WTF Fun Fact 13373 – Moon Garden

Sometimes it takes shedding a little moonlight on your garden to give it a magical quality. To fully appreciate the ethereal allure of the night, garden enthusiasts have embraced the concept of the moon garden.

These specially designed spaces are adorned with a selection of plants that come alive in the moon’s gentle glow, offering a captivating sensory experience after dusk.

Why build a moon garden?

The idea behind moon gardens is to create a place outdoors that naturally shines under the soft light of the moon. Sure, sunlight showcases vibrant colors, but moonlight can reveal delicate hues, silhouettes, and textures that go unnoticed during the day.

Moon gardens capitalize on subtleties, creating a serene and contemplative atmosphere for those seeking a different kind of garden experience.

When planning a moon garden, it’s essential to consider plants that thrive in low light conditions and reflect the moon’s glow. White or pale-colored flowers, for instance, take center stage in these nocturnal spaces.

What to plant in your nighttime landscaping

There are plenty of plants to choose from for a night garden. Blossoms such as white roses, moonflowers, evening primroses, and jasmine emit a sweet fragrance to enhance your sensory journey.

The foliage in moon gardens is equally important, as it provides contrasting textures and shapes. Plants with silver or gray leaves, like lamb’s ear or dusty miller, stand out under the moonlight. Other options include plants with variegated foliage, which adds visual interest even when the moon is hidden behind clouds.

To enhance the atmosphere, moon garden enthusiasts often incorporate plants with night-blooming flowers. One such example is the night-blooming cereus, a cactus species that displays stunning white flowers only after the sun sets. Another favorite is the angel’s trumpet, a fragrant flower that releases a sweet scent in the evening hours.

Adding more senses

Besides the visual and olfactory delights, moon gardens also embrace the symphony of sounds that come alive at night. The gentle chirping of crickets, the occasional hoot of an owl, or the rustling of leaves can all contribute to the ambiance. So, including elements like a small water feature or wind chimes can amplify the auditory experience, creating a soothing and meditative environment.

Moon gardens are not limited to plants alone. The hardscape elements play a crucial role in enhancing the overall atmosphere. A white or pale-colored pathway, for instance, provides a radiant contrast against the dark soil, guiding visitors through the garden. Stone or marble sculptures, strategically placed under moonlight, evoke a sense of mystery and invite contemplation. Another popular feature is the inclusion of reflective surfaces, such as mirrors or metallic accents.

These elements capture and amplify the moonlight, adding a touch of shimmer to the garden. Illumination through softly lit lanterns, solar-powered lights, or strategically positioned candles can enhance the dreamlike quality of the moon garden.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Night Blooming Plants for Moon Gardens: White Flowers That Shine in the Moonlight” — The Spruce

WTF Fun Fact 13103 – Dr. Joel Poinsett

Do you know where the poinsettia – the traditional flower of the Christmas season – got its name? We assumed it was a botanical concoction. But it was named after Dr. Joel Poinsett.

Who was Joel Poinsett?

If you’re beginning to decorate for the holidays this year, you may have picked up a few poinsettias. (And, hopefully, if you have pets, they are far out of reach!) The flowers are pretty long-lasting, so if you care for them, you can pick one up the day before Thanksgiving, and it may last all the way through New Year’s Eve!

The flowers – particularly the red ones – are a very common winter season decoration. And that’s been the case for many years thanks to Joel Poinsett.

Dr. Joel Poinsett was the United States Secretary of War in 1838. According to Smithsonian Magazine (cited below),“…he presided over the United States Exploring Expedition, the first circumnavigation of the globe sponsored by the United States.” In choosing the team of explorers, he insist many scientists be included.

He got the job, in part, because he himself was a botanist. And when he served as the first U.S. minister to Mexico, he found the flower growing there. Locals told him it was once used by the Aztecs as both a red dye and a medicine to help reduce fevers.

Eventually, Poinsett became a founding member of the National Institution for the Promotion of Science when it was formed in 1840. The goal of the organization was to promote the study of natural history and other sciences.

