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Archive for the ‘Annuals’ Category

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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The muted colors of the autumn season will soon be upon us, the plants are beginning to look tired from the long hot summer. The end of the season brings on a slow decline. It is harvest time, the moon is big and the crops are high and full of ripeness. Certain plants remind me of this season because I would only see them now when I was growing up in the north. Dahlias are the flowers I remember being huge and have brilliant and interesting petals and color combinations.

A sumptuously colored Dahlia with a 'Ball' classification of flower.

A sumptuously colored Dahlia with a 'Ball' classification of flower.

There are about 35 species of Dahlias which all originated from central America, from Mexico through Guatemala, Hondurans Nicaragua, Costa Rica and other areas. The first Dahlias which was documented were encountered by Francisco Hernández de Toledo(1514-87, who was a naturalist and physician to the King of Spain. He was sent on the first scientific exploration of the new world in 1571 and spent 7 years gathering and classifying specimens he collected and interviewing the local people on their use. His works were published in 1615.

The first species Dahlia recorded would have been single flowered and look something like this.

The first species Dahlia recorded would have been single flowered and look something like this.

Later another botanist, French Nicolas-Joseph Thiéry de Menonville was sent to Mexico in 1776 to steal cochineal insects (the source of red dye at the time). He went unofficially succeeded in bring back the insects. In the notes of his adventure he notes Dahlias were unusually attractive flowers. Dahlias where first grown in Europe at the Madrid in the botanical gardens there in 1789. The seed had been sent from the botanical gardens of Mexico. The first plants were named  Dahlia coccinea in 1791.

Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff'(1924) is one of the most famous culitvars of the past and is now widely available.

Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff'(1924) is one of the most famous culitvars of the past and is now widely available.

Other seeds of different species where later germinated in England and roots were sent to Netherlands to grow. Crossbreeding began from these original collections of plants is where all our fancy Dahlias come from today. During the 19th century thousands of new cultivars where grown and the best were selected for their brilliant colors and unusual flower and petal forms. The name Dahlia honors Anders Dahl who was a Swedish botanist.

This brilliant bi-color Dahlia is classified as a ' Semi-Cactus' flower form.

This brilliant bi-color Dahlia is classified as a ' Semi-Cactus' flower form.

Since 1900 flower forms have been classified into groups. Dahlias are now bred for competition which is very popular here, at this time there are test gardens and competitions which are judged. Kids love the flowers which can range in size from the small cm(2in) to 30cm(1ft) or more in diameter. The overall size of the plant also have an extraordinary range from less than 60cm(2ft) to 3.5m(10ft). The range of color and petal forms and heights is due to the fact that they are homologous and have 8 sets of chromosomes compared to the normal 2 which most other plant have.

This Dahlia cultivar exhibits not only very unual petals, but, also streaks of colors in them.

This Dahlia cultivar exhibits not only very unual petals, but, also streaks of colors in them.

The popularity of Dahlias is partly do to the ease of growing them and their availability in such a range of colors and forms. You can buy them anywhere that plants are sold as roots, seeds or in packs of small plants.  Like all good plants they like rich, deep, well-drained soil with plenty of nutrients. They need full sun and plenty of water during their growing and blooming stages, this will help them avoid getting unsightly mildew(greyish powdery fungus on their leaves). The larger flowered types should be in a shelter  from strong winds.

The vivid colors of Dahlia flowers are hard to overlook in the garden at this time of the year.

The vivid colors of Dahlia flowers are hard to overlook in the garden at this time of the year.

Although Dahlias are considered hardy annuals and can take a touch of frost and survive If you want to save the tubers it is best to harvest them before this happens.  Dig them up carefully as the skin is thin and can be damaged easily.Remove the leafy tops and let them dry slightly, After they have dried a bit place them in a layer of dry peat moss. Place them in a cool dark place for over winter storage.  Check them periodically for any signs of rot or decay and cut it off or throw it out. You can have flowers for many years this way. In a few months you will notice small bud which show which to plant them. Plant them when all chances of frost is over or start them in a sunny location in your house a few weeks before you plan to plant them.

There are many classes of Dahlia flower forms, this is a beautiful Semi-Double form.

There are many classes of Dahlia flower forms, this is a beautiful Semi-Double form.

Dahlias are important to Mexico. The Aztecs grew and harvest the plants for food, medicinal and decorative  purposes. The strong woody flower stems were also used for water tubes and pipes. In 1963 the Dahlia was declared the national flower of Mexico.

Deconstructing Dahlias:

Classification of Dahlia flower forms: http://www.dahliaworld.co.uk/dahlia.htm

Dahlias according to WIKI: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dahlia

Storing Dahlia tubers: http://www.dahlias.net/dahwebpg/TuberStor/TuberStor1.htm

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When I was small we would go for walks with our mother in the neighborhood and stop and look at the gardens, some were interesting others where more playful and some just a plain messy. You could tell the ones who liked kids by the plants they often chose, fun ones like squashes, scarlet runner beans, and bright flowers like Cosmos, Marigolds and who could not resist Nasturtiums!  Nasturtiums(Tropaeolum majus) are a fond memory of many of us who had them in our garden when we where young.

