Posts Tagged ‘broadleaved evergreen’

Sometimes a plant will bloom out of season, it might be that there is an unexpected warm spell which causes the buds to open. Other times blooming may be irregular and over a long time with no real pinnacle of flowering. Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ is often a combination of sporadic blooming in December and then breaking out in a frosty shimmery pink through mid to late January. This year the shimmering icy pink blossoms are making their appearance a little early.

Rhododendron Christmas Chee

The light pink blossoms of Rhododendron Christmas Cheer do look beautiful when the sun comes out here.

I alway notice a few blooms when I am in Sidney in late December and this helps me remember the name of the plant. The name ‘Christmas Cheer’ interestingly  refers to it’s one time use for forcing at Christmas time in bouquets and other indoor decoration during the Victorian era.

Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ is a hybrid of unknown age although it is thought to originate in the 1830s’. It parentage is also partly unknown as well. What is known is that R. causaicum is one parent and was introduced into cultivation in 1803.  Rhododendron causaicum is a plant which comes from Caucasus in north eastern Turkey and  the surrounding area. It is a plant that has long been in cultivation and has been used extensively in development of old and new hybrids. One plant which may be considered a twin to ‘Christmas Cheer’ is R. ‘Rosa Mundi’ which is said to be slightly more compact and bloom one week later.

Rhododendron 'Rosa Mundi'

It seems to me that Rhododendron 'Rosa Mundi' blossoms are paler and more frilly.

R. ‘Christmas Cheer’ is restrained in all it’s parts. The leaves are mid green and have a pleasing narrow elliptical shape . the plant itself is densely branched so there are generally no unsightly gaps to see through. The flowers are delicate in color and size with slightly wavy edges. They are not in the least damaged by frosts and seem to stand up well to the monsoon rains by drooping or discoloring.

Rhododendron Christmas Cheer

This Rhododendron Christmas Cheer is covered with icy pink trusses of delicate flowers.

Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ and ‘Rosa Mundi’ are some of the hardiest Rhododendrons. they are tolerant of temperatures as low as -20c(-10f) so these are good plants for colder areas in which Rhododendrons can be grown. As with all broadleaved evergreens location is important to bright the best out in your plant.  They appreciate being protected from cold drying winds that can occur during winter months. They like to be located in part to full shade. They are said to be more drought tolerant than other Rhodies’ and that may explain why some are located in more water challenged positions than others. They like rich well drained soil which has extra compost added to retain moisture during the dry summer months.

'Christmas Cheer' Rhododendrons

A couple of large and leggy 'Christmas Cheer' Rhododendrons found at Government House.

Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ and ‘Rosa Mundi’ are fairly common here, you will often see them in parks here.They are popular being that they are slow growing and generally attain only 1.2m(4ft) in 10 years which makes them suitable for smaller gardens and yards. At maximum they will grow to 2m(6ft) high and wide. They work nicely in shady shrub or perennial borders at a mid depth. They also are included as a winter feature or specimen. They light up areas in these dark days which does bring cheer to us all.

Rhododendron 'Christmas Cheer'

Rhododendron 'Christmas Cheer' should be seen in more gardens.

More about ‘Christmas Cheer’ Rhododendrons and their relatives:

American Rhododendron Society page: http://www.rhododendron.org/descriptionH_new.asp?ID=455

Description of Rosa Mundi (Rosamundi) Rhododendron: http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ldplants/rhros.htm

Rhododendron caucasicum:  http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=120&taxon_id=242442794

Until we meet again later…

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Where I grew up is now deep in snow, winter truly has arrived. My brothers who live in the area that I grew up will be out finding a tree at the lake to be decorated for Christmas.  Often when I was little one of the excitements was getting the big box of gifts from Grandma who lived in Surrey, it would be sent up on the bus.  Along with the gifts, she always sent homemade cookies, fruitcake and some of the wonderful Holly which grew at their place. The Holly(Ilex aquifolium) was for my mother as it did not grow in such a cold place as Prince George.

