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Archive for August, 2009

When I was small I always looked forward to certain plants blooming in special places that I knew of. One such plant grew along Connaught Hill near where our house was. I spent many hours during the spring all the way into the fall visiting sites looking for those tell-tale plants and being excited to find them still there year after year. On such group of plants were an unusual mauve for native plants there. They of course were what I knew as Asters. In B.C. we have 26 species, some in shades of purple and some are white. All Aster species have undergone a careful scientific evaluation recently and most have been renamed. In B.C. all the 26 Asters have been re-classed as Symphyotrichum, Eurybia, Eucephalus, Ionactis and Canadanthus speices in the Aster(Asteraceae) family. Here on  Vancouver Island  the commonest species is the Common California Aster(Aster chilensis) is now should be known as Symphyotrichum chilense, and no it is not found in Chile.

The common mauve of the California Aster seen along roads here.

The common mauve of the California Aster seen along roads here.

California Aster is primarily a coastal plant which grows from southern Oregon through all of Vancouver Island and southern parts of the mainland of British Columbia. It ranges inland to the Coastal Mountains. The first place I found it was when I was picking Blackberries at a park near where I live. I happened to be along the edge of the park searching for berries and found what looked like a single plant struggling against the grass in the overgrown ditch. This of course alerted me to be on the lookout for more of these plants. I think one reason I might have missed them in the past was that their color is very similar to the wild Chicory which is blooming at the same time.

This wonderful display of California Asters was found along Widgeon Rd. in North Saanich in 2007.

This wonderful display of California Asters was found along Widgeon Rd. in North Saanich in 2007, they are no longer there now.

I soon found the best place to view California Asters was along the side of busy roads here. Roads here have large gravel shoulders which often become overgrown with plant material which is periodically cut down.  This year there  are two or three great patches growing along East Saanich Road  in an very open place and hopefully they will live on there. Another place I see them is along West Saanich Road where they have survived several years and bloom.

The only color of Symphylotrichum chilense(California Aster) I have seen here.

The only color of Symphylotrichum chilense(California Aster) I have seen here.

We naturally are dazzled by the deep and sometimes startling colors of non-native Asters, these are the common ones which we see in nurseries at this time of the year. Many do not thrive here and are susceptible to unsightly disease such as mildew, rusts and black rots.  I think we should look close to home to choose and highlight our natural bounty of plants and California Asters would fit the bill perfectly.  Symphyotrichum chilense a dense plant which grows 50cm(20in) to 100 cm(40in) tall and forms a 30cm(12in) wide clump.  If it is happy it will vigorously spread, therefore care must be taken in placement not to put it near slower and weaker growing plants. Asters are often placed near the back of the border in gardens or in more loosely designed area.

The soft flower color and attractive foliage make California Asters an attractive addition to the garden.

The soft flower color and attractive foliage make California Asters an attractive addition to the garden.

All Asters need full sun and good air circulation to keep them at their best. California Asters like to grow in areas with sufficient water that they can bloom at this late summer season.  They tolerate a wide range of soils as long as it has good drainage during the wet winter months. The can be pruned down in early summer to keep them short if you desire. These plants feed the Bees and Butterflies at this time of the year.

California Asters in amoungst the grass.

California Asters in amoungst the grass.

Look along the roadsides in your area to see the asters which are native to your area. There are many throughout the world, especially across North America and Europe.

Learn more about Symphyotrichum chilense:

a brief description of the California Aster: http://www.pnwflowers.com/flower/aster-chilensis

A list of Aster synonyms from Wiki which is very extensive:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Aster_synonyms

CalPhots page on California Aster with more technical links: http://calphotos.berkeley.edu/cgi/img_query?query_src=&seq_num=130489&one=T

Until We Meet Again soon….

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In the plant world there seems to be a cut off line just below areas where winter temperatures go below -20c(-5f). Many plants might survive but slowly die. I grew up below the cut off line and therefore many plants only existed for me in magazines or books. How I longed to live in a more gentle climate and be able to grow things like many of the Roses, Hostas and Anemones. When I came to live near Vancouver I was able to to do this. One of the first places I worked at was a wholesale grower of perennials and I was able to see greenhouses full of my new favorite plants. One plant that catches my eye every year is the delicate ‘Japanese Anemones‘, (Anemone x hybrida) which are made up of a group of crosses and some varieties.

