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Archive for June, 2009

The plants with the largest leaves I grew up with  in the north  are the  somewhat sinister Giant Hogweed((Heracleum spohondylium), it is a prickly giant Celery which some people can react badly to. One plant I had seen in pictures and had heard could grow up north was the Hosta, a much more refined and better behaved plant.  When I went to school in the Vancouver area I was thrilled to see so many kinds  and color variations which to choose from. Over the years I have grown many Hostas I have bought, scrounged and grown from seed.

Who Can Resist the Crisp, Fresh Green of this Hosta.

Who Can Resist the Crisp, Fresh Green of this Hosta.

The best way I can relate to Hostas is with it’s leaves, the real plant star. I love texture and color. In school I learned to appreciate subtlety of bark and buds of plants while studying at school during the dreary very wet winter here. Foliage  is even more varied and of course Hostas have an extremely wide range of color variation, leaf shape and thickness.

Thick Multi-layered Colors of This Hosta Make it a Standout in the Garden.

Thick Multi-layered Colors of This Hosta Make it a Standout in the Garden.

the Genus Hosta is made up of many species, there have been about 30 named and it possibly 50 will be named overall. They all originate in Asia, with Japan and China contributing almost all of them. Just recently they have been reclassified from the Liliaceae family to the Agavaceae group which is very surprising if you know what an Agave or Yucca is. Hosta is named in honor of Nicholas Thomas Host, an Austrian botanist.

The Thick Glaucous Leaves of a 'Hosta tokudama' cultivar.

The Thick Glaucous Leaves of a 'Hosta tokudama' cultivar.

Hostas have somewhat unstable genes which lead to the discovery of variegated forms and then development of many hundreds of other ‘named’ cultivars coming on to the market every year. The instability also leads to changes in the variegation and to it disappearing altogether in some cases.

This is Probably the Most Common of all Variegated Hosta, One of the Originals.

This is Probably the Most Common of all Variegated Hosta, One of the Originals.

Hosta have adapted very well to living in all parts of the world. There are now several forms living in my mother’s zone 3 (-30-40c) and happily bloom and grow larger every year. They are excellent growing in pots as all of mine are. Many can take quite strong sun and withstand a certain amount of drought with their thick roots.

Hostas Add a Touch of Class to a Container Planting.

Hostas Add a Touch of Class to a Container Planting.

Lucky for us they are so adaptable and easy to grow. first choose your plant, then figure how large it will grow. Some Hostas like ‘Krossa Regal’ or the ‘sieboldiana’ cultivars can grow 3ft(1m) by up to 4ft(1.2m) high and others are tiny rock garden size subjects and need special siting. Hostas like at least some shade from the mid-day sun so they do not burn or yellow out when they are really supposed to be blue in color. Lots of water in the spring while they are growing their new foliage is a must. Rich  moisture retaining soil will help them retain their beauty through the summer.

Hosta flowers are an added bonus. Hosta sieboldiana 'Elegans' here.

Hosta flowers are an added bonus. Hosta sieboldiana 'Elegans' here.

Hosta are easy care and have few problems if they are kept clean, so remove all spent leaves at the end of their year. In this area we do have problems with (giant)slugs and (tiny)deer who like to feast on their leaves.  some species seem to be susceptible to a fungus leafspot which also attacks Iris x germanica cultivars, so it might be an idea to keep these two apart.

Even in Their Decline Hostas are Beautiful.

Even in Their Decline Hostas are Beautiful.

More on Hostas:

How to grow Hostas: http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1239.html

Yes, there really is a National Collection of Hosta in the U.K. http://www.bbc.co.uk/gardening/plants/plantprofile_hosta.shtml

Wiki has a list of all the many Hosta spieces: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hosta

Until we meet again here next week…..

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This week I choosen a plant which is a problem in some places but not here. I first noticed it growing along the road which leads to the Victoria Airport. I took this route going into Sidney when I lived closer into town. I, of course, had to stop for a closer look. The yellow color was out of character for what I suspected it was. It looked like a form of plant which grows wild here but is blue or rarely pink or white. it also seemed much larger than what i would have expected. What I had discovered was some wild Tree Lupine (Lupinus arboreus) orYellow Shrub Lupines which are growing in the far north reaches of their native territory. They were a glorious golden yellow amoungst the grass waste area.

