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I have come to like many of plants that have been in gardens for hundreds of years. I love to find out the stories behind their common names. Some plants I have grown and others I like from afar, most of these plants have shown that they are still worthy of being in a garden somewhere. One plant has I like has velvet-like leaves and tiny chartreuse flowers. I bet you know what I mean and if you can not guess …..Lady’s Mantle(Alchemilla mollis) is its name.

Tiny chartreuse flowers and the sage green velvety leaves of Lady's manltle (Alchemilla mollis) are the feature most loved by gardeners and florist alike.

Tiny chartreuse flowers and the sage green velvety leaves of Lady's manltle (Alchemilla mollis) are the feature most loved by gardeners and florist alike.

Lady’s Mantle is a plant that comes to us from northern Greece east into western Russia and into the Caucasus then south all  into northern Iran. In its natural habitat it grows in wide range of habitats from stream banks to meadows and wind swept plains and mountainous areas.  A close relative Alchemilla xanthocholra was formerly named A. vulgaris and is the European version of Lady’s Mantle. It is said to be less hairy than A. mollis.

The green-blue leaves of Alchemilla mollis are seductive and beautiful especially in the rain. One can really imagine a Lady's Mantle made of soft material which looks like this foliage.

The green-blue leaves of Alchemilla mollis are seductive and beautiful especially in the rain. One can really imagine a Lady's Mantle made of soft material which looks like this foliage.

Alchemilla mollis is a plant often seen frothing over the edges of paths or edging paths with its softness in flowers and foliage. It is a beautiful foil to cover unsightly bare stems of all sorts of larger plants and is used this way in many places. The name Lady’s Mantle is said to have come from the edges of the leaves that are similar to a cloak (or mantle) a lady would wear. The orgin of Alchemilla is unknown but is thought to possibly have originated from a Arabic world that has been ‘Latinized’.  Mollis means soft or with soft hairs and refers to the leaves.

Alchemilla mollis (Lady's Mantle) is used here to soften edges of this sunken Rose garden at Esquimalt Gorge park

Alchemilla mollis (Lady's Mantle) is used here to soften edges of this sunken Rose garden at Esquimalt Gorge Park.

Species of Alchemilla and especially the look-a-like Alchemilla xanthocholra have been much used in medicine in the past.  The plant contain salicylic acid (ASA), a strong pain reliever that we use today. Lady’s Mantle was used as a herb for women and was gathered in June and July, the roots were used fresh while the leaves were used when dried.  It was used for painful periods and was especially  associated with excess bleeding as well as during menopause. It was also used as an astringent in mouth washes for sore gums and ulcers.

In this artistic garden the charteuse flower colors of Alchimilla mollis contrasts with the more somber plum and coppery rust tones.

In this artistic garden the charteuse flower colors of Alchimilla mollis contrasts with the more somber plum and coppery rust tones.

Alchemilla mollis is a versatile plant which can be used in many places from fairly deep shade to full sun. That versatility also applies to the growing conditions as it is not to fussy in soil type as long as it does not become water logged or completely dried out.  This plant stays a fairly compact 45 cm.(18 in.) wide and high.  It is a very hardy plant and will survive temperature down to below -40 c. or f. (zone 2-9).

Here Alchemilla mollis take over from hardy Geraniums and leads the Hostas and Asilbes in a wave of color and texutres.

Here Alchemilla mollis take over from hardy Geraniums and leads the Hostas and Asilbes in a wave of color and texutres.

 Lady’s Mantle can be used in many ways but it will always be more informal as the plant is loose looking and soft. The most often seen use is as edging along paths where it spills over and softens edges. Another use is to hide more gangly larger plants long stems. It works well in large containers and give an all year show of color and texture. It should be found in all floral arrangers gardens as the leaves, flowers and seedheads all are used in bouquets. The chartreuse color of the flowers and sea-green foliage of Alchemilla  mollis is beautiful in most gardens and the colors are appealing to the eye, many artists have been inspired to include it in painting and other works. it can be mass planted and used as ground cover and is especially attractive in rocky areas popping out amongst the rocks.

A serving of Alchemilla links please:

Wiki page on Alchemilla species: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alchemilla_mollis

How to grow it:http://www.uvm.edu/pss/ppp/jan99per.html

A French gardener write about Lady’s Mantle:http://www.frenchgardening.com/inprofile.html?pid=311933322533616

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We I was small we would visit my grandmother(my father’s mother) in Williams Lake which was closer than my other grand parents. She came from Scotland and had an accent any many things from her family at her home. She also special scented soaps and that scent I now always associate with her. The soap was Lavender scented (from Yardley) and I still love that fragance. Here in Victoria we are able to grow that most famous of aromatic plants in many forms. The Lavender plant which most reminds me of the soap in its scent is Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’ (Hidcote Lavender).

'Hidcote' Lavender Lavendula angustifolia 'Hidcote' has the fragrance that most reminds me of my grandmother.

