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Posts Tagged ‘Victoria’

The first gardening job I had was working for the summer at Park and Tilford  Gardens in North Vancouver. II was lucky as it was like an 4 month extension of education for me. Park And Tilford Gardens was at one time a well know distiller of the same name which was sold and turned into a shopping center on the condition that it kept the well known garden there.  The tiny space which is the garden had been neglected and then reclaimed to opened to the public.  The space is made up of 8 small themed gardens in a 3 acre site.

Magnolia sieboldii also known as the Oyama Magnolia.

Magnolia sieboldii also known as the Oyama Magnolia.

It was particular famous for it’s collection of Magnolia trees. As you moved from the display garden into the the colonnade on the right side was a shrub like tree with large attractive smooth green leaves that is  now  beginning it season of bloom. This is the beautiful Magnolia sieboldii or Oyama Magnolia. It slowly blooms over a longer period than most other Magnolias which is only one of it’s many features.

Oyama Magnolia with lighter color stamens.

Oyama Magnolia with lighter color stamens is likely to originate from Japan.

One thing that makes Magnolia siboldii attractive is that their flowers droop down so you look up into them. This downward facing flower is one of the features which shows off it’s attractive interior structure which is very primitive and found in Magnolia species.  the bizarre cone-like carpel is surrounded by many thick stamen which range from a rich dark blood red to a pale flesh color. There are both color forms in the Victoria area. The difference in stamen color tell us where the plant comes from. The plants which have the fleshy colored stamens are likely to originate in Japan(Honshu to Shikoku through to the Kyushu Islands) or southern China( Anhui, Fujian and Guangxi) and are  designated as Magnolia sieboldii subsp. japonica.  The red stamen plants come from a wider area including Korea and northern China(Manchuria) and are Magnolia sieboldii subsp. sieboldii.

The Other-worldlyMagnolia sieboldii  Seedpod Still Ripening.

The Other-worldlyMagnolia sieboldii Seedpod Still Ripening.

Oyama Magnolias are usually low multi-stemmed shrub trees which are wider than they are tall, growing 3.5m(10ft) by 4m(12ft) wide. The best placement of these trees is a elevated so the flowers are more visible. In Victoria the best location for this is most surprising, in a retail shopping center.  Look behind the Harris Green Village Shopping Center on View Street, at the bottom of the steps and going up into the shopping area there are several including a large one at the the top along the sunnier wall.  These are the pale stamen form. If you want to see the dark red form  of Magnolia sieboldii there is one in Beacon Hill Park along the stream  which runs between Goodacre and Fountain Lakes which parallel Blanchard Street. make sure you visit this species of Magnolia in the evening when it’s fragrance is most potent.

Magnolia sieboldii on View Street behind Quadra Village Shoping Center

Magnolia sieboldii on View Street behind Quadra Village Shoping Center

This is one Magnolia which is a forest dweller who does not like full sun.  All the Oyama Magnolias I have ever seen have been in sites which are sheltered from midday sun which would burn their leaves.  Care must be taken whenever you plant a Magnolia as it has fleshy brittle roots which can easily break, this is the time of most danger for these trees. they like fertile, moisture retentive soil which has some humus in it. It needs adequate water during the dry season here for good growth.  Do to it’s delicate roots it is not advisable to plant underneath(the trees in the above picture are under-planted with Pacysandra, a lush ground cover). Treat this tree as a specimen in your garden as it will be loved by all who see it.

Magnolia sieboldii in Beacon Hilll park in Early Spring.

Magnolia sieboldii in Beacon Hilll Park in Early Spring.

Oyama Magnolias bloom slowly over several months, from May sometimes into early August.  They are hardy to -20c(-5f) in North America but in their native setting have been known to withstand -40c(-40f). They are rated zone 6 through 8 here.

More Information on Siebolds’ Magnolia:

More information why this is a great plant: http://www.greatplantpicks.org/display?id=2619&searchterm=all

On the Magnolia flower structure: http://waynesword.palomar.edu/trmar98c.htm

Park & Tilford Garden: http://www.greatervancouverparks.com/ParkTilford01.html

Beacon Hill park map showing it’s features: http://www.beaconhillparkhistory.org/graphics/mapsA.htm

Until We Meet Agian Later This Week:

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When I moved from the northern B.C. To Vancouver to go to school one plant which I did not have any experience with was Rhododendrons. Most of the time I have lived on the coast I have ignored them as they are a flourish of color in the spring and then just somewhat shapeless evergreen blobs the rest of the year. I had heard about a wonderful collection of Rhododendrons at Playfair Park and decided I must check them out.

