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Archive for February, 2011

This winter has been remarkably hard for plants. It started with a terrible and extreme cold snap in November before many plants had totally hardened off for the winter.  The problem at that time was the cold came before the snow which protects more tender plants. On Wednesday morning I woke up to look out of my bedroom window to see an unexpected snow storm had dumped a large amount of snow. The cold came with winds the next day, but many plants this time are protected with a blanket of snow. By the time the snow stopped for the day there was about 30cm.(1ft.) on the ground.

A surprise morning vision of white put a crimp im my plans for the day.

A surprise morning vision of white put a crimp im my plans for the day.

In the afternoon there was even more snow and I and many others had started to shovel out paths and sidewalks. Trucks were up and down salting streets. The winds had picked up and with the strong breeze can the chill factor overnight. The temperature dipped down to -6 c. (20 f.) but the wind chill was -16 c (3 f.), an all time record for this time of year. With the roads being in dangerous condition I decided to stay at home until Friday afternoon. By that time the melt was on and snow piled high in parking lots.

Damaged Cotoneaster foliage is browned form the cold winter weather.

Damaged Cotoneaster foliage is browned from the cold winter weather.

The piles of snow can take a while to melt and during that time damage the plants that are covered by it. This is particularly true in the large parking lots where snow is not removed and is just pushed out of the way.

I wonder how long it will take to melt this pile of snow?

I wonder how long it will take to melt this pile of snow?

I know this year has been cooler already that last year. The buds on the Climbing Hydrangea by the gate were expanding and I was checking to see if the Forsythia was ready to bloom yet. Last year at this time were well in advance in the garden.

 The same day we got our big snow this year the Forsythia was fully in bloom last year.

The same day we got our big snow this year the Forsythia was fully in bloom last year.

The Annual flower count starts March 1st and lasts until the 7th here every year, it should be a challenge this year to find the billions which are counted every year.Last year they had a record number. There is more inclement weather forecast for tonight and the rest of the week.

 This years famous Victoria Flower Count should be way down from other years.

This years famous Victoria Flower Count should be way down from other years.

I mainly worry about those plants that made through the first cold in November and have now been hit again. The damage to broad-leaved evergreens is especially apparent with many of the larger leaved Rhododendrons looking sad .

 Winter damage on the large leaved Rhododendrons at Finnerty Gardens as seen in January.

Winter damage on the large-leaved Rhododendrons at Finnerty Gardens as seen in January.

The forecast for tonight is possibly more snow and the roads will be slippery in spots for sure. We gardeners are always trying to push the boundaries of what we can grow in our area, here it is more tender and tropical plants people want in gardens. When we have unusually cold snaps like this it reminds us how lucky we are that it does not last for more than a few days at a time.

Counting the Days of Flowers:

Victoria really does have a flower count every year: http://www.flowercount.com/

Victoria snow storm pictures from last week: http://www.howlabit.net/gallery2/main.php?g2_itemId=2575

Victoria during the storm is not safe: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D03rK2sdEeo

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As I look out my window today I remember what it was like at this time of year; it is the middle of February and still the snow is falling and the piles of it are getting higher and higher. Back then any sunny day would make me anxious for spring to come with the brightly colored bulbs of yellow, purple, blue and even white poking through patches of bare soil. Yes I am speaking of the first flowers of this early spring here which have a big impact. The Crocus are running amuck through the city in the parks and yards and have even gone rogue in some places! I offer up to you the  group of Crocus hybrids sometimes called ‘Dutch Crocus’ to brighten your very early spring.

 These Dutch Crocus Hybrids have incredibly huge flowers, yet have a delicate quality.

These Dutch Crocus Hybrids have incredibly huge flowers, yet have a delicate quality.

There are about 80 different species of Crocus with many subspecies and varieties. Of that group only about 30 species are regularly grown by collectors and us regular people.There are 2 distinct groups ones which flowers in spring and those which bloom in autumn. Of the autumn group we would be familiar with Saffron Crocus which produce Saffron for culinary uses, the spice comes from collecting the stamens from the flowers. Crocus species originate from a large area from north Africa into south-central Europe all of Italy and eastern Europe to Russia and down through former Yugoslavia and Greece, crossing through Turkey and as far east as Afghanistan and south into the Middle East Asia. .

 Crocus 'Pickwick' is my favorite Dutch Crocus with its gloriously striped blossoms.