The bright array of colors found in Tropaeolum majus always appeals to children of any age.

The bright array of colors found in Tropaeolum majus always appeals to children of any age.

Tropaeolum majus orginally is from South America, growing in an area from Bolivia and Columbia and is said to be found in areas such as central Chile as well.  Nasturtiums were first brought to Europe by Spanish around 1500, it is likely seeds where carried back. In South America the plant was used for medicinal purposes such as treating coughs, colds, flu by creating at tea. Topically it was used in poultice for for cuts and burns. Nasturtiums are high in vitamin c and have natural antiboitics in them. It was in Europe that the plant was first used for culinary purposes.

Here the trailing variety of Nasturtium is used as a simple but charming ground cover that is a riot of color during summer and autumn.

Here the trailing variety of Nasturtium is used as a simple but charming ground cover that is a riot of color during summer and autumn.

As a culinary plant Nasturtiums have a lot to offer: the leaves, flowers, stems and buds can all be used and impart a spicy sweet flavor reminiscent of Garden Cress (Lepidium savaticum) or Water Cress(Tropaeolum officinale). The flowers and leaves are used in many ways from salads to sandwiches, in dressings and spreads. The flower buds are pickled and used as a substitute for capers. I like to use the stems as they are especially spicy and add them into salads, my dad who loved extra spicy things was surprised with the intensity of heat in them.

Nasturtium leaves are unusual as the stem is attached to the very middle of the leaf giving it a curious round shape which is part of this plants charm.

Nasturtium leaves are unusual as the stem is attached to the very middle of the leaf giving it a curious round shape which is part of this plants charm.

The unusual shape of the leaves and flowers lead Linnaeus to choose a an interesting botanical Latin name for Tropaeolum majus. ‘Trope’ is from the Greek tropaion or trophy which refers to how the round shields(leaves) and helmets(flowers) where hung on a pillar which was said to be a sign of victory on a battlefield.  The common name Nasturium comes from the latin ‘nastos’ (nose) and ‘turtum’ (torment) and this refers to the spicy taste of the plant. Majus just means big which refers to the size of the leaves.

The stained glass coloring of the Nasturtium flowers and the curious rounded leaves have inspired for many famous artists and writers.

The stained glass coloring of the Nasturtium flowers and the curious rounded leaves have inspired for many famous artists and writers.

Nasturtiums have long been known but during the Victorian era, into the early 20th century seemed most charmed by these plants. From Monet, William Morris, Moorcroft(pottery) to Tiffany’s famous glass, the plants where used everywhere as a charming and attractive subject. Nasturtiums of course are a famous subject for botanical prints. Who does not love a bouquet of the fragrant brightly colored Nasturtiums on a table or windowsill to cheer one up.

This bunny hides in the Nasturtiums in the Childrens Garden at Glendale Gardens.

This bunny hides in the Nasturtiums in the Childrens Garden at Glendale Gardens.

Tropaeolum majus is an easy plant to grow for the new or junior gardener. The seeds are big and easily handled and once planted germinate and grow quickly. They are not fussy and like sandy light, poorer soils, but will do equally well in richer soils although it will produce more leaves and less flowers. Full sun is most important to get the best showing of flowers unless you are in a very hot climate where a little shade in the afternoon will be appreciated. although they are somewhat drought tolerant regular watering will insure your plants continue to bloom for a long time. dead-heading the spent blossoms will help the plant to continue to bloom for months. Nasturtiums are considered to be hardy annuals and can tolerate a light frost, a hard one will kill them outright.

The Nasturtiums here are a cheery welcome to this garden.

The Nasturtiums here are a cheery welcome to this garden.

There are 2 main forms of Nasturtiums, the compact(or dwarf) and the trailing. The dwarf are at the most 45cm(18in) wide and tall with the trailing form being able to cover a 1m(3ft) space per plant. The beguiling flowers come in a vast tapestry of single-colors, bi-colors and blends ranging from the blackish-red ‘Mahogany’ to a pale buttery yellow and all ranges from red through scarlet, orange and yellows. Many named color varieties, singles, doubles and variegated(‘Alaska’)  and dark leaved(‘Empress of India’)  forms can be found in seed strains and are cheap to buy. Seed is easily saved for next year and often will reseed and grow in the same spot for many years.

Nasturtium 'Mahogany' has the darkest flowers that i have seen here in Victoria.

Nasturtium 'Mahogany' has the darkest flowers that i have seen here in Victoria.

Tropaeolum majus can be used in the garden in so many ways: edging, colorful filler for early bulbs and bloomers, childrens’ first garden, ground-cover, edible garden, fragrant garden, self seeding garden, old fashioned gardens, window boxes and containers, formal and informal settings and as artists subjects and fairy gardens.

Trailing and Twinning with Tropaeolums:

What is the reationship with the Cresses:  http://www.uni-graz.at/~katzer/engl/Lepi_sat.html

Nasturtiums as garden vegetables: http://www.veraveg.org/Veg%20History/Veg%20History%20Nasturtium.html

Look at all the art from these plants: http://www.google.ca/images?hl=en&q=Nasturtiums%20in%20art&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&biw=1309&bih=741

Will you be following on this path?

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