Ilex aquifolium 'Argentea Marginata'

Many forms of Holly have been collected, one of the most attractive is Ilex aquifolium 'Argentea Marginata'

Holly has been with us a long time. the Romans used to send boughs of Holly with gifts to their friends for the Saturnalia Festival, which was the most popular of all. Holly was the sacred plant of Saturn. Saturnalia Festival was celebrated from  December 17th to the 23rd and commemorated the dedication of the Temple of Saturn to the the God of the same name. The festival popularity was do to it’s good hearted nature where much jesting and pranks were pulled. Another feature of the festival was the role reversal of masters and slaves.

Ilex 'Balearica'

Ilex 'Balearica' is an unusual form of Holly which has no spines.

From the Saturnalia Festival the Christians where thought to have adopted Holly. it is believed the used the Holly to avoid ill treatment and religious prosecution.  Holly being a common Northern European plant already was an important Pagan plant which was used by the Druids to adorn their heads. It was believed the plant had magical qualities and drove away evil spirits. Holly is now used to symbolize  the crown of thorns Jesus wore with the berries representing his blood.

Ilex 'Wilsonii'

Ilex 'Wilsonii' is a female which has very wide leaves of a Holly plant.

It is interesting that ‘Ilex’ it’s Latin name refers to another plant all together; the Holm Oak – Quercus ilex.  Pliny refers to Holly as ‘Aquifolius’ which is it’s classic Latin name and where our newer ‘aquifolium’ comes from. Pliny said that if it was planted near a home it would repel poison(which is strange because the berries are) and protect the  house from lightening and witchcraft. He also said that the flowers would cause water to freeze.

Ilex aquifolium 'Ferox Argentea'

This fierce looking Ilex aquifolium 'Ferox Argentea' is male and has pricles on the tops of it's leaves.

There are many Hollies now which have been collected as sports or crosses with other simalar species which most commonly include latifolia and or perado var. platyphylla. There are other species also which are attractive garden specimens and may be seen in Ilex species collections. A good collection of Hollies near me is located at Dominion Brook Park in North Saanich, at one time this collection was one of the best in North America.

Ilex perneyi

Ilex perneyi is an unusual species with attractive small leaves.

The first Holly was brought to Vancouver Island in 1851 by Joseph Despard Pemberton. At one time this area was an important Holly harvesting area because the plant grows so well here. Over time the industry has died out do to the extremely valuable land it is on and problems such as leaf miners and twig blight damaging the crops.

Ilex altaclerensis 'Golden King'

Ilex altaclerensis 'Golden King' is a bright form which has a habit of reverting to green.

Ilex aquifolium is interesting in that it has(monoecious) male and female plants, this is easily discerned by the presence of  brightly colored berries on the female plants. Holly is native in Western to Southern Europe, North Africa and Western Asia. it has spread by seed and has become a problem in other areas where it is considered invasive. Here we find it in woodlands where it becomes a prickly problem and is removed along with other pest species of plants. One must take this into to consideration when selecting a plant.

Ilex aquifolium 'Aurea Marginata'

A pair of large specimen Ilex aquifolium 'Aurea Marginata'(male) flank the formal staricase at St Ann's Academy in Victoria.

Hollies are easy to grow and are undemanding. It prefers slightly acidic soil which is well drained yet nutrient rich, a yearly mulch is much appreciated. These are plants which can take shade or sun very well. Pruning can be done at anytime and they have traditionally been used for topiary. Holly can be used many ways depending on the type you are growing, the more plain types make excellent hedges and shrubs in a border. The more attractive leaf forms are often used as specimens.  Old leaves dry and become very prickly so this is not a good plant for lawns or areas where people want to kick off their shoes or with small children.

Ilex  'Golden Milkboy'

Ilex 'Golden Milkboy' is another bright male plant.