'Hidcote' Lavender Lavendula angustifolia 'Hidcote' has the fragrance that most reminds me of my grandmother.

Lavenders are plants which originate form the mountainous areas of France and Italy and Spain. The numerous species of plants have been used for millennial for fragrance, medicinal, herbal and culinary purposes. Different Lavenders have slightly different scents, some are more resinous(pine scented) while others are are less potent and kind of dusty (almost musty). What we think of as ‘true’ English Lavender scent is Lavandula angustifolia with bright flower that are dried for sachets stuffing pillows,  used in oils lotions, soaps and pomanders. The scent is said to be calming and is used that way in herbal medicine. The flowers have many culinary uses from sweets to teas and inclusion in meat dishes and other savory foods.

Hidcote lavender is included in this herb garden.

Hidcote lavender is included in this herb garden.

Hidcote lavender is a true English Lavender selection( selected in 1950) which is named after the world-famous  garden at Hidcote Manor near Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire.  Hidecote Manor was an estate whose gardens were developed by Lawrence Johnson (1871-1958). Johnson was born in France to an American father who was a wealthy stockbroker. Lawrence Johnson has nor formal horticulture training but was extremely artistically talented. Lawrence when to Cambridge and graduated with a degree in history from Trinity College and later joined the British army fought in the Boer War and World War 1. In 1907 his mother bought Hidcote and he went to live with her in the 200 acre estate.

A contemporary west coast drought tolerant garden with Hidcote Lavender as one of the feature plants.

A contemporary west coast drought tolerant garden with Hidcote Lavender as one of the feature plants.

For the next 41 years Lawrence developed 10 acres into a magnificent series of garden rooms each with its own surprises and unique features.  he was much influenced by Gertrude Jekyll the Arts and Crafts movement which was primarily located in Great Britain.  The gardens of Hidcote were seen as being so important that the National Trust selected them for their first example of gardens to include in their collection of places of cultural heritage. 150,000 people visit the Hidcote gardens every year to learn and get inspiration from them.

A modern use of Hidcote Lavender(Lavanduala angustifolia 'Hidcote') seen in this garden at Parkside Victoria.

A modern use of Hidcote Lavender(Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote') seen in this garden at Parkside Victoria.

Most lavenders grow well on Vancouver Island even though we have much more rain that would occur where they originate, drainage is important. Here in Victoria most gardens are on top of a layer of clay and fine sand which means placing any Lavender is tricky. Hidcote Lavender seems to do the best of all the different species which are grown here as it is quite hardy and will take more moisture that some others which will regularly die or be severely damaged during colder winter here.

Hidcote Lavender is just one of the massed plantings used to create color throughout the year on the main street through Brentwood Bay.

Hidcote Lavender is just one of the massed plantings used to create color throughout the year on the main street through Brentwood Bay.

Growing Hidcote Lavender is easy in the right place. You need full sun and well-drained soil especially in wetter climates. The best plantings I have seen are completely exposed to the elements such as those in the Terraced Gardens at Government House. There they grow in rocky niches in soil which probably is not that deep and they will bake in the summer. Although Hidcote Lavender is a shorter dense plant it will do well with a cutting back after the flowers start to fade in color. This will set a flush of new vigorous growth before autumn dormancy will set in. Hidcote lavender grows up to  30-45 cm. (12-18 in.) tall and about as wide. It is  rated at tolerating -34 c.(-30 f.) or zone 4.

Here Hidcote Lavender is tucked in with Heaths, Heathers and small assorted succulents.

Here Hidcote Lavender is tucked in with Heaths, Heathers and small assorted succulents.

Hidcote Lavender can be used in a variety of ways such as in containers, as a formal or informal edging for paths, drought tolerant garden, deer or rabbit resistant garden, mass plantings or specimen plantings, as an accent, in herbal and fragrance gardens or collections.  True Hidcote Lavender is propagated by cuttings but what you get in most garden shops is a Hidcote strain of seed grown plants which generally are very uniform in their growth, color and size. This is an excellent seed strain.

Many forms of Lavandula angustifolia:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavandula_angustifolia

Hidcote Manor:http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace/w-hidcote.htm

Lawrence Johnson:http://www.countrylife.co.uk/gardens/article/473685/Great-British-garden-makers-Lawrence-Johnston-1871-1958.html

 

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When I was going to for Horticultural training the thing I missed the most was walking in the woods like I could do at Home. I had come from a rural area to a verge large city to go to school and going for a walk was a way to relieve tension from my studies. There was a small park at the end of my street which was undeveloped and I would visit there and find new(to me) plants which where native to the area. One plant I came across looked kind of familiar, like a Heuchera but different, as it turns out it was a close relative. Tellima grandiflora (Fringe Cups) is related to several well-known garden plants and should be seen more in gardens.

Tellima grandiflora (Fringe Cups) are found edging a shade path in Beacon Hill Park.

