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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A serving of Alchemilla links please:

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

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

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

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We I was 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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A bright sunny day always induces me in get out of the house and investigate local gardens and other favorite places. One never knows what will be spring up from the rocky crevices here.  Bright spots of color are seen in berries that have remained over the winter, the earliest buds of bulbs and other winter bloom plants add to interest to the trip. From an edging of green leaves I spot some delicate Cyclamen Coum flowers stick out, I look more closely and see their tiny rounded leaves also there.

 Cyclamen coum is typical of the species with it's slightly mottled leaves.

Cyclamen coum is typical of the species with it's slightly mottled leaves.

Cyclamen coum grow in a wide-ranging area which can divided into 2.  The main area is focused around the Black Sea and covers in the west Bulgaria though Turkey moving east into Caucasus into Crimea. The other area is on the Mediterranean Sea from Turkey moving along south through Lebanon into Israel.  The name Cyclamen comes from ‘Kylos'(Greek) which means circle and is thought to be referring to the round corms(tubers) which the plant grows from. Coum comes from ‘Kos’ (Greek) which refers to the Greek island Kos which is found in the Aegean Sea.  Because of its large range this plant has been divided into 2 subspecies subp. coum and subp. caucasicum.

Masses of brightly colored Cyclamen coum flowers are produced from tiny plants.

Masses of brightly colored Cyclamen coum flowers are produced from tiny plants.

It is surprising that Cyclamen coum are not as well-known as they should be. Of all the Cyclamen species this one is the most adaptable, it is surprisingly hardy. If it is in a good spot it will happily sow its seeds and soon you will have a tiny forest of new plants.  As they are more easy to propagate it is surprising that they are not more commonly seen for sale at the local garden centers or nurseries, maybe it has to do with the time of year that they are most showy…. RIGHT NOW!

These tiny volunteer Cyclamen coum seedlings are blooming amongst other later growing plants

These tiny volunteer Cyclamen coum seedlings are blooming amongst other later growing plants

The foliage of Cyclamen coum is somewhat variable in it coloring and it is all pleasing to the eye. Leaves range from pure dark smooth green into almost completely silvery to whitish. The leaves are often stitched or edged making this one of the more attractive, although, small-leaved plants at this time of year. Flower colors generally range from a strong magenta through pinks and into almost white, all will have a deep plum blotch at the base of the petals. There is a rare completely white form called Cyclamen coum subsp. coum f.(forma.) albissimum which very beautiful.

 The perfectly edged leaves of this Cyclamen coum is tucked in a protected location which easily viewed by all walking by.

The perfectly edged leaves of this Cyclamen coum is tucked in a protected location which easily viewed by all walking by.

All hardy Cyclamen species like the same conditions which are easy to replicate. Cyclamen coum generally likes a dappled site with well-drained soil. Here very good drainage is important as rot is one problem we can have with our extended wet winters. When planting a tuber barely cover it with soil. Seedlings can be transplanted and will bloom within 1 or 2 seasons although they might not look like their parent in markings or flower coloring. Top-dress with a thin layer of fine leaf mold of mulch every year.  Always plant the small tubers as soon as you get them.

Here younger and older Cyclamen coum are growing together to make a tapestry of foliage and flower color.

Here younger and older Cyclamen coum are growing together to make a tapestry of foliage and flower color.

Cycleman coum is remarkably hardy and is known to survive in and thrive in gardens where it regularly reaches -33 c.(-28 f.) or zone 4 during the winter. In warm spells it is not unusual to see the brightly colored flowers peaking through the snow. It is a good idea to mark the place you are growing these plants as it is likely that they will go completely dormant during the summer, such is the case here.  Here I see them growing under deep canopies of conifers and also happily on a sun baked slope.

Here Cyclamen coum is blooming with the equally tiny Galanthus nivalis.

Here Cyclamen coum is blooming with the equally tiny Galanthus nivalis.

