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Archive for October, 2010

Big winds are starting early this year, the forecast is for a colder winter here. I n=know our winters are nothing like those from the rest of Canada and much of North America, we are wet and very slippery with ice here if it gets cold. With cold weather comes more brilliant colors in the departing leaves which are on the trees. So here we are in the blustery weather wanting to go and walk in the forests and big parks to see bright colors. Some of the best color comes from the Quercus family and without a doubt the absolute star in the family is Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea). All I can say is Blaze on and warm us up with your firey flame-like leaves!

The Scarlet Oaks enliven the Stelly's Secondary School campus in the autumn.

The Scarlet Oaks enliven the Stelly's Secondary School campus in the autumn.

Scarlet Oaks are one of the trees which people think of when they want to experience the colors of autumn in eastern North America. The colors are so fine that many people take tours through the northern United States and eastern Canadian provinces to experience it. I have never been myself but can imagine how breath-taking it must be based on the color of the same trees here.

As the leaves of Quercus coccinea breakdown anthocytins are released giving the leaves their red coloring.

As the leaves of Quercus coccinea breakdown anthocyanins are released giving the leaves their red coloring.

Part of the reason of the strong bright colors in Quercus coccinea has to do with how the leaves break down in the fall. The component which affects color is anthocyanin( giving reds and blues) which is stored in the natural sugars found in the leaves. As the leaves start to break down in the fall the anthocyanins are released and their red and blue tones effect the color of the leaf. Many leaves of other trees change into yellow and orange tones which are caused by xanthophyll and carotenoids.It is surprising we get such good color because we are not that cold in the autumn here.

The Scarlet coloring of Quercus coccinea is very intense and brilliant.

The Scarlet coloring of Quercus coccinea is very intense and brilliant.

Scarlet Oaks are widespread in the east growing from Maine to Alabama and east into Oklahoma. It is a tree which tolerates a fairly wide range of conditions but often is seen growing in upland forests, ridges and hillside where the conditions are a bit drier and the soil is often is sandy and gritty. These are trees of the upper canopy and do not like to be in the shade.

This Scarlet Oak is one of many Oaks found in the 'Mayors Grove' at Beacon Hill Park in Victoria.

This Scarlet Oak is one of many Oaks found in the 'Mayors Grove' at Beacon Hill Park in Victoria.

Quercus coccinea grow to be large trees of up to 24m(80ft). When they are young they have a more pyramidal shape and with age get a more rounded shape.  The leaves are deeply lobed which gives this tree a more lacey feeling  and more delicate look compared to others of the species. The tree here which might be mistaken for Scarlet Oak is the Pin Oak (Quercus palustris), it needs a damper site and is more likely to be seen up island or in the Vancouver area which have more rain compared to the drought here.

These young Scarlet Oaks show thier pyramidal shape which will change with age.

These young Scarlet Oaks show their pyramidal shape which will change with age.

Scarlet Oaks are considered to be the best of the species to grow because of their adaptability to soils and water, their brilliant color and their tolerance of urban conditions.  They like an average to sandy soil which is on the acidic side to keep them from getting chlorosis. They are naturally from drier sites but tolerate damper sites as long that there is good drainage. These trees require full sun to perform their best. These trees are popular with landscapers and are often seen in industrial and commercial settings, here they are seen around parking lots and in parks. These trees have attractive foliage and bark.

 

The bark of Scarlet Oak is ridged and  an overall grey color.

The bark of Scarlet Oak is ridged and an overall grey color.

 

The acorns of Scarlet Oaks can be hard to come by here with the Squirrels  which eat store them. They are 1-2.5cm(1/2-1in.) long with their cap covering half the nut from the top. Acorns are produced in large quantity every 3 to 4 years. Propagation is by seed which has to be collected before the squirrels get the best ones. Check  your harvest in a bucket of water and throw away any that float. The seed has a short period of viability and needs to be sown as soon as possible.

 

Broadmead Village Shopping Centre has some of the best Scarlet Oaks and other autumn color in the Victoria area.

Broadmead Village Shopping Centre has some of the best Scarlet Oaks and other autumn color in the Victoria area.

 

 

Scarlet Oaks are rated at zones 4 through 9 and take -35c(-30f). If you have a large property this tree is an excellent choice for you as it makes an easy to maintain tree which need little work. It is best to buy these trees in a container as like other Oaks they have a tap-root which is easily damaged.

