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Posts Tagged ‘August blooming’

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

Looking for the Queen:

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

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

…..Looking to find you here again…..

 

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Back to school, those are dreaded words for some, a relief for others and the beginning of a new chapter in life for many more. I must admit I did not like grade school. It was not until later when I had a break from the grind of it, had more perspective and experience in life that I enjoyed it more. Now I think about i more fondly look back at my time in school especially the time I was in Hort. school learning so many new things which I use all the time now. Learning the plants back then was more of a challenge, now it is adverture which takes me across the world and back in time. I first saw Nandina domestica (Heavenly Bamboo or Sacred Bamboo) at Van Duesen Gardens and over the years have always loved it’s simple elegant beauty.

Heavenly Bamboo is a triple treat with wonderful foliage, flowers and bright red berries which appear in the fall.

Heavenly Bamboo is a triple treat with wonderful foliage, flowers and bright red berries which appear in the fall.

Nandina domestica is a plant which comes to us from Asia, there it is found in central Northern India, China and Japan. In Japan it is known as Nantzen (meaning southern sky) is derived from the chinese name(southern heaven)and our latin name is from it.  Nandina is strongly connected with the new year in both China and Japan, in China it is associated with the kitchen god Zhao Jun(Zhen) who is the most important domestic god and protects the hearth and family.

The light delicate foliage and compact=

The light delicate foliage and compact habit makes Heavenly Bamboo very popular here.

In Japan it is especially popular and is often seen at the entrances of houses and is  also used during the holiday season of late December and January. Here it seen in traditional Kadumatsu decorations which are placed in pairs at the front door of  the home. It is also in Japan where Carl Peter Thunberg(1743-1828) first documented Nandina domestica while he was there in 1775-76. His name is one of the most important associated with botanical plants in Japan and he named many of the best known ones of today.

A good crop of berries is seen with this planting of Nandina domestica at U.B.C. Botanical Gardens in Vancouver.

A good crop of berries is seen with this planting of Nandina domestica at U.B.C. Botanical Gardens in Vancouver.

Heavenly Bamboo was introduced to the gardening public in 1804. Also back in Japan at that time there were new forms being discovered and it was becoming popular there as a bonsai subject.Some of the new forms had narrower leaves and lent themselves to Bonsai. By the late 1800s’ nearly 200 cultivars had been named and catalogued there. Sadly many of these forms have been lost although recently many new color forms have been selected by growers in Europe and North America.

Nandina domestica is often mass planted or used as informal hedgeing here.

Nandina domestica is often mass planted or used as informal hedging here.

Here we have come to love Heavenly Bamboo for its versatility, beauty and color throughout the year. It tolerates any type of soil as long as it is well-drained. It is not fussy about light and can take the full sun to full shade although it is best with some protection from harsh midday sun in the summer especially in drier and more southern areas that here. Nandina domestica is tolerant of fairly dry areas as long as it is sheltered from drying winds like most other evergreens. This plant grows by producing suckers from the base, this over time will produce a dense clump. Pruning can be done to remove damaged parts and to thin it out if it gets overgrown.

The leaves are very large and tri-pinnate which gives 'Heavenly Bamboo' its common name.

The leaves are very large and tri-pinnate which gives 'Heavenly Bamboo' its common name.

There are many new forms of Nandina domestica which have recently appeared on the market. They range from the dwarfs  such as Nandina domestica ‘Nana Purpurea’ which grows 60cm(2 ft) which I think are best in containers as they do not have the elegant form as the full-sized ones. Nandina domestica ‘Plum Passion’ has great plum tinted blue-green foliage and grows 2m(6.5ft) by 90cm(3 ft) wide which is the normal size for Nandinas. There are also exciting golden-leaved  and yellow and white-fruited varieties which can be found so be on the lookout for more interesting varieties.

This dwarf Nandina would be best suited in a nice container.

This dwarf Nandina would be best suited in a nice container.

Nandinas are fairly hardy growing in zones 6 though 10 or-10c.(14f.) with little damage as long as they are in a spot shelter from drying winds. If they do lose their leaves in a hard winter they often come back quickly with new stems coming up from the base, the old ones can be removed. In areas where these plants have become a pest it is important to remove the spent flowers so they do not set seed. Speaking of seed, this is a common way to increase your crop of plants, germination is best if sown fresh with all pulp removed from the berries. The other method of propagation is by semi-ripe cuttings in mid spring.

