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Archive for May, 2010

When I was growing up few herbs would grow in my chilly zone 3(-40c or f) city. One daring plant which survived quite nicely was a member of the Allium family and bloomed with mauve papery flowers. Later I saw wild Allium growing along the banks of the Fraser River near Lytton.  Here there are not only wild species of Alliums but many ornamental types growing in gardens and parks.  One group which catches everyone’s eye are the Giant (flowering) Onions.

One of many forms of Giant Onion, Allium 'Purple Sensation' shows up well against the golden foliage.

One of many forms of Giant Onion, Allium 'Purple Sensation' shows up well against the golden foliage.

There are nearly 900 species of Allium with about 150 of them coming from Turkey, and 40 from the California area.  Giant Onions are often a natural, accidental or  planned crossing of species. Some of the many species which lend their attributes such as  height, color and flower density include giganteum, hollandicum(aflatunense), cristophii, macleanii, karataviense .  Many named varieties have been selected, the process is slow and can take up to 20 years before they ready too be sold to the public.

Allium 'Globemaster' has densely packed mauve flowers on strong stems.

Allium 'Globemaster' has densely packed mauve flowers on strong stems.

The first Giant Onion which was seen in gardens was its namesake Allium giganteum which can grow up to 1.8m(6ft) tall and did really create a sensation. It has been found that such large flowers on wiry stem are susceptible to wind damage and are really too big for most gardens. From this time there have been growers busily crossing species to create shorter plants with large flowers and preferably nicer leaves. Most Giant Onions are between 45cm -1.2m(18-48in) tall.

Allium 'Globus' is only 45cm(18in) tall and was bred to be shorter than other Giant Onions.

Allium 'Globus' is only 45cm(18in) tall and was bred to be shorter than other Giant Onions.

No one can not be impressed with these stately and impressive flower displays.  Giant Onions are very versatile as plants which is why they are so often seen in public gardens. If you like butterflies and bees these are great magnets for them.  The tiny flowers actually are fragrant and I don’t mean in an oniony way.

After the flowers of Giant Onions are done, the seedheads are very attractive.

After the flowers of Giant Onions are done, the seedheads are very attractive.

We are lucky to have the opportunity to grow these wonderful plants. Giant Onions want the simple things in life, full sun, fertile soil which is well-drained and water in the spring and early summer when they are growing their most vigorously.  They offer the most impact when planted in groups. Plants these bulbs in the early fall.  They should be planted 10-15cm(4-6in) deep and should be spaced the same distance apart. They can take a fair amount of cold down to a chilly -20c(-10f) or rated as zones 6 through 10. In colder regions you can lift and store the bulbs over winter.

Allium 'Mount Everest'  looks wonderful with the green Crocosmia leaves in  the background.

Allium 'Mount Everest' looks wonderful with the green Crocosmia leaves in the background.

Giant Onions are drought tolerant, great for here where we have several months over the summer and fall with little rain. Another notable thing which is useful about them is that deer and rodents are said to not like them. These plants slowly multiply, so you can lift them after several years and divide them.

This wonderful combination of bright mauve Allium against a smoky burgundy and the wine tinged cream flowers is one that I have always liked.

This wonderful combination of bright mauve Allium against a smoky burgundy and the wine tinged cream flowers is one that I have always liked.

Giant Onion flowers are great against many types of other foliage, blue-green, burgundy, chartreuse, gray and just plain green become wonderful backgrounds and I have seen many inspiring color combinations. I am sure you can think up some stunning combinations for your garden.

On the great Allium hunt:

A good listing of species and forms are found here: http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/BigBallAlliums

Wiki has lots of interesting information on Alliums: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allium

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When I was a small child bright and vibrant colors excited and fascinated me.  There was the clear yellows of the Daffodils out at the lake, the brilliant blue of the Siberian Irises at home. Near the end of the school year i would see the crimson-red of some Oriental Poppies (Papaver orientale) in a yard as I passed by. The silky smooth red petals with their black basal blotches always made me want to pick them for my mother…but I knew I would get in trouble so I did not.

This amazing Oriental Poppy is most likely called 'Harlem'

This amazing Oriental Poppy is most likely called 'Harlem'

Oriental Poppies are not one species but are bred from several species which are very similar and found in the same general area. The first species was Papaver orientale which we know came to us in the early 18th century, it was sent to  European gardens by Joseph Pitton de Tournefort(1656-1708) who was a French botanist. He is important for first defining the concept of genus and species in plants. The next poppy species was Papaver pseudo-orientale which was introduced in 1788. The final species was Papaver bracteum which was introduced in 1817.