The name “poinsettia”

Poinsett was a physician, diplomat, botanist, and more in a time when a man could be all of those things (partly because they didn’t require nearly as much formal training as they do now). But that’s to say that he has a lot more in his background than just a flower.

Upon finding the flower called the Flor de Nochebuena (or Christmas Eve flower) in Mexico, he sent a specimen back to the U.S. That’s when it became known as a poinsettia in his honor. But it had long been a Christmas flower.  WTF fun facts

Source: “How Joel Poinsett, the Namesake for the Poinsettia, Played a Role in Creating the Smithsonian” — Smithsonian Magazine

WTF Fun Fact 12989 – The History of Mums

Chrysanthemums, more commonly referred to as simply “mums,” are native to a few different north Asian and European regions. But when it comes to the flowers we know today, the history of mums begins in China. And it started thousands of years ago.

The interesting history of mums

Chrysanthemums have been cultivated in China for over 3000 years. Some of the earliest texts we have mention mum being grown as a flowering herb. That means their cultivation probably goes back much further, though we can’t be sure just how far.

Even Confucius’ 6th/5th-century BCE writings refer to “the chrysanthemum with its yellow glory.” A powerful flower, they were also known as “the golden flower.” This indicates that most early mums were yellow.

According to the UK’s National Chrysanthemum Society, the present-day mums we know began as a cross between two Chinese forms called chrysanthemum Indicum and chrysanthemum Sinese. They also note that “it was not until about AD350 that anything approaching a definite variety was involved. This was a bloom of small incurved form and at that time was recognised as the only good type of chrysanthemum, an opinion still shared by many at the present day. However, the Chinese were very reluctant to let the chrysanthemum leave their country but in AD386 it did arrive in Japan and it is to the Japanese that much is owed for the development of this wonderfully versatile flower.”

Spreading love for chrysanthemums

Mums then became very popular in Japan. And “in the ninth century AD Emperor Uda founded the Imperial Gardens where various types of chrysanthemums were steadily developed.” They kept their cultivation methods a secret, and it wasn’t until the 19th century that mums made it out of the East and into continental Europe, then to Britain.

At the same time, the chrysanthemum was proclaimed the national flower of Japan.

Despite mum cultivation being a later hobby in Europe, earlier botanist-travelers knew about the flower. Still, it wasn’t until 1827 that “seed was successfully produced in Europe by a retired French officer, Captain Bernet.” Many people had tried, but he was the first to succeed.

The history of mums intertwined with other flowers

If you get your mums mixed up with other similar flowers, don’t feel bad. They’ve been bred into many forms. Sometimes people bred them for hardiness in new climatic zones, other times they bred them for size, color, or leaf shape.

Mums were introduced in America in 1841, where they took on different meanings in different places (for example, Texas’ “homecoming mums”). In other countries, they are considered funeral flowers.

Over the last century and a half mums have been further bred to be hardy in different types of weather and soil, which is why you can find a few different varieties at your local garden center today,

But despite their ubiquity in America in the fall, they as a testament to Chinese horticulture.  WTF fun facts

Source: “History of the Chrysanthemum” — National Chrysanthemum Society (UK)

WTF Fun Fact 12818 – Does Viagra Make Flowers Last Longer?

It might not be the most cost-efficient use of the medication, but the answer to “does viagra make flowers last longer?” is yes. It also makes the stand up straight.

How does viagra make flowers last longer?

According to a study in the British Medical Journal (cited below): “Viagra (sildenafil citrate) is good not only for treating male impotence. Israeli and Australian researchers have discovered that small concentrations of the drug dissolved in a vase of water can also double the shelf life of cut flowers, making them stand up straight for as long as a week beyond their natural life span.”

In fact, “1 mg of the drug (compared with 50 mg in one pill taken by impotent men) in a solution was enough to prevent two vases of cut flowers from wilting for as much as a week longer than might be expected.”

How does it work? Well, according to the study “Viagra increases the vase life of flowers by retarding the breakdown of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) (the production of which is mediated by nitric oxide).”

Basically, that means flower wilting and erectile dysfunction involve the same enzyme, and Viagra helps slow down the breakdown of that enzyme. In men, this allows blood vessels to stay open longer, and in plants, it does the same to their vascular tissues.