Playfair Park Rhododendrons In May 2006.

Playfair Park Rhododendrons In May 2006.

The experience of seeing the variety at Playfair Park which is made up of many species more than hybrids and crosses made me change my mind about ‘Rhodos’. The Rhodos there are big and small leaved, fuzzy or grainy textured, and bloomy along with every color imaginable  blooming over many months. I went back week after week photographing trying to label what I saw and what really took my breath away every year has been the numerous  Rhododendron augustinii and their incredible color. It truly is to dream about.  Now every spring I hunt for Augustine’s Rhododendrons and hope to find new ones at other sites.

Rhododendron augustinii 'Cox's Form' at Glendale Garden.

Rhododendron augustinii 'Cox's Form' at Glendale Garden.

 Augustine Henry (1857-1930) was the first person to discover and send samples of this plant back to Kew in London in 1899. He was trained as an Assistant Medical Officer and was posted with the Chinese Customs Service in Shanghai in 1881 where he quickly picked up the ability to speak the language.

Rhododendron augustinii ssp. augustinii much like August Henry Would Have Seen.

Rhododendron augustinii ssp. augustinii Much Like Augustine Henry Would Have Seen.

From there he was posted to Yichang(Ichanh) in remote Hubei Province (Central China) in 1882. There he investigated plants used in Chinese medicine. While there he started to collects plant specimens and seed to send to England.Later he was stationed in Sichuan and Yunnan, both areas where forms of Rhododendron augustinii is found. over his lifetime August Henry contributed 15,000 specimens including seeds and 500 plants to Kew Gardens and worked with many other important plant explorers of his time. He is truly one of the giants of the plant world as we know it today.

Rhododendron augustinii ssp. hardyii, Found by Joesph Rock

Rhododendron augustinii ssp. hardyii Found by Joesph Rock

As soon as Augustine’s Rhododendron came to England it was a hit and was soon gained an AM(Award of Merit) in 1920.  The pureness of the blue color is unusual in the plant world and is coveted by all who see it. because of it’s color many forms of this plant have been collected. It has been crossed and recrossed with itself to produce dazzling results such as Lionel Rothchilds’ (Exbury) ‘Electra’ from 1937 which is an augustinii X augustinii ssp. ‘chasmanthum’ cross.   

Rhododendron augustinii 'Electra'

Rhododendron augustinii 'Electra' at Playfair Park.

Rhododendron augustinii has since been crossed with other blue and violet flowering Rhodos’ and the results have ranged from the icy blue ‘Blue Diamond’ through violet blue of ‘ Blaney’s Blue’ to the truly bluest of blue of ‘St. Breward’ and many more which have become famous in their own right. 

Rhododendron augustinii x St. Edward.

Rhododendron augustinii x St. Breward. found at Finnerty Gardens.

We must consider ourselves lucky that Augustine’s Rhododendron is an easy adaptable plant to grow. It grows best in a sheltered posistion such as under  or mixed with deciduous trees and shrubs. Rhododendron augustinii requires rich acidic soil which is moisture retaining, but well drained at the same time. Rhodos have shallow fine roots which can easily be damaged so it is advised to use mulch year round with little planting underneath.

Augustine Rhododendrons seen in the Rhodo grove at Playfair Park.

Augustine Rhododendrons seen in the Rhodo grove at Playfair Park.

Rhododendron augustinii plants are rated at zone 7b (-15c or 5f.) and grow up to 10ft(3m) in 10 years. These plants can be specimens in the garden because they have excellent small foliage and often become more tree form with age.

Happy Augustine’s Rhododendron Hunting!

Links to this weeks member of the plant world:

An excellent page of ‘augustinii’ pictures:http://www.rhododendron.dk/augustinii.html

Technical information on Rhododendron augustinii.http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=2&taxon_id=200016341

All about Augustine Henry, a famous and important plant explorer.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustine_Henry 

Until we meet again later this week….

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When I moved to the Victoria area I had heard about the wonderful climate, the slower pace and the stunning Garry Oaks. Naturally I was curious about everything, but it being the end of October when I arrived I had to wait to see what the spring would bring. I saw the Garry Oaks and waited in anticipation for the drier weather. I explored and read about the native plant and saw the Erythroniums (last weeks post) and then started to notice the bluest of blue Common Camas (Camassia quamash) blooming from what seemed to be the grass at the side of the road.

