"Smarty Jones," the horse favored to win the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown, didn't quite make it to the finish line in time. But it was a great horse race, anyway, and I especially enjoyed the TV proceedings that led up to the race.

There was one TV shot, for instance, of a jockey mounting the fidgety, blindfolded "Rock Hard Ten" in his starting gate. Just then, the view of the horse and rider together resembled a half-horse, half-human, mythological creature known as a Centaur. That's when I believed that Rock Hard Ten would win. Oh well.

By the way, there are flowers in bloom today that were named after the Centaurs - Centaurea. But before I tell you about them, I'll tell you more about the Centaurs.

The Centaurs

Legend has it, the Centaurs resided in ancient Greece. From above the waist, Centaurs looked human, yet from the waist down, Centaurs had the body, legs and tail of a horse.

Expert warriors, too, the Centaurs were uncivilized, barbaric, cruel creatures that lived a lawless life terrorizing their neighbors.

One Centaur was different, though. His name was Chiron, and Chiron was reputed to be a remarkable teacher - especially of the healing arts. Chiron was such a splendid teacher, in fact, Greek kings as well as Greek gods took their children to Chiron's school.

Centaurea

Also known as Perennial Cornflower and Knapweed, Centaurea is a hardy perennial that's native to Europe and North America. It's also a member of the "Compositae" (Daisy) family.

My favorite variety is C. montana. Also known as Mountain Bluet, Mountain Bluet has long stems with spear-point-shaped leaves. It grows to become 2 feet tall.

Depending upon the variety, thin, frilly, 3-inch flowers bloom in shades of blue, lavender, rose, yellow or white. Although it sometimes requires staking, Mountain Bluet reblooms until summer's end.

Grow Centaurea in full sun and in soil that drains freely. Set plants about 18 inches apart.

Plant potted plants now, or sow seeds soon to start seedlings that will bloom next summer.

Established specimens should be divided during every other subsequent spring.

This Week In The Garden

The humid, wet weather is seriously challenging some of our roses that are supposedly resistant to diseases. Even so, most of our roses never looked better. So what's a gardener to do?

Roses that fail to pass their physical exam will get tossed onto the compost pile. Thus far, these include "Blue Nile" and "Octoberfest."

I'll replace this year's sick roses next spring with roses that perform better.

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