Holly grows to 50 ft(15.5m) tall by15ft(4.5m) wide. It is rated as zones 6 (-10f or -12c) and above. Place your Holly so it does not get damaging dry North winds during the winter.

More about Holly:

Growing Holly: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/factsheets/trees-new/ilex_aquifolium.html

Saturnalia Festival:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturnalia

Dominion Brook Park: http://www.northsaanich.ca/Municipal_Hall/Departments/Parks_and_Trails/Parks_Information/Municipal_Parks.htm

Until we meet again later….

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During the winter we always experience  the several weeks of unusually bad weather, I always like to check on how plants had made it through.  This is one way I evaluate if a plant is a good selection to grow int the Victoria area.  Some plants do better than others in cold weather while others clearly are not really hardy here. Hydrangeas all look bedraggled and brown as do many of the semi-deciduous plants. Lots of cutting back will be needed in the spring when it starts to warm up again. One plant that doesn’t suffer one bit is Common Box (Buxus sempervirens)  and it  is used extensively here.

Buxus sempervirens

Buxus sempervirens or Boxwood is used extensively at St Ann's Academy in Victoria.

Common Box or Boxwood has been with us for a very long time, in fact its first recorded use was during the Egyptian era around 4000 BC where they had clipped hedges of it. Ever since that time it has reappeared throughout history. On a side note it was used by the Romans for their gardens, and believe it or not, they had special slaves called Toparius (creators of topia or landscapes) who maintained their specially clipped bushes. Here in Victoria Boxwood is mostly used for edging and to give a more formal feeling to a garden design.

Buxus sempervirens 'Elegantissima'

A wonderfully round Variegated Box is incorporated into the Heather Garden at Glendale Gardens.

Speaking of topiary, the craze really got going in renaissance Italy. In their warmer climate they used Cypress which proved not hardy enough for northern Europe, box became the obvious choice being evergreen and being finely textured which is needed for creating topiary forms. This is how Common Box became so associated with English and particularly French gardens. Levens Hall in Cumbria and Chateau de Villandry are two famous examples. More recently a Boxwood (look-a-like) was on display in the movie ‘Edward Scissorhands’ in which Edward created fantastic forms with his ‘scissorhands’ and became a celebrity.

Tree form of Buxus sempervirens

This remarkable Boxwood specimen is found at St Andrew's Cathedral along View St. in downtown Victoria.

Boxwood is slow growing with finely textured foliage but in its native habit it can grow into a large shrub or small tree of 10ft with a width of 4 to 6ft.  Because of its slow growth, it should be planted for a couple of years before being clipped for the first time. Cutting back will encourage a more bushy, dense growth. Hedges and topiary, when mature, are usually cut twice a year, It is done once around May and then later near the end of August or early September.

Buxus sempervirens is used as a hedge

A more typical use of Buxus sempervirens is as a hedge.

Boxwood is a very versatile shrub that tolerates very low light to full sun and continues to look healthy and bushy. It is very adaptable to most soils and can withstand a fair amount of drought, but prefers rich well drained soil. It is one of the few plants which will tolerate a more alkaline location. Common Box is rated at at zone 6 (-10f to 0 . or to -18c). In cool weather it often takes on an attractive bronzy coloring which disappears when warm weather returns.

Buxus sempervirens in containers.

These Boxwood are used as a decorative feature outside a restaurant in Victoria.

Buxus sempervirens is the most common box and has numerous cultivars such as ‘Elegantissima’ which has leaves edged in cream. Another popular form is ‘Suffruticosa’ that is slower growing and is most suitable used for parterres and small hedges. There is one other species worth mentioning. Buxus microphylla which is exactly the same as Common Box is smaller in all ways and generally needs no clipping. Several forms of it are popular in rock gardens or for very short edging. ‘Compacta’ and ‘Green Pillow’ are the most popular for rock gardens and for very low edging. A variety known as var. koreana is particularly popular with bonsai enthusiasts who choose it for its narrower leaves and loose spreading habit. It is also the most hardy.

