Double-blooming flowers are twice the fun

January 11, 2012
Double-flowered blossoms have extra petals, often including flowers within flowers. Double-flowered lilacs, above, are sometimes called “French lilacs” because many were developed in France beginning in the 1870

If one is good, then something double must be twice as good. Take doubles. And not just double meanings, but all of them. A double in baseball is a two-base hit, but in tennis and badminton doubles means games with two players on each side. Scariest doubles of all are probably doppelgangers. In English since around 1830, doppelganger comes from German meaning "double walker." This is your paranormal double, and if it is sighted, it usually portends evil or misfortune.

But doubles can simply be twice as many, and in the garden and orchard, a double is a good thing. Some apple trees only flower and fruit on the outer branches. Spur-type apple trees can have double the flowers of other trees, because their branches have stubby little branchlets called spurs. These spurs let apples form on each limb, so that the tree bears fruit from the trunk out, doubling the apple harvest.

Double-flowered blossoms have extra petals, often including flowers within flowers. Double flowers are common in roses, camellias and carnations. Double-flowered peonies date back to 750 AD, and the china rose was hybridized around 1000 AD. Because double flowers often have no reproductive organs, many double-flower varieties have to be propagated through cuttings.

Single flowers on lilacs are sweet, but even showier are double lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) such as pale-blue President Grevy and snow-white double lilac Madame Lemoine. As these names suggest, double-flowered lilacs are sometimes called “French lilacs” because many were developed in France beginning in the 1870s.

Double lilies are found in nearly all lily species. Double oriental lilies include Distant Drum, a stunning double-flowering rose pink; Magic Star with stripes of white and purple; and pure white, fully double “Serene Angel.” They make perfect cut flowers because they have no pollen which can cause stains.

Double tulips can look very much like peonies. Pink-and-white double Angelique is one of the most popular tulips of all time. Carnaval de Nice begins the season almost totally green but opens into a fully double white with bright red streaks. Double tulips attract hummingbirds and butterflies.

Rose of Sharon (Alcea rosea) comes in double-flowered varieties such as Creme de Cassis with spectacular raspberry and white blooms, and Peaches ‘n Dreams with extra-large powder puff blooms in soft orange.

Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) are doubly sunny when they’re doubled. Aptly named Giant Sungold is a fully double sunflower, with bushy golden yellow flowers up to eight inches across atop five-foot-tall plants. Teddy Bear sunflower is a much smaller kid-sized double sunflower that will stay under a foot tall when grown in a four-inch pot or three feet tall in the garden.

Even easy-to-grow cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) comes in a double.  Cosmos Double Click has enormous frilly double flowers in shades of pink, white and red.  Double Click blooms quickly on the tall, lacy-leafed plants.  Like all cosmos, Double Click is really easy to grow and blooms all summer and fall until the first hard frost. Plant directly in the garden after the last spring frost.  Double cosmos will do double duty in both your outdoor flower beds and as cut flowers.  Perfect for a double date.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.