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When I was a child we would go to the Vancouver area once a year to visit my grand parents and other relatives. It was a big trip and took a full day of driving to reach our destination. Usually we would take at least one trip into the big city, we would go to the big stores which do not exist in a far away little town like we were growing up in. Another thing we often did was to visit Stanley Park for the day to visit the zoo and have a picnic. One thing we looked forward to was seeing the Monkey Puzzle Trees (Araucaria araucana) which were the most exotic and bizarre we had ever seen.

A large mature male Araucaria araucana or Monkey Puzzle tree found across from Beacon Hill Park in Victoria.

A large mature male Araucaria araucana or Monkey Puzzle tree found across from Beacon Hill Park in Victoria.

The Monkey Puzzle tree was a puzzle from the beginning. It is tree which is very ancient and fossil records of it date back over 200 million years.  The trees at that time were found in a larger area from Brazil to the Antarctic but new research is suggesting the area might have been much larger and include parts of Europe and even England.  Now they are found in a much smaller area of south-central Chile and west-central Argentina. It grows on the lower slopes of the Andes Mountains at around 1000 m. (3300 ft.) elevation. This is an area which can have heavy snowfall during its winter. The tree is now designated as the national tree of Chile and is protected as its unique forests are now threatened by logging and expansion of population into the area it grows.

This Monkey Puzzle tree dates back at least to the early part of the 20th century in the most Victorian of city of Canada.

This Monkey Puzzle tree dates back at least to the early part of the 20th century in the most Victorian of city of Canada.

Araucaria araucana was first described by Chilean Jesuit priest  Juan Ignacio Molina(1740-1829) in 1782 in his book ‘Saggio sulla Storia Naturale del Chili’ a book about the natural history of Chile and many of its species. He thought Araucaria araucana  was a form of Pine (Pinus) as he was remembering the tree he had not seen since he was last in Chile in 1768.  At the time he was writing his book he was a Professor of Natural Sciences in Bologna Italy.

This a young Monkey Puzzle tree which is one of several found in Beacon Hill Park.

This a young Monkey Puzzle tree which is one of several found in Beacon Hill Park.

Archibald Menzies collected the Araucaria araucana seeds from a dinner he was having in Valparaiso  Chile to bring back to England in 1792.  The seeds he collected germinated on the way back to England were planted when they arrived in Southern England which has the mildest climate of the country. William Lobb the plant collector was later ordered to collect more seed in the 1840s for Veitchs Nursery which he worked for. The new and wildly unusual tree became a hit with the Victorian public and the trees were much planted from the 1850s. It has gone into and out of fashion over time with another period of craze occurring during the 1920s and 30s.

Male flowers cones on the left and females on the right are found on separate Monkey Puzzle trees.

Male flowers cones on the left and females on the right are found on separate Monkey Puzzle trees.

The name Monkey Puzzle tree seems to come from the Victorian era around 1850 when one of the first trees was on display. Someone was reported to have said ‘it would puzzle a monkey how to climb it’. The name has stuck to it ever since. The sprialling over-lapping  specialized leaf scales which cover the stems and young trunk are thick and somewhat fierce. I also like the french name for the tree ‘Monkey’s Despair’ or ‘Desespoir des Singes’.

The thick over-lapping scale-like leaves protect the stems and help give the Monkey Puzzle tree its name.

The thick over-lapping scale-like leaves protect the stems and help give the Monkey Puzzle tree its name.

The botanical latin name Araucaria araucana refers to the people who live where these trees grow. Mapuche(Araucanians) live in the Andres and the tree was an important source of food and the wood was valued for its long straight trunk. The trees have been protected since 1971 from harvest for wood.  It was also sacred to some members of the people.

This young Monkey Puzzle tree is at University of Victoria campus is a male.

This young Monkey Puzzle tree is at University of Victoria campus is a male.

The Monkey Puzzle tree is much-loved by children because it looks so bizarre and un tree-like. If you want to grow one of the trees there are a few things to learn. They are slow-growing and will take some time to not look ungainly and sparse. Choose a small plant as they do not like to be moved and this will often cause their death therefore be sure of where you are going to place it. They like well-drained moist soil in a site which is naturally humid, an area close to the ocean or a large body of water would be great. They need full sun but tolerate some shade such as deciduous trees might give.  They dislike pollution and are best situated where there is some wind to move the air along. They are fairly wind and snow tolerant and are rated at zone 8 or – 12 c.(10 f.) although they can take short periods of colder temperatures.

