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Archive for March, 2010

I have been fortunate to have worked as a grower at a nursery.  This gave me the opportunity to grow plants which are not that well known. Some plants aren’t well known because they are hard to grow while others just have a false reputation for that. One plant I grew was the eastern(North American) form of a local plant. I never saw the local plant until a few years ago when i was with my father driving near Nanaimo which is north of here. It was magical, carpeting a dappled area in the woods. Last year I finally found Henderson’s Shooting Star(Dodecatheon hendersonii) in many places.

Dodecatheon hendersonii is known as Broad Leaved Shooting Star.

Dodecatheon hendersonii is known as Broad Leaved Shooting Star.

Henderson’s Shooting Star is a very delicate looking plant which grows amoungst other more showy plants. it is often in bloom at the same time the local Erythronium oregonium(White Fawn Lily) is and grows in the same places. The hot magenta flower color helps it stand out even though the flowers themselves are quite small.  The shape of the flower, with it’s extremely reflexed petals make it look quite unique.

An extremely rare white form of Dodecatheon hendersonii.

An extremely rare white form of Dodecatheon hendersonii.

Shooting Stars are a strictly North American species. The most commonly grown member of them is an Dodecatheon meadia which is found in the east growing  from Pennsylvania to Manitoba and south through Georgia and Texas. In the west we have many species which overlap in some areas. Dodecatheon hendersonii is probably the most western as it grows on Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and moves  south to west central California. On the mainland it grows on the western side of the coastal mountains though the Siskiyous and the Sierra Nevadas. There are at least two named varieties. Var. hansonii is found in the Siskiyous and scattered locations in the Sierra Nevadas. Var. hendersonii is more widespread and found along coastal B.C.  to southern Oregon.

The leaves of Dodecatheon hendersonii lay flat to the ground unlike most others of the species.

The leaves of Dodecatheon hendersonii lay flat to the ground unlike most others of the species.

Dodecatheon are members of the Primulaceae family. Dodecatheon is Greek; Dode(ka) meaning 12 and theo(s)n meaning god. The word dodecatheon refers to the 12 principle or most important gods which resided on Olympus. Pliny gave this original name to Primulas which grew where he lived. Primulas were thought to be under the care and protection of the 12 gods. The reference to the gods in the scientific name is thought to note that the flowers look somewhat likes thunderbolts which would be cast down on earth the gods when they were unhappy about what was going on. Hendersonii refers Louis Forniquet Henderson(1853-1942) who was the first botany professor at the University of Idaho.

Dodecatheon hendersonii are seen on mass along the sides of Old West Saanich Road near Victoria.

Dodecatheon hendersonii are seen on mass along the sides of Old West Saanich Road near Victoria.

Henderson’s Shooting Star grow in shallow soils which are damp during the spring growing season and then become bone dry during the long summer droughts which can extend into October here. This is the perfect type of situation for these plants. Often I have found them growing amoungst the Camas leaves, along rocky edges of roads and on moss covered bluffs.

These  bright magenta  blossoms of Henderson's Dodecatheon will soon be replaced by brilliant blue Camus.

These bright magenta blossoms of Henderson's Dodecatheon will soon be replaced by brilliant blue field of Camus.

When growing Dodecatheon hendersonii it is best to reproduce their local environment the best you can. If you are successful they will seed themselves and you will have a nice colony to look forward to every spring.  plant in a mossy mix with rich soil, make sure it will drain adequately during the winter rainy season. They prefer to live below deciduous trees or shrubs or along the edge of such to be protected over the summer. These plants go completely dormant over the summer therefore it is wise to mark their site so as not to dig them up accidentally.

Henderson's Shooting Star next to a bluff of sandy gritty soil.

Henderson's Shooting Star next to a bluff of sandy gritty soil.

Henderson’s Shooting Star grow between 10 and  20cm tall(4-7in). They can grow taller if they are in richer soil. Here they tend to be in the shorter range. They are likely to be hardy to -10c(14f) or slightly colder. The last two winters have had spells of -10c and I think they have been more abundant than when the winters are warmer, maybe it is less likely they will rot. Slugs love these plants especially when they are just coming out of the ground in the early spring, protect them from these raiding feeders.

Can you imagine having a huge patch of Henderson's Shooting Stars growing wild in your backyard.

Can you imagine having a huge patch of Henderson's Shooting Stars growing wild in your backyard.