Buxus sempervirens 'Elegantissima'

Buxus sempervirens 'Elegantissima' will make a slow growing and attractive edging.

Care must be taken in placement of Common Box near roadways which may be given a salt treatment  during cold periods. Buxus sempervirens is very easily damaged from too much salt and unsightly damage and even death of the plant can occur.

Salt damaged Buxus semperviren plants.

This is an example of extreme salt damage to a Boxwood hedge next to a parking lot in Victoria.

More about Boxing the Buxus:

The Wiki page is always a good place to start: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buxus_sempervirens

How to grow and maintain a Box hedge: http://www.boxtrees.com/hedging.html

Historic St Andrew’s Cathedral: http://www.standrewscathedral.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=45&Itemid=65

Until we meet again later….

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When I was in school I often learned one than one genus and from that point there can be many subspecies and hybrids. Often plants from a genus look very similar and other times do not. One genus we learned was Arbutus. Arbutus menziesii  is a tree and Arbutus unedo which is a shrub. Arbutus unedo or the Strawberry tree is a great shrub which is well adapted for use here it the Victoria area.

Arbutus unedo

An attractive Arbutus unedo at a driveway entrance.

Arbutus unedo come from the Mediterranean area and range from Turkey, Lebanon  through to western areas of France and Spain and Portugal. They are also found in south western Ireland and are believed to be pre-glaciation remnants of  the range where these plant originally lived. The area which Strawberry trees or more commonly bushes are found in the wild has drastically shrunk do to harvesting of the wood for manufacturing of charcoal.

A happy Arbutus unedo which is loaded with fruit.

Arbutus unedo or as they are known in Ireleand as Killarney Strawberry Trees are viewed as 4 season plants as they have beautiful evergreen foliage which looks good throughout the year, berries which are take a year to for and ripen and flowers which bloom late in the year when little else is.

Arbutus unedo blossoms

The small waxy blosoms of Arbutus unedo bloom from October through December here.

Right now there are still some flowers on many bushes and crops of fruit are coloring up in a most attractive way for the Christmas season. The shrub in the above picture is covered with fruit which suggests it is in a perfect location.  The fruit are actually aggregate drupes which have a pasty bland flavor. The fruit is now used to make jams, jellies and a strong Brandy type drink (Medronho) which is made in Portugal. Pliny the Elder felt that the fruit was not worth eating, he  wrote in 50 A.D. ‘unum edo’ – ‘I eat one’ which said to be where we get unedo. the name Arbutus is from their original Latin name.

Arbutus unedo fruit

The fruits of Arbutus unedo are brightly colored and unusual looking.

Arbutus are members of the Ericaceae family which tend to need acidic soil to grow their very best. Strawberry trees are and exception to this rule and tolerate limey soil very well and are found in France growing in sandy locations. Generally here Arbutus unedo are grown as shrubs, they can be trained as a tree which is achieved by removing the lower branches as they bud out. The bark is an attractive cinnamon color and is cracked and is said to come off in strips in larger trunks, I have not seen this.

Arbutus unedo bark

The attractive bark on this very large Arbutus unedo branch.

Although we usually see Arbutus unedo as shapely rounded shrubs, they can grow to be quite large. They grow  to 10.5m(33ft) tall by the same spread and can grow very large trunks.  In a perfect setting they have full exposure to sun and very well drained soil. They can also do very well in wetter climates as long as the soil is very well drained, they do not tolerate being in overly damps soil.  They are naturally adapted to dry summers and develop long taproots soon after they are established. The taproot mean you have to be careful about where you are planting this plant as they do not do well if they are moved later on.

These Arbutus unedo have been planted to form a hedge which can be infomal or formal with pruning.