Anemone hupehensis var. japonica 'Prinz Heinrich', the darkest of all colors.

Anemone hupehensis var. japonica 'Prinz Heinrich'('Prince Henry), the darkest of all colors.

The first Japanese Anemones are actually found in central and western China (Hubei into Sichuan and into Yunnan provinces). Hubie province gives it’s name to this species Anemone hupehensis. It’s flowers are variable in color ranging from white through pale pink into a pinkish purple. From hupehensis there is a form var. japonica which is much darker pink. From this variety there is a  famous double form “Prinz Heinrich'(‘Prince Henry’)  which is the most commonly seen member of the ‘hupehenis’ group.  Anemone hupehenis var japonica ‘Prinz Heinrich’ is a striking double dark color.  It opens a very deep cerise pink and fades slightly with ages. It is the first of the true doubles and has up to 20 narrow petals. it was raised in 1902.

Anemone x hybrida 'Honorine Jobert', the most common white.

Anemone x hybrida 'Honorine Jobert', the most common white.

The next group of Japanese Anemones are the the true crosses between species hupehensis var. japonica, vitifolia and possibly tomentosa. Many named plants have come on to the market and have later been reclassified as related to species or have been previously named. The key provided at the bottom is most useful to sort these issues out. There are several well know named cultivars from this group which have diverse flower colors and forms. The first and most famous is Anemone x Honorine Jobert’, a single white which was introduced to the world in 1858 which also makes it the oldest. It was found in the garden if M. Jobert  who lived in Verdun, France.

Anemone x hybrida 'September Charm', the pale pink glows in darker areas of a garden.

Anemone x hybrida 'September Charm', the pale pink glows in darker areas of a garden.

Often the first Japanese Anemone we meet in gardens is a single pink which is likely to be Anemone x hybrida ‘September Charm’. It is a relatively late arrival coming to the plant world from Bristol Nurseries in 1932. It’s exact parentage is unknown at this time.

Anemone x hybrida 'Whirlwind', a sensational form which is is vigorous and pure.

Anemone x hybrida 'Whirlwind', a sensational form which is is vigorous and pure.

Anemone x hybrida ‘Whirlwind is an older double white true Japanese Anemone. It originated in Rochester, New York and was introduced in 1887 by James Vick. It is somwhat variable in it’s petal count and form. The flowers usually have about 20 narrow sometimes twisted pure white petals.

Japanese Anemones happily blooming in full sun.

Japanese Anemones happily blooming in full sun.

Japanese Anemone are very vigorous plants once they are established which may take several years. They tolerate almost any soil as long as it is not saturated with water. They bloom best in full sun but also give a good show in shadier places which makes them very versatile for garden designing purposes. Japanese Anemone flowers are held fairly high above their foliage making these plants great for deep in flower borders and dotted amongst shorter shrubs. They have attractive foliage which has few pests or diseases. One often sees these plants growing in large patches because they spread by roots, this can be a problem if they are included in a design which is too structured. these platns are generally rated at tolerating -20c(-5f) or zone 5-9. You can assume that your plant once established will take up a 3ft(1m) space. they grow to be about 1-1.5m(3-4ft) high.

A large planting of Anemone hupehensis var. japonica 'Prinz Heinrich' at Finnerty Gardens.

A large planting of Anemone hupehensis var. japonica 'Prinz Heinrich' at Finnerty Gardens.

More on Japanese Anemones:

A key to unscrambling Japanese Anemones: http://www.rhs.org.uk/plants/plant_groups/Key_jap_anemones.asp

How to grow these wonderful plants: http://www.bbc.co.uk/gardening/plants/plantprofile_anemones.shtml

Until We Meet Again….

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Living here in the Northwest I am always happy to find free sources of food. What I mean is I have learned about and have sampled many native plants which grow here. Some are the same ones I knew from growing up in the interior and others are strictly coastal natives. Other plants have been here so long and are so abundant that we assume they have always been here…..

West Coast or East Coast, We All Love Blackberries!

West Coast or East Coast, We All Love Blackberries!