A Pale Form of 'Lupinus arborea' or 'Tree Lupine'.

A Pale Form of 'Lupinus arborea' or 'Tree Lupine'.

Lupines and all members of the Pea((legumes) family(Fabaceae) are know to be able to improve the soil in the area in which they grow. they do this by taking nitrogen in the air and converting into an important usable nutrient which all plant need to grow. Members of the Pea family are able to do this by having special(symbiotic) bacteria called Rhizobia which are  located in nodules  located their roots. When these plants die they release the nitrogen back into the soil for other plants use. this is why members of they Pea family members such as alfalfa and peanuts are grown as a crop then plowed under before they ripen to enrich the soil. The problem has been when these plants escape from cultivation because they go to seed, this is easily solved in your own garden by removing the spent flowers.

The Attractive Flowers of the Tree Lupine are Sweetly Scented.

The Attractive Flowers of the Tree Lupine are Sweetly Scented.

Fortunately for us Lupinus arboreus is an attractive and generally short lived perennial or shrub. It is nothing like the Broom or gorse which was brought here and have overtaken areas. Tree Lupines have a very well defined natural area of growth in Western North America. It needs to be fairly close the the ocean and humidity to survive and trhive. In it’s natrual setting it is usually found within 5 km(3 miles) of the coast here. It grows from Southern California up the coast to the Southern part of British Columbia and on the southern tip of Vancouver Island

Tree Lupines and Vetch Growing in a Industral Area.

Tree Lupines and Vetch Growing in a Industrial Area.

Tree Lupines definately are not long lived here and no longer are found where I originally spotted it. This year I found it along a road on the other side of the airport. I had spotted it there a couple of years ago, but not in between. This year it reappeared in several spots where the soil has been disrupted along an area which will be built on soon. The exciting thing was there were 2 color forms, the pale creamy and the bright golden types.

The Cream Form of 'Lupinus arboreus' with it's Touch of Blue.

The Cream Form of 'Lupinus arboreus' with it's Touch of Blue.

It can indeed grow to be a quite large plant in a sheltered area. There is a very large bright yellow Lupinus arboreus growing along Lockside Drive which i stopped to check out. I wanted to see if it was more than one plant as it was much larger than others I have seen. I looked behind it and saw a single inch(2cm) thick stem supporting the 5ft(1.5m) by 4ft(1.25m) brightly blooming shrub. it looks like it has been there several years.

A Massive 'Tree Lupine' Found on Lockside Drive.

A Massive 'Tree Lupine' Found on Lockside Drive.

If you want to grow a Tree Lupine it is easy. they like well drained soil which does not need to be rich (they do that for you). Full sun is a must to produce the best crop of flowers. Shelter from winters coldest winds will help it overwinter as it is fairly tender being rated zone 8 (-10 to 12c). remove the all the spent flowers except for one or two stalks if you want it to reseed. Seed naturally will germinate during the damp winter and will flower between May and August depending on where you are. You will be rewarded with a beautiful delicate looking Lupine which is pleasantly fragrant and long blooming.

'Lupinus arboreus' growiing along with Blackberry brambles and local grasses

'Lupinus arboreus' growiing along with Blackberry brambles and local grasses

More About Tree Lupines:

Wiki article about Tree Lupines: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lupinus_arboreus

the best source of information on germination of all types of plants i have seen anywhere. These methods work!

http://tomclothier.hort.net/index.html

Nitrogen fixing plants and how it works:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nitrogen_fixation

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My mother’s parents lived on a farm in Surrey for most of my life.  As a child we came to visit every summer and went to the beach, the big city and if we were lucky eat fresh cherries off the tree.  Later I had a job near were my grandmother lived and would visit her often. it was during this time that we discussed her garden and i would help her with it.  It seemed every plant in her garden had a story, who she had received it from, how she learned about it and took care of it. Of all the plants she had collected in nearly 50 years living there, the roses where her favorites. She took particular pleasure in the big rambling rose which grew over the barn and bloomed once a year. It, she proudly told was Dr. Van Fleet and had the most beautiful blooms of all. She was right, it was beautiful and what is even better is it’s ‘sport’ the New Dawn Rose which was discovered in 1930.

