Godetias are brilliant, long lasting cut flowers with successive buds opening up the stem for at least a week or more when picked. The petals appear very delicate and are sheer and almost translucent with a remarkable silky softness, yet are quite durable and hardy.

Godetias are suitable for bedding, borders and containers. They are also a classic for the dry, open and sunny wildflower garden or meadow. Because these are near-wild flowers growing on long canes, or wiry stems clothed in simple, small lanceolate leaves with flowers, near the top, they are really best suited to mass plantings and borders or larger containers and tubs. When planted on their own, they can be encouraged to become much bushier ( and thus much more floriferous) by pinching out their growing tips several times while young. But even then, once matured and in flower Godetias tend to remain spindly when viewed individually and/or side-on and their tall habit of growth means that they tend to flop when grown in pots or smaller spaces. Yet when grown en-mass they create a profoundly beautiful and unforgettable picture: often a blanket or sheet of vivid colour.

Godetia also have the distinct advantage that they like poor quality soils. They prefer light gravel or sandy soil with perfect drainage; a high alkaline (Lime) level and rather low nutrient content. They are among the few garden (wild) flower species that enjoy or will tolerate a considerable salt content in the soil. Enriched soils produce many leaves at the expense of the blooms. When grown in such enriched conditions, the plants usually start off very well, grow exceptionally quickly and look very impressive. Then as flower buds begin to develop, they start to flop and stems twist about to upright themselves into the light. If abundant watering also accompanies the enriched soil and especially when combined with humidity, the plants may begin to yellow or develop crown rot. Flower buds fail to open or only partially so and are often of inferior quality or distinctly blemished. Thus the Gardener with remarkably enriched soil featuring abundance and luxuriant growth often find Godetia to be a distinct disappointment! Give them impoverished soil on a rugged, wild and windswept coastline any day!

Full sun and good air circulation are important, if not essential. They much prefer cool temperatures and usually collapse once the temperatures reach 80F/26.7C. Thus their transitional nature between Spring and Summer. Godetias also prefer lower humidity and resent damp, wet positions, especially if drainage is poor and they are closely planted. This will often result in collapse, rot and/or yellowing.

In their wild state or when most successfully grown to their maximum size, Godetia is usually sown from seed in Autumn once the weather cools. In the right soil, they germinate freely and reseed on their own. Godetia seed germinates much more successfully when sown under cool conditions and often will not germinate with sustained heat and moisture. This is especially true in the milder climatic zones 8-10. Wherever frosts are not prolonged or too severe Autumn sowings of Godetia will grow-on slowly through the cooler months and result in Spring flowering.

In Climate Zones 3-7 that experience cold Winters that would kill tender young seedlings, Godetia can also be sown in Late Winter (under glass) and Early Spring outdoors for Summer blooms. Sow the fine seed thinly in individual containers under glass or in a very bright and sheltered position and transplant outdoors once all danger of severe frost has passed. Be very careful to avoid significant root disturbance which will set the plants back or cause them to fail outright.

By far the best approach is to sow Godetia seed direct where the plants are meant to flower and thin later. Best flowering often occurs when the plants are a little crowded. But remember that this is assuming that the plants are being grown in near-arid and very airy positions with low humidity and perfect drainage. Whenever attempting to Grow Godetia is humid and moist positions allow plenty of room between plants and encourage maximum air circulation.

Godetias are wonderful if short-lived feature plants for larger containers, landscape planters, raised beds, tubs, terraces and also along coastal sites, roadways and sloping positions where many other plants fail. They make a valuable companion with other dry meadow wildflowers like: Columbine, Cosmos, Clarkia, Collinsia (Chinese Houses), Cynoglossum (Chinese Forget-Me-Not), Echinacea (Cone Flower), Eschscholzia (California Poppy), Gaillardia, Gazania, Linum, Linaria, Lupin, Ox Eye Daisy, Phlox, Phacelia, Rudbeckia, Tanacetum, Verbena and many more.

When grow in combination with these other easily grown wildflowers or when grown by themselves, Godetias have a very special charm all their own. While the Godetia may not be long-lived, guaranteed they will be long-remembered.

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