 

The bark of Araucaria araucana will over time lose the scale-like leaves and develop shallow horizontal ridges.

The bark of Araucaria araucana will over time lose the scale-like leaves and develop shallow horizontal ridges.

To help you un-puzzling this tree:

The naming of the tree: http://www.suite101.com/content/the-amazing-monkey-puzzle-tree-a230510

Check this short book, it’s all about the Monkey Puzzle tree:

http://books.google.ca/books?id=v2Mef2bI1UwC&printsec=frontcover&dq=monkey+puzzle&hl=en&ei=hgUFTdPvCZTAsAPJn-TlDQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CDcQ6AEwAQ

How to grow the trees from seed or cuttings: http://www.victorialodging.com/monkey-tree/tips

…….Hope you return for more exciting adventures in plants soon…..

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The cold has set in. Change is beginning to be noticed in some plants which take on different hues and tones during the colder months. Most noticeable is the change in some conifers which take on bronzy tints. Other plants also get tinged leaves often with richer coloring. Some bark of trees even becomes more distinct in coloring. One tree which is a standout (literally) is the Coral Bark Maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sango Kaku‘). The already coral-red coloring of the bark deepens in tone and stands out from all other trees.

This Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku' also known as the Coral Bark Maple is at Government House.

This Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku' also known as the Coral Bark Maple is at Government House.


Most people know the Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum) which is almost over used in many places. It was first described by Carl Peter Thunberg, he brought drawing of the tree back from Japan where he was stationed during the period of 1775-76.  It was Thunberg who named the small tree using ‘palmatum’ to describe the small leaves as ‘hand-like’.
The small baby hand-shaped leaves of Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku'

The small baby hand-shaped leaves of Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku'


The ‘hand-like description is very similar to the Japanese name for Maple leaves ‘kaede’.   Kaede refers to the  leaves resembling small (baby) hands or (kaeru)frog +(de) hands. Momiji(momizu)  is also used as meaning  Maples but more correctlyrefers to the leaves turning red in autumn as Maples usually do. The first live Acer palmatum arrived in England in 1820 and since that time the trees have remained popular.

The Coral Bark Maple goes through an incredible range of color changes beginning in spring with buttery yellow tones which have a lively effect.
The Coral Bark Maple goes through an incredible range of color changes beginning in spring with buttery yellow tones which have a lively effect.

Japanese Maples where a highly developed plant by the time they were brought to Europe. In Japan the first place these trees were known to be written about was in ‘Kadan Chikinsho’ (by San Nojo Hanado), a 6 volume work on the ornamental trees and shrubs of Japan published in 1685. Later there was revisions to the  book and a complete volume was given over to Acer palmatum and its known forms. Breeding and specialization of plants really took of during the ‘Edo period (1603-1867) in  Japan, at that time there were even cults devoted to certain plants. In 1770 there were 36 named varieties and by 1882 the list had grown to include about 250 varieties. It is not known how old Acer palmatum ‘Sango Kaki’ is.  Some of old varieties have been lost during the 2nd World War as the trees were cut down and used as fuel.  Since the 1960s there has been a resurgence of interest in the trees and hundreds of new varieties have been collected from Japan and around the world where these trees are collected and propagated.

Summer sees Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku' transforming from golden to mid green.

Summer sees Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku' transforming from golden to mid green.


There is some confusion with the naming of the Coral Bark Maple: its correct name is Acer palmatum ‘Sango Kaku‘.  In the past it been listed as  ‘Senkaki’ which is wrong, there is no known plant by that name. Now there is a problem in getting a true ‘Sango Kaki’ as some trees which are sold with this name are likely to be selected seedlings of the same parent. All named Japanese Maples are propagated by cuttings which are then grafted onto a more vigorous understock. This is a slow and expensive process, therefore you need to select your plant from a reputable grower and be suspicious of unusually cheap plant offerings. the best time to buy a plant is in the fall when you can inspect the bark coloring and select the deepest coloring.
The red coloring of Acer palmatun 'Sango Kaku' intensifies in the cold winter weather.

The red coloring of Acer palmatun 'Sango Kaku'' intensifies in the cold winter weather.


