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Posts Tagged ‘fragrant winter blooming’

When my sister was a little girl she was a very ‘girlie’ girl, wearing long prairie dresses and had long flowing beautiful hair like a little princess.  I always wanted to get her special little gifts, one time i found this charming little white glass flask of perfume which was painted with purple violets. She loved the gift and played with it in many ways and still cherishes that bottle to this day. The elusive fragrance in that container was extracted from the Sweet violet (Viola odorata), one of the most famous of all scents.

Sweet Violet

Sweet Violet

This extremely dainty plant has been known since the ancient times as having special appeal. Around the Mediterranean area most cultures which originated there knew of it’s special properties and used it for medicinal treatments. In Rome it was used Viola odorata for scenting sweet wines, the Greeks knew it as a herb and made perfumes with it.  It is used in Indian Ayurvedic and the Unani systems of medicine to reduce inflammation and easing of colds and coughs. It is also listed in Arabic and Persian medical writings.

Common color of Viola odorata.

Common color of Viola odorata.

Sweet Violets have been written about in famous verses, who hasn’t said at least once ” Roses are red, Violets are blue”, I know I have. In Medieval times Sweet Violets were used as a herb which was spread or strewn about the house to ‘sweeten’ the air. Napoleon was so obsessed with the tiny flower that he is said to have died wearing a locket filled with the tiny blooms from Josephine s'(his first wife who adored it) grave.  During Victorian times there was a mania for Sweet Violets, at this time there were 4 known varieties. It is noted that by 1874 over 6 tons of the tiny flowers were harvested in France each year to supply perfumery as well as to be sold as tiny bouquets or posies on street corners.  Corsages worn by women were very popular into the early 20th century. With the end of the Victorian era came the end of the Violet mania which was waning by 1910.

Viola odorata 'Alba'.

Viola odorata 'Alba'.

Sweet ‘Scented’ Violets have an elusive fragrance which is so ethereal that it disappears all most as soon as you sense it. For a few minutes it literally numbs your scent receptors. It of course is it’s Victorian connections which people relate it to, elderly ladies with blue hair and all of that and because of this it is thought of as somewhat cloying and old-fashioned.  The scent is interesting so it is no surprise that culinary confections have and are created using Viola odorata blossoms or extracts and fortunately all of the plant is edible. Candied flowers are a popular and beautiful addition to fancy cakes and petite-fours. It is a popular addition to salads for its delicate foliage, colorful flowers and flavor.

Viola odorata Foliage and Blossoms.

Viola odorata Foliage and Blossoms.

Viola odorata is a widespread plant, it is native to much of Europe and north Africa and spreads east to the Caucasus into to Turkey, through to northern Iran. It is a plant found along edges of woodlands and other sunny spots such as banks and along roadsides. It blooms extremely early in the year starting in late Febuary and continueing through March here.

A  more Red Form of Viola odorata.

A more Red Form of Viola odorata.

Viola odorata an easy plant to grow and will grow in any site from gravel to more damp to almost boggy sites.It is most important they have adiquate moisture during the hot summer months.  If happy Sweet Violets will seed around and this might be a problem to consider. It is common to see them in lawns as they are so short that they can be mown over with no damage.  There are color forms from deep violet(said to be most fragrant) through reddish forms to pure whites as well as doubles. The modern forms have lost their scent, so when selecting you might want to smell them first if that is important to you.  They respond very well to annual replanting, so don’t be afraid to move them around in the spring after they bloom. They are hardy to -20c(-30f)- zone 4 through 8. Newer forms might be less hardy.

Red Sweet Violets after Blooming.

Red Sweet Violets after Blooming.

Links for This Plant:

An intersting article about the plant and its history:  http://www.nytimes.com/1991/03/03/news/gardening-it-s-raining-violets.html

Plant Heritage page all about these wonderful Violets: http://www.nccpg.com/Page.Aspx?Page=94

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I am a being in which all parts can be eaten, as well as, used for herbal remedies and fragrances.

 

My Delicate Leaves and Stems are Naked For You to Look at.

My Delicate Leaves and Stems are Naked For You to Look at.

I am short and have to creep along the ground.

 

Purple Monster

Purple Monster

My delicate leaves resemble a organ that can be used in my name.

 

Bright Green is a Dream

Bright Green is a Dream

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My mother was born in the Vancouver(zone 8a) area and grew up in a fairly mild climate which is that of the lower mainland.  She learned to love the flowers and other plants which grew abundantly there. When she married, she and my father decided to move to Prince George(zone3a) which is located in the center of British Columbia. No longer did she see the flowers she grew up with as the climate was much colder.  When my parents built their permanent home they had a garden and of course mom wanted some of her favorite plants there.

English or Common Primrose like those in my mothers gardens

English or Common Primrose like those in my mothers gardens

When my grandparents visited from the coast they brought with them two plants, a  clump of  blue Siberian Iris and some  butter colored English or Common Primroses(Primula vulgaris).  This was my introduction to Primula species which has fascinated me ever since. Every year in the spring I am reminded of my mothers beloved English Primroses as they bloom before any other Primula.

Primulas Peeping Out From Under a Dusting of Snow.