Crocus 'Pickwick' is my favorite Dutch Crocus with its gloriously striped blossoms.

Most of us are more familiar with the spring blooming named hybrids which are commonly called Dutch Crocus. This group of Crocus have been developed over several hundred years of careful selection of the best flower qualities. ‘Dutch’ Crocus are a group of hybrids which are primarily made up of crosses made from 5 species of which the 3 predominant are C. vernus(with the largest blooms), chrysanthus(color) and biflorus.

 Here Crocus have taken over a lawn at this time of year and have revert to a color which is similar to what they look in the wild.

Here Crocus have taken over a lawn at this time of year and have revert to a color which is similar to what they look in the wild.

No one really knows were these 3 species of Crocus began to hybridise as it is possible their paths crossed in the wild. Vernus is from the Pyrenees in Europe into Yugoslavia, Chrysanthus also is found in Yugoslavia Romania, Greece and into southern Turkey. From there biflorus is found in southern Greece into Turkey and as far east as northern Iran. We do know that several species of bulbs ended up being sent to Carolus Clusius at the Botanical Garden in Leiden in the mid 16th century.

 

The golden yellow color of Dutch Crocus early in the spring is one of the gaudiest sights in the garden.

The golden-yellow color of Dutch Crocus early in the spring is one of the gaudiest sights in the garden.

Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder (1573-1621) specialized in painting flowers and included a golden Dutch Crocus in one of his paintings. By 1629 a yellow Crocus had made their way to England and were being written about.  By the early 1700s lists of bulbs were carefully cataloged with their prices by sellers of the product and more color forms we re becoming known.

 

 

 Crocus 'Remembrance' is an old clone with one of the darkest and richest colors.

Crocus 'Remembrance' is an old clone with one of the darkest and richest colors.

All Crocus species are generally easy to grow and adaptable to most soil types. The one thing Crocus hate is overly wet stagnant soil which causes the bulb to rot. To improve soil drainage add sharp sand.  If Crocus like where they are growing they will multiply by growing many tiny new bulbils which can be removed and replanted. Crocus should be planted at least 15cm(6 in.) apart and 5-8 cm(2-3 in.) deep in the ground. It is best to plant or replant bulbs in the fall 1-2 months before frosts come to the garden, this gives the bulbs a chance to start growing their roots firmly into the ground.

 

This is Crocus 'Snow Bunting', a cheery flower in which each petal base is bright yellow.

This is Crocus 'Snow Bunting', a cheery flower in which each petal base is bright yellow.

 

Dutch Crocus are fairly hardy and take about zone 5 (-29 c. or-20 f.) – temperatures with ease and if you give your plants so extra protection or more snow they can take even colder situations.  Crocus grow well in gardens and can be used as edging plants, accents or specimens in a winter garden. Crocus make excellent container plants and can be transferred into the garden later if you like. Another thing they can be used for is naturalizing in lawns and grassy areas, this is because they will grow and decline into dormancy before you need to do your first mowing. Here there are several parks where the plants have spread into the lawns and look spectacular at this time of the year, later people are unaware that they are walking over the areas where the bulbs have gone dormant.

 

Pacific Bulb Society have very detailed pages on many Crocus species: http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/Crocus

 

Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder was a fantastic painter of flowers and floral displays: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambrosius_Bosschaert

The Wiki page on Crocus is interesting: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crocus

……….Hope to see you around these pages soon………..

 

 

 

 

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I am always delighted when I come across plants which are new to me and are extra hardy, this is because I grew up in a much colder place. Many species will not live in a place that regularly visits temperature below -25 c. (-13 f.). It is particularly cum with interesting to find shrubs which are have colorful large flowers which bloom very early in the year and are not damaged by frost. One species which has been worked on to create more cold tolerant plants is the rhododendron. One of the important species which has been long known and is important in developing hardier hybrids with attractive flowers is Rhododenron dauricum (Dahurian Rhododendron) It has brightly colored flowered at this time of the year and is one of the toughest of the species.

 The Dahurian Rhododendron (Rhododendron dauricum) is a bright beacon in early spring.

The Dahurian Rhododendron (Rhododendron dauricum) is a bright beacon in early spring.