Acer palmatum ‘Sango Kaki’ like all Japanese Maple is a fairly easy plant to grow. It  likes fertile, slightly acid well-drained soil. They like to be kept evenly watered at all times, changes in watering can damage the plant. They like full sun here in the north-west but need shade in areas with more intense light. All Japanese Maples should be protected from drying winds regardless if they be in the summer or winter, their leaves and bark are thin and damaged easily. Best siting for this plant will take advantage of the tree coloring throughout the year, colors in the background should be chosen to make the tree stand out more.  These trees like  As mentioned selection of the plant takes some care, at that time make sure the roots are in good condition. The roots are fine and these trees are best bought in a container.
As the branches get older the coral coloring of Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku' blends in with older bark.

As the branches get older the coral coloring of Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku' blends in with older bark.


All Acer palmatum make excellent container subjects, I have several which are growing in large pots for many years. The Coral Bark Maple should be used as a specimen as it has wonderful coloring throughout the year. These trees also look wonderful in dark borders or with other plants which will highlight the red bark of this plant.  This plant grows to about 4.5-6 m. (15-20 ft). It has a narrower vase shape and has a spread of maybe 1/3 less than height or 2.5-5 m.(10-15 ft.). It has a hardiness rating of zones 6 though 9 or -20 c.(-10 f.).
Autumn brings the return of the buttery yellow and ambers often edged with crimson to the Coral Bark Maple.

Autumn brings the return of the buttery yellow and amber often edged with crimson to the Coral Bark Maple.


Crimson tidings lead us to:

Rainyside speaks to us: http://www.rainyside.com/features/plant_gallery/shrubs/AcerSango-kaku.html

Wiki on Acer palmatum: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acer_palmatum

‘Sango-Kaku’ vs other similar and incorrectly named trees: http://www.ubcbotanicalgarden.org/forums/showthread.php?t=394

……Hope to see you soon again here….

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There was a big wind storm last week, it finally blew the remaining leaves off the trees. This time of year when it becomes cold and sunny I like to walk in the parks and along the streets and enjoy the bare trees and their forms. It reminds me of when I was in school learning about the trees and shrubs commonly grown here. I gained a new appreciation of the bark and buds and the variation that there is. One of my new favorite trees has long sharp buds and smooth grey bark which is seen as perfect to carve your initials in. The Common or Copper Beech (Fagus sylvatica) is the tree I am referring to and long may they live.

 This large purple form Copper Beech was probably planted when this house in James Bay was built in the early 20th century.

This large purple form Copper Beech was probably planted when this house in James Bay was built in the early 20th century.

Fagus sylvatica are a European tree and are found growing in most areas from southern Sweden south to central Italy, west into France and northern Portugal and Spain. In the east they are found in  north-west Turkey where they meet out with Fagus orientalis the Asian representative of the species which they hybridise with. It is interesting that in England where Beech Trees are most often associated with, it is one of the later places that they naturalized in reaching there after the last ice age. We are not sure how they got there but it is possible that came with early people who may have brought the seeds as a form of food which was highly nutritious and transportable.

 This green Fagus sylvatica tree will produce a fine crop of beechnuts which were at one time eaten as emergency food.

This green Fagus sylvatica tree will produce a fine crop of beechnuts which were at one time eaten as emergency food.

Common Beech trees have provided many sources of useful goods over the years. Very early on the bark was used to carve runes. The wood is brittle and has short grains and is not strong or durable. It is more used for handles, small articles, turnery, parquet flooring and Bentwood furniture. Charcoal made from the branches was used for coloring and gunpowder production. The wood is considered one of the best for burning as fuel as it gives one of the highest volumes of heat.

 The fine smooth bark of the Beech tree has always been carved on, you can find this example at St Ann's Academy.

The fine smooth bark of the Beech tree has always been carved on, you can find this example at St Ann's Academy.

The seeds of Copper Beech have been used for emergency food in the past and processed into flour. Eating large amounts can be slightly toxic due to the tannins found in the seeds. Mostly the nuts have been used for feeding woodland animals and pigs, chicken and turkey for commercial use. High quantities of oil can be extracted from well-ripened nuts(17-20%) and was used for food and heating in the 19th century. Mainly the use of trees now is ornamental now.

 This fine trio of Beech trees are found in Beacon Hill Park near Blanchard and Southgate streets.

This fine trio of Beech trees are found in Beacon Hill Park near Blanchard and Southgate streets.