Arbutus unedo are versatile and can be used as formal or informal  hedging, specimens or back ground shrubs. They are great in more neglected locations such as on driveways and areas which are not near water sources. The fruit will attract birds who will eat it.  There are few pests and diseases and these can be avoided with proper care of the plant. These plants are rated at zones 7 through 10 (0-10f or -7 to-12c).The leaves can be damaged by cold dry snaps such as what we had last winter, the plants I see around here where not damaged at all.  A Strawberry tree is seen on the city crest of Madrid Spain.

Arbutus unedo foliage.

The foliage of Arbutus unedo is clean and attractive.

There are several attractive forms which can be found in nurseries; ‘Elfin King’ is often sold as ‘Compacta’ and has white flowers and ‘Rubra’ is pink blooming.

More on Arbutus unedo:

Surprisingly I find Wiki a good source of information relating to plants: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strawberry_Tree

Great Plant Picks for the Northwest: http://www.greatplantpicks.org/display?id=2246

Paghat agrees with me: http://www.paghat.com/strawberrytree.html

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When I moved down to Vancouver to go to Horticulture school I had only ever seen one type of Clematis which grew in the Prince George area. It is the  rare Western Blue Clematis (Clematis occidentalis) which is not at all vigorous or showy having small blue bells which are lost in the dense forest edges. Down in the warm Vancouver area there of course are many types with large flowers that can bloom from early spring into late summer. I was surprised that on my list of plants to learn was an evergreen species which naturally is Clematis Armandii commonly known as the Evergreen Clematis or more appropriately (I think) Armand’s Clematis.

Clematis armandii alnong a long fence at Sidney Library.

Clematis armandii growing along a log fence at Sidney Library.

Clematis armandii is very common in this area, I have found it in countless yards and municipal sites used in a variety of ways.  Many broadleaved evergreens here took a real beating with this winters  unusual cold which included a prolonged damaging dry northern wind. The Armand Clematis (zone8-10) that I have come across have not been touched.

Clematis armandii is a Popular Choice for Use in New Landscapes.

Clematis armandii is a Popular Choice for Use in New Landscapes.

Armand’s Clematis originates in almost the same area as Rhododendron strillgilosum, the plant I featured last week. It’s range is from south Yunnan, traveling west Guizhou and north into Hubie and Sichuan China. It is seen growing in the scrub, along riverbanks and up through trees where it blooms in April and May. Although it is named in honor of the French missionary Per’e David- Jean Pierre Armand David(1826-1900) the plant was introduced into cultivation by Ernest ‘Chinese’ Wilson around 1900. It was an immediate hit and earned a FCC( First Class Certificate) in 1914 from the Royal Horticulture Society.

A Fragrant Froth of Clematis armandii blossoms.

A Fragrant Froth of Clematis armandii blossoms.

Clematis armandii is a plant which is especially attractive in the spring, It’s fresh new growth is tinged with wine tones and the leaves are glossy and crisp in the sun. The flower buds are an delicate cream which burst forth into an incredible show. Often on a sunny spring day these plants are absolutely covered in flowers and the bees are happily buzzing about harvesting the honey.

Delicate Wine Tinted Stems and Cream Buds of Armand's Clematis.

Delicate Wine Tinted Stems and Cream Buds of Armand's Clematis.

All Clematis have gained an undeserved reputation for being difficult plants to grow and  this is not true at all.  They do need to be properly sited and have enough water during their growing season.  They need both sun and shade; at least 6 hours of full sun per day to grow their best and a cool shaded location to sink their roots in.  A large hole 2ft(60cm) deep by 3ft(1m) across to be filled with lots of compost and organic material will get your plant of to an extremely fine start.

A happy well sited Clematis armandii with it's roots in the Shade.

A happy well sited Clematis armandii with it's roots in the Shade.

If happy Clematis armandii will grow to be large vines up to 20 ft(5m) in spread and height. Staking to a strong trellis or other form of support is a must as these are extremely vigorous and eventually heavy plants do to their think leaves and dense growth.