Tellima grandiflora (Fringe Cups) are found edging a shade path in Beacon Hill Park.

I always am interested in what the botanical latin name of a plant means and how it might relate to it. In the case of Tellima it turns out to be an anagram of another plant which is closely related to it: Mitella. I have found no information on why an anagram was chosen for its name. Another case I know of is for a species of cactus Lobivia which is an anagram of the country which it is found in Bolivia. Grandiflora is not at all unusual and refers to the large flowers.

The common name 'Fringe Cups' refers to the lacy petals of Tellima grandiflora flowers.

The common name 'Fringe Cups' refers to the lacy petals of Tellima grandiflora flowers.

Tellima grandiflora is a plant which grows in the woodlands and dappled light of the Pacific North-west from Alaska through British Columbia, Washington, Oregon into Northern California. This is generally a plant of coastal areas and along the mountains that run just inland. They are also found in the inland wet stripe running through eastern B.C., Washington, north Idaho and Montana. Here on Vancouver Island it is a common site along roadsides and is often mixed with other plants such as Tiarellas, Sedges and Ferns.

Here at U.B.C. Botanical Gardens the Tellima grandiflora grow wild as a natural groundcover in the Asian Garden.

Here at U.B.C. Botanical Gardens the Tellima grandiflora grow wild as a natural groundcover in the Asian Garden.

Tellima grandiflora comes from the Saxifragaeae which has given us many familiar garden plants such as Saxifraga, Heucheras, Tiarella and Fragaria (Strawberry). All of these species have been hybridized and are well used in the garden. Tellima grandiflora may have been hampered in its acceptance because it is a is the only species of the genus and is not represented in any other form in the world. There are records of crosses between Tiarella and Tellima being found as well as that of Tolmeia menziesii crosses but none of these have been seen as worth being developed as they have much smaller flowers than Fringe Cups and the foliage is not unique enough. Only recently has been offered a named Tellima grandiflora ‘Forest Frost’ which to me looks like it probably is mis-named and is fact a cross with a Heuchera. It will be interesting to see what comes of this new plant.

 Winter coloring of Tellima grandiflora often brings out burgundy tones which fade with new growth.

Winter coloring of Tellima grandiflora often brings out burgundy tones which fade with new growth.

Tellima grandiflora for the most part is a well-behaved garden plant. It self-sows in place that it is happy, if this is not wanted all that is needed is to remove the spent flower wands soon after they finnish blooming. It can be somewhat short-lived like many members of the Saxifragaeae family are, therefore i usually keep a few seedlings about to replenish older plants and I like how they will pop up in my pots of Hostas and amongst the hardy Geraniums. Fringe Cups make a good addition to the garden and its foliage and flowers work well in spring when other plants are slow to emerge.

This accidental combination of Meconopsis cambrica, Tellima grandiflora and Claytonia sibirica is charming and bright at the same time.

This accidental combination of Meconopsis cambrica, Tellima grandiflora and Claytonia sibirica is charming and bright at the same time.

Tellima grandiflora is an easy adaptable plant to have in your garden. It like rich, humusy soil which retains moisture well during the dry months of summer. It like dappled positions and will bloom admirably in more shady situations. In overly sunny sites it often has more yellowed foliage and is smaller in its overall stature. This last winter was colder than usual and Fringe Cups came through in great form, no damage is done to the foliage and steady growth is seen in the earliest spring. These plants are typically 60 cm.(2 ft.) high and 45 cm. (18 in.) wide but may be slightly large or smaller depending on conditions. They are rated as tolerating -20c.(-4 f.) which is suspect is with much snow cover. Here the extreme cold might get to be – 15 c. (5 f.) with the wild chill added and they do not suffer.

Tellima grandiflora is incorporated into several gardens at Government House in Victoria. Here it is the Cutting Flower Garden.

Tellima grandiflora is incorporated into several gardens at Government House in Victoria. Here it is the Cutting Flower Garden.

Fringe Cups can be used in a variety of ways in the garden. I have seen them used as accents, mass planted, in woodland and more formal settings. They fit into fragrant gardens and ones for cut flowers as well as shade and winter gardens. They also make an excellent mass planting  and blend in well with many damp tolerant plants. their delicate flowers on tall stems have an amusing effect against very bold foliage. These plants are much better known in Europe than they are here and we should start changing that.

T is for Tellima:

Rainyside has a good page: http://www.rainyside.com/features/plant_gallery/nativeplants/Tellima_grandiflora.html

In case you are wondering about anagrams:  http://www.anagramsite.com/cgi-bin/getanagram.cgi

Washington Native Plant Society page on Tellima: http://www.wnps.org/plants/tellima_grandiflora.html

…………..See you on the trails leading here soon………..

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This is the time of year which is the most exciting in the garden. After a cold winter we wait with bated breath to see what has survived and even will thrive. I note some Rhododendrons seem to have smaller flowers and the Tulips are finally beginning to show their buds. One plant I associate with spring is Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon Grape) which is bursting forth with its bright fragrant flowers.

