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White House Horticulturist Tells All!

by | Jan 9, 2015

A story from my past:

Celosia “Amazon” is a flower that I have grown for several years. It is one of those great staple flowers in the garden that is so reliable and uniform I just plain take it for granted. It is tall, growing over 8 feet in our garden. A single plant can produce over 80 stems of flowers in a season. Its flower is a two-tone magenta spike-type bloom. Its foliage has streaks of burgundy that turns even deeper colors in the fall. It’s like a nice quiet neighbor, just nice to have around.

Celosia Amazon plant

Celosia Amazon plant

The story of Celosia Amazon seed:

For years the story was that the plant had been discovered in the Amazon region. But some years ago, a story began circulating in the cut-flower-grower circles that Amazon didn’t really come from the Amazon. It was just named that because it grows so big and produces so many stems. This story seemed likely, so it stuck–

–until Thursday, Feb 21, 2008 at the Maymont Flower and Garden Show before the doors opened to the public. I was in my booth, busy getting ready for the grand opening, while the gardens were being judged by a panel of experts that included Wayne Amos, horticulturist of the White House. After the judging was completed, he came by my booth with one of our customers to check out our Cramer’s Lime Green Cockscomb seed. After looking it over, he offered that I should try growing a variety of Celosia called Amazon. I, of course, said I not only have grown it for years but also sold the seed.

He then offered, “You know it came from the Amazon.”

I offered, “We’ve been told in fact it didn’t, that it’s just named that because it grows so large.”

He said, “I brought the seed back from the Amazon.”

I said, “No way! Really? Get out of town, really? We love that plant!”

At this moment, my sister (as previously instructed) snapped a picture of the two of us talking, because it appeared that I was meeting someone who was somebody!

Maymont, Lisa meeting Wayne Amos, White House horticulturist

Lisa meeting Wayne Amos, White House horticulturist

I actually met the guy that brought the seed back from the Amazon—where he spotted the plant while powdering his nose in the bush! I can’t wait till I go to the next grower’s conference to tell this story!!!

About Cramer’s Amazon: Loves it hot and dry! Spike-type blooms on a plant that can grow to over 8 feet tall! Full sun, 96″H, annual, great cuts, attracts birds, butterflies, and beneficial insects, drought tolerant, reseeds occasionally zone 7 and south. Spring/summer planted zone 4-9. Blocker size small, direct seed also, and do not cover seed, 5-10 days to germinate. This plant is an instant hedge to cover an ugly view.

Love this flower!

Lisa Z

Founder of The Gardener’s Workshop and Flower Farming School Online . Author of Vegetables Love Flowers, Cool Flowers, and The Easy Cut-Flower Garden  . Connect with Lisa on Facebook  and Instagram !