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This week the America Iris Society is having its national convention here in Victoria. All the important public gardens have been prepared in the last year for the event by planting out beds of many species, hybrids and cultivars in them. With the cooler than normal spring that has effected this area of the continent most of the plants are behind their bloom schedule. One of the important species is looking lovely non the less and has some blooms. I am referring to Iris pallida and in particular the variegated forms of Iris pallida ‘Argentea Variegata’ and I.p. ‘Variegata’ (Variegated Sweet Iris).

Iris pallida Argentea Variegata has a lovely creamy quality which is a standout in any garden.

Iris pallida Argentea Variegata has a lovely creamy quality which is a standout in any garden.

Iris pallida comes from the Dalmatian Coast (former Yugoslavia) into northern Greece and up into northern Italy. It is sometimes called the Dalmatian Iris for this reason  The plant is fairly variable in flower color ranging from dark purple, lighter purple into pink and white. With the color variablity there are also several subspecies (ssp.). I.p. ssp. pallida has pale lavender flowers originates in western former Yugoslavia where it grows on the limestone cliffs there. I.p. ssp. cengialtii has darker  purple flowers with white or orange tipped beard and greener leaves and is found in north-east Italy. Iris pallida ssp. illyrica is sometimes classed as a separate species (Iris illyrica) and the issue at this point is unresolved. It has mid purple flowers and is found in its namesake, ancient Illyrica (northern Dalmatian coast). I.p. ssp. pseudopallida comes from the southern Dalmatian coast. There is  another subspecies that is known as I.p. ssp. musulmanica which I can not find any information about.

Iris pallida has unmistakable grape scented blossoms  which delights and excites the nose and is reminds many of us of our youth.

Iris pallida has unmistakable grape scented blossoms which delights and excites the nose and is reminds many of us of our youth.

I worked for many years in the wholesale area of horticulture and during that time was able to observe many plants over a long time in different conditions. Variegated Sweet Iris was imported into Canada by the perennial grower I worked for and I could compare it to many other Iris species, cultivars and hybrids at the time. Not only was I.p. ‘Argentea Variegata’ brought in but the golden variegated (‘Aureo Variegata’) form was brought in. It was clear at that time that I.p. ‘Argentea Variegata’ was the better form, is stronger growing an is less prone to disease in the wet winters we have here. This may be the reason that I.p. ‘Aureo Variegata’ is not seen and probably not sold in this area any more.

The foliage of the Variegated Sweet Iris is distinct and beautiful

The foliage of the Variegated Sweet Iris is distinct and beautiful

There is another variegated Sweet Iris which is often mixed up with Iris pallida  ‘Argentea Variegata’ and it is I.pallida ‘ Variegata’. It is hard to tell them apart at a glance but Iris pallida ‘Variegata’ is much whiter and does not get the creamy- buttery tones in its leaves. It is also said that it is more vigorous but I can not say this is true as I have not seen the plant growing over a period of time to say for sure.I feel it is likely these plants are much mixed up in trade and often mis-labeled for each other.

This I believe is Iris pallida 'Variegata', as you can see there is no real buttery coloring in the foliage. Note all the pictures in this article where taken on the same day in one garden.

This I believe is Iris pallida 'Variegata', as you can see there is no real buttery coloring in the foliage. Note all the pictures in this article were taken on the same day in one garden.

We are fortunate that Iris pallida ‘Argentea Variegata’ is much easier to obtain today and is an easy plant to grow in our gardens. It needs a bright location with full sun to part shade to bring out its best qualities. As with all rhizome producing Iris it is important to plant them very shallowly.  It likes very good drainage with humus rich soil, this is particularly important if you live in areas of high humidity or have to deal with wet winter like we have here. Good air circulation is a good idea as this will help dispel any fungus which might be lurking about. You will see signs of fungus with leaf spotting and greyish discoloration along the blade edges.  Keeping the area clean and removing spent leaves is also important for the same reason. Plant rhizomes should be divided every 3-4 years to thin the plants out and renew soil.These Iris pallida 'Argentea Variegata' (Sweet Variegated Iris) were planted for the American Iris Society convention which is be held in Victoria this year.

These Iris pallida ‘Argentea Variegata’ (Sweet Variegated Iris) were planted for the American Iris Society convention which is be held in Victoria this year.