Some choice places to look for Shooting Stars:

Royla B.C. Museum has a great section on native plants:http://www.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/Natural_History/Plants.aspx?id=958

How to grow and propagate them from experts:http://www.goert.ca/propagation_guidelines/forbs/dodecatheon_hendersonii

All the Dodecatheons you could possibly want:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dodecatheon

Until we meet again on these blogging pages….

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When I was doing my Horticulture practicum in North Vancouver I saw many plants which were new to me. Some other plants were different, they grew more vigorously in the mild climate. I was introduced to some commonly grown plants which I was first seeing in a more wild form. One day when we taking a turn about the garden I spied a strange form of Tulip and asked what it was; I was told it was a species Tulip…much more delicate then the robust forms that are common at this time. I have been enamored of the dainty species Tulips ever since.

Tulipa kaufmanniana 'Johann Strauss'

Tulipa kaufmanniana 'Johann Strauss'

Many bulbs we are familiar with originate in the mountains of Central Asia and travel through Iran and Turkey and end up in eastern and southern Europe. Tulips fall exactly into this pattern. The species Tulips I am showing you today come mainly come from an area of Central Asia which is called the Tian Shan (Sky Mountains). It is part of the Himalayan orogenic belt which was formed when the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates collided and creates the highest mountain ranges in the world. It is also through this area that the Silk Roads of ancient commerce travelled.

 This group of Tulipa praetans are found high up in the Terrace Gardens at Government House.

This group of Tulipa praetans are found high up in the Terrace Gardens at Government House.

Tulips have come to us from those same commerce exchanges, this time from the Turkish court of Suleiman the Magnificent to the court of the Holy Roman Empire. They were brought by Ambassador Ogier Ghiselin de Bubecq. He had seen the flowers in his travels to Constantinople in 1554. We know the flowers grew in Augsburg in 1559 as they were described by Conrad Gessner. After that there was no turning back with the popularity of the flowers and they were soon in cultivation in the Nederlands. They became a symbol of luxury and were much  coveted by the wealthy.

Tulipa turkestanica has small starry flowers and a lax habit.

Tulipa turkestanica has small starry flowers and a lax habit.

Many Tulip species have been crossed with others, in some cases this happens in the wild where species ranges of growth overlap. In most cases crosses are done to produce larger flowers with strong stems and create new color ranges. Tulips cover a rainbow of colors from nearly blue through reds, oranges and yellows to creamy white and back into plums and violets. Every shade and variation within these colors is seen.

Tulipa clusiana var. 'Chrysantha', a form of the delicate Lady Tulip.

Tulipa clusiana var. 'Chrysantha', a form of the delicate Lady Tulip.

The orginal name for Tulip is leleh which is Persian. The French Tulipe is from the Turkish ‘tulbend’ which means turban.Turkish tulbend is corrupted form of Persian dulband also meaning turban. Tulipa is the Latinate form of this Turkish word. In English the word first appeared as Tuliphant and later changed to Tulip. Are you confused now?

Tulipa greigii 'Chopin', all greigii's have beautifully marked leaves.

Tulipa greigii 'Chopin', all greigii's have beautifully marked leaves.

These speices Tulips come from mountainous areas or the vast Steppes of Central Asia. many grow on rocky slopes or in scrub, others by streams which run early in the year and later dry up. Other species come from woodlands and are slightly more lush in their growth. they dot the slopes and grssy lands like jewels blooming briefly in the cool spring sunshine.

Tulipa bakeri 'Lilac Wonder' is also known as saxitilis and comes from the island of Crete. This is a light color form.

Tulipa bakeri 'Lilac Wonder' is also known as saxitilis and comes from the island of Crete. This is a light color form.

We are very fortunate that  many species Tulips are easy to find and as equally adaptable to grow in our gardens. Always buy your bulbs from a reputable dealer who does not get them from wild collected supplies. It is very important we protect all species of plants growing in the wild.

Tulipa kolpakowskiana  has a beautifully colored bud.

Tulipa kolpakowskiana has a beautifully colored bud.

It is best to grow all Tulips in rich, sandy well draining soil. The best flowers and foliage are produced by having a site which is in full sun. They need most watering during the spring when they are vigorously growing. Tulips do not like excess wetness when they are dormant over the summer into the winter. after flowering they should be left while their leaves die down and wither, after this the bulbs can be lifted and stored for later replanting. In warmer climates bulbs can be planted in the fall. Tulips generally are rated at zone 4-5  -25c(-20f).

Tulipa bakeri, a darker form.

Tulipa bakeri, a darker form.