Now we associate the Copper Beech with large estates and parks and institutions which have the space and maybe are old enough to have large specimens of these trees.  When in the open and not competing for sun the become truly huge trees which have many delicate aspects to them. The leaves are small, thin, fine, glossy smooth and at all times of the year are beautiful to look at. They have brilliant color when emerging from their tight sharp pointy buds in the spring and later in autumn turn golden and coppery. In winter the leaves of young trees may stay on the tree and protect it, their coppery color is an unusual site as well as sound in the wind. The branches are also fine and thin giving the tree an overall delicate feeling.

 The fine, thin, pointy-sharp buds are a distinct feature of Fagus sylvatica.

The fine, thin, pointy-sharp buds are a distinct feature of Fagus sylvatica.


The Copper Beech makes a fine tree for a larger property or garden. The like to grow in an area with good humidity or some precipitation throughout the year. They like well-drained soil which is slightly on the acidic side but will tolerate chalky soil as long as it is not clay heavy. Beech grow their best and reach their full potential in a site which gives them full sun. The roots are shallow and help keep the soil around them more fertile by absorbing large amounts of potash which is stored in the leaves of the tree.

 There are many fine forms of Beech including this rare golden leaved Fagus sylvatica 'Zlatia' is found where Begbie and Pandora streets meet in Victoria.

There are many fine forms of Beech including this rare golden leaved Fagus sylvatica 'Zlatia' is found where Begbie and Pandora streets meet in Victoria.

Common Beech grow to be massive trees over many years and can reach 43m(140ft) high by 40m(130ft) wide. They are rated as slow growers but like most trees grow faster when very young.  They are quite cold hardy and are rated as zone 5 or tolerating 25c(-20f) with some cultivars being slightly more tender.

 Many fine forms of Fagus sylvatica have been selected including 'Dwyck' which comes in green, gold and purple.

Many fine forms of Fagus sylvatica have been selected including 'Dwyck' which comes in green, gold and purple.

As Fagus sylvatica have been grown since ancient times many fine forms are available for enjoyment in your garden. You can choose from color forms of green, golden, purple, rosy and even variegated. Their several narrow forms which are much used as street trees. Weeping forms are often seen as specimens and come in very spectacular in the right setting.  There are also interesting leaf forms such as ‘Asplenifolia’ or ‘Rotundifolia’ and the ‘heterophylla’ group. These trees are usually used as specimens or accents, the make excellent park and street trees as they have few pests or disease and are long-lived. Named varieties of Beech trees are usually grown from cuttings that are grafted. You can also grow them from seed which can be collected and stratified at home.

 These leaves are from Fagus sylvatica 'Heterophylla' and the male flowers are seen blooming.

These leaves are from Fagus sylvatica 'Heterophylla' and the male flowers are seen blooming.

 

finding the Fine Fagus:

Check Wiki first: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fagus_sylvatica

Next find out about the myths and lore: http://forums.skadi.net/showthread.php?t=104751

 

 

 

 

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Autumn is known for its wonderful colors, the yellows, oranges reds and maroons add a bright splash of excitement to the coming winter season. I enjoy the many native trees in the area with their amber shades. One somewhat rare tree which should become much more widely grown is  the Paperbark Maple(Acer griseum) which has bright buttery yellow to crimson coloring. It is one of the best small specimen trees for a typical urban setting.

 

Autumn color of the Paperbark Maple some of the latest in the year for the Maple family.

Autumn color of the Paperbark Maple some of the latest in the year for the Maple family.

The year was 1901 Paperbark Maple was introduced to Europe by way of Vietch’s Nursery.  Acer griseum is another fabulous find by Ernest (Chinese) Henry Wilson. He was on one of his many explorations for plants in China looking for the famous handkerchief tree(Davidia involucrata) which was known but not collected at that time. The area he was exploring was central China.

 

 I can imagine Ernest 'Chinese' Wilson finding Acer griseum in the forest looking like this, bark glowing in the light.

I can imagine Ernest 'Chinese' Wilson finding Acer griseum in the forest looking like this, bark glowing in the light.

 

Paperbark Maples come from central China from north-east Gansu  province traveling west into Hebei and south to Sichuan and south-west into Hunan.  The tree is found at fairly high altitudes of 1500-2000 m. (5000-6500ft.). It is one of the better but not the most famous find of the over 1500 named plants which ‘Chinese ‘ Wilson brought to horticulture during his incredible explorations.

 

The peeling 'paperbark' of Acer griseum is very beautiful throughout the year.

The peeling 'paperbark' of Acer griseum is very beautiful throughout the year.

