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I was listening to the local radio yesterday as I went about my business about town, they were interviewing a local vegetable grower who said crops are 5 to 6 weeks behind where they normally are at this time of year. I knew the season was behind although it seems to me that plants catch up at different speeds and some never really seemed to have been effected by the bad weather here this year. One plant which just rolls along without a care is Erigeron karvinskianus  Latin American Fleabane. It is rarely out of flower at any time of the year.

Erigeron karvinskianus (Latin American Fleabane) is a tiny sprawling plant perfect for containers,baskets and in rock cracks.

Erigeron karvinskianus (Latin American Fleabane) is a tiny sprawling plant perfect for containers,baskets and in rock cracks.

There are many Erigeron and most come from North America and as the common name tells you E. karvinskianus comes from more southern areas. It is found growing from Mexico south into Venezuela. In its native habitat it grows in the mountains at 1200-3500m (4000-11000  ft.) where is is evenly moist throughout the year. Spanish Daisy, Latin American Daisy, Santa Barbara Daisy or Mexican Daisy and even Bony Tip Fleabane – all are referring to the same plant.

With its tiny parts Erigeron karvinskianus does not seem out of place with other small plants here.

With its tiny parts Erigeron karvinskianus does not seem out of place with other small plants here.

Erigeron isthought to be Greek eri=early and geron= old man. Karvinskianus refers to Baron Wilhelm Friedrich Karwinski von Karvin (von Karvin Karvinski) 1780-1855. He  born in Hungary and was a naturalist with interests in Geology, Botany and particularly in the study of fossils from different periods. To this end he traveled to collect samples and the areas he went to was Brasil(1821-23) and Mexico(1827-32) . During his travels he sent back over 4000 plant specimens and several have been named after him, these include cactus, grasses and several others. He collected his sample of Erigeron karvinskianus while he was in Oaxaca Mexico.

Part of the charm of South American Fleabane lies in flowers which open white and change into pink as they age. This effect is also seen in other Erigeron species.

Part of the charm of South American Fleabane lies in flowers which open white and change into pink as they age. This effect is also seen in other Erigeron species.

 Erigeron karvinskianus is a very successful plant since it has been grown at sea level and in some areas it has become somewhat of a pest. In Australia and particularly it is not welcome (in these areas it is recommended to plant Branchyscome  multifida which is similar looking). The selection ‘Profusion’ refers to the flowers but also could well refer to its ability to reproduce quickly. In Victoria it is controlled by the climate being on the very edge of it being able to exist as a perennial here, many plant will have died this winter and new seedlings will take their place.

Here native Sedum, Cotoneasters and other mixed plants blend together in the rocks with Spanish Daisy to give a pleasing contrast in textures and color throughout the year.

Here native Sedum, Cotoneasters and other mixed plants blend together in the rocks with Spanish Daisy to give a pleasing contrast in textures and color throughout the year.

I first came to know this plant as a grower at a perennial nursery and thought that this plant might be a good container plant as it has proved to be in other areas. It has mainly been grown for this purpose as it is not hardy enough for most of Canada. Here it can be grown as a short lived perennial which reseeds to refresh with new plants. Victoria and nearby areas are the only places you will see it growing in gardens as a regular plant.

The diminutive flowers on wiry stems of Erigeron karvinskianus are long lasting as they go through their metamorphosis from pure white to deep pink.

The diminutive flowers on wiry stems of Erigeron karvinskianus are long lasting as they go through their metamorphosis from pure white to deep pink.

Erigeron karvinskianus like full sun and well drained soil which can be sandy or even having clay like it is around here. It like even moisture to slightly dry especially in colder areas as excess wetness promotes rot. These plants can be used in many ways, as fillers, accent,groundcover, massed, in large rockeries as long as its not near delicate growing or extremely small plants. They are fairly drought tolerant and attract butterflies to your garden. They are rated as zone 8 -10 c. (20-30 f.) They grow 15-20 cm high and wide.There are several named varieties, ‘Profusion’ is the best known and there is ‘Snowdrift’ which has white flowers. It is also thought that the species E. moerheimerii is just a form of karvinskianus and should be listed as E.k. ‘Moerheimii’

The Baron and the Little Flower:

Description of and cultivation for: http://www.perennials.com/seeplant.html?item=1.200.230

Fine Gardening has a good description: http://www.finegardening.com/plantguide/erigeron-karvinskianus-profusion-fleabane.aspx

Baron Wilhelm Friedrich Karwinski von Karvin: http://www.botanischestaatssammlung.de/DatabaseClients/BSMvplantscoll/About.html

…..Follow my trail to more interesting plant tails……..

