Monday, January 19, 2015

My great grandmother’s garden

My mother loved to talk about her childhood.  I was not fortunate to meet them, but I grew up getting to know my grandparents and their parents from the stories my mother told me about them.  My maternal grandfather’s mother was the true flower lover in the family.  She would grow all kinds of flowers in her garden.  In the spring, summer and fall she would take her Turkish coffee among her flowers and she always wore a flower behind her ear. 

Ayşe Fatma Çelebican with my mother Gülten Çelebican Örstan c.1932

Ayşe Fatma’s home in Daday, Kastamonu. The picture was taken in the fall of 2008.

I am thinking she must have had pansies, asters and snapdragons in her garden.


She, for sure, had some gomphrena. I used to see this plant, Gomphrena globosa to be precise, in the gardens in Turkey when I was a child, which I find amazing because the plant is native to Brazil, Panama and Guatemala.

Gomphrena globosa belongs to the Amaranthaceae family and it is an annual plant that grows up to 60 cm in height. The true species has magenta bracts but cultivars have other colors. At this point we need to check out the meaning of bract. In botany, a calyx describes a floral structure, whereas a bract describes a leaf structure. Yet, bracts are specialized leaves often different from foliage leaves. They may be small, large and of different color, shape or texture. They are also different from the parts of the flower, such as the petals or sepals. Their main function is to protect the flower from pests and harsh weather. If we look at the picture of the Gomphrena globosa we see the tiny, true white flowers within the flowerheads, or the bracts in this case. They are insignificant looking and visible only close up. There are dozens of these flowers in each globose flowerhead.

A common name for this plant is button flower. Its spiky and papery puffs are about 2 cm in diameter and they bloom from early summer to frost. Button flower is easy to grow. It will bloom throughout the season without deadheading and won’t need fertilizer or much water. Few insects bother the plant. They dry easily also. Cutting the stems just as the heads are beginning to open and hanging them upside down will be sufficient. They will hold their color for several years.