The Oregon Grape(Mahonia aquifolium) here is a welcome addition to this spring garden of mixed bulbs and native plants.

The Oregon Grape(Mahonia aquifolium) here is a welcome addition to this spring garden of mixed bulbs and native plants.

Oregon Grape is a shrub which is from the west coast of British Columbia south into northern California west of the Cascade Mountains where this plant is generally found as an understory plant to trees such as Douglas Fir and here Garry Oaks. Mahonia was named after Bernard McMahon (1775-1816) who is said to have been the first ‘nurseryman’ in North America, he published the first plant catalogue and the book “American Gardeners’ Calender’  He was the curator of the plants of the Lewis and Clark collection of plants.  Thomas Nuttall honored his friend by using his name as “Mahonia’  for naming a plant (Mahonia nervosa) in the collection.

The bright flowers of Mahonia aquifolium contrast nicely with wine tinted evergreen foliage.

The bright flowers of Mahonia aquifolium contrast nicely with wine tinted evergreen foliage.


The leaves( and leaflets) of the Oregon Grape look similar to that of common Holly (Ilex aquifolium) but are larger, thinner and take on maroon and red tints in winter cold. This past winter was colder than normal here and the red tints are very evident on many plant here. Oregon Grape are well-known to the native people here and have in the past been used for medicinal and food uses.  The roots were used to make a tonic which was used to counteract weariness, loss of appetite  and other similar maladies. the roots contain the alkaloid berberine which is found in  ‘Goldenseal’ and has anti-inflamitory and anti bacterial properties. The fruit was as mild laxative. As a food the berries were sometimes mixed with other sweeter berries to make them more palatable. The fruit is very bitter until touched by frost and then can be used for making  jelly. Another way this plant has been used is for dying items, the roots have distinctive yellow sap and the berries provide purple coloring.
Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium) produced copius crops of blue fruit which are eaten by birds after it has been touched by frost to sweeten it.

Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium) produced copius crops of blue fruit which are eaten by birds after it has been touched by frost to sweeten it.


Mahonia aquifolium is much used in landscapes today and is often seen as a barrier plant in parking lots where it often is neglected and abused, there are better plants for that purpose. I like to see it used in more creative ways. One of the more interesting uses I have seen is as a background planting to Hydrangeas at Finnerty Gardens in Victoria. The garden has a collection of Hydrangeas which are dormant when our lovely Oregon Grape blooms. Oregon Grape works as winter and early spring interest and then the Hydrangea will take over for the late spring into autumn with a consistent evergreen background to show it off.
Here at Finnerty Gardens the Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon Grape) will bloom while the Hydrangea shrubs are leafing out in front.

Here at Finnerty Gardens the Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon Grape) will bloom while the Hydrangea shrubs are 'leafing' out in front.


Oregon Grape is an easy plant to grow if it is given the right conditions to grow in. Mahonia aquifolium likes part sun to full shade with the only exceptions in more northern areas where light is not as strong as in the south. For better flower and fruit production give it better light.  It grows best in moist, rich, well-drained soil which is more acidic than alkaline. It does poorly on thin, compacted and clay soils which stay wet and are poorly drained. Here it grows under the light shade of deciduous trees and mixed with other shrubs. It is best to place these plants where they will avoid the drying winds of winter which can do much damage to broad-leaved evergreens here. Most of the Oregon Grape I have seen here overwintered well with little damage, the added bonus was richer maroon tints to the foliage from the winter cold.
The maroon tints of the foliage of Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon Grape) were quite spectacular this spring.

The maroon tints of the foliage of Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon Grape) were quite spectacular this spring.


Mahonia aquifolium is a slow-growing multi-stemmed shrub which over time can grow to be well over 2 m. (6 ft.) tall. With the branches generally being very ascending , this shrub tends to have a narrow profile. The plant can easily be managed by removing branches from the base. Use this shrub in your native garden or in wilder places which might be a little out of the way. The leaves are prickly so keep it away from narrow paths or tight areas where you might brush up against it. Mahonia aquifolium is well used in mass planting or a specimen. It attracts bees by providing an early source of honey when there might be little available (the flowers are honey scented as well).  It is known to hybridise with other Mahonia species and these crosses can give varied results in height and sprawling habit.
I find the variation in the flower panicles  of Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon Grape) interesting, some are stumpy like this one while others are loose and open like the 2nd picture in this article.

I find the variation in the flower panicles of Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon Grape) interesting, some are stumpy like this one while others are loose and open like the 2nd picture in this article.

Mahonia is a much loved plant and has been adopted as the state plant of Oregon which is found between California and Washington. It has many appealing atributes to make a good garden plant which should be seen more ofte. There are 12 Mahonia species in North America and some of these have been listed as noxious weeds, I think that there might be some confusion in listing this species there.