 

Acer griseum does not have the typical ‘maple’ shaped leaves, instead it is trifoliate. This gives it a delicate feeling as the foliage looks fine in texture. Many people are not familiar with the other leaf forms of  Maples. One similar leaved maple is the Box Elder(Acer negundo) which is extremely hardy and produces masses of seedlings making it become somewhat of a pest in many places.

 

 The delicate looking trifoliate leaves of Acer griseum come to life in flaming fashion in the fall.

The delicate looking trifoliate leaves of Acer griseum come to life in flaming fashion in the fall.

Acer griseum is an excellent small tree for the home and should be seen more often. One issue that has become known is the difficulty germinating the seed which is said to be between 2 and 8%. It produces a good amount of  seed but most of it has proven to be parthenocarpic. Parthenocarpic is seed which developes but is sterile. THere are now plans to make new collections of wild seed to increase the gene pool of this tree and increase the likelihood of better seed viability. Another issue is that these trees are androecious with males and hermaphrodite flower structures.

 

 

Acer griseum produces a great amount of seed but little of it is viable.

Acer griseum produces a great amount of seed but little of it is viable.

 

Acer griseum has many feature which lead it be seen as a specimen tree. It is attractive throughout the year; spring gives us delicate blooms and the flush of new leaves, summer is seen with the delicate green-blue of the leaves, autumn highlight the brilliant color late in the season and winter comes when the bark is highlighted especially with backlighting. The size of the tree is also especially appealing and works well in most garden situations whether they be in a border or by itself.

 

This wintery Acer griseum is found in Finnerty Gardens along a less traveled path where the bark is highlighted.

This wintery Acer griseum is found in Finnerty Gardens along a less traveled path where the bark is highlighted.

Acer griseum grow in full sun to part shade but not deep shade. They like fertile acidic soil which is well-drained. They need average amounts of waster and are not noted to be drought tolerant. They have few pests or disease. They can be pruned but it is rarely done except for  shaping or removal of damaged limbs and this is best done in late autumn or winter. They are slow-growing trees which can grow to 10-20 m (30-60ft). They are fairly hardy and are rated taking -20c(-4f) and higher.  Paperbark Maples are easily transplanted.

 

This Acer griseum is in the back yard of a garden in Vancouver.

This Acer griseum is in the back yard of a garden in Vancouver.

 

Paperbark Maples are propagated by cuttings or by seed and are somewhat rare in nurseries. They are becoming much sought after by good landscapers and gardens are more expensive to buy than many other trees. It is a tree I recommend for the small city gardens as a specimen or accent tree.

Marveling at this Maple:

An excellent technical description of the tree: https://appserver1.kwantlen.ca/apps/plantid/plantid.nsf/lookup/2C6CC1B288E3831088256EB500662648?OpenDocument

Parenthocarpy in seeds: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parthenocarpy

Ernest Henry Wilson: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Henry_Wilson

……I will be looking forward to seeing you again soon here…..

 

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It was a dark and stormy night and the wind was blowing through the trees in the cemetery as I trudged past. I shivered and pulled my coat collar up to protect me from the chill. As I walked along, the shadows moved and I shuddered as I passed the dark eerie Common Yew (Taxus baccata) trees because I knew that these trees were always sacred to the Druids. It was one of the five great trees that stood in their sacred sites.

 A Taxus baccata as you might find it in the wild which is found at St Ann's Academy.

A Taxus baccata as you might find it in the wild which is found at St Ann's Academy.

Taxus baccata is native to Ireland, England , through Europe down into the northern tip of Africa and over to West Asia. It is in northern Europe where Common Yew has been a significant tree associated with various early religions and cults. In Norse mythology we meet the Yggdrasil ‘the world tree’. Yggdrasill means Yew (support)pillar leading some theorists to believe this tree is a Yew instead of the traditional Ash(Fraxinus species) Yew are also connected with the ‘Fairy races’ of Ireland and Wales. Many tales connect these trees to fairy rings, mysterious appearances and disappearances.

 Yew trees in ancient times were placed in sacred sites which later often became cemetaries and church yards.

Yew trees in ancient times were placed in sacred sites which later often became cemeteries and church yards.

 

We are most familiar with Common Yews being associated with Druid culture found in Ireland and Wales, during the Iron Age Celtic period. During that time the wood was turned into many symbolic and spiritual articles such as wands, and staffs. The wood was also used for divination purposes and at festivals. In the 19th century a cup made of Yew wood was found near a village in North Wales, this item was likely used in Druidic ceremonies.

The wood of Taxus baccata is very flexible and was traditionally used for making the deadly longbow of Medieval  times.

The wood of Taxus baccata is very flexible and was traditionally used for making the deadly longbow of Medieval times.

 

Other places were the Druidic religion likely touches the Common Yew is in their prominent placement in some of the oldest churchyards in Great Britain, Often churches were placed in known sacred places of Druid and other non Cristian groups to help suppress them and usurp the site and ideas related to it. One of the oldest known Taxus baccata is found in a churchyard in North Wales, it is over 4000 years old.

Taxus baccata with it's dark color and fine needles is often clipped when seen in a garden setting.

Taxus baccata with its dark color and fine needles is often clipped when seen in a garden setting.

 

Throughout history the wood of Common Yew has been associated with deadly things. The needles and the flesh of the seeds(arils) is highly poisonous and many people and livestock have died from it. The wood was much used before the use of iron became widespread. It is very hard and resists the effects of water very well. Yew is a tree of death, used for making longbows, coffins, weapon handles and arrow shafts and disturbingly bleeds red sap. The worlds oldest implement, a spearhead is thought to be 50,000 years old and made out of Taxus baccata wood,The famous longbows of the Welsh were made out of Yew and were first recorded in use in 633. More recently it is used for furniture, tool handles and veneer. The wood is golden smooth with a wavy grain.

All Taxus species contain deadly alkaloids in all their parts except in the brightly colored arils which cover the seeds.

All Taxus species contain deadly alkaloids in all their parts except in the brightly colored arils which cover the seeds.

 

Taxus baccata has a long association with gardens, official and unofficial because they are easily grown and adaptable to many situations. At many large government buildings this tree is used in one of the most traditional ways, as a clipped hedge in the form of Taxus baccata ‘Fastigiata’ or Irish Yew. Taxus baccata ‘Fastigiata’  is the form which we come across most often in Victoria as it is narrower in form.

 Taxus baccata 'Fastigiata' is used at the corners of the Hardy Fuchsia Garden at Glendale Gardens.

Taxus baccata 'Fastigiata' is used at the corners of the Hardy Fuchsia Garden at Glendale Gardens.

If you want to grow some Common Yew trees, there are somethings to keep in mind. Plants are male or female, with the females having the red berries. Yews can grow in almost complete shade to full sun but seem to be best with more light than less. They are slower growing than most shrubs and are more expensive because of this. Over many years they can attain heights in excess of 20m(65ft) and can live several thousand years. They like a good soil which nutrient rich, stay away from clay if possible.

 A golden Taxus baccata 'Fastigiata Aueromarginata' is seen above a common Yew here at one of the entrances to Hampton Park.

A golden Taxus baccata 'Fastigiata Aueromarginata' is seen above a common Yew here at one of the entrances to Hampton Park.

 

Taxus baccata are fairly drought tolerant and withstand air pollution making them an ideal city plant. They are rated as zone 6 meaning they can withstand -20c(-10f) although they might get some wind burn damage on their foliage.If making a hedge space them 40-45cm apart and pinch them back at the time of planting to make them bushy. Remember that this will be a slow-growing hedge. You may want to use one of the narrower forms.

 The Yew hedge seen here is carefully clipped to maintain its shape and condition.

The Yew hedge seen here is carefully clipped to maintain its shape and condition.

There are several hundred named varieties which have to propagated by cuttings. Most forms are female and may produce seeds. Look for especially narrow forms such as the dark green ‘Fastigiata’ or golden ‘Fastigiata Aueromarginata’ or the female golden form ‘Standishii’ .Taxus baccata ‘Repandens’ has low spreading branches and ‘Cavendishii’ has wide-spreading branches that droop at the tips.

 This Taxus baccata tree grows in almost complete shade during most of the year yet is very healthy.

This Taxus baccata tree grows in almost complete shade during most of the year yet is very healthy.

Yearning for Yews:

Wiki page on the Common Yew: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxus_baccata

The Ancient Yew site:  http://www.ancient-yew.org/home.shtml

Google timeline of Taxus baccata: http://www.google.ca/search?q=taxus+baccata+history&hl=en&rls=com.microsoft:*:IE-SearchBox&rlz=1I7GGIE&tbs=tl:1&tbo=u&ei=PL_NTO2zEJS8sAOi9_1w&sa=X&oi=timeline_result&ct=title&resnum=11&ved=0CEgQ5wIwCg

….Hoping to see you here soon…..



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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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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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