This Nandina domestica is well palced in a sheltered location with some sun.

This Nandina domestica is well palced in a sheltered location with some sun.

Nandina domestica can be used in a variety of ways, as an informal hedge, mass planted, as an accent or for seasonal color. You will see it used in many public gardens as well as better institutional setting as it is a much more manageable substitute for true Bamboos.It fit well in asian, Japanese, understory or dappled and modern gardens very well. The graceful feeling of the plant is much appreciated by gardeners everywhere.

Searching for Heavenly Bamboo on earth:

The interesting forms grown in Japan: http://homepage3.nifty.com/plantsandjapan/page105.html

Carl Peter Thunberg: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Peter_Thunberg

Kadumatsu: http://www.humanflowerproject.com/index.php/weblog/comments/kadomatsu_welcoming_japans_new_year/

Propagation by seed: http://www.ubcbotanicalgarden.org/forums/showthread.php?t=16900

Paghat on Nandina: http://www.paghat.com/nandina2.html

Hope to see you soon…..here again.

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Since I have moved this year I do not have the chance to visit some gardens as much as I used to, this week I went and investigate a few of my favorites. I went to check the plants in them and see if anything had changed, as you know gardens are always a work in progress. I was pleased with the progress, the plants, new and old looked healthy, new features were being added and old ones were being featured more prominently. One plant I wanted to check up on was a huge Eucryphia which grows there. It was just as spectacular as I remebered it to be.

Eucryphia, what ever the species or form are spectacular late summer blooming shrubs and small trees.

Eucryphia, what ever the species or form are spectacular late summer blooming shrubs and small trees.

Eucryphias are a genus that come from the very southern areas of the world. There are said to be 7 species with 5 from the east coast of Australia(and Tasmania) and the remaining 2 from southern central Chile and Argentina. In their native habitat they generally grow to be large shrubs or small trees which are evergreen. They are now classified as being part of the Cunoniaceae family. The first Eucryphia known were glutinosa and cordifolia from South America and are now considered to be threatened there. Eucryphia cordifolia was introduced in 1851 and later in 1859 glutinosa was collected for Veitch Nursery in England.

This Eucryphia x intermedia 'Rostrevor' is found by the the famous 'Stone Bridge' which crosses Goodacre Lake in Beacon Hill Park in Victoria.

This Eucryphia x intermedia 'Rostrevor' is found by the the famous 'Stone Bridge' which crosses Goodacre Lake in Beacon Hill Park in Victoria.

The most famous Eucryphias are crosses. Eucryphia x nymanensis  was a chance seedling which was found at Nymans, a famous garden which is now part of the National Trust gardens of Great Britain. This seedling was discovered in 1914 in the gardens and is a hybrid between the 2 Chilean species glutinosa and cordifolia. Another seedling(same cross) also was found at Mount Usher in County Wiklow in Ireland. It combines the best feature of the parents and is considered to be the hardiest of all Eucryphias.  It was given an AGM in 1924. These plants are collectively called Eucryphia x nymanensis ‘Nymansay’.

The large Eucryphia found at Dominion Brook Park in North Saanich is Eucryphia x nymanensis and was planted in 1958.

The large Eucryphia found at Dominion Brook Park in North Saanich is Eucryphia x nymanensis and was planted in 1958.

Another easily found Eucryphia is located in Beacon Hill Park by the Stone Bridge which crosses Goodacre Lake. It appears to be Eucryphia x intermedia ‘Rostrevor’. Eucyrphia x intermedia ‘Rostrevor’ is another plant from the ’emerald island’ but was discovered in a garden at Rostrevor,County Down, Northern Ireland. It was found in the 1930s. It is a cross of Chilean species  glutinosa and Australian lucida. The leaves are slightly toothed or not at all and have overall shiny,  smooth look. It is a smaller, more elegant small tree or shrub which has a narrower profile. It too is considered to be very hardy.

The leaves of Eucryphia x intermedia 'Rostrevor' are smooth and glossy.

The leaves of Eucryphia x intermedia 'Rostrevor' are smooth and glossy.

Here on Vancouver Island Eucryphias are seen in some of the more important plant collections public and private. I have also seen them at Government House, Finnerty Gardens and farther up the island at Milner Gardens at Qualicum Beach. The most commonly seen form  is ‘Rostrevor’ although I know that several of the species are grown in private collections which can ocasionally be seen by the public. Eucryphias grow very well in the mild marine climate here.

