Friday, February 18, 2011

J Is For Jacob's Ladder

This is a photo of Polemonium caeruleum L."Jacob's Ladder" the year it was planted. 

I bought this plant from Prairie County Gardens in Galva IL.  Diane Nelson often has an assortment of unusual Perennial plants hardy to our zone.  Most varieties of Jacob's Ladder is cold hardy to Zone 3. 
I typically give plants that enjoy shade a try.  This one has not disappointed.   

In the Spring, it sends up flower stems about 18 inches about the plant that produce blue flowers and yellow stamens.  Note the little bee at the bottom right enjoying a sip of nectar.  A wide range of bees will visit this plant. My particular variety forms a nice clump and looks especially natural in an informal garden.  There are some 30 different types in this family.   
Jacob's Ladder originally came from the Biblical story, described in the Book of Genesis, where Jacob envisions a ladder to heaven during his flight from his brother, Esau.  Versions of the story and artistic renderings are bountiful.  As bountiful, are the interpretations of the meanings of the story both in Jewish and Christian cultures.  An amazing amount of pop music has been written about the theme.  Not to be outdone, there was a thriller Vietnam movie, and episodes of Walker Texas Ranger and LOST using the story of Jacob's Ladder.
Botanical Drawing

Aside from the cultural and Biblical Jacob's Ladder, my little plant has a history worthy of a good story, too.  The foliage resembles the rungs on a ladder - these are a bright green - one type is variegated.  This plant enjoys only partial sun to part shade, moist well-drained soil with a neutral pH.  It's not fond of humidity.  In other words, make sure it has moisture by providing shade from hot sun, mulch, water when the ground becomes dry, don't spray the leaves and never let it stand in water.  

This isn't always a plant that survives in every garden.  I've been fortunate it happened to thrive in the spot where it was "plopped".  It may selfseed with abandon although my plant hasn't and I'd be good with it if it did.  It's listed as surviving in the wild in Illinois, including most of the Midwest and over to the Eastern coast.  Cats are attracted to young plants and they will need protection (the plant - not the cat) until it becomes well established.  My cat doesn't bother my plant but then she has several acres to bother.

  There you have it - a Biblical named plant with a today's kind of appeal.  If you have the right spot - it will reward you with years of charm. And, I find I have this strange urge to go play my old Led Zeppelin IV album . . .  

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