The Poppy of my childhood is most likely called Papaver orientale x 'Allegro' and has the common coloring of the species.

The Poppy of my childhood is most likely called Papaver orientale 'Allegro' and has the common coloring of the species.

All these species are found in the same general area ranging from northern Turkey and the southern Caucasus through into north-west Iran where they grow in isolation from each other. No one knows where they were first crossed or if  it was on purpose. The red-orange Poppies were grown in gardens through the Victorian times but  they were not really favorite types of flowers. Collectively in trade these crossed species are called Oriental Poppies and sold as Papver orientale.

I am always a sucker for white flowers and the same hold true for this pure Papaver orientale x 'Royal Wedding' flower.

I am always a sucker for white flowers and the same hold true for this Papaver orientale 'Royal Wedding' flower.

Interest in Oriental Poppies did not pick up until 1906 when Amos Perry(1841-1914) found a salmon colored flower blooming in a crop of the common orange-red type. He carefully saved it and named it Papaver orientale ‘Mrs. Perry’. Soon he had a plant everyone wanted to buy. From finding this one plant his nursery embarked on a careful breeding program to select new flower colors to sell.  The next named color also came by accident in 1913, people complained that their salmon ‘Mrs Perry’ Poppies were blooming white. the Nursery quickly apologized and replaced the plants for the white ones and named the newly found form ‘Perry’s White”.  From this time into the 1930s many new colors from deep maroons to   some forms with unusual leaves and buds were named, many have not survived through until now.

A big, fat bud of Papaver orientale x 'Harlem' is going to bloom in a few days.

A big, fat bud of Papaver orientale 'Harlem' is going to bloom in a few days.

More recent program of breeding Oriental Poppies has been successful in Germany. A nursery of Helene Countess von Stein- Zeppelin has breed  some glorious named forms which include ‘Aglaja’(‘Alglaya’), ‘Karine’, Derwisch’and ‘John III’ to name some of the better known ones.

Papaver orientale x ''Turkish Delight' does not have a dark basal blotch at the base of each petal.

Papaver orientale 'Turkish Delight' does not have a dark basal blotch at the base of each petal.

In the last few years the dark mauve purple Papaver orientale  ‘Patty’s Plum’ has created a sensation in the Poppy world. it was discovered  by   in Somerset, England in the compost dump at Kingsdon Somerton Nursery which is owned by Patricia Marrow. it has been known since the 1990s and sold to the public since 1999.

The color of Papver orientale x 'Patty's Plum' varies somewhat with the weather conditions.

The color of Papaver orientale 'Patty's Plum' varies somewhat with the weather conditions.

We are so fortunate that so many colors of Oriental Poppies are now available and  are easy to grow. Papaver orientale can take the cold and survive nicely at temperatures of -40c(-40f) zones3-9 which why I saw them in my childhood in chilly Prince George. They like poor soil which is well-drained to produce less foliage. For the best flowering full sun is a must. they like a weak feeding of fertilizer or mulching in the spring as well as ample watering when they are in full growth mode. Remove spent flowers and water less later in the season. Their size ranges from .75 to 1.2m (28-48in) and spread is similar as they often are floppy if not staked up.

Papaver orientale 'Picotee' is one of the more interesting flower forms  which is commonly seen.

Papaver orientale 'Picotee' is one of the more interesting flower forms which is commonly seen.

Many color forms are readily available at local nurseries or you can grow them yourself from seed, they are easy to germinate and will bloom in the following year from seed. There are several fine seed forms in reds, salmon, pink and white available. Division of clumps is only done in the fall as they do not like having their roots disturbed.

Peruse Poppy information here:

The back story of Oriental Poppies: http://overplanted.com/profiles/oriental-poppies.php

Joseph Pitton de Tournefort: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Pitton_de_Tournefort

The book I recommend if you are interested in anything related to the Poppy family: http://books.google.ca/books?id=f4Bv56KX_mMC&pg=PA9&dq=papaver+orientale&hl=en&ei=b9H4S-37GpXqNZKksYQI&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CDIQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=papaver%20orientale&f=false

Until we meet again here deep in the plants….

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There are colors we all want and have been written and dreamed about in the garden world. The purest, darkest black is always being searched for, pure blues are also being dreamed of in its various forms, even green in flowers create envy from those who long for that.  Some colors are few and always a shock or surprise when seen, Maroon is one such color especially when it is matched with the Peony. Delavay’s Tree Peony(Paeonia delavayi stops you to marvel at the depth and purity of the color maroon.

