Or more aptly titled plants that have just dropped dead for me.
(Pretty sad looking Euphorbia 'Bonfire')
This summer was to be year of the Euphorbia in the park. Many may be familiar with the more common trade houseplants of the Genus. Pencil cactus (Euphorbia tirucalli), Cowboy cactus (Euphobia lacteal), Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii) and even the well-known holiday classic - Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are just some of the seemingly endless specimens of Euphorbia. While all of those listed above act as house plants and are not hardy to the cool, damp conditions of the north east, there are also a wide selection of Spurges that are supposed to do more than just survive the climate here. These Euphorbias should be able to tolerant poor, dry soil and sun to part shade. The white, milky, sap of these plants contain latex which not only will give most people a nasty rash, but will also keep any animal with half a brain from eating them.
So how can these plants possibly fail?
Rain, two weeks of rain before establishment has killed almost every Euphorbia polychroma we’ve put in. Less than ideal drainage and two weeks of shade caused complete susceptibility to fungal rot. Meanwhile I’ve noticed that our (non hardy) Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ has been looking very sparse. In some areas the plants are just full of their showy, white, bracts, while in other areas a swarm of pigeons have
descended where people throw bread crumbs on the planting. Pigeons, being as smart as they are, can’t seem to tell the difference between the bread crumbs and anything else in the vicinity the might possibly fit in their beaks. Amazingly, the birds don’t seem to be affected by the plants at all. I’m definitely at a loss there. I suspect our part shade in those areas aren't helping either.
Thursday we made a trip out to long island and I was pretty pleased to see that other nurseries seem to be having the same problems with Euphorbias this year. Everything just looked leggy, wilted, and bare. Luckily, the few I purchased for my father’s house this spring are enjoying the pure sand and baking sun that makes up his yard. While we installed ‘Bonfire’ and its corresponding species, polychroma, in the park I was looking for something darker and more contrasting for my father’s yard. I eventually purchased Euphorbia ‘Backbird’ which apparently is really named Euphorbia x martinii ‘Nothowlee’ with blackbird being its trademark name. Ugh. (Come on patent office, have some pity on hort students who have to memorize this crap.)
Regardless, it’s a beautiful plant. Its dark foliage contrasts great with our gaudy golden spireas and it seems to be thriving in the wasteland of the pine barons. Later I saw that a local nursery had Euphorbia ‘Tiny Tim’ which by ‘Tiny Tim’ I really mean Euphorbia x martini ‘Waleutiny’… Same thing really.