Iris pallida and its forms are reliably hardy to zone 5 or -23 c. (-2o f.) and I have read that they can be pushed to even colder zones if they are well protected. These plants grow 60 cm. (24 in.) high and about 30 cm. (12 in.) wide. Variegated Sweet Iris are specimen plants which do not need competition in the garden so keep other plants at a distance to show them off. They definitely can be used as an accent and make the most impact mass planted. They can also be used in containers and are most often seen in perennial borders.

 

Finding your Variegated iris:

American Iris Society: http://www.irises.org/

Where does this species come from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illyria

Iris pallida is an ancient plant but not much is written about it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iris_pallida

……I hope you will be reading what I write again….soon…..

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dissecting Lamprocapnos(Dicentra):

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

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

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

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When I came to live on the coast i was surprised to see how some plants were used. the climate here is just a notch below where many tender annuals will grow as perennials such as Snapdragons which winter over, sometimes for many years like the ones outside my kitchen window. Others are house plants elsewhere like Fatsia which grows as an attractive shade tolerant shrub here. One of the most surprising to me was the delicate and dainty Cyclamen which even as a house plant where a mystery to us. It was quite thrilling to find that Cyclamen hederifolium(Ivy-leaved Cyclamen)produce an especially abundant display here.

The delicate and dainty Cyclamen hederifolium blossom.

The delicate and dainty Cyclamen hederifolium blossom.

Cyclamen hederifolium was named in 1789 by Aiton but for many years has wrongly been sold as Cyclamen neapolitanum. More recently it has been split into varieties which refer to where it is found. C. hederifolium var. hederifolium and C. hederifolium var. confusum which we non-specialists can say are basically the same. we do know that these plants do grow in a wide area from southern France down into Italy and its islands. Then it moves east through Croatia, Bosnia down through Greece and it’s many islands over to western Turkey. It grows in a wide range of terrains from sea level up to 1400m(4300ft). It ranges from the richer soils of woodlands to maquis and gariques which have dry thin soils and occur on the dry lower mountainous slopes of the Mediterranean area.

The summer drought here does not bother Cyclamen hederifolium at all.

The summer drought here does not bother Cyclamen hederifolium at all.

There are many places I have found these beauties. Playfair Park has the best and most bountiful display right now in amongst it’s Rhododendron collection.  In Finnerty Gardens you will find them dotted about in shady spots. I also found them out along a country roadside where they have naturalized in clumps.Cyclamen is from the ancient greek ‘kylos’ meaning circle which refers to the shape of  the corm it’s growth springs from. One Cyclamen hederifoliums’ common name is ‘Sowbread’ which refers to Cyclamen which is said to be the favorite food of swine in southern France and Italy. Ivy-leaved and ‘hederifolium’ refer  to this Cyclamens the attractive leaves.

The interesting markings of Ivy-leaved Cyclamen are varied and colorful in the cool grey, drab winters here.

The interesting markings of Ivy-leaved Cyclamen are varied and colorful in the cool grey, drab winters here.

There are several species of Cyclamen which are seen regularly in gardens here. Cyclamen coum is the other most commonly grown variety. It is easily separated from Cyclamen hederifolium by it round, kidney shaped leaves and it bloom period which is in the early spring.  Both are easy to grow and have long lasting, attractive foliage.

Cyclamen coum have rounded leaves and bloomin in Febuary and March.

Cyclamen coum have rounded leaves and bloom in February and March.

Cyclamen hederifolium grow from a thick woody corm which is bulb-like.  This corm helps the plant survive the long hot, dry summer season in the Mediterranean.  It is easy to grow these beauties. They like to grow in fun sun to part shade in a location with soil which has at least a good part in leaf mold.  Plant the tubers  with their budding side up  3-5cm(1/2-1 1/2in) deep. Avoid planting in an area which has summer wet as this is the time of rest for this species. Water throughout fall into late spring as this is the growing season. These plants grow well under dappled shrubs and are also excellent container plants. In the wild pink is the most common color, while in cultivation whites are much more commonly seen.

LushCyclamen hederifolium plants are attactive in the dead of winter at Playfair Park.

Lush Cyclamen hederifolium plants are attractive in the dead of winter at Playfair Park.

Ivy-leaved Cyclamen spring from the earth and remind us that summer is waning.  Autumn is about to come forth with all it’s brilliant shades and slowly the seasons change with longer nights to come.

More about Cyclamen hederifolium:

From the Cyclamen Society: http://www.cyclamen.org/hederif_set.html

How to grow Cyclamen: http://www.hardycyclamens.com/grow_hardy_cyclamen.html

Dave’s Garden always has interesting comments from other gardeners: http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/1590/

Until we meet again….

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