 

Links a’plenty for you:

Washington State Native Plant Society page on the plant: http://www.wnps.org/landscaping/herbarium/pages/mahonia-aquifolium.html

The ‘Wiki’ page is interesting: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oregon-grape

Bernard McMahon and his contribution to gardening in early America: http://www.monticello.org/site/house-and-gardens/bernard-mcmahon

……….Hope to see you here again very soon………

 

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At this time of the year the seasons are changing from winter to spring and with it comes unstable weather. One minute it is bright and sunny and the next it is almost dark and poring with rain, it is a challenge to get out into the garden to work. At this time I go for a quick walk in the park between rain showers and in a spot of light near the evergreen trees is a bright Rhododendron lutescens shining in the distance. Its pale buttery yellow flowers are almost unreal and beckon me to come closer.

Rhododendron lutescens is a delicate plant with the bright sunny flowers.

Rhododendron lutescens is a delicate plant with the bright sunny flowers.


Like many of our favorite plants Rhododendron lutescens comes from the treasure trove of China. The plant is found in north-east Yunnan, Sichuan, Hubei and Guizhou where is grows on the hillsides, thickets, mixed forest and limestone slopes.  It grows at elevations of 1700 to 2000 m (5600- 6600 ft.) . In China it is called Huang hua du juan.
 The brilliantly colored flowers of Rhododendron lutescens are a beacon of light in the garden at this time of the year.

The brilliantly colored flowers of Rhododendron lutescens are a beacon of light in the garden at this time of the year.


Rhododendron lutescens was discovered by Pere Jean Marie Delavay(1834-1895) in 1886 who was stationed in Kunming, Yunnan at that time. He was one of the important French Jesuit missionary collectors who explored China and other parts of the world and sent botanical samples(herbarium collections in this case) back to be identified and named by scholars at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. When these collections were received in Paris Botanist Adrien Franchet would study them and classify the new plant material.  E.H. Wilson recollected the plant when he was working James Veitch  & Sons Nursery and  it was re-introduced in 1904.
There are 2 Rhododendron lutescens found at Finnerty Gardens as well as 2 at Playfair Park.

There are 2 Rhododendron lutescens found at Finnerty Gardens as well as 2 at Playfair Park.


There are 2 leaf forms(one being narrower than the other) known of  Rhododendron lutescens although they do not seem to be recognized by specific names. Rhododendron lutescens ‘Bagshot Sands’ is a form of the species which is said to have stronger primrose yellow colored flowers. A notable feature of the species is the exquisite coloring of new foliage which can take on an amazingly deep wine red coloring, this appears to happen after the flowering has occurred.  With the yellow flower color, fine delicate leaves and early bloom time, Rhododendron lutescens has been used for crossing with other species to create new hybrids. Several are quite well-known such as ‘Bo Peep’ with its creamy flowers and “Goosander’ which has larger buttery yellow flowers slightly flushed with coral on their backsides. Both of these named hybrids are small in stature and are worth having in any garden.
Rhododendron 'Goosander' shows a similar yellow coloring of parent Rhododendron lutescens.

Rhododendron 'Goosander' shows a similar yellow coloring of parent Rhododendron lutescens.


Rhododendron lutescens is a graceful plant which deserves to be better known than it is. It grows best in a location with dappled light or spots of sun as the flowering will be better and leaf color more deep.It likes loamy to slightly sandy soil which is slightly acidic but is tolerant to more neutral qualities as long as it is not too clay rich.  These plants like good drainage and are somewhat drought tolerant. Like all Rhododendrons it has shallow root fine fibrous roots which do not like to compete with other plants, therefore mulch or a groundcover may be the best thing for under the plant. It should be sheltered from drying winter winds.
The flowers of Rhododendron lutescens vary in the yellow coloring from very pale to deeper shades and sometimes appear almost greenish.

The flowers of Rhododendron lutescens vary in the yellow coloring from very pale to deeper shades and sometimes appear almost greenish.


Rhododendron lutescens might be hard to find, check at a specialist nursery or society sales. It is fairly hardy and tolerates temperatures down to at least -10 c. (4 f.). It can grow to a reported 5.5 m. (18 ft.) tall and a narrower width often  a multi-stemmed tree form with age. Best placement is in shrub borders, winter gardens, for early spring interest or specimen plantings. it can be mass planted and even is used as an informal hedge in some places.

Some beacons of information about this plant:

The most informative page about this plant: http://www.aussiegardening.com.au/findplants/plant/Rhododendron_lutescens

UBC has an interesting picture and info about the plant: http://www.ubcbotanicalgarden.org/potd/2008/04/rhododendron_lutescens_1.php

My page which tells the story of Pere Jean Marie Delavay and another of his wonderful dicoveries: https://namethatplant.wordpress.com/2010/05/17/delavays-maroon/

……..Until we meet here along the garden path, soon I hope………

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Many plants become famous for things other than their flowers. The form and structure of a plant influences how it is used in a garden. The overall color and texture of a plant contributes much to a plants use. Some plants remind people of other things and their name reflects that. Euphorbia species cover all these bases and more. Euphorbia myrsintes(Myrtle Spurge) has wonderful color, texture and form as well as an element which can be somewhat sinister.