No more flaccid flowers

Of course, you may not want to go through the trouble of getting a Viagra prescription (or raid anyone’s medicine cabinet) for the sake of your centerpieces. There are other ways of getting some flowers to spring to attention. For example, putting a few old pennies (that still have some copper component) in a vase of tulips will also make them stand up straight.

While all of this news came out in 1999, the Viagra method of flower preservation started trending again on TikTok in 2021.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Viagra makes flowers stand up straight” — BMJ

WTF Fun Fact 12702 – A North American Hydrangea

There are nearly 75 species of hydrangea (depending on who you ask) and most hydrangeas are native to Asia. In fact, we once thought all hydrangeas were Asian natives until 1910.

As the story goes, Harriet Kirkpatrick, a wealthy woman from Illinois, was out on horseback one day when she discovered a wild hydrangea along a wooded trail. Known to indigenous Americans, no one else had been aware of it. It’s the variety we know refer to as the “Annabelle” hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens), also called a “smooth” hydrangea.

As far as we know, Kirkpatrick is responsible for the propagation of the flower since she came back later, dug it up, planted it on her property, and began to share it with her friends.

According to Fairfax Master Gardener Ray Novitske, Kirkpatrick was an artist:

Kirkpatrick’s ceramics were known for utilitarian and ceremonial presentation pottery
(mostly ceramic pigs) throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Pottery manufacturing at this time was usually located where the clay and the railroads met, and geologists reported that some of the finest clay for pottery was found in and around Anna. This became a natural
place for pottery. Today the Kirkpatrick’s Anna Pottery pieces have found their way to museums and collectors. With its successful business, the family was wealthy so it could participate in leisure activities such as horseback riding.”

The rest of the Annabelle hydrangea’s story, including its name, comes fifty years later when it was “brought to the attention of J.C. McDaniel, famous plantsman and professor of horticulture. He loved it and set the wheels in motion for it to become a commercial success. Two years later, after some nursery propagation and further investigation, it was introduced to the world. McDaniel first wanted to register the hydrangea as “Ballerina”…but a name was selected to honor the belles of Anna who discovered it.” WTF fun facts

Source: “Story of the Annabelle Hydrangea” — Fairfax Gardening

WTF Fun Fact 12688 – The Dubai Miracle Garden

If you’ve paid much attention to what Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, has to offer, you’d know a giant garden is one of the less miraculous things. Nevertheless, the Dubai Miracle Garden is 72,000 square meters large and contains an amazing 150 million flowers. That makes it the world’s largest natural flower garden.

Just a few years ago, it contained a mere 65 million flowers, so it’s growing all the time. And there are over 2 miles of walkways for you to travel down to view them all. And since the flowers change every year, visitors can see a different set of attractions each time they visit.

The Dubai Miracle Garden was named the “Largest Vertical Garden in the World” by the Guinness World Records in 2013. Throughout the property, you’ll also find giant peacocks, teddy bears, and faces made out of flowers, along with (at least at one point, a life-size replica of the Emirates Airbus A380 which the Guinness Book called the “Largest Floral Installation” in 2016).

The garden, which opened in 2013, typically attracts over 1.5 million people each year. And while things may be different now because of the pandemic, in 2017, the garden reported that creating the attraction each year requires 60 days and 400 people.

One impressive feature is the way it’s watered. After all, it’s in a desert! Well, it turns out the flowers are kept alive via drip irrigation that reuses wastewater.

Interestingly, there are 60 different kinds of flowers (which is a lot, but still less than expected). That’s no doubt due to just how many (or few) can survive the weather – petunias, geraniums, and marigolds are quite common. The garden is closed in summer but remains open from November through May of each year.

It also doubles as a theme park with food stands, which we imagine serve lots of cold treats since the temperature in winter is still in the high 70s Fahrenheit. – WTF fun facts

Source: “Dubai Miracle Garden: world’s largest natural flower garden” — CNN Travel

WTF Fun Fact 12669 – The World’s Oldest Rose Bush

The world’s oldest rose bush is a bit more untamed than what we’re used to seeing – but it’s earned the right to grow as it pleases. After all, it survived being bombed during WWII.

