October 10, 2008

NC Outer Banks: Beach Blanket Flower

My husband and I are vacationing on Hatteras Island this week. Hatteras Island is located 25 miles off the coast of North Carolina, part of the Outer Banks.

As a native of North Carolina, I'd like to share a bit about this beautiful coastal area. The NC Outer Banks are rich in history, beginning with the early explorers such as Amerigo Vespucci, Sir Water Raleigh and the settlement we refer to as The Lost Colony. Of course, pirates such as Blackbeard gave notoriety to the area in the 1700s. We all grew up with stories of the power-driven airplane flight in 1903 by Wilbur and Orville Wright at Kill Devil Hills. During World War I and II, German submarines operated off the coast of the Outer Banks. In the 1873, US life-saving stations were built along the Outer Banks to help rescue sinking boats off the NC coast. Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station, in Rodanthe, is best known when 6 men rescued 47 of the 57 crew of the British tanker, Mirlo, that was torpedoed by Germans in 1918. There is a British Cemetery on Ocracoke Island where the bodies of four crew members from the HMS Bedfordshire are buried, having been destroyed by a German submarine in World War II.

The Hatteras Lighthouse had to be moved several years ago to save it from the erosion on the beach. It is now standing in a new location, safe from erosion and visitors can climb it for a great view of the coastline. Hatteras Lighthouse is the tallest in the nation. Earlier this week, my husband and I biked 23 miles roundtrip from Hatteras Village up to Buxton to see the lighthouse. I suppose most gardeners watch for gardens and flowers while on vacation.

While biking Highway 12, I saw the wildflowers in bloom along the sand dunes of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, a protected area. There is wild solidago, a few wildflowers that I don't know and the ever-familiar gaillardia, or blanket flower. Most of the gaillardia are the burgundy/gold variety, but there is a beautiful one of magenta/white.

I use magenta in my flower garden back home, so I was eager to find out whether or not this one could be found in nurseries. I dropped an email to Tony Avent at Plant Delights Nursery. Tony quickly responded that this blanket flower can't be grown inland.

The wildflowers serve a purpose here on the island, so we leave them in place. The native wildflowers help keep the sand dunes from eroding. The wind can blow hard and the surf can rise, especially during a hurricane or tropical storm.

Come enjoy our beautiful seashore. Not only is it beautiful, but it is still tranquil and peaceful.

Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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