The ‘Black Sheep’ of the Berry Family is on the Loose…. with Kim’s bountiful crop of Blackberry recipes.

http://thegardenpalette.wordpress.com/2009/08/19/the-%e2%80%98-black-sheep%e2%80%99-of-the-berry-family/

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When I write one of these articles I first do some research. I might think I know a plant quite well but I always learn some more in the process of looking in various places. I need to make sure of the botanical name, where it comes from and if possible I like to know who discovered the plant and why it was named. I also like to make sure I know the best way to grow it and what to expect in climate, pests and disease. It is not just  it’s looks and scent which are important, it’s a total of all aspects of the subject that help to inform me if this is the kind of plant to I would recommend. Without a doubt there will always be some mysteries I can not figure out. One such plant for me is the Echinops (Globe Thistle) that is seen growing in gardens for I can not say for sure ‘which species is which’ with any great authority. In this case it really does not matter as all Echinops are shining stalwarts in the garden and should be grown more.

A beautiful steely blue Echinops ritro, the most commonly seen form in the Victoria area

A beautiful steely blue Echinops ritro, the most commonly seen species in the Victoria.

Echinops have been known and noted in writing as early as the 16th century, it was Linaeaus who gave them their formal name in 1753. Echinops Latin name meaning is very descriptive; echinos(hedgehog) ops(looks like), put it together and you have an ‘Looks-Like -a-Hedgehog’ plant!  Globe Thistle are old world plants which means they come from Europe and spread through parts of Asia and northern Africa. Not surprisingly theses are members of the Asteraceae(Compositae) family which many other thistley things belong. All members of this family have composites of many tiny flowers which are close together. The Echinops flower structure is a good example of this, each of it flower ‘spheres’ is just that; a ball of tiny flowers close together.

Echinops or Globe Thistle are a good example of a Composite flower.

Echinops or Globe Thistle are a good example of a Composite flower.

Many people do not think of spiny plants as being attractive garden plants and Echinops show how wrong we are about this.  All parts of this plant are beautiful, the leaves are whether they are grayish or bright green are thick and leathery and stand up well through the seasons. the spherical balls which turn into the flowers are stunning during their whole development. The overall silvery grayness works very well in with many colors in the garden and this makes Globe Thistles very versatile.

A favorite planting at Government House with Echinops as the star at this time of the year.

A favorite planting at Government House with Echinops as the star at this time of the year.

We must consider ourselves lucky as Echinops are extremely easy to grow and are very hardy. Like all slightly silvery plants Globe Thistles like as much sun as they can get, full sun is the best to bring out the fullness of color. Full sun will also help combat any possibility of mildew discoloring the foliage. Average soil will do. Less than average amounts of water is better, these plants do quite nicely in drier situations and are less prone to disease.  Echinops are all large plants which can reach 2m(6ft) in height and nearly as wide.

his appears to be Echinops spaerocephalus with it's maroon toned flower stem.

This appears to be Echinops spaerocephalus with it's maroon toned flower stem.

Generally Echinops are considered hardy to zone 4(-20c) but I have read about situations where they live in places with temperatures regularly going down to -40f(-40c) or zone 3a. Echinops flowers are excellent in arrangement and as dried subjects they should be harvested before the pollen shows. Globe Thistles are prickly but not so much as to be really dangerous.

This Echinops exaltatus looks other worldy floating in the trees.

This Echinops exaltatus looks other worldy floating in the trees.

The many shades of blue, the silvery overtones on the foliage and unusual flowers, what more could one ask for in a plant? I like the foliage hairy, prickliness which contrasts with all the other smooth leaves which usually surround Echinops.  It makes me think of the common thistles living here and makes me wonder how one might use them in a landscape. When looking to buy a Globe Thistle you can choose a named form which will give the certainty of color or you can grow them from seed.  In species you can usually choose the blues of ritro, bannaticus, humilis and several more. Whites are commonly  represented by exaltatus and sphaerocephalus . Seed is easily germinated with no special tricks needed.

A Great

A great Globe Thistle planting at Finnerty Gardens with late summer colors.

Now is the time to Look for Echinops in gardens, the late summer heat here has produced a bumper crop this year. I have found them in many of the larger public parks which have perennial borders. Usually they are far enough in the plantings so that no one has to worry about little ones grabbing them and being surprised or scratched.