The Attractive Glossy Evergreen Leaves of Clematis armandii.

The Attractive Glossy Evergreen Leaves of Clematis armandii.

It is advisable to give Clematis armandii an annual mulching of well rotted manure or compost each spring. If they get to big or need to be restrained they can be pruned after blooming.   They do not like having wet roots in the winter it it might rot off, this caused by a fungi which attacks Clematis. Signs of this are seen in wilting of the new growth. Unfortunately there is no known cure for this.  Carefully discard the plant in the garbage and do not replant with another clematis in the same site if this happens.

Links that Weaves This Together:

Paghat’s experience with Clematis armandii http://www.paghat.com/evergreenclematis.html

How to grow Clematis, a well laid out article: http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1247.html

Per’e David- Jean Pierre Armand David: another plant explorer who we honor for what he brought to horticulture.


What Treasure Will I Bring You Next Week? I Have go Out and Hunt Like the Plant Explorers!

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In the Great Victoria we a blessed to have many parks and rural areas which we can explore, often the nearest ones are the places that are overlooked.  I had been to Dominion Brook Park near where I live several times with my sister and her son to play and explore the large safe. It was only later when I took my father to see the park that I realized what interesting plants were there.  In reading about the history of the park this is not surprising. It has one of the oldest plant collections in the area. It dates back to 1913 when it was established by the then Canadian Department of Agriculture as a demonstration arboretum and ornamental garden for the public to enjoy.

Dominion Brook Park in North Saanich.

Dominion Brook Park in North Saanich.

Dominion Brook Park  still has significant collections of conifers, Hollies, Camellia and Rhododendrons which were imported from some of the most famous nurseries in the world. If you go to the park at this time and look across the main pond you will be surprised to see a fiery red Rhododendron blooming and sometimes reflected in the still water. This is one of the original Rhododendron which was brought from Arnold Arboretum by Ernest ‘Chinese’ Wilson to give to the new park. The red  Rhododendron strillgilosum is one of the species he discovered in his plant collecting trips in China which he became famous for.


Brillant Red Blossoms of Rhododendron strigillosum.

Brillant Red Blossoms of Rhododendron strigillosum.



Rhododendron strillgilosum overlooking the pond.

Rhododendron strillgilosum overlooking the pond at Dominion Brook Park.

Rhododendron strigillosum is a dramatic sight to behold at this time of the year and is a break from all the yellows, whites and other pastel colors that seem to dominate  now. The red coloring stands out from the other early blooming rhododendrons such as  sutcheunense(pink), dauricum(mauve) and moupinense(white to pale pink). the species is not too common to find and you will have to look in an specialty garden or collection. What is common are the hybrids from this strigillosum which bear definite resemblance to the parent and several have become famous in their own right.  Etta Burrow, Grace Seabrook, Malahat, and Taurus are but a few which are commonly seen in gardens in this area.

Rhododendron stigillosum is Loaded with Blooms.

Rhododendron strigillosum is Loaded with Blooms.

Rhododendron stigillosum is easy to recognize as is a large  rounded shrub or small tree which can grow to 25ft in a suitable location. It has long elliptical leaves with edges that are often rolled under. Looking more closely at the leaves, bristles which are reddish are seen coating it. These bristles are most noticeable on new growth  as well as on the branches.  This plant is found in the provinces of Sichaun and Yunnan, China at 7 to 11,00 ft( 2100-3400 m). It was introduced to Arnold Arboretum by E.H. Wilson in 1904.  It was award  an AM (Award of Merit) in 1925.


Rhododendron strigillosum in Finnerty Gardens.

Rhododendron strigillosum in Finnerty Gardens.