Rhododendron dauricum comes form a fairly wide area of northern Asia. Its path begins in the Altai mountains of eastern Siberia and moves east all the way to the Sakalin Island and into Hokkaido – the most northern main Japanese island. The species is found in Mongolia,  northern China and in through North and South Korea as well.  As the plant covers such a wide area there is some variability in color and form which has added some confusion in classification. Linnaeus first described this Rhododendron in 1753 in his text Species Plantarium. He got his specimen from the botanical garden in St Petersburg Russia. It is possible that the sample had been collected by Messerschmidt in 1736 and already described by Johann Amman in 1739.

 This is one of several Rhododendron dauricum found at Finnerty Gardens.

This is one of several Rhododendron dauricum found at Finnerty Gardens.

Rhododendron growers are always trying to broaden the range of their plants in many ways such as broader colro range, larger flowers, hardiness and bloom time. Rhododendron has played an important roll in making the species more avaialbel to those living in colder climate. Rhododendron dauricum is often used as pollen parent with other species to add cold hardiness to the hoped for hybrids. Probalby the most famous hybrid is  called ‘PJM'(PJ Mezitt’) and is a mid pink color, it has smaller leaves which densely clads which slowly grows to about 2m.(6ft.). It was developed at Weston Nursery in Massetussets by Peter John Mezitt (PJM). He crossed dauricum with Rhododendron minus to creat this grest new plant. Other selection were also made but have not become so famous.

 2 lesser known dauricum hybrids are Rhododendron 'Olga Mezitt' in the background and Rhododendron 'Black Satin' in the upper left corner.

2 lesser known dauricum hybrids are Rhododendron 'Olga Mezitt' in the background and Rhododendron 'Black Satin' in the upper left corner.

Rhododendron dauricum is classified as being semi-evergreen which is why most of the leaves are not seen in the winter,and the flowers are even more noticeable when they are in bloom. Here most winters the plants do look barren except for a few leaves and the buds which is tidy in appearance. This plant has smaller leaves and fairly fine stems and has an open airy quality about it. Most of the plants I have seen around here are still fairly young and many are taller than wide at the moment.

 This large Dahurian Rhododendron is found at Finnerty Gardens and the largest one at the gardens.

This large Dahurian Rhododendron is found at Finnerty Gardens and the largest one at the gardens.

Rhododendrons are fairly easy to grow and this species is also easy. Rhododendron dauricum likes acidic moist soil which is well drained. Best placement is in part or dappled shade with some protection from bright summers sun and drying winds. I have seen these plants grow in quite deep shade and still put on a grest floral display at this time of the year.These plants can be used in a variety of ways such as massed, as an accent or specimen in a winter garden or in woodland settings. The floral color will draw your eye to wherever you choose to grow this plant.

 The small vibrant flowers of Rhododendron dauricum pack a bright punch on gloomy late winter days here.

The small vibrant flowers of Rhododendron dauricum pack a bright punch on gloomy late winter days here.

Dahurian Rhododendrons grow to a fairly large 2m.(6ft.) by the same width.  Rhododendron dauricum is rated as being zone 3b or -37c.(-35f.). They are rated as H4 or the hardiest of Rhododendrons. I have read notes from central  Alberta to Newfoundland of how well these plants grow in the extreme conditions of different parts of Canada. If you live in a colder area this is one plant you must try to find, I am sure with a little attention this plant will give you years of pleasure.

Some Dahurian links for you:

Where is Dauria:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transbaikal

An article about Dauricum hybrids which are grown here:http://www.rosebay.org/chapterweb/specdaur.htm

A technical description of the plant is here: http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=2&taxon_id=200016392

Information about the PJM group of Rhododendrons: http://www.hort.uconn.edu/plants/r/rhopjm/rhopjm1.html

……..Hope you wander this way soon……

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Sometimes I have to come back to review a plant and sometimes I like to look more closely at a group of plants. It is often the case that i have found another member of group whether it is a hybrid or completely new species. In this case it is because I see more of the species that I am seeing planted, which is a very good thing. I am particularly taken by the Hamamelis species which is one of the first plants I learned when I first went to Horticulture classes many years ago and was the very first plant I wrote about in this blog. Today I wish to look at Hamamelis x intermedia  ‘Pallida’ and ‘Arnold Promise’, 2 of the best yellow forms of  Witch Hazel around.

 On the upper right is Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise', on the lower left is H x i. 'Pallida' and in the backgorund is parent Hamamelis mollis.

