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Posts Tagged ‘autumn color’

Some plants I see and fall in love with instantly and want to get one…when reality sets I know this is impossible as I have no spot to put it. I will forget about the plant and later stumble on it in other places and remember all over again how beautiful it is. Such is the case with Styrax japonius(a) (Japanese Snowbell tree), its a tree which I keep stumbling on and see how wonderful it is.

The dainty scented white bells of Styrax japonicus coat the undersides of this small tree.

The dainty scented white bells of Styrax japonicus coat the undersides of this small tree.

Styrax  is a genus of 130 species of which only a few come areas other than the tropics and several are used in garden. Styrax japonicus is the most well-known of the ornamental plants. Some tropical Styrax species are also known for giving us benzoin resin which is exuded from piercing the bark and collecting the dried substance. The resin has been used since antiquity in perfumes, incense and medicines(tincture of Benzoin).

The Japanese Snowbell is a small layered tree with elegant leaves and flowers

The Japanese Snowbell is a small layered tree with elegant leaves and flowers.

Styrax japonicus come from a fairly wide area of Asia from Korea into China and Japan. Japanese Snowbell was first described by Seibold and then re-introduced by Richard Oldham(1834-1862) in 1862 from Japan. He was employed by the Royal Botanical Gardens(Kew) and was sent to collect plants in Asia in 1861. He first collected around Nagasaki and Yokohama  (1862-3) and later in China where he died at the age of 27. He introduced no new species but his extensive herbarium collections were studied at Kew and in Leiden Germany.

Styrax japonicus 'Rosea' has the lightest pink tinge at the base of the flowers.

Styrax japonicus 'Rosea' has the lightest pink tinge at the base of the flowers.

When Japanese Snowbell was introduced the public in the 1860s it must have made an impact on gardeners and other esteemed people as it was quickly awarded a First Class Certificate (FCC) in 1885 by The Royal Horticultural Society. In  1984 it was given another award by the same group  an AGM (Award of Merit).  These awards are made from recommendation  by a committee to the RHS council and are similar to judgements made at exhibits (based on samples, branches or plants which are viewed on one day).

Styrax japonicus are very late to color up in autumn and when they do we are rewarded with buttery yellows which fade to light browns.ngyro

Styrax japonicus are very late to color up in autumn and when they do we are rewarded with buttery yellows which fade to light reds.

Japanese Snowbell are small trees which have layered branch structures. They are often nearly as wide as they are tall. When they are in bloom the flowers coat the undersides of the tree with small drooping white bells which have a pleasing light perfume. It is best to locate these trees where they are on a slight incline so it is easy to view the flowers in bloom. The fruit produces are small drupes which look like tiny nuts and are dainty.

Tiny egg-shaped drupes are the fruit produced by Styrax  japonicus.

Tiny egg-shaped drupes are the fruit produced by Styrax japonicus.

Japanese Snowbell trees grow 6-9 m 20-30 ft.) tall and nearly as wide. They grow in full sun to dappled locations and even fairly dark areas. Like many small trees in its native habitat it is often found as an understory plant growing amoungst larger trees. It likes well-drained rich soil which is slightly acidic.These trees are surprisingly hardy and are rated as zone 5 -29 c. (-20 f.).

Styrax japonicus (Japanese Snowbell) are perfect small specimen trees for urban gardens.

Styrax japonicus (Japanese Snowbell) are perfect small specimen trees for urban gardens.

Styrax japonicus can be used in a variety of ways, they are ideal for as small specimen trees, for small urban lots, patio plantings and in small groups. They are also well-known as bonsai subjects.  There are several named forms worth looking into. ‘Emerald Pagoda is a selection which is more robust with bigger flowers and leaves. ‘Pink Chimes’ has better, more pronounced color which does not fade out in heat. ‘Carillon’ is a weeping form which is said to be the same as ‘Pendula’. ‘Angryo Dwarf’ is as the name say an even shorter form. It is up to you what one you feel is the best for your situation…I have always been a sucker for pure white flowers!

A Flury  of links:

The many Styrax species:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Styrax

Other peoples experience with this tree:http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/59761/#b

Virginia Tech has a concise page on the tree:http://dendro.cnre.vt.edu/dendrology/syllabus/factsheet.cfm?ID=322

Richard Oldham:http://www.kew.org/news/kew-blogs/library-art-archives/richard-oldham-last-botanical-collector.htm

………..Follow me on an adventure around the plant world…………

 

 

 

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At this time of the year I really become aware to the color of foliage in various plant in the landscape. Plants are still fairly fresh and their foliage is alive and vibrant with color. Colors other than greens stand out in ways that often fade as the season goes on. It is unusual to find a group of plants with more color than those of the Cotinus (Smoke Bush) family which gives a show from spring until late autumn.Their color ranges from black purples, wine reds, bluish green, green and into chartreuse yellow – and this does not include autumn tones which are just as show stopping!