Cyclamen coum grow to 10cm (4 in.) high and about the same width. They are perfect subjects for alpine and rockery gardens, winter gardens, woodland, mass planting, container plants for winter interest and deer or rabbit resistant gardens. Their tiny flowers are fragrant and make a charming addition to a floral arrangement.

Comparing Cyclamens:

The sub species deciphered: http://www.cyclamen.org/coum.htm

How to grow and propagate the tiny plants: http://www.sunfarm.com/plantlist/cycons.htm

A look at some of the other species which are grown: http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/CyclamenSpeciesOne

……….See You Really Soon I hope……….

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The plants with the largest leaves I grew up with  in the north  are the  somewhat sinister Giant Hogweed((Heracleum spohondylium), it is a prickly giant Celery which some people can react badly to. One plant I had seen in pictures and had heard could grow up north was the Hosta, a much more refined and better behaved plant.  When I went to school in the Vancouver area I was thrilled to see so many kinds  and color variations which to choose from. Over the years I have grown many Hostas I have bought, scrounged and grown from seed.

Who Can Resist the Crisp, Fresh Green of this Hosta.

Who Can Resist the Crisp, Fresh Green of this Hosta.

The best way I can relate to Hostas is with it’s leaves, the real plant star. I love texture and color. In school I learned to appreciate subtlety of bark and buds of plants while studying at school during the dreary very wet winter here. Foliage  is even more varied and of course Hostas have an extremely wide range of color variation, leaf shape and thickness.

Thick Multi-layered Colors of This Hosta Make it a Standout in the Garden.

Thick Multi-layered Colors of This Hosta Make it a Standout in the Garden.

the Genus Hosta is made up of many species, there have been about 30 named and it possibly 50 will be named overall. They all originate in Asia, with Japan and China contributing almost all of them. Just recently they have been reclassified from the Liliaceae family to the Agavaceae group which is very surprising if you know what an Agave or Yucca is. Hosta is named in honor of Nicholas Thomas Host, an Austrian botanist.

The Thick Glaucous Leaves of a 'Hosta tokudama' cultivar.

The Thick Glaucous Leaves of a 'Hosta tokudama' cultivar.

Hostas have somewhat unstable genes which lead to the discovery of variegated forms and then development of many hundreds of other ‘named’ cultivars coming on to the market every year. The instability also leads to changes in the variegation and to it disappearing altogether in some cases.

This is Probably the Most Common of all Variegated Hosta, One of the Originals.

This is Probably the Most Common of all Variegated Hosta, One of the Originals.

Hosta have adapted very well to living in all parts of the world. There are now several forms living in my mother’s zone 3 (-30-40c) and happily bloom and grow larger every year. They are excellent growing in pots as all of mine are. Many can take quite strong sun and withstand a certain amount of drought with their thick roots.

Hostas Add a Touch of Class to a Container Planting.

Hostas Add a Touch of Class to a Container Planting.

Lucky for us they are so adaptable and easy to grow. first choose your plant, then figure how large it will grow. Some Hostas like ‘Krossa Regal’ or the ‘sieboldiana’ cultivars can grow 3ft(1m) by up to 4ft(1.2m) high and others are tiny rock garden size subjects and need special siting. Hostas like at least some shade from the mid-day sun so they do not burn or yellow out when they are really supposed to be blue in color. Lots of water in the spring while they are growing their new foliage is a must. Rich  moisture retaining soil will help them retain their beauty through the summer.

Hosta flowers are an added bonus. Hosta sieboldiana 'Elegans' here.

Hosta flowers are an added bonus. Hosta sieboldiana 'Elegans' here.

Hosta are easy care and have few problems if they are kept clean, so remove all spent leaves at the end of their year. In this area we do have problems with (giant)slugs and (tiny)deer who like to feast on their leaves.  some species seem to be susceptible to a fungus leafspot which also attacks Iris x germanica cultivars, so it might be an idea to keep these two apart.