Delavay's Tree Peony - Paeonia delavayi

Delavay's Tree Peony - Paeonia delavayi

(Father)Père Jean Marie Delavay(1834-1895) was a remarkable man who introduced an incredible number of new plants, the count is at least 1500. the 1500 new plants was from over 200,000 specimens  which he carefully collected and documented. Even more amazing is that he did this all by himself with no help from others to carry his supplies and equipment through the many mountainous areas he travelled.  Jean Marie Delavay was sent by the Foreign Missions of Paris to China in 1867 and was first posted at Hui-chou in Canton. While posted there he collected plant samples  from as far away as Yunnan which were sent back to Great Britain by way of  Henry Fletcher Hance who was an important botanist.

Paeonia delavayi was first described in 1892 from a sample collected by Père Jean Marie Delavay.

Paeonia delavayi was first described in 1892 from a sample collected by Père Jean Marie Delavay.

In 1881 he returned to France and met the Père Armand David who convinced him to send future plant samples to the Museum of Natural History in Paris where Adrien Franchet would classify his collections. Père Delavay returned to China and spent his remaining time primarily in Yunnan where in 1888 he contracted bubonic plague which forced him to return to France in 1891 for treatment.  His final trip to China in 1894 was his last, he died in there on the last day of 1895.

Finnerty Gardens show stopper Paeonia delavayi is profusely blooming right now.

Finnerty Gardens show stopper Paeonia delavayi is profusely blooming right now.

Delavay’s Tree Peony is the most widely distributed of the woody Peony species. Paeonia delavayi is found mainly in north Yunnan into south-west Sichuan and Xizang(Tibet). The first sample was described by Franchet in 1892 from Delavay’s samples and notes. It was reintroduced by Gregor Nikolacvich Potanin in 1904 and was often called Paeonia potanini until the taxonomy of Peony species was sorted out. None the less it was recognized to be a spectacular plant well worth inclusion in gardens.

Not only is the maroon color eye catching, so are the leaves of Delavays Tree Peony.

Not only is the maroon color eye catching, so are the leaves of Delavays Tree Peony.

Paeonia delavayi is a plant which is pleasing in leaf and flower. The leaves emerge with red tints and as they expand take on a more blueish cast. The size of the plant overall is large but because the leaves are deeply cut the overall feeling is delicate. The flowers are up to 10.5cm(4in.) wide and have a deep and intense coloring which standout from the foliage. There are several color forms known, best  is  ‘lutea’ which is yellow, white through coppery peach have been found but are not commonly seen here. I recently stumbled upon several of the yellow (‘Lutea’)  form growing in the back of a condominium complex which I am doing a garden design for, what a treat!

The Yellow form of Paeonia delavayi has a more delicate feeling.

The Yellow form of Paeonia delavayi has a more delicate feeling.

Delavay’s Tree Peony is not difficult to grow if you give it what it needs. It like a rich humus soil which is free draining. They will tolerate chalky soils better than other Peonies.  Paeonia delavayi grows well in full sun to dappled shade, I have seen it bloom in quite shady spots. All Peonies hate to have their roots disturbed so make sure that you want it to stay where you plant it.  It should get a servingn of mulch every spring.

Young plants of Paeonia delavayi are said to have more nodding flowers as their woody stems are not so well developed.

Young plants of Paeonia delavayi are said to have more nodding flowers as their woody stems are not so well developed.

Delavay’s Tree Peony take up a fairly large area, they grow 1.5m(5ft) tal and are a simalar width. They can be planted as specimens or in groups and fit well into a woodland garden. Paeonia delavayi come from open forests and grasslands at high altitudes and can take cold temperature well without damage, the one thing which can do harm is late frosts on their early emerging foliage. They are listed as zone 6(-18c or-5f) through 9.

Paeonia delavayi are easily grown form seed but you need time and patience before seeing you first flowers.

Paeonia delavayi are easily grown form seed but you need time and patience before seeing you first flowers.

Maroon colored notes:

Jean Marie Delavay: http://www.plantexplorers.com/explorers/biographies/french-missionaries/pere-jean-marie-delavay.htm

The Paeonia delavayi complex: http://hua.huh.harvard.edu/china/novon/hong85-4.htm

Seed germination information: http://www.plantexplorers.com/vandusen/product_info.php/products_id/782

Museum of Natural History in Paris: http://www.mnhn.fr/museum/foffice/transverse/transverse/accueil.xsp?cl=en

See you soon at this same place and time….