The Rose of Hildesheim, aka the Thousand-Year Rose, is believed to be the oldest living rose specimen on the planet (though, of course, we can’t know for sure if some other rose bush lurks out there hidden away from human eyes).

You can find it growing up the column Hildesheim Cathedral, in Germany, where it has been since the early 800s when it was planted. The 9th-century plant still blooms each year, around May. Its flowers are a delicate pink.

According to Atlas Obscura, it’s survival has been beyond unlikely:

“While the rose bush looks as though it’s big enough to have been growing for a thousand years, the plant has been nearly destroyed a number of times throughout its history. Most notably the bush was nearly completely razed during the Second World War when Allied bombs annihilated the cathedral. Every bit of the plant above ground was destroyed, but from the rubble, new branches grew from the root that survived.

Today the base of the Thousand-Year Rose is protected by a squat iron fence and each of the central roots is named and catalogued to protect one of the oldest pieces of natural beauty one is lucky to find.” –  WTF fun fact

Source: “The Thousand-Year Rose” — Atlas Obscura

WTF Fact 12430 – The Truth About Sunflowers

Don’t you just love sunflower season? Ok, it might be a bit too hot for some of us, but these big, happy flowers are a fun way to bring some sunshine to your yard or home.

If you’ve seen the sunflower a lot these days, it’s because it’s also the national flower of Ukraine. Girls would weave smaller varieties into flower crowns, and they’re commonly found on traditional embroidery. But the sunflower originated on the North American continent, in what is not the Western United States. In fact, it’s the only flower used for seed that originated in the US.

It wasn’t until the 1550s that Spanish conquerors brought the sunflower to Europe. Sunflowers have many practical uses since they can be pressed for sunflower oil, and the seeds are edible. Ironically, it wasn’t until the flowers reached Russia that they were seen as beautiful for display.

But the more fascinating thing about the sunflower might just be that – biologically speaking – what we consider to be one flower is actually thousands of tiny flowers. Those little brown things we think of as…well, what do we call those?… Anyway, those are individual flowers! And so are the petals.

That means a sunflower contains thousands (usually between 1000 and 2000) of individual flowers all held together by that impressive receptible base. The brown flowers develop into seeds, while the yellow petals (or “ray flowers”) simply wither.

Another cool fact about sunflowers is that they are heliotropic, which means the flowering head (which we guess is technically the correct phrase for what we refer to as a flower) turns with the sun for maximum exposure.

So if you set a vase of sunflowers on a table near a window and notice them all “looking” outside during the day, don’t assume someone turned the vase! The flower did that all on its own. – WTF fun facts 

Source: “Sunflower: An American Native” — University of Missouri, Department of Agronomy

WTF Fun Fact 12426 – The Most Expensive Spice

Have you ever gone to the grocery store to pick up some saffron for a recipe only to find that they don’t even carry it?

Then, maybe you head to the specialty grocery store only to find that a mere pinch of the stuff is $10 or $20!

Well, there’s a reason for that. Saffron is a highly labor-intensive spice to produce. It’s made from the stigmata (those little bits at the end of the red pistils) of crocuses. Next time those tiny purple flowers start budding at the first sign of spring, take a look and see just how tiny those are – each flower has only 3 of them.

Amazingly, it takes around 75,000 crocus flowers to produce just one pound of saffron. That’s part of the expense, but if you look closely, you’ll see that there’s no way to get the saffron out except by lightly picking them out one by one and by hand. They’re just so delicate. So the labor that goes into this is also costly.

Despite its rarity, saffron has been used for thousands of years. The Greeks and Romans used it as perfume, while Indians used it for dye, and the Chinese have used it in medicine.

You’ll find it in many traditional recipes from the Middle East and parts of Europe. So next time you go to make a Moroccan tagine, make sure you prepare yourself for the sticker shock in the spice aisle. – WTF Fun Facts

Source: “Why Is Saffron So Expensive?” — Encyclopedia Britannica