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Posts Tagged ‘aromatic foliage’

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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My father grew up mainly in the interior where the winters are long and cold and the warm summer months are short and much longed for. I am sure that and his father who loved gardening and nature influenced the way he experienced the world. My father always loved the scent of flowers and would check every new type he came into contact. I often wanted to show him new plant for him to experience and comment on. One plant I was especially happy for him to meet and smell its wonderful scent is Japanese Skimmia(Skimmia japonica).

Here in this group of Japanese Skimmia you can see the berried female plants in the front and the males in the back covered with flower buds waiting for the spring.

Here in this group of Japanese Skimmia you can see the berried female plants in the front and the males in the back covered with flower buds waiting for the spring.

There are 4 species of Skimmia and all are found in Asia; all of the species having attractive berries, aromatic foliage and fragrant flowers.  Skimmia japonica was first originally described by Carl Thunberg in ‘Flora Japonica'( published 1784), his record of plants which he collected in Japan in 1775-1776.  At that time it was thought the plant was a type of Holly(Ilex).  Holly like this Skimmia species has separate male and female plants.  Robert Fortune introduce a plant from China which was is a hermaphrodite(male and female parts on the same plant), this plant was later determined to be an important subspecies now known as Skimmia japonica subsp. reevesiana. What is now known is that Skimmia japonica is quite variable and is found in a wide range of areas ranging from Taiwan through the Japanese islands into Korea and Sakhalin. With the variability of the species, many new forms have been introduced.

 This appears to be a female Skimmia japonica plant as there does not appear to be any stamens with pollen present.

This appears to be a female Skimmia japonica plant as there does not appear to be any stamens with pollen present.

When Robert Fortune’s plant was introduced to the public by Sunniingdale Nursery in 1849 it was an instant hit and from that time Japanese Skimmia has been valued as a first-rate plant with many desirable qualities. In Japan it has long been used in gardens. The Japanese name for Skimmia japonica is ‘Miyama shikimi’ and Shikimi refers to a completely different species (Illicium anisatum) which is also a highly aromatic plant. The name Skimmia refers to the  latinized Japanese ‘Shikimi’. All of this has also confused people in the past as Illicum or Star Anise is well known spice and is a more tender plant.

This male Skimmia japonica clone has distinctly pink tinged blooms.

This male Skimmia japonica clone has distinctly pink tinged blooms.

The Skimmia species is a member of the Rutaceae family which we know better for giving us citrus fruit such as oranges, lemons, limes and Grapefruit.  Other members are as diverse as the bitter herb Rue(Ruta) and Zanthozylum which gives us Sichuan Pepper and Prickly Ash.  Many members of the family are edible and provide us with important fruit, spices and medicinal components.   Skimmia is probably is the most important  of the strictly ornamental plants.

 The berries of Skimia japonica are a bright shiny red and are very festive looking at this time of the year.

The berries of Skimia japonica are a bright shiny red and are very festive looking at this time of the year.

Japanese Skimmias are all around us and we often are not aware of them because their broadleaved evergreen foliage blend in so well with other plants. Skimmia japonica is very popular with better landscape designers and gardeners because the plant is versatile. One often sees them used in shady locations tucked under deciduous trees which will attract our attention most of the year. I see this in Beacon Hill Park  under the magnificent Japanese Maples between Goodacre and Fountain Lakes. When the Skimmia blooms the scent flows in the breeze along the path and across the near bridge to delight the many people strolling in the area.

 

 Skimmia japonica located under the Japanese Maples near Goodacre Lake.

Skimmia japonica located under the Japanese Maples near Goodacre Lake.

 

Skimmia japonica and all its forms are easy plants to grow. They like fertile rich soil which is slightly acidic but tolerate clay soils quite well. They like a site which is well-drained but is well watered during the hot summers as they do not like drought conditions. They prefer a site which is dappled or is more on the shady side or their leaves will yellow even in a strong winter sun. As they are evergreen they will do best being in a location which is protected from drying winds especially in the winter season.

 

 This recently planted Japanese Skimmia has a good mulch of leaves to help it survive the freezing weather and snow.

This recently planted Japanese Skimmia has a good mulch of leaves to help it survive the freezing weather and snow.

 

Japanese Skimmias are very slow-growing and dense but over a long time get to be quite large. I have seen plants which are 1.2m(4ft) tall and wide  in gardens and it is said that they can grow an astonishing(to me at least) 7m(22 ft) tall. Often now we seen many of the smaller forms such as sbsp. reevesiana which is small enough to fit well into any garden. Skimmias are rated as hardy to zone 7 or -12 to-18c (0-10f). Skimmias are easily propagated by seed or softwood cuttings although they are slow to root.

 

 The smaller forms of Japanese Skimmia make excellent container plants which can be moved easily.

The smaller forms of Japanese Skimmia make excellent container plants which can be moved easily.

Use Skimmia japonica as an accent, in a winter garden, for fragrance in the spring, along paths where you brush the aromatic foliage. Their colorful berries are bright winter interest and the foliage is not popular with deer or slugs which may visit you. They work well as foundation plants especially when placed near entrances or windows. Skimmias are also popular in a woodland setting or in borders as they are very low maintainance and will need little care over their long life.

 

Stirring up the Skimmia:

Rainyside’s page on Skimmia japonica: http://www.rainyside.com/features/plant_gallery/shrubs/SkimmiaJaponica.html

Kwantlen University webpage on sbsp. reevsiana: https://appserver1.kwantlen.ca/apps/plantid/plantid.nsf/lookup/78AAF594F71CCF2988256F0200610584?OpenDocument

The mystery of the name:

http://books.google.ca/books?id=SvcWAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA520&dq=skimmia+japonica&hl=en&ei=UaHyTMDyLZC-sQOBoaTSCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=10&ved=0CFoQ6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=skimmia%20japonica&f=false

…Until we meet again soon…I hope….

 

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