One gardener's favorite summer crown -- butterfly weed

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

Different flowers appeal to different people as the crown of a growing season. For most people, roses are the climax of the floral parade. For my daughter, the peak of the garden's excitement is reached when foxglove spires sway tall, their pink bells tolled by industrious bees.

An acquaintance used to work toward more perfect delphiniums. When his blue-and-white spikes topped everything else in his plot, he lolled back in his wheelbarrow, grinning "mission accomplished." Another friend stretches her anticipation from frost to frost, spanning an entire season. She can hardly wait for the final burst of chrysanthemum glory before winter.

So it is with individual flower advocates and their floral friends. Some get snagged on spring bulb displays. Others are hung up on summer lilies. Still another neighbor goes all out for dahlias, raising them in professional plots for shows, although never commercializing on his hobby.

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As a matter of fact, none of these happy gardeners can bear to be so impersonal as to sell those precious blooms.

One dour old Yankee planted gladioluses by the acre, like rows of potatoes, and distributed them around for miles.

As for me, my selection for the badge of honor, the crowning glory in my perennial patch, is a stand of butterfly weed. I discovered it along an abandoned railroad bed one long- ago July day, marked the spot, and later dug up a rhizome for transplanting.

This orange milkweed has a rewarding high-noon blaze of color which no other flower, wild or domestic, can match. Asclepius tuberosam it its proper name, but orange root is more direct.

Each year now I watch it come to fruition in a hot spot in my garden. It is visited by hundreds of butterflies, attracted by the clustered orange flowers.

More delicate in leaf than the ordinary milkweed, this plant clumps well. Its slender pods dry to attractive offerings for winter arrangements. Since it thrives in an open field, pampering in the home garden is the last thing it wants.

So just take time out from your summer chores and enjoy it.

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