 Mrytle Spurge(Euphorbia myrsinites) sprawls across a rock earlier this year.

Myrtle Spurge(Euphorbia myrsinites) sprawls across a rock earlier this year.

Myrtle Spurge has been known from the earliest time. Theophratus (372-287 B.C.) said it looked like a kind of  ‘Tithymallos’ and called it ‘Myrtle-like’. Dioscorides described it as ‘hath leaves like to Myrsine, but greater and strong and sharp and prickly on top’. We also come to Pliny who said ‘Mytites had medicinal uses. Flower heads where harvested and dried long before they had started to swell to blossom and were used with other plants and said to heal sores in the mouth and used as an emetic. We of course do not use this plant for any type of medical or edible use today.

The chartreuse flowers of Euphorbia myrsinites contrast with the  distinctive sea green foliage to produce a unique sight in the garden.

The chartreuse flowers of Euphorbia myrsinites contrast with the distinctive sea green foliage to produce a unique sight in the garden.

With such an ‘old’ plant we are not the least surprised to find out where Euphorbia myrsinites comes from; the Mediterranean. Euphorbia myrsinites grows naturally in a wide area from the Balearic Islands near Corsica, moves across southern Italy through Croatia, Bosnia Hercegovina and Montenegro and through Greece. From Greece it is found in Turkey and Asia Minor south and east all the way to Iran. It is found in rocky and sandy areas as well as in open areas under open forests often populated by Pine. The plant grows from near sea level into mountain slopes.

The serpentine foliage of Euphorbia myrsinites becomes grayer in the drought and heat of summer here.

The serpentine foliage of Euphorbia myrsinites becomes grayer in the drought and heat of summer here.

All Euphorbia species have milky sap wich is released when the plant is damaged. The sap is a form of natural latex which is sticky and contains Diterpene esters which are often irritating to people who have sensitivities. Not all people react to this chemical in the same way I for years propagated many species of Euphorbia and had no trouble, I was always careful when doing cuttings and did my work in well ventilated areas and washed my hands throughly. If you have any concerns do not grow Euphorbias which include Poinsettia of Christmas, or grow them in area where they are out of the way.

A seedling Myrtle Spurge is seen growing in a crevice with native Sedum and Oregon Grape.

A seedling Myrtle Spurge is seen growing in a crevice with native Sedum and Oregon Grape.

Euphorbia myrsinites grows in Victoria well as long as it has good drainage. The best plantings I have seen here are at Government House in the Terrace Garden which is a steep cliff area with gardens running down its face. In this garden there are many tender and exotic plants as well as those which are drought tolerant and can live in areas with little soil. Several species of Euphorbia are featured there. There is also a rough stone staircase which has plants in the cracks including todays plant. Another interesting planting is found at Glendale Gardens where these plants are displayed in the drought tolerant garden.

The rock staircase in the Terrace Gardens at Governemnt House is a perfect place to display Euphorbia myrsinites.

The rock staircase in the Terrace Gardens at Government House is a perfect place to display Euphorbia myrsinites.

Euphorbia myrsinites is easily grown in soil which is extremely well-drained and not to nutrient rich. Full sun at all times in an absolute must. These plants ideally like to sprawl on rocks or gravel or hand slightly over edges which they dry quickly from rains.  This plant has thick leaves and a thick base which is almost a caudex which helps it withstand drought conditions for several months at a time. These plants are excellent in large rockeries, containers, slopes and out of the way crevices which are hard to maintain. Creeping Spurge grows about 15-20 cm.(6-8 in.) tall and sprawls 45-60 cm. (18- 24 in.). It is rated as growing in zones 5 though 9 or tolerates temperatures down to -29 c (-20 f.) with perfect drainage and protection from winter winds.

Here the thick caudex-like rootstock is visible where this Myrtle Spurge has been pulled out slightly.

Here the thick caudex-like rootstock is visible where this Myrtle Spurge has been pulled out slightly.

Myrtle Spurge often is not long-lived but can produce seedlings which can be moved into place. Seedlings also are easily removed if not wanted or remove the flower heads before the seed has ripened. In some areas Euphorbia myrsinites has been classified as a noxious weed for it has been able to seed and spread into unwanted areas. It can not be grown or brought into Colorado, Oregon or Washington states. It is up to us as  nursery growers and gardeners to make sure we are not causing a problem by not taking care of our plants. by removing spent flowers or disposing of seed heads we can make sure that attractive but foreign plants do not become a problem in the future.