The Rambling 'New Dawn' Rose.

The Rambling 'New Dawn' Rose.

Every year at this time I see new Dawn rose in all it’s glory at the Memorial Rose Garden next to the Sidney Library. I have enjoyed visiting the garden through the year and the roses there are kept in perfect heath and beauty. It is a formally laid out  rose garden. The arbor which the New Dawn Rose grows up was constructed the Town of Sidney Parks Department as a memorial to the late Robert(Bob) Jackson who developed the Memorial Rose Garden. It is not surprising that the ‘New Dawn’ Rose was selected to be featured as it was selected as the worlds most popular rose in 1997.

New Dawn Rose Growing Happily on the Arborr in the Sidney Memorial Rose Garden

New Dawn Rose Growing Happily on the Arborr in the Sidney Memorial Rose Garden

Dr Walter Van Fleet (1857-1922) was the developer of the ‘New Dawn Rose indirectly. He developed the very famous Dr. Van Fleet and released it in 1910. His intention was to create more hardy roses which would grow well in the colder North American climate where he lived.  Over time he selected Rosa wichuriana(the ‘Memorial Rose’), a white rose as one species to work with. This rose contributed it’s lax stem habit and lovely semi-evergreen disease resistance. The cross is (R.wichuriana x Safrano) x Souv. Du Pres. Carnot, the later two not in common cultivation anymore. ‘New Dawn’ Rose was a sport which shared most of the ‘Van Fleet’  attributes but is said to be re-blooming and be slightly less fragrant.

'New Dawn' Roses Are Semi-double Flowering.

'New Dawn' Roses Are Semi-double Flowering.

A ‘sport’ is a change in the plant at a cellular level. Some are very stable and can be propagated easily and others are not strong enough or stable and disappear. Finding a branch or plant that has changed in this way has lead to the introduction of many new forms of plants particularly those with variegation or double flowers.  The ‘New Dawn’ Rose sport was more subtle and someone must have watched very carefully to have noticed the that it changed.

The Hotter the Weather the Paler the Pink Will be in 'New Dawn' Roses.

The Hotter the Weather the Paler the Pink Will be in 'New Dawn' Roses.

New Dawn Roses are vigorous and need to be placed carefully so they do not run over weaker growing plants. It grows 20-25ft(4-5m) and is perfect for growing over an ugly fence, up and old tree or in a more formal setting. It is a clean and healthy plant which tolerates less than perfect conditions. it takes poorer soil and more shade than many other roses. I be can planted on north facing  situations. It is rated at zones 5(-20c or -5f) through 9.  To promote re-blooming and healthy growth it is best to remove(deadhead) the spent blooms and give it a light pruning after it’s first flower flush. It makes a fine cut flowers with it’s long stems.

'New Dawn' Roses Hnaging Down From the Arbor In Sidney.

'New Dawn' Roses Hanging Down From the Arbor In Sidney.

To learn More About ‘New Dawn’ Roses :

All you need to know about ‘New Dawn’ Roses: http://www.backyardgardener.com/plantname/pda_5428.html

Where to find the Memorial Rose Garden in Sidney, B.C. http://virtualvacationguide.com/guide.php?setpanorama=476

Van Fleet’s Roses:  http://www.nytimes.com/1998/07/23/garden/garden-q-a.html

Plant ‘sports’ also known as chimeras: http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/tisscult/Chimeras/chimeralec/chimeras.html

Until We meet Again Later This Week…..