Rhododendron strigillosum and it’s hybrids are all easy to grow. Like all rhodos’ they like rich well drained soil with some extra organic material added early each year. Rhododendrons are shallow rooted therefore it is especially important that they are watered throughout the year. Next years flower buds are being set in late summer when we often have an extended dry period, if watering is neglected it will effect blooming the following spring!   Rhododendron are usually forest dwellers and show their displeasure at being exposed to too much sun by having yellowed leaves, dappled conditions are prefered.  These are fairly hardy plants and tolerate temperatures down to  5-14f (-10 to -15c). for short periods.


'Taurus', one of Rhododendron strigillosums offspring

'Taurus', one of Rhododendron strigillosums' offspring

 Links for Learning More About Rhododendron strigillosum:

A well researched article in the with some great insight  into the species. (PDF file)  http://www.ubcbotanicalgarden.org/vrs/january2008.pdf

Quick overview of the species. http://www.rhododendron.org/descriptionS_new.asp?ID=175

Dominion Brook Park Homepage:

Who is Ernest ‘Chinese Wilson and why he is important to us.  http://www.plantexplorers.com/explorers/biographies/wilson/ernest-henry-willson.htm

Arnold Arboretum: http://www.arboretum.harvard.edu/

Until we meet again….

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(Coast)Silk Tassel Bushes or Garrya elliptica are a very unusual plant to come across. The first time I saw one I was thrilled, I had never paid attention to the rather boring ungainly shrub located at the top of the long perennial border at Playfair Park in Saanich. It was early in the year and I knew  that this garden had a wonderful collection of Rhododendrons which I wanted to check on, they were not in bloom yet,  instead I found a Garrya.

Winter Damaged Garrya at Playfair Park.

Winter Damaged Garrya at Playfair Park.

The first thing I realized on seeing this plant for the first time is that at other times without its catkins I might have thought it was an Elaegnus which has similar leaves but not flowers. Garryas are dioecious meaning they are male or female plants(Holly is another plant like this). They both have long catkins but the males clones are the most prized.  Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’ is the most commonly grown male clone which can have catkins which are up to 12in (30 cm) long.

Garrya Male Catkins

Garrya Male Catkins

Garrya ellipticas are true west coasters and don’t like living far from the ocean, this is because there are smaller temperature swings when closer to a large body of water (marine effect).  Their range extends all along the coast from southern Oregon through California. There are a total of 18 Garrya species found along the West coast  from Washington state through to Panama and east to Texas

A Happy Garrya at Glendale Gardens

A Happy Garrya at Glendale Gardens

Here in Victoria We live in a rain shadow which keeps us drier and warmer than the  the British Columbia mainland. We have a very moderate climate which is similar to their native habitat of Chaparral, mixed evergreen forest or coastal Sage scrub. Garryas’ where first found by David Douglas in 1828 and named for Nicolas Garry who was the Secretary of the Hudson’s Bay Company.  He assisted Douglas in his explorations in the Pacific Northwest.

A well placed Silk Tassel Bush

A well placed Silk Tassel Bush

Placement of Silk Tassel Bushes here here is a very tricky thing. They like full sun to part shade preferably in mixed deciduous trees and shrubs to show off their winter blooms. The most important thing is to make sure this plant is kept out of the drying burning winds that can occur during a cold snap such as the ones we have during the November to March period.  Best placement is bottoms of slopes or beside walls or fences. Another use is as a transitional plant from a  naturalised setting into the more structured garden.

Winter damage to the evergreen foliage.

Winter damage to the evergreen foliage.

Garryas are easy to please,  for luxuriant growth they ask for no less than 25 in.(25cm) of rain. They are not very particular to soil and tolerate clays if they are well drained and nutrient rich. They will grow into a substantial 12ft(4m) by 12ft(4m) multi-stemmed shrub which is deer and rabbit resistant. They can be lightly pruned after blooming primarily for shape, do not too far down into the bush.  Although these plants can take temperatures as low as 4f(-10c) they prefer a warmer climate.  Zones 7 through 10 is recommended.

