A college-era friend of mine now lives in northwestern South Carolina. Knowing of my interest in gardening, she sends me images of plants to identify. Last month she sent me a couple of photos.
The first was this red flower. I had never seen anything like it, but from the fused stamens, thought that it must be some sort of hibiscus. Turning to my trusty plant encyclopedia, I quickly identified it as Hibiscus coccineus. It is native to Georgia and Florida. Cold hardy to Zone 6, it certainly could be living along the roads in her neck of the woods. This is a big perennial which can be 10 feet tall and four feet wide. From summer until early autumn, it bears the red flowers you see here.
About 10 days later she sent one I recognized instantly as being Cosmo sulphureous. It is related to the more familiar pink and white cosmos, C. bipinnatus. The cheery orange ones are 18 to 24 inches tall and just as wide. The flowers are about two inches in diameter. They re-seed like crazy.
Though I am far from an expert in plant identification, I do enjoy answering questions about plants and gardening. I invite you readers to contact me with your gardening concerns. You never know, your question may be the subject of future fifth Saturday columns.
Master gardener Ann Bartlett never lets lack of familiarity with a plant slow her down--she looks it up!
If you have gardening questions to ask Ann, or need help identifying a flower, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.