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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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This time of the year usually is warmer and the Roses would be in full bloom, I guess I will have to wait a bit more. In the meantime I am reminded that there are so many other plants which are now stealing the show and some of them do it in a way which is more subtle than just big wonderful blooms. Often we overlook fantastic foliage which accompanies the flowers. How about this novel idea, a plant which the foliage is just as much the star if not more, a tall order I would say! One plant I and many other gardeners would nominate is Achillea ‘Moonshine’ (Moonshine Yarrow).

Achillea 'Moonshine is part of the street plantings in Brentwood Bay and looks good year round, tidy foliage and bright non-fading flowers.

Achillea 'Moonshine is part of the street plantings in Brentwood Bay and looks good year round, tidy foliage and bright non-fading flowers.

Achillea ‘Moonshine’ comes from the famous plantsman Alan Bloom(1906-2005) and Bressingham Gardens. If you look through perennial plant books you will see the name Alan Bloom and Bressingham Gardens mentions many times. Alan Bloom came from a plant family, his father grew cut flowers and fruit for a living . Alan left school to go into the business, his wise father said he should try as many areas as possible to find where his interest were and he settled on hardy perennials. After working as an apprentice Alan started his first wholesale perennial nursery in Oakington, the place of his birth. It took only 4 years for Blooms nursery to become the biggest of its kind in England. In 1946 he purchased the Bressingham Hall (near Diss in Norfolk) which included 228 acres of land. He  began developing it during the 1950s and early 60s, during this time he also introduced nearly 200 newly named  plant selections and hybrids which originated from his nursery and the famous  gardens.

The golden flowers and silver foliage of Achillea "Moonshine" is bright and soft at the same time making it an easy plant to work into garden designs.

The golden flowers and silver foliage of Achillea "Moonshine" is bright and soft at the same time making it an easy plant to work into garden designs.

‘Moonshine’ Yarrow is a cross between A. clypeolata (silvery foliage ,strong chrome yellow flowers) and taygetea( ferny foliage and creamy yellow flowers). It was discovered as a seedling around 1950 and introduced into gardens about 1954. It was quickly recognized to be an outstanding plant and was awarded an A.G.M.(Award of Garden Merit) from the Royal Horticultural Society. The plant has proved to be one of the best ‘Blooms’ introductions and is seen in many situations from well maintained gardens to the tough street side planting.

The silvery foliage of Achillea 'Moonshine combines the delicate 'ferniness' of A.taygetea with the silver sturdiness of A. clypeolata.

The silvery foliage of Achillea 'Moonshine combines the delicate 'ferniness' of A.taygetea with the silver sturdiness of A. clypeolata.

I first encountered Achillea ‘Moonshine’ a the wholesale perennial nursery I worked at in the early 1990s and I knew at once that this was a great plant compared to the other Yarrows which were grown there at the time. The foliage was beautiful by its self and the slightly creamy yellow flowers seemed to bloom for the longest time. These plant were always quickly bought up by the local nurseries, landscape architects and designers who put in orders or came to visit the nursery to see the plant stock we had there.

Here Achillea 'Moonshine' is used as a way to hide unsightly Rose stems along the exterior of the Rose Garden at Government House in Victoria.

Here Achillea 'Moonshine' is used as a way to hide unsightly Rose stems along the exterior of the Rose Garden at Government House in Victoria.

Achillea ‘Moonshine’ is an easy to grow plant which tolerate a good amount of neglect which makes it a very versatile plant for use in many situations. It does require full sun to produce the silveriest foliage and the most golden flowers, but, this is little to ask for such a grand reward! It takes most kinds of soil as long as its well-drained as wet feet can lead to trouble for most Achilleas. It is a fairly compact plant growing 60 cm.(2 ft.) high by about the same wide. Keeping it slightly under-watered will keep the floral stems from sprawling.Cut it back after its first flowering for it to repeat later in the summer. Divide it every couple of years to keep it vigorous.

Achillea 'Moonshine' is excellent as cut or dried flowers and will continue to give pleasure long after other flowers are spent.

Achillea 'Moonshine' is excellent as cut or dried flowers and will continue to give pleasure long after other flowers are spent.

Achillea ‘Moonshine’ is hardy to -30 c.(-20 f.) and takes wet climates well as long as the soil is well drained. In the hotter areas it is said that the plant melts out in full sun conditions but I can find no explanation as to what this means. I might assume it is better to give it richer soil(moisture retaining) in those areas. Use this plant in any hot border, such as that with Lavender and Sages. Let the yellows and purples play together with the silver foliage to create a classic color combination.It works as an accent, specimen, in borders or containers and massed. It attracts butterflies to your garden during the summer. An added bonus is it is both deer and rabbit resistant and drought proof.

These "Moonshine' Yarrow have been cut back and are now coming into their second bloom of the summer.

These "Moonshine' Yarrow have been cut back and are now coming into their second bloom of the summer.

Mining For Moonshine:

Good advise for growing you own ‘Moonshine’ http://www.perennials.com/seeplant.html?item=1.010.500

Alan Bloom: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Bloom_(plantsman)

Bressingham Gardens are worth a visit if you travel to England:

http://www.bloomsofbressinghamplants.com/about-us/the-perennial-tradition/the-bressingham-gardens.html

Other people comment about there experiences with this plant: http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/48885/

…………I hope you mine some gems here and come back soon…………

 

 

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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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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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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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This September has been extraordinarily wet, in fact we have set a record for the most rain for this month every and still almost week to go. Most plants are loving it as the long summer drought is over early and this is guaranteed to save some of their lives. Some plants think it is fall already while others think it is spring and are blooming out of season. One plant which is in its glory during the waning days of summer is Hardy Fuchsia (Fuchsia magellanica) all its lovely forms.