Tulips make excellent container plants. For most impact plant bulbs in close groups. Species Tulips are generally small in overall height and should be placed near the front of a border. the are perfect in an alpine or rock garden.

Interesting Links For You:

Pacific Bulb Society has an excellent site for searching out new bulbs:http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/Tulipa

Tulip history and the madness which happened:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulip_mania

Central Asia, where so many of our treasured species come from:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Asia

Until we meet again along the flowering path…

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When I started horticulture school in North Vancouver I learned many plants which I thought would grow in greenhouses here. I was surprised to learn over time that this area has the best climate and the widest range of plant materials of anywhere in the world. This is do to the mild climate, not too hot or cold. One plant which I saw during the winter which looked very plain and burst forth in incredible bloom at this time of year were Camellias and specifically Camellia japonica(Japanese Camellia). These flowers look so incredibly beautiful to me.

Camellia japonica 'Debutante'

Camellia japonica 'Debutante' is one of the most popular named cultivars seen here.

Who would not want to fall in love with these beautiful plants. Japanese Camellias come in colors ranging from the purest white through pinks and corals in to blood reds. Some are blotched while other blooms are lined or edged with contrasting color. Many flower forms from single to double with many variations in between add to the interest  when waiting for a newly discovered plant to bloom.

Camellia (Contessa) 'Lavina Maggi'

Camellia (Contessa) 'Lavina Maggi' is an old variety which originated in Italy in 1858.

Camellias have long been cultivated and hybridized in their native Japan. They are found in the wild growing in the woods and hills on down to sea level on the islands of Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu. 3 varieties are recognized there and it is related to the flower shape and structure. The lowland form has upright flowers with filaments joined for 1/3 to 1/2 their length. The upland form is subspecies(subsp.) rusticana(honda) and has a more open flower with the stamen fused only at the base. The third variety has large fruit which have thick walls and are variety(var.) macrocarpa and are found by the mountains  on south Shikoku  and Yakushima islands.

I found this interesting Camellia japonica form in Beacon Hill Park.

I found this interesting Camellia japonica form in Beacon Hill Park.

Japanese Camellia were first introduced to Europe in 1739 by Lord Petre.  Portugal was one of the first places where Camellias where grown and appreciated. Linnaeus named these plants after Joseph Camellus or Kamel (1661-1706) who was a Moravian Jesuit priest that travelled and wrote about the plants especially those on the island of Luzon in the Phillipines.

The  beautiful and unusual Camellia japonica 'Magnoliaeflora'

The beautiful and unusual Camellia japonica 'Magnoliaeflora'

When Japanese Camellias where first introduced in the England they were thought to not be hardy. Wealthy plant collectors would build special greenhouses to keep their collections in. Several of these buildings still exist and have plants which grow up to the roof in them, one famous example is at Chatsworth House, the home of famous plant collectors the Dukes of Devonshire.

I found this Camellia Japonica cultivar at Esquimalt Gorge Park where a famous Japanese Tea Gardens are.

I found this Camellia Japonica cultivar at Esquimalt Gorge Park where a famous Japanese Tea Gardens are.

From Europe the wonderful Japanese Camellia has been grown throughout the world. Australia and New Zealand now have well known hybridizers who have given new vigour in to developement of new flowers.  Some of the best newer Camellia are crosses with other species such as reticulata, and especially saluenensis which is more hardy.

Camellia x williamsii 'Donation', probably the most beautiful and sucessful  japonica x saluenensis cross.

Camellia x williamsii 'Donation', probably the most beautiful and sucessful japonica x saluenensis cross.

we are lucky that Japanese Camellias are very adaptable and easy to please. They can grow to very large sizes with time, up to 9m(30ft) in height and 4.5m wide, I have seen very large plants which are taller than a house here. Fortunately giant plants take many, many years as Camellias are considered to be slow growers. Japanese Camellias like early season sun but need to be protected from strong light later in the year, ideal situations are under or near large deciduous trees and other woodland sites.. They yellow and burn when the sun is too strong here. they also need to be sheltered from cold, freezing, drying winds as the early blooms can be damaged by frost.

Camellia japonica 'Jury's Yellow', a 1976 developement from New Zealand.

Camellia japonica 'Jury's Yellow', a 1976 developement from New Zealand.

Japanese Camellias like good slightly acidic or neutral soils with good spring moisture for when they are growing and producing their blooms and leaves. Camellias are used as specimens, container plants, accents or even as informal hedges. They fit into shrub borders and the back of perennial beds for color when the bulbs come up. They require little or no pruning and are extremely long lived, plants can live several hundred years.

