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Archive for March, 2009

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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This week I thought I would change things up and give you a bonus blog entry. There are just some many plants I want to write about.  Next week it will be back to the quiz, consider this to be your spring break.

Yellow is the colour I most associate with spring. There are some many yellow blooming flowers; Cornelian Cherries,Crocuses, Forsythia and the kings (or queens) of spring, Daffodils. I have always loved Narcissus from their bright sunny color to the light clean scent of their blooms. Having a vase of Daffodils in a room makes it feel more inviting and always brightens up a cloudy day.

Tete et Tete, the earliest Daffodil here.

Tete et Tete, the earliest Daffodil here.

Known from ancient Greek times and there are many references to the Daffodils in Greek literature. The coming of spring was associated with Persephone who was the goddess of the underworld and represented earth’s fertility. One day the beautiful Persephone went out to gather some flowers for her mother Demeter, she saw a golden flower that was put there her by her father Zeus, the king of all the gods. When she went to pick it, up popped Hades the god of the Underworld who whisked her down into the depths of the earth. He wanted her to be his consort and reign with him underground for all year but was forced to return to her mother’s people every spring. With her coming she brought spring, the reawakening of dormant fields and a new season of growing plants and productive crops. This is why the Daffodils have been called Persephone’s flower.

King Alfred, the Most Common Old Hybrid.

King Alfred, the Most Common Old Hybrid.

Another myth relates to the name Narcissus which is the species name for Daffodils. The handsome Narcissus was so self absorbed and in love with his own image that one day he paused to gaze at his image in a stream. As he leaned closer to admire himself more, he fell in and drowned in the water. Narcissus is the classic latin name derived from Greek “narkisso” or narke which is root of the word narcotic.

 

A Nice Bicolor which is Seen in the Victoria Area.

A Nice Bicolor which is Seen in the Victoria Area.

The name Daffodil is derived from an earlier “Affodell”, which is derived from the Dutch ‘de affodil’ meaning Asphodel (Asphodelus luteus, a member of the lily family found around the Mediterranean which has yellow flowers). Daffodil as a flower name is known from at least the sixteenth century in English literature. Another common name for Daffs is Jonquil which is said to come from Spanish jonquillo which refers to the leaves of the plant looking like that of common Rushes (Juncus species).

 

Some Daffodils Which are Closer to a Wild Form.

Some Daffodils Which are Closer to a Wild Form.

In Canada we often associate the Daffodil with the Canadian Cancer Society, for the flower is it’s symbol and represents hope. ‘Daffodil Days‘ began in 1954 in Toronto as a way to raise funds and has been incredibly successful. Originally it was a tea which was hosted at a large store which 700 ladies attended, Later it was extend to restaurants were involved in collecting funds for the society the first day of canvassing every year. Volunteers would be at the restaurants handing out Daffs to the diners. Curiosity from seeing so many Daffodils made people want to buy the flowers from the canvassers. The society realised that selling the flowers would be a good way to generate funds, and so the following year 5000 daffodils where shipped from Victoria to the Toronto area and sold. Selling of the blossoms continues to this day and the Cancer Society is now the worlds largest purchaser of the flowers, around 18 million a year, which are grown here. Last year in B.C. $450,000 was raised for the Cancer Society this way.

Imagine a Bouquet of These Daffodils on Your Kitchen Table.

Imagine a Bouquet of These Daffodils on Your Kitchen Table.

Daffodils are native to Central Europe, the Mediterranean region and a few species are found in China. There are many forms and colours for you to choose from if you want to grow some for yourself. Narcissus are probably the easiest bulbs to grow.. Choose plump clean bulbs which are not discoloured, dried out or mushy. The best planting time is between late August and early October after the ground has become moistened by rain, the longer the rooting period the better the product the following year. This gives the newly planted bulbs longer rooting time so they will increase in bulb, flower and stem size.

 

'Thalia', the Purest of the Whites.

'Thalia', the Purest of the Whites.

 Narcissus are not very particular about the soil they are grown in. the best will be slightly on the side of acid of neutral. They do not like sodden ground, so, free drainage is important. Soil should be deeply dug as these are large bulbs. Digging to double depth of a spade is recommended. At this time some humus can be incorporated with a dusting of potash to and further general fertiliser if needed. 

A White Bi-color With a Peachy Trumpet.