Lnks to this weeks Subject:

A very informative site about Garryas


Playfair Park in Saanich is one of my favorite parks for great plant specimens. I will be regularly writing about the plants here.


David Douglas, an important plant explorer who introduced many species into cultivation.


Which plant will I write about next week? It’s still a mystery to me, check back on Wednesday for a clue.

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A plant species I mostly find boring is Cotoneaster. They are one of the most commonly overused group of plants seen as groundcovers, hedges and often in utility mass plantings. Some Cotoneasters are beautiful in their own right. The Willowleaf cotoneaster (Cotoneaster salicifolius var. floccosus) is such a plant that is stunning in the correct setting. In Victoria this location would be at Government House.

Looking down from the top of the Ballroom Terrace Garden

Looking down from the top of the Ballroom Terrace Garden

The most fantastic view from the building is out the of the ballroom overlooking a steep slope called the Ballroom Terrace Garden.

Most of the year these Willowleaf Cotoneasters are merely a green backdrop which other more delicate plantings are the highlights. It is true that these Conoteasters have masses of cream 5 petal flowers in May-June, but no one is likely to notice with the abundance of other plants at their peak of show.

The Cotoneaster on the left acts as abackdrop to the Erysimium 'Bowles Mauve'.

The Cotoneaster on left acts as a backdrop to the Erysimium 'Bowles Mauve'.

It is later when the garden goes dormant and the days are gray that a person sees these plants in their glory, in full fruit with their glossy roughly textured dark green willow-shaped leaves undamaged by the worst of winter weather.

January 16 2009 after a deep winter freeze and heavy winds.

January 16 2009 after a deep winter freeze and heavy winds.

The only damage is a slight wine tinge to the leaves and deepening of the berry color which is typical for this plant.


Typical berry coolor from late October 2006

Typical berry color from late October 2006

Indeed the berries are the glory of this shrub and set it apart from others at this time of the year. The berries are dense and seem to stay firmly on the bush. After the storms I saw little evidence of many on the ground. Branches of this small tree would make an attractive addition to decorate inside I think.

Brightly berried Willowleaf Cotoneasters glow in the winter murkiness.

Brightly berried Willowleaf Cotoneasters glow in the winter murkiness.

it is unfortunate the place you are likely to see this plant is in an apartment complex where it often is dwarfed by the building and never pruned to show what a lovely form it can have. As you can see it forms a small multi trunk tree or shrub which grows to no more than 4 M. (12ft.) which would be on the tall side, and a spread of up to 3M (10ft). Willowleaf Cotoneaster has an arching habit of growth.

Cotoneasters are unfussy plants to grow, they prefer well drain, loose soil. They are their best in full sun so they can produce the best crops of flowers and berries later. It has a fairly rapid rate of growth at 60 to 90cm(12-18in.) per year and is easily pruned to keep it in shape and size. It grows in plant zones 6 though 8 and tolerates low temperature of -20c(-4F).

a beautifully pruned stems of a Willowleaf Cotoneaster

a beautifully pruned stems of a Willowleaf Cotoneaster

A  steep slope is an excellent use of this type of plant.  Another site might be along the edge of a of shrub border or where an area is more natural or in a mixed shrub border where the berries will shine in the winter months. Cotoneasters are often used in mass plantings which when maintained properly are effective.

I would suggest choosing carefully when getting one of these plants as they vary in quantity of berries, some have fewer. It might be a good idea to buy in the fall when you will see what kind of crop is produced. If you want to grow one for yourself I would suggest taking a cutting from a bush you know produces lots of berries. Softwood cuttings are taken in during the first flush of growth or slightly later on non blooming wood.

Links for this Week:

Cotoneaster salicifolius, this is a simple site with straight forward information.


Taking cutting, a how to site which is easy to understand.


Government House, scroll down  for a description of  the ‘ Terrace Gardens’


Until we meet again next week.

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