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August Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Chelone, Turtlehead

Georgia heat has been brutal this summer, but since I have a sprinkler with a timer, the Chelone is blooming on schedule. 

Chelone is an American native plant found in the Northeastern United States, but it grows nicely here in the Southeast if it gets enough water. Chelone is also known as Turtlehead. The flower spikes are made up of individual flowers that do resemble a turtle's head. According to Greek mythology, Chelone was a nymph who refused to attend the marriage of Zeus to Hera. As punishment, the gods turned her into a turtle!

Sometime in late August or September, depending on your climate, spikes of flowers ascend in either pink or white.

Chelone loves consistently moist or wet soil beside a pond or a stream. It is perfect for a bog garden. I have mine planted in a large tub that is my makeshift bog garden. Turtlehead can be grown in regular garden soil if you have irrigation. Chelone will bloom well in either partial shade or full sun, but if you put it in full sun, be ready to water it regularly. Amend your soil with a rich humusy compost and mulch with shredded leaves. A lot of shade promotes legginess, so if growing in shade, pinch the stems back in early summer to encourage stronger stems and more flowers. 

If you live in Maryland, Chelone is a necessary perennial for the butterfly garden, since it is an important food source for the Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly, Maryland's State Insect.

This plant can be grown in most of the United States, since it is hardy in USDA Zones 5-8.

When in bloom, Chelone makes quite a show at a height and spread of up to 4 feet. Plant a low groundcover beside it that will remain green in the winter, because Chelone disappears completely with the first frost.

Deer Resistant? Yes! Deer will not eat Chelone. 

Chelone blooms make great cut flowers too, so plant it in your cutting garden.  Like most plants I write about, Chelone is available from my favorite native plant source, Shady Gardens Nursery.

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