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When I go outside at this time of the year, I can smell the plants  and they are excited. The sap is flowing, the leaves and petals are expanding and is gradually becoming warmer overnight. It is the time of year where there is a kind of excitement in the garden and we all want to rush out and work there. When I walk through a park or up street there is a riot of color now which is coming from the Rhododendrons and Azaleas. Although I love the firey colors which are seen my favoritie azalea is a delicate light pink color with equaly delicately rounded leaves which are unfurling right now. I speak of the Royal Azalea (Rhododendron schlippenbachii) which is so delicate and pleasing to the eye and nose.

the Royal Azalea, Rhododendron schlippenbachii.

the Royal Azalea, Rhododendron schlippenbachii.

The Royal Azalea is a plant that comes mainly from the Korean Peninsula and moving into nearby northern China, Russia and Japan. In Korea it is often the dominant species which is a common understory shrub there. In South Korea this plant is an important local symbol which is used by cities and local areas. In Korean it’s name is  ‘Cheoljjuk’ when its petals are pink, when they are white its name is ‘Huincheoljjuk’

The attractively rounded leaves and flowers of Rhododendron schlippenbachii - the Royal  Azalea.

The attractively rounded leaves and flowers of Rhododendron schlippenbachii - the Royal Azalea.

The Royal Azalea was found Baron Alexander von Schlippenbach(1828-?)  who was a Russian naval officer.His father was also a famous naval officer. He collected the specimen of Rhododendron schlippenbachii in 1854 in Korea.  James Veitch of the famous nursery introduced this plant into cultivation in 1893. Since then Rhododendron schlippenbachii has been award  an AM(Award of Merit) in 1896, FCC(First Class Certificate) in 1944 an AGM (Award of Garden Merit) in 1984, all  are given by the Royal Horticultural Society. These awards are based on garden trials and consideration of plants as good garden plants.

The flower color of Rhododendron schlippenbachii ranges from this strong pink  to paler shades and white.

The flower color of Rhododendron schlippenbachii ranges from this strong pink to paler shades and white.

Rhododendron schlippenbachii with its rounded leaves and flowers is  a most attractive delicate plant. The leaves are arranged in whorls on the tips of the branches and the overall feeling is light and airy. The branches themselves are  slender and are placed to give an open feeling. The overall effect is of a dainty rounded shrub.The leaves emerge often with a bronzed tint and then change to a vibrant green. The flowers are beautiful in themselves and have the added bonus of being fragrant.

A Royal Azalea(Rhododendron schlippenbachii) along a path at Finnerty Gardens in Victoria.

A Royal Azalea(Rhododendron schlippenbachii) along a path at Finnerty Gardens in Victoria.

I must say of the numerous Royal Azalea I see in Victoria, my favorite one is the first I ever saw. It is located in the Alpine Garden in Beacon Hill Park where you can look up into it and appreciate its form. It blooms along with several other more conventional Rhododendrons at the same time which just goes to highlight it’s lightness compared to the others.

The Royal Azalea in Beacon Hill Park.

The Royal Azalea in Beacon Hill Park.

Although Royal Azaleas look delicate they can take tough situations. They like a dappled position or in shade from the hot afternoon sun. They will burn when young from too much sun exposure. Royal Azaleas appreciate moist well drained soil which is rich in nutrients. Mulching it every spring will help your plant become more drought tolerant. Rhododendron schlippenbachii are said to tolerate more alkaline soils than other species. as they bloom early in the season it is important to protect them from late frosts if you have this issue. They are a plant which do not like competition in their root zone, therefor care must be taken when planting underneath them, bulbs and ground-cover is a good idea. They are slow to bloom and may take 5-7 years from seed or cutting, the wait is well worth it though.

Rhododendron schlippenbachii like a dappled spot with shade from the afternoon sun.

Rhododendron schlippenbachii like a dappled spot with shade from the afternoon sun.

In the fall Royal Azalea put on another show of colors ranging from golden yellow through orange and crimson. Rhododendron schlippenbachii slowly grows to be 1.5m(5ft) tall and wide. It is hardy to at least -29c(-20f) with no damage seen to the buds. It grow best in zones 5 through 8. It is best seen in woodland or shady gardens, along paths or entries where you can smell the perfume.

The beautiful flowers and leaves of Rhododendron schlippenbachii comes to use from Korea.

The beautiful flowers and leaves of Rhododendron schlippenbachii comes to use from Korea.

Notes for a royal subject:

A good source of information on this plant:http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.com/gardeninghelp/PlantFinder/plant.asp?code=D582

It really is a Great Plant Pick: http://www.greatplantpicks.org/display?id=3058&searchterm=all

Baron Alexander von Schlippenbach: http://www.stamboomonderzoek.com/sliepenbeek/getperson.php?personID=I2783&tree=sliepenbeek

Same Place, Same Time, Next Week….