The Bluest of Blue Common Camassia quamash.

The Bluest of Blue Common Camassia quamash.

Common or Early Camas have probably been one of the most important plants in establishing a permanent aboriginal population in the Victoria area long before the area was visited by the Spanish and later by Captain Vancouver who visited in May of 1792 and saw the blue Common Camas fields in bloom. They were first discribed by David Douglas in 1827

The Camassia Field Seen From Dallas Road at the Bottom of Beacon Hill Park.

The Camassia Field Seen From Dallas Road at the Bottom of Beacon Hill Park.

West coast native groups were lucky to live in an area of abundant  natural food resources and were able to set up permanent settlements.  Camassia quamash bulbs were the main starch source for the people here. In fact families used to farm designated areas such as the Beacon Hill Park fields which were full of Commoon Camas. Like we do today they weeded, enriched the soil and harvested the Camassia quamash for a food crop in sustainable way. The bulbs were harvested in the fall and then processed.  One favorite method was to pit roast them for 24-36 hours, this produced a it becomes a product similar to a sweet potato except sweeter. These pit roasted Camas bulbs were eaten as soon as cooked.  They are a rich source of inulin and fructose a natural type of sweetener. Another method was to dry the bulbs and then pound them into a powder like material to add to thickens stews and other liquids. The other importance was as trade material, in this case the bulbs were dried and flattened into ‘Camas cakes’ for easier travel.

My Nephew Owen in the Camas Harvest Fields at Beacon Hill Park.

My Nephew Owen in the Camas Harvest Fields at Beacon Hill Park.

Who would not be dazzled when seeing the brilliant blue Camas fields in bloom for the first time. This is one of the prime tourist spots to go and have your picture taken. Many tour buses every day stop along Dallas Road at the bottom of Beacon Hill Park. Some other well known areas for Camas viewing are Uplands Park, Playfair Park, the Government House Woodlands area below Terrace Garden. Common Camas can be seen along  most sunny rural roadsides.

Garry Oak Restoration project of Camas Fields at Playfair Park in Saanich.

Garry Oak Restoration project of Camas Fields at Playfair Park in Saanich.

Common Camas species are part of one of the rarest ecosystems in Canada, the Garry Oak meadows which are endangered by development in southwestern British Columbia. Much of southeastern Vancouver Island was dominated by this ecosystem at one time. When settlers came they found vast open Camassia quamash fields already cultivated by the local population. These fields were perfect to introduce European crops to. Over time most of the meadows where turned over to crops and then to housing and commercial development. We are now learning to appreciate the importance of these areas and are trying to protect and reclaim areas from invasive and non-native plant materials.

The Camassia quamash Fields in the Woodlands at Govenment House.

The Camassia quamash Fields in the Woodlands at Government House.

If you are lucky you will see rare plants such as Shooting Stars(Dodecatheon), Trailing Yellow Violets(Viola), Spring Gold(Lomatium) and the rare Chocolate Lilies(Fritillaria) blooming in more undisturbed sites.

The Delicate and Beautiful Shooting Star(Dodecatheon hendersonii) amoungst the Common Camas.

The Delicate Shooting Star(Dodecatheon hendersonii) amongst the Common Camas.

Fortunately for us Common Camas are an easy plant to incorporate into the garden. They require deep well cultivated soil with plenty of water during their growing season in the spring and early summer. Add well composted material when planting them. Full sun is a must to produce good crops of flowers. If happy Camassia quamash will produce masses of seed which will  germinate and form colonies for you. When grown from seed Common Camas will take 2-3 years before you will see the first blooms. In the wild there is some variation in the blue shades, but all are spectacular. Bulbs are now mass produced and named hybrids have been developed. Common Camas bulbs and plants readily available from reputable nurseries therfore they should be seen more in gardens.

 Camassia quamash in the Terrace Garden at Government House.

Camassia quamash in the Terrace Garden at Government House.

So Much More to learn About Camas and the Garry oak Ecosystem:

Garry oak ecosytems and restoration: http://www.goert.ca/index.php

Paghat’s notes about Common Camas: http://www.paghat.com/camas.html

Cooking with Camas bulbs: http://mrcamas.com/Cooking-with-Camas.htm

Until We Meet Again Later This Week….