Even in Their Decline Hostas are Beautiful.

Even in Their Decline Hostas are Beautiful.

More on Hostas:

How to grow Hostas: http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1239.html

Yes, there really is a National Collection of Hosta in the U.K. http://www.bbc.co.uk/gardening/plants/plantprofile_hosta.shtml

Wiki has a list of all the many Hosta spieces: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hosta

Until we meet again here next week…..

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When I moved from the lower mainland to the Victoria area I noticed several plants growing here which I had not seen before. First there was the Oceanspray(Holodiscus dicolor) which grew everywhere along the rocky drier areas.  Then there is the abundance of Garry Oaks (Quercus garryana) which are so starkly noticeable in the winter landscape. Arbutus(Arbutus menziesii) trees grew everywhere as I live on the peninsula.  Soon after I settled into my new residence i was invited to dinner at a friends place which was near a lake. After dinner she showed me around her property and I saw for the first time the wonderful Vanilla Leaf(Achlys triphylla) which is an unusually attractive plant.

Achlys triphylla also known as 'Vanilla Leaf'.

Achlys triphylla also known as 'Vanilla Leaf''.

Vanilla Leaf (or ‘Sweet After Death’) is truly a beautiful plant which is often seen along trails in dappled spots of light, where it wanders amongst  the flora. I have found it in the vicinity of some of the most delicate and rare species. It also will pop up in thicker darker understory locations deep in the forest growing between the Mahonia, Salal and Sword Ferns.

Achlys triphylla Happily Growing in a Spot of Light.

Achlys triphylla Happily Growing in a Spot of Light at Horth Hill Park.

For me finding a patch of Achlys  triphylla growing along a path I am walking on is indeed a treat.  The main treat is the charming foliage which looks like a Clover leaf on steroids. The flowers spikes which are in bloom now are an additional bonus.  If I find one leaf I know there will be others as this is a plant which spreads by underground rhizomes(roots).  Along a path near my home I found a small colony, since then it has expanded gently to become more noticeable.  Horth Hill Park in North Saanich is a fine location for Vanilla Leaf hunting, I was there this week looking and found it in several places in fairly deep shade growing down a steep slope as well in spots of dappling.

A Mature 'Vanilla Leaf' with it's Charming Scalloped Leaves.

A Mature 'Vanilla Leaf' with it's Charming Scalloped Leaves.

The Latin name Achlys from the Greek goddess of hidden places and in this plant refers to where this plant is found, often deep in the woods.  The common name Vanilla Leaf or ‘Sweet After Death‘  is refers to the sweet fragrance of the dried leaves. The vanilla scent of the leaves is caused by the presences of natural coumarin which is a powerful blood thinner. Native peoples used to hang bundles of dried leaves in their resedences to deter bothersome inscects which swarm.  It is said that the leaves were at one time used to treat such ailments and tuberculosis, cataracts and used as an emetic(to cause vomiting).

'Sweet After Death' Growing Along a Path in North Saanich.

'Sweet After Death' Growing Along a Path in North Saanich.

Achlys triphylla makes an attractive taller(to 30cm,12in.) ground cover which would look smashing with more delicate Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Ferns and other rich woodland plants. Vanilla Leaf requires rich humusy, moisture retentive soil which is on the acidic side. It will not tolerate strong sun and will burn in it, so dappled is best. It grows best in zones 6 through 9.  If these plants are happy in their situation they will happily colonise and form healthy spreading clumps. It is best to buy these plants from a reputable nursery where you know they have not been dug up from the wilds.

Attractive Vanilla Leaf is Slug Proof.

Attractive Vanilla Leaf is Slug Proof.

Learn More About Achlys triphylla:

Wikipedia has a very good page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achlys_(plant)

More on it’s medicinal features:http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Achlys+triphylla

Horth Hill Park: http://www.crd.bc.ca/parks/horth-hill/index.htm

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