This Camellia was formerly known as 'Lady Clare', we are now using its correct Japanese name 'Akashi-Gata'

This Camellia was formerly known as 'Lady Clare', we are now using its correct Japanese name 'Akashi-Gata'

Some interesting and ravishing places for you to look at:

An interesting Japanese site in English: http://homepage3.nifty.com/plantsandjapan/page021.html

A vast collection of pages and pictures to identify Camellias:http://www.camelieantiche.com/index.php?osCsid=d57514480eeb38224cef68ba02bb1b9d

An incredible slide show of the 2008 Spanish Camellia Show: http://www.flickr.com/photos/24923827@N07/sets/72157604207205187/show/

Wiki page on Camellia japonica: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camellia_japonica

Until we meet again soon….

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Growing up in the north, at this time of the year winter was long in the tooth… we were all tired of it. We desperately looked forward to any warm days when the snow would melt and maybe a patch of green would show through the dirty snow. My mother had planted some tiny bulbs under an Alder bush which would grow into a tree. the bulbs would be the absolutely first things to bloom often before the ice and snow had left the ground. No wonder their common name is Glory in the Snow (Chiodoxa forbesii). Their incredibly intense blue blossoms where always cherished.

Glory In The Snow-Chiondoxa forbesii

Glory In The Snow has such an 'eye catching' color which stands out against any background.

Chiondoxa in Greek means literally Glory in the Snow; ‘Chion’ being snow and ‘doxa’ being glory. There has been some confusion with the specific species name which was formerly lucillae and this is still commonly seen in trade as well as in publications.  Lucillae was the name given by Edward Boissier for his wife (Lucile (1822-1849) who died accompanying him on his travels.

A small clump of Chiondoxa forbesii found in the rock garden in Beacon Hill Park, Victoria.

A small clump of Chiondoxa forbesii found in the rock garden in Beacon Hill Park, Victoria.

The name we now use is Chiondoxa forbesii. Forbesii commemorates James Forbes(1773-1861), the head gardener and horticulturalist of Woburn Abbey which was owned by the passionate plant collector the Duke of Bedford. Forbes wrote Hortus Woburnensis which was a listing of all the  6000 + species and varieties of ornamental plants which were held in the collection in his time.

 Chiondoxa 'Pink Giant' is one of the more commonly seen varieties seen here.

Chiondoxa 'Pink Giant' is one of the more commonly seen varieties seen here.

Whatever the name on the bulbs is you can be sure they originated in the same small area in western Turkey high in the Tmolus Mountains near Izmir. In the area where they grow Glory In The Snow often bloom before the snows have completely melted, therefore the common name. There Chiondoxa species  grow on gritty, stony slopes in full sun or under deciduous trees and shrubs.

Here at Domion Brook Park in North Saanich, Glory in the Snow has naturalized in the lawn over many years.

Choindoxa forbesii has been with us for some time and the bright blue flowers are always a favorite in the garden and lawn. because they are so low growing, early blooming and aggressive seeders they make good bulbs to include in lawns for early color. I see this in many places here where it is common the see the same with Crocus, Galanthus and Daffodils. We have an ideal climate with winter wet and droughts during the summer when these types of bulbs are resting.

Outside more door every morning I see the bright Chiondoxa forbesii blooming happliy

Outside more door every morning I see the bright Chiondoxa forbesii blooming happliy

Growing these dainty darlings is easy. Glory In The Snow likes well-drained soil with full sun especially when they are growing in the late winter and early spring.  When they are growing is the time they most need some moisture, later when they are dormant they prefer to be quite dry.  These plants are best grown under deciduous shrubs and trees especially in areas of strong sun. I like them under many of the early blooming shrubs and in areas which are brightened up by the bright colors. One must be careful if planting them  that they do not over take other small plants growing near by.  Remove spent flowers and sometimes dig up excess bulbs will take care of the problem of their over population.

Chiondoxa 'Pink Giant'

A contrast in pink shades. Chiondoxa 'Pink Giant' and a dark Heather.

Glory In The Snow are hardy to zone 4 or -29c (-20f). At the colder extremes you should give them some extra mulch for winter protection. They grow at the most 15cm (6in.) above the ground. If you choose to naturalize them in your lawn you should postpone you first mowing until they have finished  their growing cycle and are in decline, this will assure you a good colorful show of flowers the following year. If you like white forms be on the lookout for Chiondoxa forbesii var alba, a glistening member which would be attractive to see.