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When I first moved here I did what I always do, travel around the less used roads to get a feeling for the area. This area is quite different from where I had moved from (greater Vancouver) and the pace is slower.  It feels more like the area I grew up in, more rural and yet near a big city. Every season brings new things to learn about and experience that are different from anywhere I have been. One of the wonders are the delicate Lilies which grow along the roads and are in bloom right now.  Here the Erythronium oregonum used to be called the Easter Lilly. Now we call them White Fawn or WhiteTrout Lillies.

Erythronium oreganum Known as the White Fawn Lily.

Erythronium oreganum Known as the White Fawn Lily.

Children would pick arm loads of White Fawn Lillies and give them to their teachers because they they grew in such massive quantities. In some places they still grow thickly. Along Southgate Street which parallels Beacon Hill Park is a densely growing area of them which are readily seen as you  walk or drive between Blanchard and Quadra Street. They are truly spectacular and many people who visit the area stop and ask what they are and then just have to take some pictures.

Erygonium oregonum along Southgate Street in Victoria.

Erygonium oregonum along Southgate Street in Victoria.

We are truly blessed on the west coast of North America with having 23 of the 27 known species of Erythronium. They range from pure white to a strong yellow as well as pink and shades of these colors. Vancouver Island has 4 species; oregonum and montanum are white, revolutum is pink and grandiflorum represents the yellows.  Erythronium oregonum is the most common around this area.

The Attractive Mottled Foliage of of the White Fawn Lily.

The Attractive Mottled Foliage of of the White Fawn Lily.

There are many things that make Erythronium oregonum a choice plant for anywhere it would grow, the delicate flowers which dangle down high above the foliage, the foliage itself with it’s lovely yet subtle green and maroon tones, and the delicate seedpods which blow in the wind and are the only sign later that this plant has been here at all.  It is said that ‘John Burroughs’ named the species ‘Fawn Lily’ because he felt the leaves reminded him of the ears of a fawn. Most People think the name refers to the mottled leaves which is similar to the spotting and streaking on young  fawns which help them to hide better from predators. I think the White Trout Lily name comes from similar reasons.

White Fawn Lillies Growing Along a Road in North Saanich.

White Fawn Lillies Growing Along a Road in North Saanich.

Erythronium oregonum is definitely a connoisseur plant which we all dream about having in our garden, having said that, I know this is not an easy plant to grow. If you are lucky enough to have them already in your yard, you are indeed blessed. Last year I found one coming up in a area I had planted 10 years before, what a surprise. I already see it is blooming this year in the same spot. I truly hope it will spread itself and grow amongst the maroon colored Hellebores I have planted in the same area.

Southgate Erygonium oregonum Lily Field.

Southgate Erygonium oregonum Lily Field.

White Fawn Lillies are best grown in a site like which they come from. These are plants which grow in dappled sun, under deciduous trees. They need lots of moisture in their growing season which is in the first part of the year and then drier for the time that the seeds are ripening(if you want them) which is June and later.  they are fairly tolerant of soil types as long as it’s not chalky and dry. They of course need rich soil which is well drained as these are very deeply rooted plants. It is best to acquire these plants form a reputable nursery which does not collect them from the wild.

The Delicate Highlights of Maroon and Yellow Seen in White Trout Lily Blosssoms.

The Delicate Highlights of Maroon and Yellow Seen in White Trout Lily Blossoms.

Many areas where Erythronium oregonum live are being bulldozed to make way for city and road growth, fortunately for us there have been many areas set aside for the protection of native species. We are also becoming more aware of the beauty in which we live in and more of us are respectful of the sites where these and other rare local plants live.  Right now amongst the White Fawn Lillies you might find the delicate magenta Dodecatheon blooming and then very soon it will be the spectacular blue Camas which takes over.

Links to This Week’s Featured Plant:

A list of all the Erythroium which grow throughout the world and links to pages about them.

http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Erythronium

A little about growing Erythroniums and something about the meaning of the name.

http://www.rainyside.com/features/plant_gallery/nativeplants/Erythronium_oregonum.html

Beacon Hill Park in Victoria. http://www.beaconhillpark.com/

Until We Meet Again Later This Week…..