One of the many forms of Fuchsia magellanica blooming in the Hardy Fuschia Garden at Glendale Garden.
One of the many forms of Fuschia magellanica blooming in the Hardy Fuschia Garden at Glendale Garden.

Fuchsias have been known for quite some time, the first type was brought back from the island of Hispaniola in 1703 by Charles Plumier( a french monk and botanist). He decided to name the plant after Lenard Fuchs(1501-1566) an early and important physician and professor of medicine in Germany. Magellanica commemorates Ferdinand Magellan(1480-1521) a Portuguese explorer who was the first to sail around Cape Horn from the Atlantic Ocean into the Pacific Ocean on the very southern tip of South America.

Fuchsia magellanica 'gracilis' shows off the delicate flowers which have been refered to as Ladys Eardrops.

Fuchsia magellanica 'gracilis' shows off the delicate flowers which have been refered to as Ladys Eardrops.

Fuchsias are found primarily in South America with Fuchsia magellanica coming from the farthest south; southern Argentina and Chile and to Tierra del Fuego. In Chile and Argentina it grows in the interior away from the coast up to the timberline there. It grows in damp to wet areas often on the edges of water(lakes, stream and rivers) or in swampy areas. It is  in an area of high humidity with heavy rainfall, this is a good clue why it likes areas like the pacific north-west and lurks as an escaped alien lining roads in south-west Ireland.

Fuchsia magellainca var.gracilis 'Aurea' brightens up any garden space.

Fuchsia magellainca var.gracilis 'Aurea' brightens up any garden space.

Over the years since it’s discovery many forms have been selected from Fuchsia magellanica, there are quite a few flower and leaf forms, some bright and showy and many others more subtle. The flowers range in color from the well-known fuchsia pink and blue through all pink, pale blush pink and then into white with a greenish tip. The flower itself also ranges in size and shape, most commonly being the long elegant drop, other forms are shorter to wider.

Fuchsia magellanica 'Hawkshead' has pure white flowers and light green foliage.

Fuchsia magellanica 'Hawkshead' has pure white flowers and light green foliage.

Leaf colors  of Hardy Fuchsia range from the standard green into golden ‘Aurem’ and several variegated forms; ‘Sharpitor’ with sage green with creamy edges, ‘variegata’ with more pinkish tints  and cream edges, ‘Versicolor'(‘Tricolor’) with even stronger rose tintng.

Fuchsia magellanica 'Versicolor' give an overall feeling of greyish-ness as the variegation is irregular and can disappear completely.

Fuchsia magellanica 'Versicolor' give an overall feeling of greyish-ness as the variegation is irregular and can disappear completely.

Hardy Fuchsias are very adaptable and useful in the garden. Although they come from a wet climate they have adjusted to the garden very well. They need rich moisture retentive soil to grow their best. They can take full sun as long as they have adequate moisture. At Glendale Garden here there is a Hardy Fuchsia Garden where many forms are tested, this area is mainly in full sun and exposed to the elements all year. It is a tough test for the Fuchsias to grow there and they come through with very well every year. They can grow in full sun to full shade, but the best placement is in part shade such as that provided by deciduous trees or those with smaller foliage so the light is dappled.

Fuchsia magellainca var. molinae 'Sharpitor' comes from England and is a very beautiful plant.

Fuchsia magellainca var. molinae 'Sharpitor' comes from England and is a very beautiful plant.

Hardy Fuchsias grow into attractive delicate looking shrubs which range from 75 to 200cm(2-6ft) tall and can grow to nearly as wide. The variegated forms tend to be smaller in height but nearly as wide. These plants can fill many uses in the garden, from specimen to accent though informal hedge to container plants. They fit well into perennial or shrub borders. They are said to be both deer and rabbit resistant.The large plum-colored oblong fruit is said to be edible, I have not tried it though.

Fuchsia magellanica var. molinae (Alba) is one of the more commonly seen color forms.

Fuchsia magellanica var. molinae (Alba) is one of the more commonly seen color forms.

Hardy Fuchsias bloom on new wood and can be cut down nearly to the ground in the late winter before they start to grow a-new. My grandmother cut her plant down to 15cm(6in) every year. They also can be pruned at any time for shaping or removal of damaged limbs.  One thing to keep in mind is they are slow to leaf out or sprout so do not throw it out it will come back. These are carefree plants with few if any seious pests or diseases. Often they come through the winter almost untouched here even though they are deciduous. They are rated at taking -10c(14f) with some varieties such as ‘Riccartonii’ and ‘Hawkshead’ said to withstand zone 6 -15c(5f).

This unusual flower form of Hardy Fuchsia('Miss Popple'?) is seen at Milner Gardens in Qualicum Beach.

This unusual flower form of Hardy Fuchsia('Miss Popple'?) is seen at Milner Gardens in Qualicum Beach.

Fuchsia links to follow:

The Fuchsia garden at Glendale: http://www.glendalegardens.ca/hardyfuchsias.php

Hardy Fuchsia in Chile: http://www.chileflora.com/Florachilena/FloraEnglish/HighResPages/EH0306.htm

Fuchsias in West Cork, Ireland: http://stoneartblog.blogspot.com/2010/08/fuchsia-magellanica-west-corks-adopted.html

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