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When I moved to go to school I soon missed the outdoors in the way I had experienced it during my life. I was no longer able step outside and wander in the woods within a few steps of the home I had lived in. It was not until I moved to the island I am on now that I had time to find the wild again as it was much closer. Now I wander in the woods and along paths where wildflowers and nature is close to undisturbed. People here care a great deal about keeping it that way. I have had the chance to become re-aquainted to some plants which were beloved by our family here. The Maianthemum family offer up 2 of these loved plants and 1 other which is new to me. I a particularly fond of Maianthemum dilatatum( Wild Lily of the Valley)

 Maianthemum dilatatum (Wild Lily of the Valley) is now is the same  botanical family as the real Lily of the Valley(Convillaria majalis).

Maianthemum dilatatum (Wild Lily of the Valley) is now is the same botanical family as the real Lily of the Valley(Convillaria majalis).

Maianthemum family has recently gone through several changes which are important to note: first it has expanded to include the species which were once known as Smilacina.  The other more important thing is that Maianthemum species was moved from the Lilacae (Lily)family into the Ruscaceae family which includes Convillaria(Lily of the Valley) now. It shows the close relation of Maianthemum and Convillaria.  This realignment is quite interesting botanically as it changes what we used to think of as Lilies(Lileaceae).

As a child I would pick armloads of Maianthemum racemosum (Smilacina) and give them to my mother to put in vases at home.

As a child I would pick armloads of Maianthemum racemosum (Smilacina) and give them to my mother to put in vases at home.

Around here you will most like come across Maianthemum dilatatum in the moister areas of the woodlands. I first came across it along the path that ran next to the house I lived in for many years. Not far away I found it growing with horsetail under the Rhododendron plantings at Dominion Brook Park, the contrast in textures was interesting. I was delighted to find it on my first visit to Finnerty Gardens where it is used as a lush groundcover. I now see it in many places which are shady and somewhat damp throughout the year.

 This bright Rhododendron luteum is set of by the lush Maianthemum dilatatum covering the ground so completely at Finnerty Gardens.

This bright Rhododendron luteum is set of by the lush Maianthemum dilatatum covering the ground so completely at Finnerty Gardens.

The similarity of False Lily of theValley  to Convillaria is somewhat hard to find as the leaves are so broad and the flowers are not bell-shaped. Both plants are highly fragrant and all parts are poisonous to consume in any form. Mainathemum dilatatum is found in a large area running from Northern California along the coast through Alaska on to the Russian coast south into Korea and finally into Japan.  Maianthemum was named by Linnaeus most likely after M. canadense which was already known from samples collected in eastern North America.

The leaves of Wild Lily of the Valley (Maianthemum dilatatum) remind me very much of that of some Hosta cultivars with their overall shape and vein pattern of the leaves.

The leaves of Wild Lily of the Valley (Maianthemum dilatatum) remind me very much of that of some Hosta cultivars with their overall shape and vein pattern of the leaves.

There are other members of the Maianthemum family which are more refined, the already mentioned M. canadense is a charming smaller version of dilatatum. Maianthemum stellatum grows here and was originally classed as a Smilacina which is seen in its foliage. It has few flowers and is delicate, I first came across it near Playfair Park at the top of Judge Place growing along a seep area.

Maianthemum stellatum is a delicate colonizing plant found in the woodland across northern areas on North America.

Maianthemum stellatum is a delicate colonizing plant found in the woodland across northern areas on North America.

All the Maianthemum species I have mentioned here can be vigorous spreading plants and care must be taken when placing them in your garden so they do not overwhelm other weaker plants. The most agressive of these plants is M. dilatatum which creeps into gardens and provides a seemingly smothering coat of  leaves. These plants grow by creeping rhizomes(roots) which are able to branch and spread more widely. They all like rich moisture retentive soil which does not dry out completely during hot periods. These plants prefer dappled to fairly deep shade and will go prematurely dormant if they are too exposed to overly bright, dry situations.

Wild(False) Lily of the Valley (Maianthemum dilatatum) provides a strong and lush groundcover.

Wild(False) Lily of the Valley (Maianthemum dilatatum) provides a strong and lush groundcover.

 Maianthemum racemosum, stellatum  and canadense are extremely hardy plants and take zone 3-8 (-40 c and f.). Maianthemum dilatatum tolerates probably -20 c (-4 f.).  M.racemosum grows to 1-1.25 m.(4 ft.) tall and easily as wide. The other species will grow no higher than 35 cm.(15 in.) tall and an indeterminant width. M. canadense is the smallest and least vigorous growing plant and could be used in more delicate places. All these plants are highly fragrant, have good autumn coloring and make good cut flowers. All these plants fit into the woodland garden and can be used for groundcover, massing  or as accents. Maianthemum racemosum is a standout plant with attractive foliage, berries and golden autumn coloring which makes it an excellent specimen for a shady garden.