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It’s that time of the month where I collaborate with my good friend Kim(http://ordinaryrecipesmadegourmet.com/) to bring you a fresh piping hot serving of ‘The Garden Palette‘ our new blog:

http://thegardenpalette.wordpress.com/2009/06/10/the-star-of-the-spice-world/

Star Anise

Star Anise

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When I was very small my mother started to teach me about gardening, she gave me a small spot in the garden and we planted a Rose. We then found pieces of other plants to add to it such as Sedum , Chives and Violets. Later I would bring things which I had been given by neighbors  or had found that had been thrown out. One such plant which I brought back that someone had pitched out was some pieces of Common Iris (Iris x germanica) which we quickly found a place in the garden for. To this day it’s purple flowers bloom and we have many times split the clump and given parts away.

A Great Example of the Unique Colors Found in Iris x germanica Flowers.

A Great Example of the Unique Colors Found in Iris x germanica Flowers.

I always have loved the unique colors and blend of colors found in Common Bearded Iris, and that they are anything but common. Where else will you find browns and rusts in blooms which are beautiful and yet intriguing at the same time. Iris x germainca have the widest range of colors of any plant known and this has created a vast group of admirers and breeders who are always striving to create the ‘blackest of blacks’ or the ‘bluest of blues’  or what ever they are trying to do in the color world.

Is This the 'Bluest of Blue' Common Iris, I Don't Know.

Is This the 'Bluest of Blue' Common Iris, I Don't Know.

The name Iris comes from the Greek goddess Iris who was the ‘rainbow goddess’ who was the messenger between the gods and  mortal men.  Purple Iris plants where at one time where placed over the graves of  women to help guide the goddess to help her guide the dead on there journey through the underworld and across the River Styx.  The origins of Common Bearded Iris is lost, the best guess is that it is a natural hybrid which originated in the Eastern Mediterranean where many Iris species grow wild.

 A Very Dark Purple Dwarf Variety of Common Bearded Iris.

A Very Dark Purple Dwarf Variety of Common Bearded Iris.

All Iris and members of the Iris family have flowers that are in parts of three. Iris have very complex flowers, composed of: the ‘falls’ which hang down, the ‘standard’ which are the large upper portions, the ‘styles’ which are nestled inside the styles, and the beard which is at the top of the falls and is the rough textured often brightly colored guide for the pollinators to hang onto so they can find the nectar.

This Pure White Iris x germanica Shows Off It's Yellow Beard.

This Pure White Iris x germanica Shows Off It's Yellow Beard.Common

Iris x germanica have been great inspiration for artists, who is not familiar with the painting of Van Gogh and Monet’s Irises?  Monets’ garden Giverny is one of the most famous in the world and a part of it’s charm is the Iris which you can see every spring.  Iris were also a popular theme rendered in art during  Medieval, Renasciance,  Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts and Art Deco movements.

Delicate Shades of Iris x germanica Pink Would Inspire Any Artist.

Delicate Shades of Iris x germanica Pink Would Inspire Any Artist.

Growing Common Bearded Iris is easy. They are very cold hardy, taking -40(zone 3a)  with snow cover.   They thrive on any soil which is not to rich and is well drained, Bone meal can be added at the time of planting. When blooms become fewer it’s time to divide the clump and give some away (every 3 to 5 years). Iris prefer a drier climate with a period of drought after they bloom. They need their thick rhizomes to be planted on the surface  to prevent rot. Good air circulation is important to keep any disease such as leaf blight  or rust from attacking the leaves. One other problem is slugs which will eat the leaves in the spring, to help avoid this problem keep the area clear of debris where the slugs can hide.  The leaves can be clipped to keep them looking tidy.

Blue Iris x germanica Growing at My Sisters' House.

Blue Iris x germanica Growing at My Sisters' House.

There are many famous collections and gardens dedicated to Iris x germanica collections. Presby Memorial Iris Gardens has a collection of over 10,000 varieties which range from the newest to the historically significant. Iris breeders and sellers such as Schreiner’s Iris Gardens open their display gardens to the public to visit and view the latest varieties for sale. The Royal Horticulture Society(RHS) has regular trail beds open for public viewing and publish results of their findings.

A Beautiful Common Bearded Iris with 'Stitching or Plicata' Around it's Edges.

A Beautiful Common Bearded Iris with 'Stitching or Plicata' Around it's Edges.