On the upper right is Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise', on the lower left is H x i. 'Pallida' and in the background is parent Hamamelis mollis.

The group Hamamelis x intermedia is a natural crossing of the Chinese (mollis) and Japanese (japonica) species. In named forms this has happened far from where they might meet in the wild, usually in plant collections. In the case of Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’ it is likely to have occurred at Kalmthout which was a nursery in Holland where the seed came from. The seed was germinated and the seedlings were grown for some years and carefully watched. Different color variations were seen and named around 1932. The original plant still is located at Battleston Hill in Wisley and must be quite a slight at this time of year. Hamamalis x intermedia ‘Pallida’ has a pale yellow color and a pleasing cirtusy-spice scent.

Finnerty Gardens has several Hamamelis x intermedia including this group located near the main enterance naer the chapel.

Finnerty Gardens has several Hamamelis x intermedia including this group located near the main entrance near the chapel.

The specimens of Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’ I have seen flower extremely well and have large flowers which show up well in the dark background the often grey skies and evergreen trees here.

 Hamamelis x intermedia 'Pallida' flowers are beautifully colored and delacately scented on this cool sunny day.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Pallida' flowers are beautifully colored and delicately scented on this cool sunny day.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’ is another chance cross which occurred at the famous Arnold Arboretum near Boston, Massachusetts  William Judd, propagator of Arnold Arboretum collected seed from a Japanese Witch Hazel which was at the arboretum and germinated in around 1928. He assumed at the time it would be  pure Hamamelis japonica plants. Later it was realized that the seedlings were in fact a cross between a mollis plant which was nearby and the japonica. The original seedlings were grown on for a number of years until they started to flowers and selections were made. Several plants were named and ‘Arnold Promise’ was named and proved to be the best of the bunch. In 1963 the plant was released by the Arboretum for sale to nurseries.

 This Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise' is perfectly placed at Finnerty Gardens to draw your eyes to the end of the path where it intersects with another.

This Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise' is perfectly placed at Finnerty Gardens to draw your eyes to the end of the path where it intersects with another.

Arnold Promise Witch Hazel has a slightly darker flower than ‘Pallida’. The main difference which I see in the 2 plants is the way they grow with ‘Pallida seeming to be more horizontal  branches and Arnold Promise having a more vase shaped ascending branch pattern. On the day I photographed both of these plants it was cool and crisp with a good wind and the scent of the flowers was not strong.

 

 Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise' has a delicate coloring and scent and is beautiful in this deep winter month.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise' has a delicate coloring and scent and is beautiful in this deep winter month.

Both ‘Arnold Promise’ and ‘Pallida’  are becoming more popular as are all the Witch Hazels. These are wonderful and adaptable plants which can be used in a variety of ways to increase the pleasure of your garden. As mentioned they are fragrant, on warm days there is no more pleasing aroma I know of to encounter, the citrus-spice scent is warm and inviting. The foliage is attractive and similar to that of Corylus (Hazelnut) with broad green leaves which turn shades of butter to gold and tints of peach in autumn. The seed pods are also interesting on the bare branches during the early winter.

 

The attractive leaves and seed pods of Hamamelis.

The attractive leaves and seed pods of Hamamelis.

All Hamamelis species are woodland plants and like to have rich humus well-drained soil. they need deep watering to promote a good widespread deep root system to  help sustain them during drier times. They prefer a dappled location which offers some protection from strong summer sun. These plants have low widespread branches and should be carefully placed so little pruning is needed.  These 2 hybrids grow to the same size 4m(13ft.) heigh by the same wide. All named varieties are grafted or budded onto usually less attractive species plants and suckering from under the graft should be removed when seen.   Both of these hybrids are rated at tolerating temperatures down to -25c (-13 f.) or zones 5 through 9. These are pest and disease plants which are long-lived and will give you a lifetime of enjoyment.

Pallida or Arnold Promise, What will it be:

Hamamelis x intermedia hybrids: http://www.frenchgardening.com/inprofile.html?pid=309505181913723

Arnold Arboretum’s article about ‘Arnold Promise’ (Pdf): http://arnoldia.arboretum.harvard.edu/pdf/articles/842.pdf

RHS page on ‘Pallida’: http://www.rhs.org.uk/Gardens/Wisley/About-Wisley/Plant-of-the-month/January/Hamamelis-x-intermedia–Pallida-

……..Hope to see you soon on a bright cheery path near here……..

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