This huge Eucryphia x nymanensis is found at Dominion Brook Park in North Saanich.

This huge Eucryphia x nymanensis is found at Dominion Brook Park in North Saanich.

Eucryphias are fairly easy to grow. They need humus rich soil which is on the acid side. They like a good amount of water which drain away from the plant and does not sit during the rainy season. They like to have their roots shaded from the heat of day(like Clematis). they do not like to have their roots disturbed so care must be taken when placing them as well as when planting underneath them. They prefer a sunny sheltered positions away from cold drying winds which will damage their mostly evergreen leaves. If they get too much of a chill they can loose their leaves. Give your plant space as it can easily grow to more than 10m(30ft) tall and almost as wide if not pruned. They are fairly hardy and take -10(14f.) or zones 8 to 9,

The leaves of Eucryphia x nymanensis take after its parent E. glutinosa

The leaves of Eucryphia x nymanensis take after its parent E. glutinosa

Eucryphias re at home in a woodland setting  and other slightly shading plants. They are naturally a specimen in the garden at this time of year but also make an attractive accent in many settings such as a shrub or perennial border. Here they grow in a marine setting where the damp of the air helps them in drier times of the year. Some Eucryphia are highly fragrant and also are good sources of honey for bees at this late time of the year. In fact the South American species have in the past been used as a commercial source of honey.

On the Eucryphia Trail:

Techincal information on the genus:  http://zipcodezoo.com/Key/Plantae/Eucryphia_Genus.asp

Chilean Eucryphia cordifolia: http://www.chileflora.com/Florachilena/FloraEnglish/HighResPages/EH0093.htm

Search Gardenweb for Eucryphia dicussions: http://search.gardenweb.com/search/nph-ind.cgi?term=eucryphias&x=19&y=12

……Hope to see you here again soon……

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When I was small we would go for walks with our mother in the neighborhood and stop and look at the gardens, some were interesting others where more playful and some just a plain messy. You could tell the ones who liked kids by the plants they often chose, fun ones like squashes, scarlet runner beans, and bright flowers like Cosmos, Marigolds and who could not resist Nasturtiums!  Nasturtiums(Tropaeolum majus) are a fond memory of many of us who had them in our garden when we where young.

The bright array of colors found in Tropaeolum majus always appeals to children of any age.

The bright array of colors found in Tropaeolum majus always appeals to children of any age.

Tropaeolum majus orginally is from South America, growing in an area from Bolivia and Columbia and is said to be found in areas such as central Chile as well.  Nasturtiums were first brought to Europe by Spanish around 1500, it is likely seeds where carried back. In South America the plant was used for medicinal purposes such as treating coughs, colds, flu by creating at tea. Topically it was used in poultice for for cuts and burns. Nasturtiums are high in vitamin c and have natural antiboitics in them. It was in Europe that the plant was first used for culinary purposes.

Here the trailing variety of Nasturtium is used as a simple but charming ground cover that is a riot of color during summer and autumn.

Here the trailing variety of Nasturtium is used as a simple but charming ground cover that is a riot of color during summer and autumn.

As a culinary plant Nasturtiums have a lot to offer: the leaves, flowers, stems and buds can all be used and impart a spicy sweet flavor reminiscent of Garden Cress (Lepidium savaticum) or Water Cress(Tropaeolum officinale). The flowers and leaves are used in many ways from salads to sandwiches, in dressings and spreads. The flower buds are pickled and used as a substitute for capers. I like to use the stems as they are especially spicy and add them into salads, my dad who loved extra spicy things was surprised with the intensity of heat in them.

Nasturtium leaves are unusual as the stem is attached to the very middle of the leaf giving it a curious round shape which is part of this plants charm.

Nasturtium leaves are unusual as the stem is attached to the very middle of the leaf giving it a curious round shape which is part of this plants charm.

The unusual shape of the leaves and flowers lead Linnaeus to choose a an interesting botanical Latin name for Tropaeolum majus. ‘Trope’ is from the Greek tropaion or trophy which refers to how the round shields(leaves) and helmets(flowers) where hung on a pillar which was said to be a sign of victory on a battlefield.  The common name Nasturium comes from the latin ‘nastos’ (nose) and ‘turtum’ (torment) and this refers to the spicy taste of the plant. Majus just means big which refers to the size of the leaves.

