The first time we grew this strange, lovely plant was back in the last century. We obtained the seed from the seed exchange of the North American Rock Garden Society. It wasn’t a great seller for us–it’s not well known, of course, nor is it a showy plant in its first year.
Time passed and I forgot about Leuzea conifera until my friend Bob Nold mentioned it to me. He said that he grew it in his unwatered front yard in Lakewood, and that it had survived many dry years. He also said that when people toured his garden, the Pinecone Flower was the plant they noticed above all others. “Wow, what is that?” was a common comment. I begged seeds from him and two years ago grew this plant again. This time I mentioned it in our spring newsletter, with glowing recommendations, and by the middle of May we were sold out.
Last year, people who planted it in 2009 started asking us about it: Do you have any more of the pinecone flower? One woman, a Rye resident, came on opening day and said that her daughter’s plant was so beautiful; she wanted to buy one for herself. Her daughter gardens in Pueblo West, and the photo above is of her plant.
Like I too often do, I’d sold all the plant we had without planting one here. That meant I had no ready source for seeds, but soon that problem was solved. More people came back to the nursery, talking about how great this plant was in the garden, how it flourished without irrigation, how everyone noticed it and commented on it, and did we have any more of them! I explained that we didn’t have any and wouldn’t anytime soon because we didn’t have seeds. Two generous gardeners brought us seed throughout the summer and Leuzea conifera is once again germinating in the greenhouse. This time I won’t make the mistake of letting them all get away without nabbing a couple for my own garden.
In addition to its striking presence in the garden, the flowers from this plant make an interesting everlasting flower, too, retaining their shape and color for a long time and looking just like a shiny pinecone in arrangements.
Here’s a close-up of the plant. This picture was taken by Cliff Booker at an alpine garden exhibition: