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Archive for the ‘Cut Flowers.’ Category

We I was very small going even a few house from home was a big adventure, I never knew what I would come across. I would walk up the lane with the big fences, past the garage at the corner and the decide which direction to turn. I would walk to the next block and turn and by the time I pasted the second white house I would want to go home. There I found a most peculiar plant with flowers that looked like hearts suspended which were on slender branches amongst the tender green leaves. Never knew such a beautiful plant existed and was in love with it instantly. Bleeding Hearts (Laprocapnos spectabilis) have been in my heart since that time and definitely piqued my curiosity about plants in a way that insured gardens would be a central feature in my life.

Any child would be fascinated by the Bleeding Heart(Lamprocapnos spectabilis) flowers.

Any child would be fascinated by the Bleeding Heart(Lamprocapnos spectabilis) flowers.

Whats this you say, I know this plant to be a Dicentra spectabilis…and what is this silly name you are now calling it Lamprocapnos spectabilis ?. Yes it is true the name has changed and just recently and we can thank our ability to see plants at a molecular level know so we change their family based on their genetic make up.  The original study appears to have been done in 1997 and the acceptance of the new name was accepted in late August 2006. this is not the first name change, originally it was classed as a Fumaria and later as a Dielytra. As for the common name, take your pick of : Bleeding Heart, Venus’s Car, Lady’s Locket, Lyre Flower, Tearing Hearts, Our Lady in a Boat, Chinese Pants and the list goes on.

The brightly colored stems of Bleeding Heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) in the spring add excitement to the garden, you know something wonderful is on the way.

The brightly colored stems of Bleeding Heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) in the spring add excitement to the garden, you know something wonderful is on the way.

 Bleeding Hearts were first mentioned in “Vollstandige Lexicon der Gartneri und Botanik’ (1804) a book written by German Botanist Friedrich Gottlieb Dietrich(1765-1850).  He was the designer and director of the  Botanical Gardens in Eisenach and Wilhelmstal. During his lifetime he taught botany ,collected plants mainly in the Alps and was a Professor of Botany. With his access to the gardens he was able to see many of the new plants be sent from other parts of the world to be catalogued. From the original mention of  Bleeding Heart  (listed as Fumaria) in 1804 it seems the plant was not long-lived. It was introduced into english gardens in 1812 with the same short-lived results.

The sublimely beautiful Lamprocapnos spectabilis 'Alba' (White Bleeding Heart) is a more delicate plant than the more common pink variety.

The sublimely beautiful Lamprocapnos spectabilis 'Alba' (White Bleeding Heart) is a more delicate plant than the more common pink variety.

In 1846 Robert Fortune (plant explorer extraordinaire) purchased a live Bleeding Heart plant at a nursery in Shanghai China and sent it back to Kew with a note saying that he thought this plant would become very popular with gardeners. within 5 year the plants were being sent to continental Europe and North America and were well-distributed in Great Britain. It was such a hit that by the end of the 19th century it was seen as being a ‘cheap’ (as in common but very charming.) although William Robinson saw its beauty describing the flowers as ‘resembling rosy hearts’ (that are) ‘in strings of a dozen or more gracefully borne on slender stalks’ (and) having ‘remarkable beauty’.

The delicate foliage of Lamprocapnos spectabilis (Bleeding Heart) is a perfect foil for more solid plants and structures like this bench.

The delicate foliage of Lamprocapnos spectabilis (Bleeding Heart) is a perfect foil for more solid plants and structures like this bench.

Lamprocapnos spectabilis (Bleeding Heart) is from asia but is found in a wide range ; from Siberia through Korea into Japan and south into China. It is not common anywhere in the wild. It would be found in fairly low to quite high elevations from 30 -2400 m.(100 – 7900 ft.). With this diversity of range it is not surprising to find it is quite hardy surviving -40 c and f. tempetures (zone 3 where I spotted my first plant as a small child). An added benefit is that these plants are deer and rabbit resistant and should be used by gardeners who have these problems.

Lamprocapnos spectabilis (Bleeding Hearts) might look delicate but they are tough, hardy plants.

Lamprocapnos spectabilis (Bleeding Hearts) might look delicate but they are tough, hardy plants.

Growing a Bleeding Heart is easy; you will need rich humusy  moisture retentive soil, dappled exposure and a site which offers protection from winds which can damage the foliage and blooms. The plants if they are happy with produce a large vigorous clump which produces dense roots. They grow to be about 1 m.(3 ft.) high by about the same wide.  Plants do have brittle roots so care should be taken when planting near its base. These plants are easily divided in autumn or early spring, growing them from seed is somewhat tricky as it has to be sown as soon as it ripens. There are several forms you might be interested in buying, my favourite is the glistening white Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Alba’ which has beautifully green leaves. You might prefer ‘Gold Heart’ although I find the golden chartreuse foliage clashes with the pink flowers. A new addition is Valentine’ which has deeper, richer colored flowers.

This collection of Laprocapnos spectabilis was a single plant last year and is happliy growing in its new location.

This collection of Laprocapnos spectabilis was a single plant last year and is happliy growing in its new location.

For the most part Lamprocapnos spectabilis is a carefree plant with few pests other that the odd aphid or slug slimming around. Often plants get messy looking after they bloom, you can cut them down to 15 cm. (6 in.) and they will regrow with new vigour and often will produce a smaller crop of flowers in late summer or autumn. Late autumn offer up golden tones which are appreciated.  This plant can be used in a variety of ways; it is often a foil for bold foliage and mixes well with the more dainty ferns. It is used as an accent, specimen, in shade and woodland gardens, in perennial borders for spring interest.

Dissecting Lamprocapnos(Dicentra):

Paghats article on the plant: http://www.paghat.com/bleedingheart.html

ARS-GRIN page on the new name: http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?408089

In Wiki you will encounter the name change: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamprocapnos_spectabilis
……………Hope you don’t change your mind and decide to leave soon………….

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This is the time of year when many things are being renewed and many thing are being learned. College and university classes are near the end and are graduating, people are moving to new places and jobs and the gardens everywhere are waking up. People new to gardening are digging their gardens maybe for the first time. This might be the first time a child is spending time wandering in a park wondering about the flowers and looking more closely at them. It is hard to find a more child-like plant than that of Primula denticulata (Drumstick Primula) with its over-sized orb of flowers in very appealing flowers.

 The pure white of Primula denticulata 'Alba' has inspired famous gardeners such as William Robinson to view it to be 'one of the finest of all spring perennials'.

The pure white of Primula denticulata 'Alba' has inspired famous gardeners such as William Robinson to view it to be 'one of the finest of all spring perennials'.

 Primula denticulata is something of an enigma to me as I can not find exactly who or when it was first introduced into the garden. It was first scientifically named in literature in 1804 and has been recollected by plant hunters several times since.The plant is found in a fairly wide area of Asia from Afghanistan to Bhutan and into China. It is found to growing at elevations of  1500-4500 m. (5000 – 14750 ft.). There it is seen on grassy slopes, amongst open shrubs and other areas which tend to be evenly moist throughout the year.

Primula denticulata can be quite variable in its height and coloring and this has lead to some confusion for plant collectors looking for new plants in Asia.

Primula denticulata can be quite variable in its height and coloring and this has led to some confusion for plant collectors looking for new plants in Asia.

Primulas are one of the most popular species of plants which are seen in gardens. There are at least 425 species with over 300 of them found in Asia. 33  more are found in Europe and 20 found in North America. There are societies dedicated to single species that are centuries old and many other societies which have their roots in the Victorian era where several species where highly desirable for collections and collectors. Drumstick Primulas have always been one of the most popular and widespread in gardens throughout the world. Primulas should be grown more in gardens and it is a pity that only a few species are seen here in the Pacific Northwest where the cool marine climate is perfect for them.

Colors of Primula denticulata range from pure white, mauves and lavender shades into deep maroon.

Colors of Primula denticulata range from pure white, mauve and lavender shades into deep maroon.

One of the reasons for the success of Drumstick Primulas is its ease in the garden. It really is a beginners plant which would make a good plant for a gift to a new little gardener. It is a fun plant to include in a childs garden for its naturally whimsical form. It is a tough plant which when happy is easy to multiply by division after flowering or by sowing the seed as soon as its ripe right into the garden.

The brightly colored Drumstick Primula here lead you a route off the main path in the Asian Garden at U.B.C. Botanical Garden in Vancouver.

The brightly colored Drumstick Primula here lead you a route off the main path in the Asian Garden at U.B.C. Botanical Garden in Vancouver.

Growing Drumstick Primulas is easy and rewarding for the smiles you will get from your little friends. They like rich moisture retentive soil and enough water that they do not dry out during the warmer times of the year.  They should be grown in areas where they get some protection from hot summer sun, so dappled light is best in most locations. They also need protection for the flower head which is partly developed in the fall and is dormant during the winter months, it does not like drying winds or being frozen in solid ice which will damage the emerging blooms,cover them with some extra leaves. Primula denticulata are quite hardy and are said to easily take -20 c. (-4 f.). Plants are generally are about 30-40 cm. (12-16 in.) tall and slightly less wide.

This Maroon Primula denticulata is an intense shade which is eye-catching in the garden.

This Maroon Primula denticulata is an intense shade which is eye-catching in the garden.

Primula denticulata can be used in a variety of ways in a garden such as an accent or in containers. They also make a stunning mass planting. they work well with other spring flowering plants and Primula leaves are quite attractive with their thick heathy green slightly puckered texture. Primulas are generally free from pests except for vine weevil grubs which can eat the roots of the plant, it is worth close inspection to remove these if found. Aphids sometimes are a short-lived problem but generally do not real damage.

The bright green leaves and shining orbs of purple Drumstick Primula glow even on a cloudy day.

The bright green leaves and shining orbs of purple Drumstick Primula glow even on a cloudy day.

Visions of Drumstick Primulas:

A collection of  pictures showing the variation in the plant: http://www.primulaworld.com/PWweb/photogallery.htm

A good description of how to grow where to use these plants: http://www.perennials.com/seeplant.html?item=1.445.200

A good article with many suggestions for companion planting: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/howtogrow/3335307/How-to-grow-Primula-denticulata.html

…………Hope you hop back this way soon…………..

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There are many plants that just give me the feeling that they have been in gardens for a long time. Plants which are some how familiar when you first see them but you can not think of what it is in that moment. One such plant for me is Kerria japonica (Kerria) which seems sold but was so new to me. Kerria is closely related to the Raspberries (Rubus) on my youth and the stems and flowers are similar.

Kerria japonica 'Pleniflora', the double form is most commonly in gardens.

Kerria japonica 'Pleniflora', the double form is most commonly in gardens.

Kerria japonica was a confused plant when it was introduced by Carl Peter Thunberg in 1776 and was mis-classified as being a member of the Tilaceae (Linden) family. This happened because the sample which was sent back by him not being complete, the specimen was also the double form ‘Pleniflora’ (Yae Yamabuki). On top of the naming problem was the fact that the plant does not come from Japan originally but was brought in from China as an ornamental shrub for gardens in ancient times. In Japan the single flowered Yamabuki (Mountain Spray) has naturalized and become part of the culture as seen in paintings, poetry and other forms of writing. We know that Yamabuki has been in Japan a very long time as the 11th century novel ‘The Tale of Genji’  mentions the plant numerous times.

The more common Kerria japonica 'Pleniflora' on the upper right and on the lower left is the single type.

The more common Kerria japonica 'Pleniflora' on the upper right and on the lower left is the single type.

It was William Kerr who in 1804 sent a living specimen of the single flowered plant back to the Royal Botanical Garden at Kew in England It was there that Kerria japonica  became recognized as being a seperate member of the Rosaceae family. For this reason the plant is now named Kerria to commemorate Kerr.

This unusual double flowered form of Kerria japonica 'Pleniflora' is found at Esquimalt Gorge Park.

This unusual double-flowered form of Kerria japonica 'Pleniflora' is found at Esquimalt Gorge Park.

William Kerr (1779-1814) was a gardener who was born in Hawick on the Scottish Borders and came to garden at Kew. There he was noticed by Sir Joseph Banks who was in charge of sending collectors and explorers throughout the world to bring back plant, animal and geological specimens to be studied and be classified in England. Banks instructed Kerr and then dispatched him to China in 1803 where he was posted at Guangzhou for 8 years. While Kerr was not allowed to travel in China he sent many important plants back from his location which was a port not far from Macao. During the time that he was posted in China it is believed that he became an opium addict and by the time he was re-posted to Colombo, Ceylon(Sri Lanka) in 1812 he was quite ill. In Columbo he was the supervisor of the gardens as Slave Island and at King House.  Kerr is considered to be the first professional of plant hunters which have changed gardening as we know it today.

Kerria japonica 'Variegata' (Picta') has single flowers and  green leaves which are delicately edged in cream. This plant can been seen at Finnerty Gardens.

Kerria japonica 'Variegata' (Picta') has single flowers and green leaves which are delicately edged in cream. This plant can been seen at Finnerty Gardens.

 Kerria japonica is interesting in that the most vigorous form is ‘Pleniflora’ which grows into impressive multi-stemmed clumps. Another thing that stands out for this plant is the beauty of them during the period when they are without leaves, what I am referring to is the bright green stems they have and how they almost glow in the gloomy winter and earliest spring period.

The bright green stems of Kerria japonica put on a show during the drab winter months here.

The bright green stems of Kerria japonica put on a show during the drab winter months here.

Kerria is an easy plant to grow and is easily placed in most gardens. Kerria japonica like filtered sun as its blooms will completely wash out in too much sun. The best locations are under deciduous trees. The like any soil which has average moisture content and will tolerate a drier location when it is established. As you see these plants can become dense clumps, fortunately they are easily pruned after flowers. cut stems by 1/3 to 1/2 or remove them from the base as you would for Rubus(Raspberry) which they are closely related to.

This single flowered Kerria japonica is seen amoungst the mixed perennial and shrub border at Government House.

This single flowered Kerria japonica is seen amongst the mixed perennial and shrub border at Government House.

 Kerria japonica grow from .9 to 1.8 m (3-6 ft.) tall and about as wide, it has strongly ascending branches. It tolerated temperature down to -15 c. (5 f.) and still bloom very well. Give this plant protection from cold winter winds and late frost pockets as this can damage the flower production and makes them smaller and less in quantity.  the plant can be used in many ways, as an informal border, mass planted in mixed deciduous borders and for early spring interest. With the right placement it is a specimen or more usually an accent plant. The Victorian feeling this plant gives off makes this plant an excellent inclusion in heritage and period themed gardens.

Check these links to learn more:

U.B.C. botanical plant of the day: http://www.botanicalgarden.ubc.ca/potd/2011/02/kerria_japonica_pleniflora.php

the ‘In Bloom article from the Japan Times: http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fe20080402li.html

William Kerr, an important plant hunter: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Kerr_(gardener)

………Hope to see you on this path soon………..

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When I first started horticulture school many years ago it was autumn and the leaves where changing color.  The trees and shrubs we were leaning were all new to me and often did not impress me too much in ragged end of year state. As the season progressed into winter I learned to appreciate the form and shape of the simple things like tree structure, bark and buds and the often subtle differences between closely related species. The spring brought new hope of reawakening in the city which was my new classroom, those buds expanded and soon the earliest flowers were blooming. All around was color, especially yellow and the most vibrant of all were the Golden Bells or Common Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia).

 Forsythis x intermedia is one of the brightest shrubsto bloom at any time of the year.

Forsythis x intermedia is one of the brightest shrubsto bloom at any time of the year.


Forsythias like so many plants comes from the vast area of eastern Asia. There are 11 known species with only 1 which originates from Europe.The most important species in horticulture are Forsythia suspensa, viridissima, ovata and japonica. From this group the suspensa x  viridissima which is known as F. x intermedia is the most important and has contributed a number of well known garden plants.
 Although the flowers of Forsythia x intermedia are small, there are thoousands which coat the branches.

Although the flowers of Forsythia x intermedia are small, there are thoousands which coat the branches.


Forsythia x intermedia is a cross of 2 species(suspensa x viridissima) which originate in China. The first species seen and written about was F. suspensa (Weeping Forsythia) which was seen by Carl Peter Thunberg in Japan where he was posted in 1784. At that time he thought it was a form of Lilac (Syringa) and called it Syringa suspensa. An interesting factoid is that Lilacs and Forsythia are in the same family as Olives (Oleaceae).  This species brings a drooping habit to its branches and has rambling/suckering growth.

The 'greenstem' influence of Forsythia viridissima is seen here along with the slightly angular surface. The lenticels (bumps on barks) are typical for the species.

The 'greenstem' influence of Forsythia viridissima is seen here along with the slightly angular surface. The lenticels (bumps on bark) are typical for the species.


The other species in the cross is viridissima which is also from China and was discovered by Robert Fortune  in about 1850. Greenstem Forsythia blooms later than any of the other Forsythia species and has noticeably green, square stems. It is thought the species met in Holland and naturally crossed there but it also just as likely that there are natural crosses found in the wild where the plant species grow in the same areas close together.
The hardy Forsythia x intermedia buds are set in the fall and over-winter tightly before they burst forth into bloom usually in late February around here.

The hardy Forsythia x intermedia buds are set in the fall and over-winter tightly before they burst forth into bloom usually in late February around here.


Forsythia x intermedia are considered to be somewhat out of fashion these days because they are not really a controlled plant. I found it interesting that when I moved here to Victoria that it is hard to find these plants as they are much more common in the Vancouver area where I had been living at. Victoria is an older city  than Vancouver and Forsythia are a very ‘Victorian era’ type of plant and I just assumed in the spring they would show up in the older yards around here.
 A very old Forsythia x intermedia near Commercial Drive in Vancouver.

A very old Forsythia x intermedia near Commercial Drive in Vancouver.


Forsythia x intermedia are easy to grow and will live for many decades in the right place. They take all most any soil as long as it drains well and is not totally clay. They produce the best flowering in full sun but take light shade and give a good flower display. They often grow into dense multi-stemmed shrubs which sucker to expand that gives them a messy appearance. They typically grow up to 3.5 m. (10 ft.) by a similar width. The branches can be seen growing upright or drooping on the same plant. Branches that touch the soil and remain there often will root and produce new growth.  These plants can be severely pruned into shrubs but most of the flowers will be lost, often only seen deep in the plant or on the top.  Free form, informal hedges (less clipped) are beautiful and bright if you have the space.
 Here Forsythia x intermedia is seen with another brightly flowering shrub Pieris 'Valley Valentine'.

Here Forsythia x intermedia is seen with another brightly flowering shrub Pieris 'Valley Valentine'.


Often Forsythia x intermedia is not noticed until it bursts into color in the spring just when we need the bright colors to help us wake up from our winter slumber. It an excellent shrub for early spring color and autumn color as it often shows tinges of madder and plum in its golden foliage. Use Forsythia in mixed borders for early spring color, winter gardens, low maintainance areas, as informal or formal hedges or in heritage gardens. Another favorite use is for forcing the flowers by bringing in branches and letting them open inside.  The best thing might be that it is quite hardy and tolerates -20 c. (-4 f.) and I have seen it growing in much colder places than that with sheltering from harsh north winds. As a side note if you live in a very cold climate look out for Forsythia ‘Northern Gold’ which takes zone 3 (-40 c. or f.).

Following Forsythia:

What People are saying about their plants: http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/74859/

One of the best places to look up shrubs and tree and their description: http://www.hort.uconn.edu/plants/f/forint/forint1.html

The Genus Forsythia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forsythia

For you gardeners in the north here is Forsythia ‘North Gold’ http://www.northscaping.com/InfoZone/FS-0038/FS-0038.shtml

…….Hope you follow along with me here……

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When I went to work for a large wholesale perennial grower I was surprised by the diversity of material that was sold. They wanted to extend their sales season by selling not only perennials but include other related plant material such as Heather, herbs, small shrubs and in the earliest spring small bulb which you could buy in bloom at the grocer. Within the bulbs sold there were Crocus, small Daffodils, Snowdrops and Iris. The Reticulated Iris (Iris reticulata) were a brilliant blue and always sold out quickly.

The classic Iris reticulata (Reticulated Iris) ia a welcome shot of brilliant blue in the garden.

The classic Iris reticulata (Reticulated Iris) ia a welcome shot of brilliant blue in the garden.

Reticulated Iris are in a subgenus Hermodactyloides which include other closely related species. They are all bulbous with netted tunics(coverings), which is where the latin name ‘reticulata’ comes from meaning netted or networked. All of the species originate in western Asia ranging from Turkey south through Lebanon through into Iraq and Iran, to the east into the Caucasus and Transcaucasia and into the former USSR.  They live in areas high in areas just below the snow line down into the lower mountain meadows and on to rocky hillside where the water runs off and they bake in the summer heat while they are dormant like many of famous bulbous plants of the area.

Iris "George' is a standout form ith its rich coloring.

Iris "George' is a standout form ith its rich coloring.

There are several color forms of Iris reticulata ranging from the almost  icy white ‘Natascha’ through the light blue ‘Cantab’ into the violet ‘Lovely Liza’ and into deep purple  of ‘George’ and ‘Purple Gem’. Other species are sometimes seen in collections but are harder to find at garden centers. Here in Victoria we have a thriving, large garden community as well as many people who are interested in alpine gardens, it makes it possible to see a wider range of Reticulated Iris forms.

The exotic colored Iris 'Katherine Hodgkin' has wonderfully reticulated petals.

The exotic colored Iris 'Katherine Hodgkin' has wonderfully reticulated petals.

Several species have added their coloring and petal form to new hybrids in the Reticulated Iris group. One of the more spectacular of these is Iris ‘Katherine Hodgkin’ is a cross of Iris winogradowii with its pale yellow flowers and Iris histrioides which is pale blue. Iris histrioides  and histrio, both blue play important roles in new crosses that are being made, the both have similarly narrow petals and blue coloring. The markings on these species tends to be dark blue with little yellow seen if at all.

Iris reticulata "Alida' has a distinct solid pale blue coloring with a dash of lemon in its throat.

Iris reticulata "Alida' has a distinct solid pale blue coloring with a dash of lemon in its throat.

I am fortunate that every year at this time I can go to a grocer and buy a tiny pot with several Iris reticulata bulbs blooming in it, enjoy the flowers then plant them out in the garden. We are also fortunate that these plants are undemanding and give us such joy at this time of the year. the most important thing Reticulated Iris need is well-drained soil and a situation where they can dry out during their summer dormancy, this can be created by planting them on a slope or giving them extra gritty soil. Plant the bulbs 10-12 cm. (4-5 in.) deep and about 3 cm.(1 in.) apart.  They grow  1-15 cm. (4-6 in.) tall. they are quite hardy and rate zones 5 -29 c.(-20 f.)through 9. With extra mulch it is likely that they can survive even colder locations.

Tough Reticulated Iris flowers are not effected by winter freezes or snow piled up around them.

Tough Reticulated Iris flowers are not effected by winter freezes or snow piled up around them.

These are small plants that usually produce 1 to 2 flowers per bulb. Mass planting is the best way to display these Reticulated Iris. They are most often seen in container plantings, alpine gardens or rock gardens. Although they are tiny in statue Reticulated Iris are good cut flowers and have an unusual, delicate violet-like fragrance. They can be grown from seed but this is a slow process as it takes about 5 years to produce a flowering bulb. If they are in a favorable place the bulbs can be divided to thin the bulbs out every 2 years. The new bulbs can be moved to other places or massed where they are. One problem we have here are slugs which eat the tender flowers, so remember this when choosing a site for these tiny gems.

The slug damage to this Iris danfordiae makes it all most unrecognizable.

The slug damage to this Iris danfordiae makes it all most unrecognizable.

Marticulate this:

The Pacific Bulb Society page on these plants:  http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/ReticulataIrises

A fascinating site on reticulata with its many forms and colors: http://www.reticulatas.com/

……..Looking forward to seeing you here soon……..

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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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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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