Looking at the quirks of Quercus coccinea:

A visual key to compare Oaks: http://www.cas.vanderbilt.edu/bioimages/pages/compare-oaks.htm

Wiki’s page on Scarlet Oaks: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quercus_coccinea

Another good site to look up plant at: http://www.hort.uconn.edu/plants/q/quecoc/quecoc1.html

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This week it has taken a turn for fall the sun shines and the nights are much cooler. Finally there are touches of color developing in the leaves of trees, in the next few weeks the show of yellow, red and orange will be at their peak here. Gardeners are starting to remove spent annuals and cut down yellowing and bedraggled perennials. Some grasses such as Miscanthus are blooming while others are finnished waitng for the winter rains. Several plants are blooming as it is coming into thier summer, these are some of the bulbs from South Africa. One of the most showy is Nerine bowdenii (Guernsey Lily) and how beautiful it is.

The pink coloring of Nerine bowdenii makes it a favorite flower amoung many who grow it.

The pink coloring of Nerine bowdenii makes it a favorite flower amoung many who grow it.

Nerines are all found in Africa with 23 0f the species found in South Africa. There is some confusion as to exactly how many species there ranging between 25 and 30. We do know the plant Nerine is named for the Greek word ‘Nereis’ for sea nymph. Bowdenii comes from Athelstan Hall Cornish Bowden (1871-1942) who was born in Devon and went on to become the Government Land Surveyor of the Cape Colony which later became South Africa. In 1903 he brought his namesake plant back to England.

The strap-like foliage of these Nerine bowdenii bulbs is blended in with Acorus leaves.

The strap-like foliage of these Nerine bowdenii bulbs is blended in with Acorus leaves.

Nerine bowdenii is considered to be the most hardy of the known Nerine species. This is because it was originally found high(3000m or nearly 10000 ft.) in the  Drakensburg Mountains in north Natal. There it flowers in February to May. It is often found growing in cracks of  the stony cliffs and where a little soil and leaf mold has accumulated over time.

Nerine bowdenii is perfectly planted in the stony outcropping of the 'Terrace Gardens' at Government House in Victoria.

Nerine bowdenii is perfectly planted in the stony outcropping of the 'Terrace Gardens' at Government House in Victoria.

Many South African plants are relatively new to gardening and have been thought to be more tender than they have turned out to be. Here in Victoria and in the southern corner of British Columbia we have a very similar climate to parts of South Africa and have been lucky to enjoy a wide range of interesting plants which grow there.  We have a mild winter which is damp and warm to hot summers with a prolonged drought which is perfect for many bulbs such as Nerine bowdenii.

This clump of Nerine bowdenii is in the dappled shade at Finnerty Gardens.

This clump of Nerine bowdenii is in the dappled shade at Finnerty Gardens.

Nerine bowdenii is a fairly easy and adaptable plant to grow. Plant the bulbs close together with part of the bulb exposed like it is found in the wild. Grow it in any rich soil with good drainage so the bulbs do not sit it overly wet soil for long periods. When planting bulbs it is a good idea to add some bone meal for development of strong healthy roots. It is said that this species of Nerine can take -10(14f) temperatures easily. If you live in a colder climate grow your plants in a container which you may choose to sink into the ground and lift late in the fall to over-winter inside.

The typical Nerine bowdenii floral scape has up to a dozen flowers which are usually in a pink shade.

The typical Nerine bowdenii floral scape has up to a dozen flowers which are usually in a pink shade.

Several named selects can be found of Nerine bowdenii which are in pink shades as well as a white form. This plant is about 60cm(2ft) tall and has proved to be an excellent long lasting cut flower. The strap-like foliage is similar to that of Agapanthus and is an attractive mid green color. Propagation is by division of the bulbs or planting the fleshy seeds as soon as they become ripe. From seed to blooming bulb takes up to 6 years.

The bright pink Nerine bowdenii flowers against the maroon shades of this foliage is quite spectacular.

The bright pink Nerine bowdenii flowers against the maroon shades of this foliage is quite spectacular.

Noticing Nerines:

Pacific Bulb Society page on Nerines: http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/nerine

Wiki has a good page on Nerine bowdenii: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nerine_bowdenii

Nerines in South Africa: http://www.bulbsociety.org/GALLERY_OF_THE_WORLDS_BULBS/GRAPHICS/Nerine/Nerineprimer.html

…………….Hope to see you near here soon…………………

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Some plants we see are boring because we see them so much in garden, others take us by surprise and we ask ourselves if it’s real. Other plants remind us of other plants but their form or flower is not quite right to be that plant. Many plants that are related bear similar flowers or something in the leaves which say to us what they are. One plant that creates many of these feelings is Lobelia x ‘Queen Victoria’ (Queen Victoria Lobelia).

 

'Queen Victoria' Lobelia has some of the most vibrant flowers in the garden.