The stained glass coloring of the Nasturtium flowers and the curious rounded leaves have inspired for many famous artists and writers.

The stained glass coloring of the Nasturtium flowers and the curious rounded leaves have inspired for many famous artists and writers.

Nasturtiums have long been known but during the Victorian era, into the early 20th century seemed most charmed by these plants. From Monet, William Morris, Moorcroft(pottery) to Tiffany’s famous glass, the plants where used everywhere as a charming and attractive subject. Nasturtiums of course are a famous subject for botanical prints. Who does not love a bouquet of the fragrant brightly colored Nasturtiums on a table or windowsill to cheer one up.

This bunny hides in the Nasturtiums in the Childrens Garden at Glendale Gardens.

This bunny hides in the Nasturtiums in the Childrens Garden at Glendale Gardens.

Tropaeolum majus is an easy plant to grow for the new or junior gardener. The seeds are big and easily handled and once planted germinate and grow quickly. They are not fussy and like sandy light, poorer soils, but will do equally well in richer soils although it will produce more leaves and less flowers. Full sun is most important to get the best showing of flowers unless you are in a very hot climate where a little shade in the afternoon will be appreciated. although they are somewhat drought tolerant regular watering will insure your plants continue to bloom for a long time. dead-heading the spent blossoms will help the plant to continue to bloom for months. Nasturtiums are considered to be hardy annuals and can tolerate a light frost, a hard one will kill them outright.

The Nasturtiums here are a cheery welcome to this garden.

The Nasturtiums here are a cheery welcome to this garden.

There are 2 main forms of Nasturtiums, the compact(or dwarf) and the trailing. The dwarf are at the most 45cm(18in) wide and tall with the trailing form being able to cover a 1m(3ft) space per plant. The beguiling flowers come in a vast tapestry of single-colors, bi-colors and blends ranging from the blackish-red ‘Mahogany’ to a pale buttery yellow and all ranges from red through scarlet, orange and yellows. Many named color varieties, singles, doubles and variegated(‘Alaska’)  and dark leaved(‘Empress of India’)  forms can be found in seed strains and are cheap to buy. Seed is easily saved for next year and often will reseed and grow in the same spot for many years.

Nasturtium 'Mahogany' has the darkest flowers that i have seen here in Victoria.

Nasturtium 'Mahogany' has the darkest flowers that i have seen here in Victoria.

Tropaeolum majus can be used in the garden in so many ways: edging, colorful filler for early bulbs and bloomers, childrens’ first garden, ground-cover, edible garden, fragrant garden, self seeding garden, old fashioned gardens, window boxes and containers, formal and informal settings and as artists subjects and fairy gardens.

Trailing and Twinning with Tropaeolums:

What is the reationship with the Cresses:  http://www.uni-graz.at/~katzer/engl/Lepi_sat.html

Nasturtiums as garden vegetables: http://www.veraveg.org/Veg%20History/Veg%20History%20Nasturtium.html

Look at all the art from these plants: http://www.google.ca/images?hl=en&q=Nasturtiums%20in%20art&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&biw=1309&bih=741

Will you be following on this path?

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One type of plant which I really did not know when I was growing up were broad-leaved evergreens. You know the kind I mean, the leaved trees and shrubs which do not shed their foliage in autumn. I grew up in an area where this kind of plant had to grow below the snow line, the only native plant which fitted into this category were less than 30cm(12in.) high. Here in the mild west coast there are many broad-leaved evergreens, most are shrubs with only a few trees. One of these trees which I first saw in Vancouver was the impressive and beautiful Magnolia grandiflora (Southern Magnolia).

Magnolia grandiflora iss named for it's huge flowers which can be up to 30cm(12in) in diameter.

Magnolia grandiflora iss named for it's huge flowers which can be up to 30cm(12in) in diameter.

Southern Magnolias are indeed true southerners as they grow in the south-eastern United States from Florida up the coast to Virgina and west through Arkansas and Texas. It is a wide area and is found in a variety of locations which all usually have increased moisture. Often they are found on the edges of water, and swamps, along slopes and ravines and in floodplains, all these sites are good sources of water which are quickly drained.

Some of my relative are impressed with the massive flowers of the Southern Magnolia seen at Finnerty Gardens.