A White Bi-color With a Peachy Trumpet.

Planting depth is vital for the bulbs to produce flowers the following spring, if too deep flowers will not likely be seen and if planted to shallowly the bulbs could split. It is generally a rule to plant Daffodils with 10cm (8 inches) of soil over their tops. Smaller forms will be planted less deeply. The holes dug should be 2 ½ times the length of the bulb. By spacing of bulbs 15cm (6 inches) apart the plants can be left for up to 4 years before they need to be lifted for division. 

 

Mass Plantings of Daffodils are Impressive.

Mass Plantings of Daffodils are Impressive.

 

Links Related to This Post:

Wiki has an impressive page on Daffodilshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daffodil

The American Daffodil Societyhttp://www.daffodilusa.org/

The story of how Daffodils are associated with Cancer Research. http://www.cancer.ca/Canada-wide/How%20you%20can%20help/CW-Fundraising%20activities/CW-Daffodil%20Days.aspx

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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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When I was a small child we used to play by the hill which was close to our house. One day as we explored the trails at the bottom we discovered these strange nut-like things in the shrubs and took them home to show our parents who told us they were wild or Beaked Hazelnuts(Corylus cornuta). We then had to gather them in their itchy prickly cases as they were still green. We knew if we waited to long the squirrels would get them and would leave the empty and decayed ones behind.

Common European Hazelnut, Corylus avellana.

Common European Hazelnut, Corylus avellana.

Later on we found our grandparents had a large Hazelnut bush but it was different; it was the Common or European Hazelnut (Corylus avellana) which is grown as a commercial crop. It’s nuts are much bigger and their casings are much smaller and less prickly too. Many years later having moved far away to Vancouver Island I was out with my sister and her young son at Denham Till Park and guess what we found, an old Hazelnut grove!

Old Hazelnut Grove at Denham Till Park in North Saanich.

Old Hazelnut Grove at Denham Till Park in North Saanich.

I had by this time shown her the ”very cool’ Corkscrew Hazelnut( Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’) which was located at the library in Sidney near were she lived.

Corkscrew Hazelnut, Corylus avellana 'Contorta'

Corkscrew Hazelnut, Corylus avellana 'Contorta'

It’s interesting to think that a plain straight branched plant can give us a twisting ‘sport’ which was found accidentally in a Gloucestershire hedgerow in the 1860s. We must thank the unknown person who stumbled upon it and had the foresight to save it for all in the future to enjoy. Corkscrew Hazelnuts shine at this time of the year with their pale butter yellow catkins hanging amongst the mass of writhing branches which reminds one of Medusa’s tresses.

The Male Catkins Hanging in the Medusa-like Corkscrew Hazelnut branches.

The Male Catkins Hanging in the Medusa-like Corkscrew Hazelnut branches.

 If you see a Corylus avellana ‘Contorta you are not likely to forget it, even the leaves have a wierd look to them because they have the same kind of slight twistiness to them.  As you can see this can become a large dense shrub which should be given a spotlight like location to show itself off. Most of these shrubs are grafted which can lead to problems from the under-graft sending up straight shoots which must be removed as soon as they can be easily handled. Spring is also a good time to do any pruning for the odd awkward branches that need removal.

Vigorous Shoots Coming up From the Under-graft Should Be Removed Now.

Vigorous Shoots Coming up From the Under-graft Should Be Removed Now.

These are slow growing shrubs which can grow to 8-10ft by 6-8ft wide.  Corkscrew Hazelnuts are easy to grow as they are not fussy about soil as long as it’s well drained. they do best in full sun or slight shade. It is best to select your plant when it does not have its’s leaves yet as you will be able to see it’s form better.  Although this is a ‘nut’ plant do not expect any to be produced.  It looks delightful under-planted with low growing plants which bring attention to its attractive bark.

The Attractive Bark on Corylus avallana 'Contorta'

The Attractive Bark on Corylus avallana 'Contorta'

 Links to Learn From:  

European or Common Hazelnut : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corylus_avellana

Denham Till Park in North Saanich:  http://www.northsaanich.ca/Municipal_Hall/Departments/Parks_and_Trails/Parks_Information/Municipal_Parks/Denham_Till_Park.htm

Corkscrew Hazelnuts : http://www.mobot.org/GARDENINGHELP/PLANTFINDER/Plant.asp?code=C360

                                            http://www.rhs.org.uk/whatson/gardens/harlowcarr/archive/harlowcarrpom05mar.asp

 

Who knows what treasures you will find here next time.