This very blue Echinops  is at Glendale Gardens in Saanich.

This very blue Echinops is at Glendale Gardens in Saanich.

More information on Echinops:

The Asteraceae family and their intricate flowers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asteraceae

Look at the middle of this page to see what others have to say about growing this plant: http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/634/

Growing Globe Thistles: http://www.garden-grower.com/flowers/echinops.shtml

Until we meet again Later….

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When I was a child my father gave my mother a large flowering tree as a present. We had it for many years and it bloomed faithfully throughout the year and brought a touch of the tropics to our chilly northern home during the long cold winters.  When i went to Hort. school in North Vancouver learned many shrubs and one of them was a hardy form of this plant. The plant we learned was Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon) which is still not a often seen shrub here and people ask how it can live here.

Hibiscus syriacus 'Blue Bird', one of the most striking flowers in the plant world.

Hibiscus syriacus 'Blue Bird', one of the most striking flowers in the plant world.

Hibiscus syriacus is found growing widely in Asia. It is the national flower of South Korea and is used in emblems representing the country. It is also much used and revered in China and Japan where it can be seen growing in a more tree form. It is a popular plant there where it’s ability to tolerate hot summers and late bloom season of bloom make it stand out.  In Europe it has been seen in gardens since the 16th century.

The purest of whites seen in the pristine Hibiscus syriacus 'Diana'

The purest of whites seen in the pristine Hibiscus syriacus 'Diana'

It is surprising to see this Rose of Sharon in bloom each year as it is so late to leaf out and I feel that many people might feel that it is dead and remove instead of waiting for it to wake from it’s late slumber. It is true that is doe not make the nicest looking shrub early in the season being that it is very twiggy and late, but, the pay-off is unforgettable. Who is not awed by the stunning Hibiscus syriacus blossoms which absolutely smoother it at this hot time of the year.

A large Hibiscus syriacus shrub in full sun along upper Quadra St. in Saanich.

A large Hibiscus syriacus shrub in full sun along upper Quadra St. in Saanich.

Rose of Sharon as you can see makes a wide, rounded shrub which has finer texture leaves and upright branches. It is often a specimen in the garden and this is how I have seen it used in the parks here. It is less commonly seen in gardens here, most often it’s place has been taken by other members of the Malvaceae family here which is sad. I am always thrilled to find another shrub and eagerly look forward to traveling Quadra Street and seeing  the two Hibiscus syriacus blooming at a house along the busy thoroughfare.

Hibiscus syriacus 'Mauve Queen',one of the more common color forms found.

Hibiscus syriacus 'Mauve Queen',one of the more common color forms found.

Hibiscus syriacus are surprisingly easy to grow and adaptable to a variety of situations.  They will grow to a medium sized shrub 2m(7ft) tall by 2.5m(9ft) wide. They need well drained soil with some extra moisture retention ability. full sun will produce a dense shrub which will be loaded with blooms every year. These shrubs are hardy to -20c(-10f)  or zone 5 here. In cooloer climate a protected site is best such as next to a southern wall where extra heat will be held. their nature shape whith dense branching will mean little to no pruning will be needed to keep it’s shape.

An unusal Double form, likely to be Hibiscus syriacus 'Lady Stanley'

An unusal Double form, likely to be Hibiscus syriacus 'Lady Stanley'

The most important thing to remember if you get one of these beauties is that they are one of the latest to leaf out, so remember not to dispair in late April when there is little sign that it is alive. Give you Hibiscus syriacus few more weeks and it will spring into action and ‘poof’ like magic will come zooming back! Now is the time to go hunting in your neighbourhood or local parks to find some Rose of Sharon blooming. Happy Hunting!

Look, I found this Hibiscus syricacus 'Woodbridge' at Finnerty Gardens.

Look, I found this Hibiscus syricacus 'Violet Clair Double'at Finnerty Gardens.

More about Rose of Sharon:

How to grow Hardy Hibiscus:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/howtogrow/3343918/Hibiscus-syriacus-how-to-grow.html

A little more about Hibiscus syriacus in Asia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hibiscus_syriacus

Hunting for new cultivars:  http://www.springmeadownursery.com/hibiscus.htm

http://www.springmeadownursery.com/hibiscus.htm

Until We Meet Again Later….