Glory in the Snow links:

Paghat’s page on the ‘Pink Giant’ http://www.paghat.com/chionodoxapink.html

Wiki’s page on Choindoxa:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chionodoxa_luciliae

Until we meet again soon…

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This time of year, no matter where I am, up north in deep snow, down on the coast in the rain or somewhere else when the sun comes out I want to either work a garden or explore in the woods.  This year the spring weather has come extraordinarily early and since I have recently moved I have started explore new areas in the city. My first stop was to change my library card and to explore  Colquitz River Trail which runs along the river of the same name. I was hunting for the not so elusive Osoberry or Indian Plum(Oemleria cerasiformis)plants which are in bloom now, I stalked along the walk and …..alongside the path were several!

 The Oemleria cerasiformis is one of the first native plants to bloom.

The Osoberry is one of the first native plants to bloom.

On gloomy wet days when I go for a walk I see these shrubs with their glistening white racemes of pure white flowers which hang from the tips of branches like  perfect dew drop earings. The Osoberry is a small tree or more commonly shrub which lives on the Pacific side of the coastal mountains, its range is from Santa Barbara County in U.S.A. north though into southern B.C. One of its common names refers to the fruit (fleshy drupes) which when ripe look like tiny thumb-sized Italian plums, and indeed they have stones  which are also perfect miniatures of that fruit.

The Indian Plum has plentiful fruits, but you better be quick to harvest them.

The Indian Plum has plentiful fruits, but you better be quick to harvest them.

The fruit is ripe when it is bluish black and was eaten by local native groups, they savored them fresh, cooked and dried.   Oso(berry) refers to bears liking to eat them. Birds (Robins), squirrels, deer, coyotes and many other animals love to feast on the fruit as well. Let us not forget the bees which enjoy this early source of nectar.

Indian Plums can be found in many parks here, this group is found by the bathrooms at Beacon Hill Park.

Indian Plums can be found in many parks here, this group is found by the bathrooms at Beacon Hill Park.

Native people also used parts of the Osmaronia cerasiformis medicinally.  Burned twigs were pulverized, mixed with Oolican grease and applied to sores. A tea made from the bark was used as a purgative and tonic. Decotions where made for tuberculosis. It is said to be not only anesthetic  but an aphrodisiac as well. Osoberry is a member of the Rosaceae(Rose family) whos seeds often have small amounts of hydrogen cyanide in them. hydrogen cyanide from these types of sources  has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion if carefully administered by a professional.

Colquitz River Trail is a good area to view Osmaronia cerasiformis.

Colquitz River Trail is a good area to view Osmaronia cerasiformis.

To my eye Osoberry are vase-shaped shrubs which are delicate looking throughout the year, this is partly do to the attractive thin leaves which keep their bright green coloring until the fall when they change to a clear butter yellow. It is not a densely leaved shrub therefore it never looks heavy or lumpy, but has a more wispy quality to it. In the winter without leaves the form of these shrubs can be highlighted.

Finnerty Garden has done a wonderful job pruning their Osoberry into small tree forms.

Finnerty Garden has done a wonderful job pruning their Osoberry into small tree forms.

Osoberry is seen in many areas here, along paths, roadsides, meadow edges  and creeks and in many rocky areas growing under the Garry Oaks. They are in full sun or dappled light. They like rich humusy soils which can retain some moisture during our dry summers here. if they become too dry during the summer they will start to drop some of their leaves. They take pruning very well and this should be done after they have bloomed. They usually are pruned for shape but also can be cut to the ground to revive them and tidy them up.

Osoberry are male or female plants and often grow in thickets under Garry Oaks as seen here at Government House.

Osoberry are male or female plants and often grow in thickets under Garry Oaks as seen here at Government House.

Indian Plum are male or female plants. If you want a good crop of berries for the wildlife or you, you will have to have both sexes of plants.  I have seen incredible crops of berries and have made tasty syrups and jellies which are similar to cherry flavor. These plants grow to 6m(20ft) high and 3.7m wide in places where they are most happy. They are rated zones 7 though 10, cold tolerant to -18c(10f).

This unripe crop of Indian Plums is high above my head.

This unripe crop of Indian Plums is high above my head.

Help for hunting Indian Plums:

Rainyside has an interesting page: http://www.rainyside.com/features/plant_gallery/nativeplants/Oemleria_cerasiformis.html

Technical information on the berry: http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Oemleria%20cerasiformis

Paghats’ Indian Plum page: http://www.paghat.com/indianplum.html

Until we meet again later….

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