'Queen Victoria' Lobelia has some of the most vibrant flowers in the garden.

 

 

There is some confusion as to the parentage of ‘Queen Victoria’ Lobelia which leads to more confusion with its true cold hardiness. From my gleanings of many sources the likely answer to who the parents are is it is a crossing of the northern red Lobelia cardinalis with the southern L. fulgens (Mexican Lobelia) which is found Mexico and south into central America. Both plants have firey red flowers and bloom late in the year. Fulgens most likely contributed the red coloration in the leaves at in the wild some plants have this tinge. Cardinalis contributes the especially brilliant scarlet red flower color and the general shape of the flowers.

 

inThe distinctive plum tinted foliage and brilliant red flowers make 'Queen Victoria' Lobelia a knock out in the garden.

The distinctive plum tinted foliage and brilliant red flowers make 'Queen Victoria' Lobelia a knock out in the garden.

Like many plants ‘Queen Victoria’ Lobelia has been around for sometime and was popular from the time it became known to garden enthusiasts.  The first mention I have found dates to 1943 in the New York Times and also in the Los Angles Times. Lillian Meyferth wrote in New York Times that  it as ‘having deeper red flowers and dark,  bronzy foliage’

 

 

The reddish foliage of 'Queen Victoria' Lobelia is attracive early in the year.

The reddish foliage of 'Queen Victoria' Lobelia is attracive early in the year.

 

Whether it be called ‘ x’, speciosa, fulgens or cardinalis on its sales tag ‘Queen Victoria’ Lobelia is easily recognizable from other Lobelia. The red tinged foliage is one of the more distinct colors in the garden and care must be taken when placing this plant. One other thing I have learned is red and plum colors draws ones vision to it in the garden, meaning anything next to this plant will take second place. It is fortunate that this plant is in its glory late in the year when there are not many other plants to compete against it. In fact many tones of plants will complement it with their leave in autumns brilliant shades.

 

Here 'Queen Victoria' Lobelia is planted with other late blooming plants to make a pleasing, colorful display at Tulista Park in Sidney.

Here 'Queen Victoria' Lobelia is planted with other late blooming plants to make a pleasing, colorful display at Tulista Park in Sidney.

Growing ‘Queen Victoria’ Lobelia is quite easy in the right place. This plant like full sun to light shade, and rich deep moisture retentive soil.  In a sunny place the leaves will often droop during the day and perk up later in the evening, giving it a spot of water will make it a tougher plant. Since this is mostly a seed grown plant the color of the leaves will vary in the intensity of color and keep this in mind when buying it. Buy this plant where it is displayed in full sun and where the color is true to its form, in the shade the leaves become more olive toned.

 

 

A Brilliant flash of color from 'Queen Victoria' Lobelia is a welcome sight to behold in the garden at this time of year.

A Brilliant flash of color from 'Queen Victoria' Lobelia is a welcome sight to behold in the garden at this time of year.

 

As mentioned there is confusion with ‘Queen Victoria’ Lobelia in parentage, it is also with hardiness of this plant. Know you know that one of its parents is from Mexico and southern areas which will lead it to be seen as less hardy. It is was in the past rated as having a much colder tolerance, but this has been changed with experience. It is now rated at zones 7 through 10 or tolerating -10c(14f). It is best to view this plant as a somewhat short-lived perennial with a lifespan of up to 10 years. When you have a vigorously growing plant it will produce new plants which can be divided off in the spring. These plats grow to about 90cm (2 1/2ft) tall and 30cm(1ft) wide.

 

Here 'Queen Victoria' Lobelia is soon to be in bloom on the long perennial border at Government House.

Here 'Queen Victoria' Lobelia is soon to be in bloom on the long perennial border at Government House.

 

‘Queen Victoria’ Lobelia is a very useful plant for in the garden, its colorful foliage and brilliant blooms make it a specimen in the garden. It often looks best planted in groups for impact. It works well in perennial beds, hot sun locations, waterside and poolside gardens, damp sites, containers. It is a good cut flower with its bright coloring which also attracts humming birds and butterflies.

Looking for the Queen:

This site always has good authoritative information : http://www.perennials.com/seeplant.html?item=1.328.

Other gardeners experiences with growing this plant: http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/neweng/msg0512480917815.html

…..Looking to find you here again…..