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When I think of growing up in Prince George many things come to mind; the happy days spent hiking on the trails near our house in the city,  collecting wild berries during the summer and fall, and the large lilac hedge which we would pick branches to bring to our mom.  Every year at this time when the perfume is in the air I travel back in time. The scent of Common Lilac(Syringa vulgaris) has stayed with me as one of my favorite memories from my childhood.

This is the common Lilac (Syringa vulgaris), the one seen in our backyard.

This is the common Lilac (Syringa vulgaris), the one seen in our backyard.

Common Lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) are very happy growing in such a harsh climate as Prince George which is zone 3. The lavender purple common Lilacs were undoubtedly brought to Canada by early settlers who wanted a bit of their garden to remind them of where they came from. Lilac is a great shrub for this purpose as it is a suckery plant and it is easy to find a piece to dig out and give away. I can see this as the way the plant was given to neighbors and relatives who might have been visiting and admired it. My parents did just this and took some suckers to plant out at our cabin by the lake and today after many years they happily bloom every year.

Syringa vulgaris f.(forma) alba is found near the Humboldt/Blanchard St. entrance at St. Ann's Academy.

Syringa vulgaris f.(forma) alba is found near the Humboldt/Blanchard St. entrance at St. Ann's Academy.

Lilacs have with us for a long time. It is said that Lilacs were introduced from the Ottoman Empire as a gift from ‘Suileman the Magnificant’ to King Ferdinand of the Holy Roman Empire in 1563. Ogier Ghiselin de Busbec, the ambassador of the Holy Roman Empire brought cuttings of the Lilacs back with him and gave them to famed botanist Carolus Clusius to grow. Soon these new plants were being cultivated by other famous botanists and herbalists such as John Gerard and Tradscant the Elder who were in England. Lilacs appeared in the American colonies in the 18th century.

This small flowered form is what Syringa vulgaris looks like in the wild.

This small flowered form is what Syringa vulgaris looks like in the wild.

Victor Lemoine, the great plant hybridzer worked extensively with Lilacs Starting in 1870 and continuing through his descendants introduced over 200 new forms commonly called ‘French Lilacs’. Many of these are still very popular and widely grown today. French Lilacs (vulgaris hybrids) come in a wide range of colors, from the darkest purples through cerise to pink to the clearest white and even a yellowish(‘Primrose’) form. There are also some famous doubles and at least one well known bi-color(‘Sensation’).

Syringa 'Charles Joly' one of the darkest colors was raised by Lemoine in 1896.

Syringa 'Charles Joly' one of the darkest colors was raised by Lemoine in 1896.

I have seen quite a few different Lilacs in the downtown area of Victoria as well as three varieties at St Ann’s Academy. At the Academy they have a very unusual single white form, Syringa vulgaris f.(forma) alba, two of them are located just inside the Humboldt-Blanchard corner entrance.

Syringa 'Katherine Havemeyer' is found in the Novitiate Garden at St. Ann's Academy.

Syringa 'Katherine Havemeyer' is found in the Novitiate Garden at St. Ann's Academy.

If you visit the Novitiate Garden you will see next to the stairs leading to the veranda two more; ‘Katherine Havermeyer'(Lemoine 1930) which is a double pale blue color and ‘Sensation’ the bi-colored one. The common Lilacs which originally separated the Novitiate Garden from the rest of the property were move up along the back of the garden and are seen behind the Summerhouse along the back intermingled with the Holly hedge.

Syringa 'Sensation' was raised by De Maarse of Boskoop in 1938.

Syringa 'Sensation' was raised by De Maarse of Boskoop in 1938.

Lilacs are easy to grow and tolerate most types of soil, even that which is chalky It blooms best in full sun and will appreciate having the spent flowers being removed. Lilacs need adequate water through their growing season and are known to wilt. Named varieties are often grafted to give them more vigorous growth. Lilacs are best used as informal hedges, specimens or for fragrance in the garden. It is best to select the Lilac you are going to buy when they are in bloom so you can see it’s true color and smell it’s fragrance. There are many named forms to choose from.

I see a small plant of Syringa Mme. Antoine. Buchner when I look out my window.

I see a small plant of Syringa Mme. Antoine. Buchner when I look out my window.

Following the scent of Syringas:

The wiki page on Syringa: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syringa_vulgaris

The favorite dark purple Lilac: http://www.paghat.com/lilac.html

The Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton Ontario has one of the best collections in the world: http://www.rbg.ca/

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