And All that Jazz
I must have lived multiple lives. I have this image of me in a mid-century modern home, chatting with friends in a sunken living room, Manhattans all around, and jazz filling the air with syncopated rhythms and sultry vocals. (Picture James Bond in Goldfinger and Shirley Bassey booming in the background….)
Something about jazz, chill-out lounge music, and amazing jazz vocals always makes me pause and daydream of a different life. For example, years ago when I was still new to the area, my partner and I were walking down Rehoboth Avenue one drizzly, October evening. Jazz Fest was beginning, though I was unaware at the time. Music was pouring out of several establishments, but one made me stop in my tracks. I swear it sounded like Ella Fitzgerald. There I stood for what seemed like an hour, outside the Purple Parrot, in the rain. Debra & Patrick were performing that night and listening to them transported me to that other life once again.
Feeling in a jazzy mood now, I thought I would spend a little time on plants that are inspired by the same. Take for instance Schizachyrium scoparium “Jazz” or Jazz little bluestem. It was introduced in the early 1900s and is related to Schizachyrium scoparium, “The Blues.” It has narrow, blue foliage that tints purple in Autumn and grows up to two-and-a-half feet tall. Plus, it won’t flop over like some other types. Purplish-bronze flowers give way to fluffy, silvery-white seed heads that persist into winter. Little bluestem will tolerate a variety of soils and is great for the rain garden.
“Jazz Hands” Bold Loropetalum, or Chinese fringe flower, is another plant that wants to be heard. Bright fuchsia, fringy flowers sit on top of a dark burgundy leaf and seem to vibrate with a syncopated frequency. This plant likes moist but well-drained soils and will grow to be about six feet in height. It makes a bold statement when planted in mass. It doesn’t necessarily need pruning, however if you do be sure to prune immediately after flowering. Waiting too long to trim will result in cutting off next year’s blooms. Other varieties in the group “Jazz Hands” exist that are dwarf and some even bloom white.
For those of you who like climbers, Rosa “That’s Jazz” is a climbing rose that exhibits beautiful red blooms and is quite the vigorous grower. Of course, as with all roses, they can be finicky with mildew and some pests, but proper care and maintenance will provide for a stunning display of velvety red flowers throughout the growing season. It can tolerate numerous soil types but prefers being well-drained.
Maybe bulbs are more your style? Tulipa “Jazz” is a pink flowering tulip that is sure to melt hearts in the garden. Broad grey-green leaves give way to bright pink blooms in mid-spring. This tulip likes full sun and should be planted in moist but well-drained soils. As with most bulbs, it does not like saturated or wet conditions. It also doesn’t like being exposed to windy areas, so some sheltered location that faces east or south would be ideal.
I’ll leave you with one more perennial, Echinacea “All That Jazz,” a coneflower with lavender-pink ray-like petals that emulate from an orange cone-shaped center. It grows up to three feet tall in full-sun to part-shade. Deer- and drought-tolerant, it blooms all summer and sporadically into fall. The flowers can be almost four inches across and attract butterflies and other pollinators. A great addition to the perennial border and cutting garden.
I hope you’re inspired as much as I am when it comes to jazz, both in music and in the plant kingdom. Hopefully, I’ll see you during Jazz Fest; I’ll be the one outside dreaming of another life once lived.
Stay safe and let’s garden together! ▼
Eric W. Wahl is Landscape Architect at Pennoni Associates, and President of the Delaware Native Plant Society