 
Now for some interesting and informative links:

Wiki page of this plant: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euphorbia_myrsinites

How this plant is viewed at Poisonous Plants of North Carolina: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/Euphomy.htm

The Drought Tolerant Garden at Glendale Gardens: http://www.glendalegardens.ca/droughttolerantgarden.php

Expereinces of the people of Dave’s Garden, pro and con:  http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/781/

………See you very soon right back here………

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some Dahurian links for you:

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

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

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

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

……..Hope you wander this way soon……

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Another grey week and another plant hunt for something special. Usually I have a list of plants in mind but right now it is hard because some of the plants I wanted to do were damaged by an unusually hard freeze which came in early November last year. At that time many of the plants were not hardened off for the winter with the damage especially seen by broad-leaved evergreens which have much browned and dead foliage now. In my wandering last week I stumbled upon two plants of the same family which are stars at this time of the year. They are the Algerian Iris (Iris unguicularis) and the Stinking or Gladwyn Iris (Iris foetidissima). They are the stars for different reasons as you will see!

 Winter or Algerian Iris (Iris unguicularis) is sometimes incorrectly labeled by its old name of Iris stylosa.

Winter or Algerian Iris (Iris unguicularis) is sometimes incorrectly labeled by its old name of Iris stylosa.


The first stop we make is with the Algerian or Winter Iris with its lovely large violet blooms. It was first described by Botanist/clergyman  Jean Louis Marie Pioret (1755-1834) in his journal ‘Voyage et Barbarie’ in 1789.  He had been sent to Algeria by Louis XVI between 1785-6 to study the flora. The lovely Iris is more widespread and found in area from Algeria and Tunisia across north Africa into Turkey, Greece Crete and Malta. In the vast area it is known to live int there is some variation in color and form.
The type of Iris unguicularis I have found in Victoria seems to be the 'Algerian' form which has the largest flowers of the species.

The type of Iris unguicularis I have found in Victoria seems to be the 'Algerian' form which has the largest flowers of the species.


Algerian Iris produce new leaves in late spring and through the summer. Often you can clip the old leave edges back when they get looking tattered. Iris unguicularis likes the sunniest, driest spot in the garden with the grittiest soil. At Government House in Victoria the plants are perfectly place in the terrace garden which is on a southern exposed rock-face.  The warmer and drier the summer the more blossoms will be produced.  One thing about these plants is they hate to be moved or have their roots disturbed in any way.
 A just opened Algerian Iris in the late afternoon sun has delicate coloring and scent.

A just opened Algerian Iris in the late afternoon sun has delicate coloring and scent.


The Gladwyn Iris is from more northern areas from southern England, Ireland through Portugal, Spain Canary Island on to Italy and finally the island of Malta.
The Gladwyn Iris (Iris foetidissma) is more famous for its brightly colored seeds which are seen during the winter months here.

The Gladwyn Iris (Iris foetidissma) is more famous for its brightly colored seeds which are seen during the winter months here.


The ‘Stinking Iris has gained an unfair reputation from its name. One has to crush the leaves and the flower to obtain even a faintly unpleasant scent. Iris foetidissima is a plant which has long been with us. It blooms in the traditional Iris time of late May and June, but, the flowers are small and often hidden in the foliage. The colors range from a creamy ochre into plummy shades.
The flowers of Iris foetidissima are often hidden in the plants foliage.

The flowers of Iris foetidissima are often hidden in the plants foliage.


The Gladwyn Iris is a plant of the woodlands, hedgerows, scrubs and cliff edges and other rocky sites. It is a plant which likes chalky and limestone  heavy locations. Gladwyn Iris can grow in the sun or dappled shade and like average soil. They like sufficient water when they are growing in the spring and then dry conditions the rest of the year.After blooming it produces larger than average seed pods which ripen through the summer and into early winter when they burst. Inside the pods are usually bright orange seeds which remain colorful throughout the winter. The other day I noticed pods recently opened and others still green and waiting to split. Just like the flowers there are other known seed colors which are sought after and they range from golden yellows to creams and white. Probably the most want of the Gladwyn Iris is Iris foetidissima ‘Variegata’ with beautifully uniform cream stripes running up the leaves.
The variegated Gladwyn Iris(Iris foetidissma 'Variegata') is most sought after, as you see it is stunning in dappled location at Glendale Garden.

The Variegated Gladwyn Iris (Iris foetidissma 'Variegata') is most sought after, as you see they are stunning in dappled location at Glendale Garden.

Algerian and Gladwyn Iris are about the same height 45-60cm.(12-18 in.) and width They also share the same temperature tolerance to 15 c. (5 f.) or zones 7 through 9. Both plants are drought tolerant when they have been established. They are rabbit and deer resistant but can be damaged by slugs and snails. They make excellent specimens, accents s, mass evergreen plantings and work well in containers. Both of these species are not easy to find in plant centres or garden shops, the best bet would be to find them at garden sales or from specialty Iris growers.

Gladwyn Iris on the upper left and Algerian Iris on the lower right.