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When I was going to college in Vancouver in 1989 my mother came to visit me. While she was staying with me we decided to go to Dr. Sun Yat Sen Chinese Garden which had recently opened in Vancouver. It was built using the traditional techniques used during the Ming period in China. While were there admiring and learning about the construction we spotted a low shrub like tree with an enormous bizarre seedpod hanging from it. The seedpod had split open and the brilliant vermilion seeds were exposed and some of them were hanging down on sticky threads. We asked what kind of plant it was and were told it was a Magnolia.

he Fuzzy Perule Protects the Delicate Magnolia kobus Flowers Inside.

The Fuzzy Perule Protects the Delicate Magnolia kobus Flowers Inside.

Magnolias which are very common in this area.  Many spectacular Magnolias blooming at this time of the year  owe their parentage in part to the Magnolia kobus (Kobushi Magnolia) and there is a spectacular Kobus Magnolia at Dominion Brook Park which I eagerly look forward to seeing in bloom each year, and the time is now!

Kobus Magnolia in Bloom.

Kobus Magnolia in Bloom.

When I was in School at that time we spent a lot of time at Park & Tilford Garden where we did our practicum and has a large collection of other Magnolias. There I was able to study many Magnolia species but not  the Kobus Magnolia. I stumbled upon the one I am writng about because I frequently go to visit local parks searching for wonderful plant specimens to photograph.  The location of this Magnolia kobus is hard to miss when it is flower. It’s located next to the sunken garden which is across from the main pond.

Magnificant Magnolia kobus at Dominion Brook Park.

Magnificant Magnolia kobus at Dominion Brook Park.

Magnolias are fascinating as they look like they come from a different age and they do, they are older than most plants that inhabit the earth. They are thought to have evolved in the Tertiary period 2 to 65 million years ago.  They are a more primitive plant as their flowers attest to. Magnolias are unusual in that they have tepals which are neither petals or sepals(confused yet?), but look just like petals. The flower stamens and pistols are arranged in rings which encircle the stigmatic column where the seed is produced. Magnolias evolved over millions of years when there were only beetles to do the pollination. Beetle pollinated flowers are generally very large, white pink or red in color and have copious amounts of pollen which is a rich food source for them. They usually do not have nectar or fragrance (some Magnolias including kobus have a light scent).  The thick unusual seedpod carpals are designed to protect the embryonic seeds from the beetles.

A Closer Look at a Magnolia kobus Blossom.

A Closer Look at a Magnolia kobus Blossom.

Kobus or Kobushi Magnolia is a common tree throughout Japan and is found locally on the island of Cheju-do (Quelpart Island) on the southern coast of South Korea.  This Magnolia was introduced in to North America first in 1861 by Dr. George Hall of Rhode Island. Other seeds where later sent to Arnold Arboretum in 1876 which had been collected from trees in Sapporo by William Clark. Magnolia kobus was finally brought to  England in 1879 by Charles Maries, the famous plant explorer. The seed he brought back were grown at the world renowned Veitch’s Nursery.  The different seed sources has lead to the variability in the species in cultivation which I have seen here in Victoria.

One of Several Magnolia kobus Planted Along Linden St. in Victoria.

One of Several Magnolia kobus Planted Along Linden St. in Victoria.

Magnolia kobus are are probably the most spectacular of hardy all hardy trees with their fantastic blossoms. Thiss is a good tree to select for home gardens as it is smaller than many other Magnolias. It is particularly hardy for Magnolias and is known to withstand temperatures of -30c(-25f) for short period,but is safer to plant no lower than zone 5 . Kobus Magnolia are also more tolerant of different types of soil, only suffering when planted in thin dry soils. It is best if they have deep, moisture retentive soils which are humusy.  These are forest trees which prefer part shade but can grow in full sun.

The Delicate Buds of Magnolia kobus Can be Damaged by Late Frosts.

The Delicate Buds of Magnolia kobus Can be Damaged by Late Frosts.

You have to be patient for the first bloom as these trees are usually 12 or 15 before they first bloom. One thing you have to keep in mind with all Magnolias is they have very brittle roots and do not like being moved so much care must be taken in the process of choosing a site and planting. Later the fragile roots can be damaged by careless cultivation under the tree.

Links for this article:

More about Magnolias(great seedpod picture too).  http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Magnolia

Dr. Sun Yat Sen Garden in Vancouver. http://www.vancouverchinesegarden.com/

Dominion Brook Park is where you can see this tree.

http://www.northsaanich.ca/Municipal_Hall/Departments/Parks_and_Trails/Parks_Information/Municipal_Parks/Dominion_Brook_Park.htm

Until  We meet Again ….