 

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When I was going to horticulture school we learned mostly practical plants, not many where exotic or unusual. This is perfectly locical as we were going to be the designers and sellers of materials for people who did not know what was best for their yards. As I learned the trees and shrubs I would travel up and down the streets and avenues in the area I lived looking for new specimens I was learning. One winter day I went out and was walking along a school edge and admiring the symmetry of the tree species which was planted along the property edge, all of a sudden I realized this was a row of Tulip Trees(Liriodendron tulipifera)  which I found so appealing. I then had a new appreciation for the tree and why it was selected for us to learn about.

The typical shape of a Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) leave is seen here decked out in fabulous fall color.

The typical shape of a Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) leave is seen here decked out in fabulous fall color.

The Liriodendron species is very old, in fact it dates back to the Cretaceous era. This era was 145.5 to 65 million years ago.  At that time Liriodendrons grew in across the northern hemisphere. It is believed that the last ice age  Liriodendrons retreated into to two area, eastern North America(L. tulipifera) and China(L. chinense) and developed into 2 distinct species that we know today. Liriodendron tulipifera now grows in eastern North America from Florida to southern Ontario and west into parts of Texas and Missouri and Iowa. It is in the Great Smoky Mountains along the Tennessee , North Carolina state borders were it grows its best.

There are many Tulip Trees throughout  Victoria, these trees are along the Heywood St. entrance in Beacon Hill Park.

There are many Tulip Trees throughout Victoria, these trees are along the Heywood St. entrance in Beacon Hill Park.

The name Tulip tree is something of a puzzle, people wonder if it refers to the tulip- like leaves or the flowers.  In botanical latin Liriodendron refers to ‘greek’ Leirion meaning a lily and ‘dendron’ meaning a tree. Liriodendron= a ‘lily tree’. Then we add tulipafera or’tulipa’ the latin name for the Tulip flower. Liriodendron(lily tree) + tulipifera(Tulip) = Tulip Lily flowered Tree.  Although the leaves do look like tulips in their own way , it is the rarely seen flowers which are high up in the tree which are refered to. The flowers of this species are very primitive and are formed in a spiral of pistils and stamens in a conical receptacle. Surrounding the conical form are 9 narrow sepals which take the place of petals and on the inside of these is an orange stripe.

The unusual pale green 'Tulip Tree' flowers ishigh in the tree and often not easily seen.

The unusual pale green 'Tulip Tree' flowers is high in the tree and often not easily seen.

Tulip Trees are the largest broad-leaved trees in eastern North America and the wood they provide is a very good quality hardwood. Other common names they go by is Tulip or Yellow Poplar or even Yellow Wood. The wood quality is hard, finely grained and taking a high polish, this is why it is used for such things as furniture, veneers and paneling and toys. The first use of this wood was for dugout canoes made by the native  people who found the huge trunk size useful for the purpose.

Massive Tulip Trees are an important source of lumber in Eastern North America.

Massive Tulip Trees are an important source of lumber in Eastern North America.

Liriodendron tulipifera can grow to about 42-50m(150-165ft) in an urban situation which makes their placement difficult in most small garden plots. Tulip trees are really best for large lawns or park-like settings. They are excellent trees for boulevards and other street tree settings.  They have the added attraction of being fairly pest and disease free, I never see leaf damage on these trees around here. Another bonus is the beautiful golden and brass shades seen in the autumn as these trees shed their leaves in autumn.

The Attractive autumn color of the Tulip Trees line this walk at St Ann's Academy in Victoria.

The Attractive autumn color of the Tulip Trees line this walk at St Ann's Academy in Victoria.

Liriodendron tulipifera is an ancient tree but is easy to grow.  It grows best in full sun or  light shade in the hotter, drier parts of North America. It likes deep, rich, slightly acidic soil which does not dry out during hot spells in summer and fall. They have fleshy roots which are poorly branched and probably brittle therefore care must be taken when planting beneath them when they are young.  These trees tolerate -25c(-20f) or zones 5 through 9.

The conical arrangement of the Tulip Tree seed-head falls apart to reveal single-seeded samaras.

The conical arrangement of the Tulip Tree seed-head falls apart to reveal single-seeded samara.

Propagation of Liriodendron tulipifera is easily done by seed or grafting for the more attractive forms. There are at least 2  very attractive variegated forms. Other forms are fastigate or have more unusual growth habits.

The furrowed bark of Liriodendron tulipifera is attractive and easily recogonizable.

The furrowed bark of Liriodendron tulipifera is attractive and easily recogonizable.

Trailing Tulip Trees:

Some great pictures of the elusive flowers: http://ontariotrees.com/mondaygarden/article.php?id=0095

Always a good source of plant information: http://www.hort.uconn.edu/plants/l/lirtul/lirtul1.html

Wikis’ page on Tulip Trees: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liriodendron_tulipifera

Until we meet again here….

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