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A Contrast in Styles.

My new growth is slightly hairy along with my rather well developed seed caps.

Twisty-Turny Things.

Twisty-Turny Things.

I’m not as scary as I look!

My Rather Thick Ankles.

My Rather Thick Ankles.

I have to be careful my legs are not crossed or too straight.

Close up of Flowers

Close up of Flowers

I might be tiny, but, great things come from small packages.

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I Remember when I was going college I walked every day to get the the bus. I used this time to learn the 300 or so plants which were required  for me to pass the program. Fortunately in the few blocks to the bus stop there were many plants on the list.  As the seasons progressed I saw the changes that occurred with each of the plants I studied from fall, through winter and into spring. I would never have noticed the bushy shrub-like tree which I stood in front of every morning until it burst into bloom at this time of the year.  To my delight it was a Cornus mas or Cornelian Cherry Dogwood which produced a spectacular golden display before most other plants are in bloom.  I never saw another one until….

Cornelian Cherry Dogwood.

Cornelian Cherry Dogwood.

This tree is in the Doris Page Winter Garden at Glendale Gardens

Bejeweled Branches of Cornelian Cherry Dogwood Flowers

Bejeweled Branches of Cornelian Cherry Dogwood Flowers

I regularly visit the Glendale Gardens and found several in bloom, WOW is all I can say. This year since I knew I would write about Cornus mas I have been on the hunt for others and have struck several golde(en) bonanzas. I looked in the usual places and was not disappointed, two at Government House and two at Finnerty Gardens.

Huge Cornelian Cherry Dogwood on corner of Trutch and Fairfield.

A Huge Cornelian Cherry Dogwood on corner of Trutch St. and Fairfield Rd.

The real surprise was on the way to Government House driving along Fairfield Road. I saw an incredible huge example at the corner of Trutch Street. and Fairfield Road. I am so glad to find a Cornus mas that is on a street side instead of of a park or fancy garden. This is a highly traveled site that anyone can go by and enjoy the beauty of this tree.

The male stamens are really noticible here.

This wonderful  plant comes from central and southern Europe and also is found in Western Asia where its large ‘cherry-like’ fruit is used  for making  jams and sauces. In Armenia the fruit is added to Vodka to flavor it.  The deep red ripe fruit is an oblong drupe which is up to 3/4in.  long by 1/2in wide and contains a large stone. Several Cornelian Cherry Dogwood cultivars have been selected with unusually large fruit for commercial production.

Cornus mas clad in its Summer Suit.

Cornus mas clad in its Summer Suit at Glendale Gardens.

The best thing about Cornus mas is that it is easy to grow and will fit into many planting schemes. It works well as a  specimen or in a winter garden, in a natural or woodland setting. As it has a small stature of no more than 25ft by 15ft it will fit well into many small urban gardens. It also looks good in small feature groups or in a mixed shrub border where its bright flowers will standout from the dark background.

Attractive mid-green foliage of Cornus mas.

Attractive mid-green foliage of Cornus mas.

It is the least fussy of the large Cornus (Dogwood trees) and will tolerate any soil from dry to quite wet. It grows best in full sun to part shade which is especially needed in hot drier climates as the leaves are thin and loose moisture easily. Cornus mas plants take pruning very well and is often shaped into a several stemmed small tree which helps to show off the attractive flaking bark.

Well pruned Cornus mas showing the attractive bark.

Well pruned Cornus mas showing the attractive bark.

There have been several well known forms of Cornelian Cherry Dogwoods which may be available in your area.  ‘Aurea’ with golden leaves, ‘Variegata’ which is edged in cream and ‘Elegantissim’ with pink or golden highlights are some of the foliage forms. There are also golden and white fruited forms known. On top of these there  are  pyrimidal, dwarf and extremely cold hardy (‘Ukraine’ tolerates -30f.) selections available. Zones 5 through 8.

Links of the Week:

To learn more about Cornus mas go here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/howtogrow/3308195/How-to-grow-Cornus-mas.html

or here:  http://hcs.osu.edu/hcs/TMI/Plantlist/co_mas.html

Until we meet again on Wednesday for a new clue and the start of a new story.

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