Some of my relative are impressed with the massive flowers of the Southern Magnolia seen at Finnerty Gardens.

Magnolia grandiflora was first brought to the garden world in 1726 by Mark Catesby(1682-1749). he was an English naturalist and always had an interest in collecting oddities.  To this end he travelled to Virginia to visit his sister in 1712. While he was there he collected seed and plant samples which he brought back to a nursery in London in 1719. In 1722  he was selected by the Royal Society to collect plant samples in Carolina. Catesby again came to North American and collected  plant and bird samples from the east coast and the West Indies. From his samples he later published ‘Natural History’ in folio style between 1733 and 1746. This folio was the first of its kind and was very influential. Many of his specimens ended up in the collection Hans Sloane who later gave everything to the British Museum.

The foliage of the Southern Magnolia is beautiful.

The foliage of the Southern Magnolia is beautiful.

Magnolia grandiflora has in the past been an important source of timber and was used in many ways;  for furniture, boxes, venetian blinds, sashes, doors and veneers. The characteristic qualities of the wood are that it is fairly hard, stiff and has little shrinkage.  The wood has a pleasing color with the sapwood being of a pale yellow tone and the heartwood being a deeper brown. The tree itself is one of several Magnolia species which were used in North America in a medicinal way. The foliage is now used by florists who appreciate its sturdy quality and the beautiful rust colored indumentum on the undersides of the leaves.

Magnolia grandiflora is the state tree and flower of Mississippi and is the state flower of Louisiana.

Magnolia grandiflora is the state tree and flower of Mississippi and is the state flower of Louisiana.

Magnolias are a very ancient plant and their seed heads have an almost reptilian quality to them, although here I have never seen ripened seed of Magnolia grandiflora. They seem to have evolved before bees existed and the flowers are designed to be pollinated by beetles. The name ‘Magnolia’ refers to Pierre Magnol who was a French Botanist who was the first person to use the concept of plant families for classification purposes. ‘Grandiflora’ not surprisingly refers to the giant sized flowers.

The unusual seed head of Magnolia grandiflora.

The unusual seed head of Magnolia grandiflora.

We are lucky to be able to grow such interesting plant like the Southern Magnolia and to see their magnificent blooms. These are trees which can grow to 27m(90ft) in the wild but rarely gets anywhere near that in a garden setting. The tree developes an attractive pyramidal form as it ages which makes it a good choice for the home garden. My sister has a postage-stamp size front yard and here their Magnolia grandiflora fits in beautifully. Some people complain about the fact that it sheds its leaves slowly during the year, this is common for all broad-leaved evergreens.

Magnolia grandiflora flowers have a delicate citrusy scent which is fresh and elusive in the garden.

Magnolia grandiflora flowers have a delicate citrusy scent which is fresh and elusive in the garden.

When choosing a site for your Southern Magnolia you need to select your site carefully. This will over time become a large tree, so not too close to a building is best. They have very brittle roots so only plant this tree only once, do not replant it later if at all possible as it might not survive the move. The roots are shallow and do not like to be damaged, care must be taken when planting under this type of tree, a simple groundcover or even grass is best. They like a nutrient rich, well draining soil. Pruning can be done during early spring but rarely need it except for shaping or removal of damaged limbs. Few pests or disease effect this tree or damage its foliage.

This avenue of Southen Magnolias is found off of Rock Street and leads to the top of Playfair Park in Saanich.

This avenue of Southen Magnolias is found off of Rock Street and leads to the top of Playfair Park in Saanich.

Magnolia grandiflora are said to be hardy to -20c(-10f) or rated  at zone (6)7-11. There are forms which are especially hardy and grow in colder areas such as Ontario and Ohio, ask at your local nursery for forms which are best for your site. In the colder zones they can be damaged by drying winds when the ground is frozen as they are unable to get water to their leaves, this is a common problem for broad-leaved evergreens. Choosing a site which is protected from these winds will help solving the problem.

On the Southern Magnolia Route:

Wiki has a lot of interesting information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnolia_grandiflora

You will enjoy the work of Mark Catesby:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Catesby

Check out my article about ‘Million Year Old Magnolias’:  https://namethatplant.wordpress.com/2009/04/20/multi-million-year-old-magnolias/

Botanical scientific information about this tree: http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=1&taxon_id=200008470

Until I see you on my blog again….soon I hope!

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