Primulas Peeping Out From Under a Dusting of Snow.

This Primula may be called common but it is not seen as much as you might think  for a long time it was seen as an old fashioned plant and newer more exciting types came into fashion, most often the Polyanthus which you see sold at every grocer and florist shop.  Recently people have renewed their interest in English Primroses and exciting old forms are now available at garden centers everywhere. Old Double forms such as Dawn Ansell(white) and April Rose(red) and many others are making a return to the garden here.

Double Primulas bloom a little later.

Double Primulas bloom a little later.

Primula 'Hereford'

Primula 'Hereford'

Primula vulgaris has been with us for a very long time, the Romans knew this plant and Pliny wrote about it as being a panacea for what ailed his patients. Extracts of it were commonly used for muscular complaints, paralysis and gout.  It is not surprising it would have been used as it grows in a wide geographic area  from Ireland through to the Ukraine and the south as far as Lebanon. it grows in many places; wooded pastures, copses, meadows being where it is found. So popular was collecting this plant in the wild that laws have been passed to protect it form being removed completely from where is grows.

Two Color Forms Growing in my Backyard.

Two Color Forms Growing in my Backyard.

Fortunately for us these are really easy plants to grow and divide.  They need a fertile, nutrient rich moisture retaining soil for their best showing.  I have noticed the lighter colored flowers bloom first, are often deliciously fragrant and are slightly more vigorous.  to have a beautiful display all you have to do is remove the older leaves when the new ones start to grow and this keeps them tidy.  The best way to get more plants is to divide your own or a friends, one plant can be separated into many new ones.

This planting was created from dividing 2 plants.

This planting was created from dividing 2 plants.

The best use for this plant is in masses inter-planted with other later growing perennials for later color. They also can be used as an attractive edging which i have seen in a couple of places here.

An Example of Primulas used as Edging near Playfair Park.

An Example of Primulas used as Edging near Playfair Park.

If you want to see more Primulas, Government House has several varieties on their gardens, look about at older houses and you might be rewarded with the sight of some of the buttery yellow plants that have lived for many years.

Links For This Week:

All you might want to know about Primula vulgaris:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primula_vulgaris

Government House is a treasure trove of fantastic plants. Something new to see anytime of the year. Free to all with parking.

http://www.ltgov.bc.ca/

See you again on Wednesday for new clues to lead you to the identity of the next plant.

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My prim(e) name is usually connected to a Rose.

P.v

P.v

I come in many colors, pink, yellow, white and in between.

Magenta

Magenta

This is a common color you will see in me!

I am a very old fashioned plant  and am referred to in many old stories and poems.

I am Vein

I am Vein

People often say I’m vulgar.

I think I am more of a star in a star!

Pure and Pristine

Pure and Pristine

If you need more come back tomorrow.

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I am a member of the Victoria Horticultural Society and as a member have the opportunity to go to events they sponsor.  The presentation that was put on in November was by Dr. John Grimshaw, the Garden Adviser to the Colesbourne Park gardens  in Glouchestershire in Great Britain.  Colesbourne Park was the ancestral home of John Elwes (1846-1922), the discoverer of the Snowdrop(Galanthus elwesii) which is named after him. He was a notable plant collector who was supposed to go on a trip to Cyprus in 1874 but had to change plans at the last moment. Instead he ended up going to Turkey. In Turkey he visited  a mountainous area near Smyna (modern day Izmir) in April where he discovered Galanthus elwesii, a little garden gem.  This Galanthus is called the ‘Greater’ or ‘Giant Snowdrop’ and is the first Snowdrop to bloom in the Victoria area.

 aGalanthus elwesii blooming.

Galanthus elwesii blooming.

I was surprised when photographing Galanthus this week that this was the form that bloomed first, I had assumed the Common Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) was the first. G elwesii is the most robust of the Snowdrops which are commonly seen in yards, naturalized along roadways and in the lawns of older homes here.

Naturalized along a country road.

Naturalized along a country road.

This species is larger in all parts; it’s leaves are wider and more notably glaucous, and the  broad petaled flowers are larger in all ways. It is an attractive glistening jewel ranging in height between 5 to 9 in (12-25cm) and  here it tends to the taller side. Everyone knows the dainty hanging 3 petaled blossoms with the noticeable green markings on the tepals or inner petals.

Fully opened Ganathus elwesii

Fully opened Ganathus elwesii

The other species commonly found here is the more delicate G. nivalis (Common Snowdrop) which appears to bloom about a week later. It has much narrower and greener leaves and stands only up to 6 in (15cm). at the most. It is originally found in a wide area of Europe from Spain through to the Ukraine and has naturalized in many areas in between. Being that it comes originally form Europe is was the first Snowdrop to be written about by John Gerard  in 1597 in his famous ‘Great Herbal’.

Naturalized Common Snowdrops

Naturalized Common Snowdrops

There are in all 19 named species found in Europe and western Asia which happily cross with each other. This has given us an astounding 250 cultivars, hybrids and clones. Many of these are extremely rare and expensive to obtain. Many plants in the Victorian age had passionate followers and Galanthus was no exception, mad Galantophiles collected and wrote about the plants. Surprisingly these dainty plants pack a potent honey scent , so they would make an enjoyable small bouquet.