Learn More About Iris x germanica:

Iris flower structure:  http://www.backyardnature.net/fl_iris.htm

AIS, American Iris Society is a wonderful site with great links: http://www.irises.org/index.htm

Presby Memorial iris Garden is in Upper Montclair, New jersey:  http://www.presbyirisgardens.org/

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One of My Many Gay Blades.

One of My Many Gay Blades.

I have very broad blades which stand at attention ready to protect my very beauty!

Blue Flutter By.

Blue Flutter By.

I am an old plant that almost everyone knows and grows.

My colors can be pure as pure can be or every kind of muddled!

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When I moved from the lower mainland to the Victoria area I noticed several plants growing here which I had not seen before. First there was the Oceanspray(Holodiscus dicolor) which grew everywhere along the rocky drier areas.  Then there is the abundance of Garry Oaks (Quercus garryana) which are so starkly noticeable in the winter landscape. Arbutus(Arbutus menziesii) trees grew everywhere as I live on the peninsula.  Soon after I settled into my new residence i was invited to dinner at a friends place which was near a lake. After dinner she showed me around her property and I saw for the first time the wonderful Vanilla Leaf(Achlys triphylla) which is an unusually attractive plant.

Achlys triphylla also known as 'Vanilla Leaf'.

Achlys triphylla also known as 'Vanilla Leaf''.

Vanilla Leaf (or ‘Sweet After Death’) is truly a beautiful plant which is often seen along trails in dappled spots of light, where it wanders amongst  the flora. I have found it in the vicinity of some of the most delicate and rare species. It also will pop up in thicker darker understory locations deep in the forest growing between the Mahonia, Salal and Sword Ferns.

Achlys triphylla Happily Growing in a Spot of Light.

Achlys triphylla Happily Growing in a Spot of Light at Horth Hill Park.

For me finding a patch of Achlys  triphylla growing along a path I am walking on is indeed a treat.  The main treat is the charming foliage which looks like a Clover leaf on steroids. The flowers spikes which are in bloom now are an additional bonus.  If I find one leaf I know there will be others as this is a plant which spreads by underground rhizomes(roots).  Along a path near my home I found a small colony, since then it has expanded gently to become more noticeable.  Horth Hill Park in North Saanich is a fine location for Vanilla Leaf hunting, I was there this week looking and found it in several places in fairly deep shade growing down a steep slope as well in spots of dappling.

A Mature 'Vanilla Leaf' with it's Charming Scalloped Leaves.

A Mature 'Vanilla Leaf' with it's Charming Scalloped Leaves.

The Latin name Achlys from the Greek goddess of hidden places and in this plant refers to where this plant is found, often deep in the woods.  The common name Vanilla Leaf or ‘Sweet After Death‘  is refers to the sweet fragrance of the dried leaves. The vanilla scent of the leaves is caused by the presences of natural coumarin which is a powerful blood thinner. Native peoples used to hang bundles of dried leaves in their resedences to deter bothersome inscects which swarm.  It is said that the leaves were at one time used to treat such ailments and tuberculosis, cataracts and used as an emetic(to cause vomiting).

'Sweet After Death' Growing Along a Path in North Saanich.

'Sweet After Death' Growing Along a Path in North Saanich.

Achlys triphylla makes an attractive taller(to 30cm,12in.) ground cover which would look smashing with more delicate Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Ferns and other rich woodland plants. Vanilla Leaf requires rich humusy, moisture retentive soil which is on the acidic side. It will not tolerate strong sun and will burn in it, so dappled is best. It grows best in zones 6 through 9.  If these plants are happy in their situation they will happily colonise and form healthy spreading clumps. It is best to buy these plants from a reputable nursery where you know they have not been dug up from the wilds.

Attractive Vanilla Leaf is Slug Proof.

Attractive Vanilla Leaf is Slug Proof.

Learn More About Achlys triphylla:

Wikipedia has a very good page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achlys_(plant)

More on it’s medicinal features:http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Achlys+triphylla

Horth Hill Park: http://www.crd.bc.ca/parks/horth-hill/index.htm

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