Maianthemum madness:

Pacific Bulb Society listing of species: http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/Maianthemum

Wiki listing of all the species http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maianthemum

PNW Flowers listing of M.dilatatum: http://www.pnwflowers.com/flower/maianthemum-dilatatum

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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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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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Big winds are starting early this year, the forecast is for a colder winter here. I n=know our winters are nothing like those from the rest of Canada and much of North America, we are wet and very slippery with ice here if it gets cold. With cold weather comes more brilliant colors in the departing leaves which are on the trees. So here we are in the blustery weather wanting to go and walk in the forests and big parks to see bright colors. Some of the best color comes from the Quercus family and without a doubt the absolute star in the family is Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea). All I can say is Blaze on and warm us up with your firey flame-like leaves!

The Scarlet Oaks enliven the Stelly's Secondary School campus in the autumn.

The Scarlet Oaks enliven the Stelly's Secondary School campus in the autumn.

Scarlet Oaks are one of the trees which people think of when they want to experience the colors of autumn in eastern North America. The colors are so fine that many people take tours through the northern United States and eastern Canadian provinces to experience it. I have never been myself but can imagine how breath-taking it must be based on the color of the same trees here.

As the leaves of Quercus coccinea breakdown anthocytins are released giving the leaves their red coloring.

As the leaves of Quercus coccinea breakdown anthocyanins are released giving the leaves their red coloring.

Part of the reason of the strong bright colors in Quercus coccinea has to do with how the leaves break down in the fall. The component which affects color is anthocyanin( giving reds and blues) which is stored in the natural sugars found in the leaves. As the leaves start to break down in the fall the anthocyanins are released and their red and blue tones effect the color of the leaf. Many leaves of other trees change into yellow and orange tones which are caused by xanthophyll and carotenoids.It is surprising we get such good color because we are not that cold in the autumn here.

The Scarlet coloring of Quercus coccinea is very intense and brilliant.

The Scarlet coloring of Quercus coccinea is very intense and brilliant.

Scarlet Oaks are widespread in the east growing from Maine to Alabama and east into Oklahoma. It is a tree which tolerates a fairly wide range of conditions but often is seen growing in upland forests, ridges and hillside where the conditions are a bit drier and the soil is often is sandy and gritty. These are trees of the upper canopy and do not like to be in the shade.

This Scarlet Oak is one of many Oaks found in the 'Mayors Grove' at Beacon Hill Park in Victoria.

This Scarlet Oak is one of many Oaks found in the 'Mayors Grove' at Beacon Hill Park in Victoria.

Quercus coccinea grow to be large trees of up to 24m(80ft). When they are young they have a more pyramidal shape and with age get a more rounded shape.  The leaves are deeply lobed which gives this tree a more lacey feeling  and more delicate look compared to others of the species. The tree here which might be mistaken for Scarlet Oak is the Pin Oak (Quercus palustris), it needs a damper site and is more likely to be seen up island or in the Vancouver area which have more rain compared to the drought here.

These young Scarlet Oaks show thier pyramidal shape which will change with age.

These young Scarlet Oaks show their pyramidal shape which will change with age.

Scarlet Oaks are considered to be the best of the species to grow because of their adaptability to soils and water, their brilliant color and their tolerance of urban conditions.  They like an average to sandy soil which is on the acidic side to keep them from getting chlorosis. They are naturally from drier sites but tolerate damper sites as long that there is good drainage. These trees require full sun to perform their best. These trees are popular with landscapers and are often seen in industrial and commercial settings, here they are seen around parking lots and in parks. These trees have attractive foliage and bark.

 

The bark of Scarlet Oak is ridged and  an overall grey color.

The bark of Scarlet Oak is ridged and an overall grey color.

 

The acorns of Scarlet Oaks can be hard to come by here with the Squirrels  which eat store them. They are 1-2.5cm(1/2-1in.) long with their cap covering half the nut from the top. Acorns are produced in large quantity every 3 to 4 years. Propagation is by seed which has to be collected before the squirrels get the best ones. Check  your harvest in a bucket of water and throw away any that float. The seed has a short period of viability and needs to be sown as soon as possible.

 

Broadmead Village Shopping Centre has some of the best Scarlet Oaks and other autumn color in the Victoria area.

Broadmead Village Shopping Centre has some of the best Scarlet Oaks and other autumn color in the Victoria area.

 

 

Scarlet Oaks are rated at zones 4 through 9 and take -35c(-30f). If you have a large property this tree is an excellent choice for you as it makes an easy to maintain tree which need little work. It is best to buy these trees in a container as like other Oaks they have a tap-root which is easily damaged.

Looking at the quirks of Quercus coccinea:

A visual key to compare Oaks: http://www.cas.vanderbilt.edu/bioimages/pages/compare-oaks.htm

Wiki’s page on Scarlet Oaks: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quercus_coccinea

Another good site to look up plant at: http://www.hort.uconn.edu/plants/q/quecoc/quecoc1.html

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Some plants we see are boring because we see them so much in garden, others take us by surprise and we ask ourselves if it’s real. Other plants remind us of other plants but their form or flower is not quite right to be that plant. Many plants that are related bear similar flowers or something in the leaves which say to us what they are. One plant that creates many of these feelings is Lobelia x ‘Queen Victoria’ (Queen Victoria Lobelia).

 

'Queen Victoria' Lobelia has some of the most vibrant flowers in the garden.

'Queen Victoria' Lobelia has some of the most vibrant flowers in the garden.

 

 

There is some confusion as to the parentage of ‘Queen Victoria’ Lobelia which leads to more confusion with its true cold hardiness. From my gleanings of many sources the likely answer to who the parents are is it is a crossing of the northern red Lobelia cardinalis with the southern L. fulgens (Mexican Lobelia) which is found Mexico and south into central America. Both plants have firey red flowers and bloom late in the year. Fulgens most likely contributed the red coloration in the leaves at in the wild some plants have this tinge. Cardinalis contributes the especially brilliant scarlet red flower color and the general shape of the flowers.

 

inThe distinctive plum tinted foliage and brilliant red flowers make 'Queen Victoria' Lobelia a knock out in the garden.

The distinctive plum tinted foliage and brilliant red flowers make 'Queen Victoria' Lobelia a knock out in the garden.

Like many plants ‘Queen Victoria’ Lobelia has been around for sometime and was popular from the time it became known to garden enthusiasts.  The first mention I have found dates to 1943 in the New York Times and also in the Los Angles Times. Lillian Meyferth wrote in New York Times that  it as ‘having deeper red flowers and dark,  bronzy foliage’

 

 

The reddish foliage of 'Queen Victoria' Lobelia is attracive early in the year.

The reddish foliage of 'Queen Victoria' Lobelia is attracive early in the year.

 

Whether it be called ‘ x’, speciosa, fulgens or cardinalis on its sales tag ‘Queen Victoria’ Lobelia is easily recognizable from other Lobelia. The red tinged foliage is one of the more distinct colors in the garden and care must be taken when placing this plant. One other thing I have learned is red and plum colors draws ones vision to it in the garden, meaning anything next to this plant will take second place. It is fortunate that this plant is in its glory late in the year when there are not many other plants to compete against it. In fact many tones of plants will complement it with their leave in autumns brilliant shades.

 

Here 'Queen Victoria' Lobelia is planted with other late blooming plants to make a pleasing, colorful display at Tulista Park in Sidney.

Here 'Queen Victoria' Lobelia is planted with other late blooming plants to make a pleasing, colorful display at Tulista Park in Sidney.

Growing ‘Queen Victoria’ Lobelia is quite easy in the right place. This plant like full sun to light shade, and rich deep moisture retentive soil.  In a sunny place the leaves will often droop during the day and perk up later in the evening, giving it a spot of water will make it a tougher plant. Since this is mostly a seed grown plant the color of the leaves will vary in the intensity of color and keep this in mind when buying it. Buy this plant where it is displayed in full sun and where the color is true to its form, in the shade the leaves become more olive toned.

 

 

A Brilliant flash of color from 'Queen Victoria' Lobelia is a welcome sight to behold in the garden at this time of year.

A Brilliant flash of color from 'Queen Victoria' Lobelia is a welcome sight to behold in the garden at this time of year.

 

As mentioned there is confusion with ‘Queen Victoria’ Lobelia in parentage, it is also with hardiness of this plant. Know you know that one of its parents is from Mexico and southern areas which will lead it to be seen as less hardy. It is was in the past rated as having a much colder tolerance, but this has been changed with experience. It is now rated at zones 7 through 10 or tolerating -10c(14f). It is best to view this plant as a somewhat short-lived perennial with a lifespan of up to 10 years. When you have a vigorously growing plant it will produce new plants which can be divided off in the spring. These plats grow to about 90cm (2 1/2ft) tall and 30cm(1ft) wide.

 

Here 'Queen Victoria' Lobelia is soon to be in bloom on the long perennial border at Government House.

Here 'Queen Victoria' Lobelia is soon to be in bloom on the long perennial border at Government House.

 

‘Queen Victoria’ Lobelia is a very useful plant for in the garden, its colorful foliage and brilliant blooms make it a specimen in the garden. It often looks best planted in groups for impact. It works well in perennial beds, hot sun locations, waterside and poolside gardens, damp sites, containers. It is a good cut flower with its bright coloring which also attracts humming birds and butterflies.

Looking for the Queen:

This site always has good authoritative information : http://www.perennials.com/seeplant.html?item=1.328.

Other gardeners experiences with growing this plant: http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/neweng/msg0512480917815.html

…..Looking to find you here again…..

 

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