Gladwyn Iris on the upper left and Algerian Iris on the lower right.


This Odd Couple of the Irises:

Pacific Bulb Society has interesting note on both plants on this page, look down the page to find the species you are interested in: http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/BeardlessIrises

Algerian Iris:

How to grow: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/4208463/How-to-Grow-Iris-unguicularis.html

Gladwyn Iris:

Wild in Malta: http://maltawildplants.com/IRID/Iris_foetidissima.php

……See you soon when we travel the path of plants again…..

 

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The are a few types of plants which can be found just about anywhere on earth. Some are grasses others are very successful annuals which have short life cycles and survive even in hostile climate even if it is for a short while. Others are extremely ancient and where some of the first types of recognizable plants that are known such as ferns. The plants I am referring to today are also among the oldest and simplest known to us. We see them in the woods, on rocks, along roadsides, in our lawns and on roofs. I am referring to a group of plants called Moss of which there are thousands of species and many variations. They all look beautiful at this time of year here in the Pacific Northwest.

aMany Mosses co-exist peacefully close together and with other plants.

Many Mosses co-exist peacefully close together and with other plants.

Mosses are part of a group of plants called bryophytes which also include Lichens and Hornworts. These plants are generally tiny in stature and lack vascular systems.  Mosses are made up of a single layer of cells which are usually arranged in overlapping leaves or scales and are generally a shade of green. Because Moss lacks a vascular system it has to live in an area which is damp most of the time. Without water it would not be able to sexually reproduce.

One of the most beautiful of Mosses found in this area is Oregon Beaked Moss (Kindbergia oregona).

One of the most beautiful of Mosses found in this area is Oregon Beaked Moss (Kindbergia oregona).

Mosses are one of the first plants that were likely used by people from the very earliest times. Moss has been used in many ways all over the world. From the earliest times it has been used for padding for wounds, natural diapers and other padding.  It has been used to stuff mattresses, pillows and fill cracks in walls. Mosses used to heal burns and bruises has been successfully done for centuries. Some forms of moss have been powdered and turned into extracts which anti-septic and antiviral properties. Tonics an diuretics have been used for ages.

 Moss is an important part of the ecosystem of the Pacific Northwest and the rainforest.

Moss is an important part of the ecosystem of the Pacific Northwest and the rainforest.

The most important group of mosses are the Sphagnum which are used for many economic products and processes. In horticulture and gardening sphagnum produces the peat which we incorporate into soil mixes because it helps to improve moisture retention(it has the ability to absorb 12 times its weight in moisture). Peat is found in areas where the moss has for many centuries grown and partly decomposed creating deep layers of pure product. It is found in northern areas of the globe. In the past it has been cut, dried and burned as fuel to warm homes.   Now we also use it for filtering and treatment of waste waters, effluent detergents, dyes and other organic substances.

Wet Rock Moss (Dichodontium pellucidum) is found on sea level cliffs and bluffs is an important soil stabilizer.

Wet Rock Moss (Dichodontium pellucidum) is found on sea level cliffs and bluffs is an important soil stabilizer.

Many moss species are good indicators of soil conditions as the will survive in narrow pH conditions.  They also can indicate environmental condition such as levels of pollution. Moss create a covering to slow down erosion of nutrients by protecting underlying surfaces from excessive water run-off. It also provides protection from winds in the same way.

Fragile Fork Moss (Dicranum tauricum) is a commonly seen moss which grows on sidewalks and along paths.

Fragile Fork Moss (Dicranum tauricum) is a commonly seen moss which grows on sidewalks and along paths.

here in Victoria there are many rocky outcrops covered with moss. Within these areas are miniature ecosystems often populated with several forms of moss and lichens which are slowly breaking down the rocks. The mosses do this by releasing acids which work on the rock over milleniums. Crevices develop where soil is created and other plants can come in and grow.

Here we see Pixie Lichen and Licorice Fern getting established in a thin layer of moss-soil on a rock outcrop at Playfair Park.

Here we see Pixie Lichen and Licorice Fern getting established in a thin layer of moss-soil on a rock outcrop at Playfair Park.

We take the lowly Moss for a pest, but it really is an important part of the ecology of the earth. We should be more tolerant of its existence and learn to see it as a feature in our gardens as a simple groundcover which it is. In Japan Moss plays an important role in gardens and is featured in many well known ones.

Here at Government House Moss mingles with other alpine plants to create an attractive display which has interest thoughout the year.

Here at Government House Moss mingles with other alpine plants to create an attractive display which has interest thoughout the year.

Bryophyte files for you:

Facinating website about the mosses and Lichens of Stanley Park in Vancouver: http://www.botany.ubc.ca/bryophyte/stanleypark/basics.htm

A page on the mosses of Pacific Spirit Park: http://www.pacificspiritparksociety.org/About_PSRP/Mosses.html

Living with Mosses: http://bryophytes.science.oregonstate.edu/mosses.htm

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

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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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