Could this be a cross between nivalis and elwesii?

Could this be a cross between Galanthus nivalis and elwesii?

Fortunately for us these are easy plants to grow. Snowdrops like rich humus soil which is moist but well drained. They like open sunny positions mush like areas they would naturally grow. Snowdrops do tolerate cool shady places especially if they are grown in a very hot climate. Galanthus can have problems with botytis and gray mold if they are kept in a too damp location,(I have never seen this here). They will quickly multiply and produce clumps which can be lifted and divided when the flowers are spent and leaves are starting to yellow.  This is easily accomplished by replanting the bulbs singly at the same depth they grew in. these dainty plants can fit into almost any garden scheme, rock gardens,  early spring ground cover, early spring color and any niches that need filling. By carefully selecting where and what kinds of galanthus to plant, flowering will start in january and continue though March and into early April. Galanthus are hardy to -20c -Zones 4-8 but prefer cool winters.

Links for the Week.

Colesbourne Park

http://www.greatbritishgardens.co.uk/colesbourne_park.htm

Henry John Elwes, an interesting and important man in garden history. Look under the History link.

http://www.snowdrop.org.uk/

Galanthus elwesii

http://www.rainyside.com/features/plant_gallery/bulbs/Galanthus_elwesii.html

Galanthus nivalis

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galanthus_nivalis

Until we meet again, same place, same time.

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When I went to Horticulture school  in Vancouver we started in September. The largest and most challenging part of the curriculum was learning the 300 new plants. Learning to identify plants in the winter with no leaves, flowers or fruit was for the most part a new experience for all of us.  After learning 20 new plants a week for weeks on end with nary a bloom or deciduous leaf in sight it was an absolute delight to find there really were some that dared to bloom in the depths of winter here.  The first plant we actually studied when it was in bloom was Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’.

bodnant Viburnum at Our lady of Assumption Church, Central Saanich.

Bodnant Viburnum at Our lady of Assumption Church, Brentwood Bay.

Bodnant Viburnum has a most interesting history.  It has two already distinguished parents being; Viburnum grandiflorum(the pollen supplier) which is said to have lent it’s foliage and Viburnum farreri(formerly known as fragrans) which contributed it’s wonderful fragrance. This cross was originally done by Charles  Lamont at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh in 1933. He didn’t think much of the resulting batch of seedlings and never propagated them.  In 1934-5 the same cross was done at Bodnant Gardens and several forms of this crop are the ones we have come to know and love.

Viburnum x bodnatense 'Dawn' in full bloom.

Viburnum x bodnatense 'Dawn' in full bloom.

Bodnant Gardens is an 80 acre treasure trove of plant delights. It is famous for introducing many fine Rhododendron and Magnolias into cultivation. This was the ancestral  property of Henry Duncan McLaren, 2nd Baron of Aberconway was an important contributor to horticulture and garden plant development in the 20th century

Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn'

Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn' in bud

Wonderful clones were named, the first being  ‘Dawn’ with pink buds opening to a paler pink blossom, next was ‘Deben’ which is a paler color and said to have a more graceful form. Finally a pure white form was named to honor ‘Charles Lamont’ after he died.

Bodnant viburnums bloom over a long period through winter and are at their peak at the end of January and into early February. This is the period which which these plants shine, during the summer they are background fillers for the most part. These are easy plants to grow requiring moist well drained soil. The best blooming is produced in dappled to full sun.

Bodnant Viburnum used as a specimen plant.

Bodnant Viburnum used as a specimen plant.

They grow to a substantial shrubs of 6-10ft(2-3m) height and 7ft(2m) width. For winter blooming shrubs they are very hardy and tolerate tempetures down to -15 to 20c (zones 5 though 8). They take well to pruning which should be done soon after they have finniished blooming. These plants can be used several ways, I have seen them well used as specimens, in mixed shrub borders and as hedging which has winter interest.  They of course are mainly planted in gardens for winter interest.

An interesting use of Bodnat Viburnum next to windows at a motel.

An interesting use of Bodnat Viburnum next to windows at a motel.

For a treat you should take a blooming branch inside and enjoy the sweet spicy scent filling your house. This is what I did when i was in school and have loved the scent ever since.

The delicate pink blossoms of 'Dawn' Viburnum

The delicate pink blossoms of 'Dawn' Viburnum

Links Relatiing to this Article:

Everything you might want to know about Viburnum x bodnantense and how it came into being.

http://www.rhs.org.uk/WhatsOn/gardens/harlowcarr/archive/harlowcarrpomdec.asp

H.D. McLaren, 2nd Baron of Aberconway

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_McLaren,_2nd_Baron_Aberconway

Our Lady of Assumption Church at Brentwood Bay is where most of these pictures were taken. it is a spectacular location.

http://www.spparish.com/info/our-lady-of-assumption.htm

Bodnant Garden near Conwy Castle.

http://www.conwy-castle.co.uk/Attractions-near-Conwy-Castle/Bodnant-Garden.html

Until we meet again in the garden……

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