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I was fortunate to have spent much of my childhood out at the lake near the town we lived in. We spent weeks at the lake exploring it in the summer. I got to know every single native plant which grew there and we (my brothers and I) had our own imaginary gardens which had wild flowers… and what flowers we had!  When I came from the cold(zone3) to the Vancouver area(zone8) I had to learn a new group of native plants which grew on the coast. One of the most striking is Ribes sanguineum or Red Flowering Currant.

Red Flowerin Currant is Well Named.

Red Flowering Currant is Well Named.

The Red Flowering Currant is one of our showiest native plants and was introduced into cultivation by David Douglas (1799-1834) who had a short life but a huge impact in the world of horticulture. After starting work as a gardener at 11, he went on to apprentice at the gardens of Sir Robert Preston who had an incredible plant collection. after training at the botanical gardens at Glasgow University and the with the Royal Horticultural Society in London, he was sent to collect plant material in North America. He was quickly sponsored to go to the west coast by the Hudson’s Bay company who had a settlement at Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River.

A Paler Form of Red Flowering Currant, Possibly 'Tydman's White'.

A Paler Form of Red Flowering Currant, Possibly 'Tydman's White'.

Archibald Menzies had first discovered  Ribes sanguineum in1793 but it was introduced by David Douglas in 1826.  As you can imagine Red Flowering Currant was a great hit and is extensively used in gardens and parks in many areas now.  Since the original plant material has been introduce many fine forms have been selected ranging from the darkest red “King Edward IIV’  through pinks to the purest white ‘Icicle’.  there is even a golden leaved form ‘Brocklebankii’.

The Darkest Form Seen Here, 'King Edward IIV'

The Darkest Form Seen Here, 'King Edward IIV'

Ribes sanguineum is a small to medium size shrub which tends to have an upright form making it an easy plant to place in the garden.  it also lacks the thorns that many of the species have, which is why there is one placed in the children’s garden at Glendale Garden. I am sure the bright flowers and interesting maple-like foliage are interesting to kids who see it in the corner. Later it will produce a small crop of small dark fruit which is not very tasty unlike other Currants.

The Red Flowering Currant in the Childerns' Garden.

The Red Flowering Currant in the Childerns' Garden.

Growing Ribes sanguineum is easy.  One of the best plantings I see nearly every day is at the corner of Swartz Bay Rd and Wain Rd where the overpass is. If you are stopped waiting to turn onto Wain Rd from the overpass there, look across the road and see the Red Flowering Currants blooming right now.  This spot has no maintenance during the year except maybe some trimming of the shrubs. They can take full sun to fairly shaded locations, the only effect will be a more loose open plant in the shade.

The Largest Red Flowering Currant on the Corner of Wain Rd.

The Largest Red Flowering Currant on the Corner of Wain Rd.

Ribes sangiuneum will take any soil  which has some extra humus added to retain moisture during the dry months of summer and autumn here. Any park will have one or two planted. Pioneer Square (the Quadra Street cemetery) has a planting of pale pink and white ones along the back in deep shade which bloom very well.

Several of the Flowering Currants at Pioneer Square in Victoria.

Several of the Flowering Currants at Pioneer Square in Victoria.

Red Flowering Currants can be used in many situations such as in a shrub or perennial border, mass plantings, woodland settings of course and as  specimen in a early spring garden as the foliage is attractive the rest of the seasons.  Since there is a good range of  flower colors to choose from placing one of these will go with most color schemes. Their natural range is quite wide, from Southern California up into Alaska and east through Montana.  They are quite hardy(zone 6- 9) and tolerate -20c(-5f)  making it possible for these plants to be featured in most areas of the world.

Fruit and Foliage of Ribes sanguineum.

Fruit and Foliage of Ribes sanguineum.

Links For This Weeks Subject:

A little more on Red Flowering Currants http://www.habitas.org.uk/gardenflora/ribes_sanguineum.htm

On David Douglas who introduced Red Flowering Currants in 1827: http://www.plantsystematics.org/reveal/PBIO/LnC/douglas.html

Archibald Menzies who first found the plant and named it in 1793. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archibald_Menzies

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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:
http://www.northsaanich.ca/Municipal_Hall/Departments/Parks_and_Trails/Parks_Information/Municipal_Parks/Dominion_Brook_Park.htm

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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