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After I had graduated from  horticulture training I worked for a summer practicum at a small but famous public garden in North Vancouver. There I started to get a taste of the range of plant materials I would from now on work with. During my short time there I decided the next place I would work at would be more specialized in perennials which had I had become enthralled with.  Early the next year i went to work at the largest perennial grower in Canada and started to learn all there was to know about this vast group of plants.  I now associate the wonderful colors of Asters, Helenium and particularly Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’(Goldstorm Rudbeckia) with this time of the year.

Rudbeckia 'Goldstrum' blazing in the sun in the Government House Gardens.

Rudbeckia 'Goldstrum' blazing in the sun in the Government House Gardens.

Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’ is the happy discovery of Heinrich Hagemann who worked for the famous plantsman Karl Foerster in 1937. He picked it out from a crop of Rudbeckias growing at a nursery owned by Gebrueder Schuetz . He noted that Rudbeckia fugida was a better form that the other commonly grown members of the species.  Heinrich Hagemann then took the plant back to the nursery he worked at and managed to convince Karl Foerster(the owner) that this plant should be propagated and introduced as a new and better Rudbeckia for gardeners to grow. The Second World war intervened and it was not until 1949 that the public had the chance to start growing it.

What Can be Better Than a 'Rudbeckia Goldstorm' at the Height of Summer?

What Can be Better Than a 'Rudbeckia Goldstorm' at the Height of Summer?

Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’ is so beloved that in 1999 it was selected the Perennial Plant of the Year. It is a reward richly deserved as selection is a vigorous competition between many excellent plants. The criteria are many and the panel who make the selection are all experts in the field. This plant is always propated from cuttings.

udbeckia 'Goldstrum is the backbone of this sunny border.

Rudbeckia 'Goldstrum is the backbone of this sunny border found in Sidney.Many

Rudbeckias come from the prairies whereas this one is from the east coast, ranging from New Jersey to Illinois. This may be why it is tolerant of a larger range of situations.

The gold color of Rudbeckia 'Goldstorm' is strong and often dominant in garden bed designs.

The vibrant color of Rudbeckia 'Goldstorm' is often dominant in garden bed designs.

Since it’s introduction Rudbeckia ‘Goldstrum’ has been one of the most popular of all  perennials which are grown.  It has some many things which to recommend it. Throughout the year this plant looks orderly. It’s foliage is more substantial and dark and stands up well against pests and all forms of weather. It’s glowing blossoms give a steady performance over a long period.  It always look tidy even when the blooms are spent. It is also a very low maintenance plant and is easy and tolerant in all areas from near the ocean shore, windy sites, areas with summer droughts and sites with shade.

Rudbeckia 'Goldstrum' looks great with other vibrant and strongly colored plants.

Rudbeckia 'Goldstrum' looks great with other vibrant and strongly colored plants.

If you would like to grow some Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm‘, it is easy.  To get the best performance from your plants give it well drained but moist soil. Locate your plants in full sun for the best display of blooms. Clumps will expand over time and are easy to divide, so your friends will love you if you can give them some. Remember to remove spent blooms and clean all the leave debris in the fall to keep the area pest free. Rudbeckia ‘Goldstrum’ grows 60-75cm (1.5-2ft) tall and spreads to similar width. they are quite hardy and withstand a chilly zone 4(-30c or-20f). These plants are widely used in many situations; mass planting, borders, ocean exposed sites, butterfly attractants and use as late season color are but a few ways commonly seen.

Rudbeckia 'Goldstrum' seen with close relatives Echinacea and Chrysanthemums.

Rudbeckia 'Goldstrum' seen with close relatives Echinacea and Chrysanthemums.

To learn more about Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’

What the Perennial Plant Association has to say;  http://www.perennialplant.org/99ppy.asp

B.B.C. Plant Finder infromation; http://www.bbc.co.uk/gardening/plants/plant_finder/plant_pages/800.shtml

Fine Gardening says: http://www.finegardening.com/plantguide/rudbeckia-fulgida-var-sulivantii-goldsturm-orange-coneflower.aspx

http://www.perennialplant.org/99ppy.asp

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