If I had to choose one annual flower for a Best Of award this year gomphrena would be the hands down winner. Everyone who has entered my rear garden since June, when gomphrena (Gomphrena globosa) began blooming, until now, in October when it is in its glory, has commented on gomphrena's striking, fresh charm.
These plants, started inside from seed back in mid-March, withstood my Connecticut garden's wet spring and early summer, dry July, wet August, the winds and salty rain of hurricane/tropical storm Irene, and torrential downpours in September. Gomphrena not only survived, it thrived. The photo below shows how gomphrena looks this morning, October 11.
Gomphrena is in the Amaranth family. Also known as Globe Amaranth, it is native to Central and South America and grows as an annual in areas that experience frost. You will often find it listed as an everlasting in seed catalogues since the papery, globe-shaped blooms dry beautifully and hold their color well.
Gomphrena plants generally grow up to two-feet tall, though mine have reached nearly three feet in height thanks to this year's rain. Each plant produces masses of one-inch globe shaped blooms.I planted a mixed color seed packet which blossomed in dark pink and white flowers. In past years, mixed packets also produced pale pink and lavender flowers. I've also previously grown the Strawberry Fields variety but their bright orange-red blooms don't fit the colors in my gardens. I have not yet tried Bicolor Rose but I expect it will grow just as well.
A Cornell University growing guide lists gomphrena as an easy-to-grow, full-sun annual that is heat tolerant and non-invasive. The guide also says gomphrena is deer-resistant and butterfly-attracting but I cannot support these claims. Deer visiting my Connecticut gardens have found gomphrena mighty tasty so I now plant it in the gardens deer cannot reach. I have also not seen butterflies particularly attracted to the masses of gomphrena blossoms. Butterflies seem to prefer the nearby phlox.
My gomphrena planting nicely hid the browning leaves of iris and day lily but, because I tend to plant a bit closer than seed packets suggest the gomphrena engulfed nearby plants. The ageratum seen below in a photo from mid-September are now, a month later, nearly hidden by gomphrena. A photo above shows lavender, pepper plants, and basil nearly hidden by gomphrena.
Still, this is one annual worth considering for constant, striking late-summer-to-fall color. It will continue to bloom until frost. A side benefit comes from gomphrena's everlasting qualities. Simply cutting the stems and hanging them upside down to dry will extend gomphrena's color well into winter months.
Gomphrena will remain on my annuals-to-start-from-seed list but next year I will give them a bit more space. The blossoms have no scent, but for long-lasting color and ease-of-growth, gomphrena are certainly worth the effort.