The color tones in one branch of Cotinus coggygria 'Velvet Cloak' is remarkable

The color tones in one branch of Cotinus coggygria 'Velvet Cloak' is remarkable.

The genus Cotinus is a member of the family Anancardiaceae which also contains the  Mango, Cashew, Poison Ivy (Sumac) species and was at first classified as Sumac(Rhus) species until it was separated from the other members. It does not irritate the skin or have sap which can burn.

Smoke Bush(Cotinus) generally have brilliant autumn colors ranging from scarlet into to peach and golds.

Smoke Bush(Cotinus) generally have brilliant autumn colors ranging from scarlet into to peach and golds.

Cotinus is a small genus of 2 or possibly 4 species of which coggygria and obovatus are the best known.  Cotinus coggygria is the species which is best known in the landscape and originates in Europe from France into Eurasia and possibly all the way into China. The far eastern representative coggygria sometimes listed as another species C. szechuanensis (var.  szechuanensis). The other well known species is C. obovatus and comes from North America particularly in Tennessee, north Alabama, Missouri, Arkansas and isolated pockets in central Texas. All Cotinus species have been used extensively for a source of dye wood as it gives colors of orange-yellow and yellow coloring. The use of C. obovatus as a yellow dye source before the civil war in U.S.A. almost brought the species to extinction in its native habitats.

Cotinus 'Grace' is a cross between Cotinus coggygria 'Velvet Cloak' and C. obovatus.

Cotinus 'Grace' is a cross between Cotinus coggygria 'Velvet Cloak' and C. obovatus.

 Cotinus  is from ‘Greek’ kotinos meaning wild olive but why it is named this is unknown. Coggygria also comes from ‘Greek’ kokkugia- the name of ‘Smoke Tree’. C.Coggygria has been cultivated  in gardens for an unknown period but is first mentioned in the mid 17th century. The species form is not commonly seen in gardens as there are more exciting color forms.

The less commonly seen species form of Cotinus coggygria is seen here with its lovely green foliage.

The less commonly seen species form of Cotinus coggygria is seen here with its lovely green foliage.

Smoke Bush are well known for their colorful foliage and there are an increasing number of cultivars to choose from.  The oldest color form is probably C.c. ‘Foliis Purpureis'(Rubrifolius) which has rich purple -plum leaves which fade into to greenish tones as the summer progresses. C.c. f. purpureus(‘Atropurpureus’) refers to the coloring of the large panicles of purplish flowers. C.c. ‘Royal Purple’ (Notcutt’s Variety’) has leaves which start maroon red and then matures to black-purple(darkest of all forms) it holds its color well throughout the year and changes into scarlet autumn shades. C.c. ‘Velvet Cloak’ has red violet foliage which is dramatic, its floral display is longer than most. It holds is color well.  Cotinus ‘Grace’ leaves emerge in wine-red and has clouds of pink-tinged flowers. A new color yellow range has come out from a chance seedling found at a dutch nursery in 1990, it is C.c. ‘Golden Spirit'(Ancot’) – it does not fade out unless it is under-watered.

The 'smoke in Smoke Bush or tree(Cotinus species) is from the panicles of tiny flowers and then the whispy seedheads later on.

The 'smoke in Smoke Bush or tree(Cotinus species) is from the panicles of tiny flowers and then the whispy seedheads later on.

All Cotinus species drier areas often with rocky soil on slopes and hillsides. They have proven to be vary adaptable to many other situations and soils from heavy clay to sandy. They need full sun pr produce the best coloring and floral display. They need adequate watering while becoming established but later are much more drought resistant. They are pest and disease free but sometimes coloring tends to fade out in hotter southern areas, this is where coppicing helps rejuvenate the color. The best coloring is obtained by regularly pruning them hard, use a method such as coppicing to produce wanted effect.

Cotinus 'Royal Purple'(the darkest color) is coppiced to keep its best color and form.

Cotinus 'Royal Purple'(the darkest color) is coppiced to keep its best color and form.

All Smoke Bush are rated at zones 5to 9 and take cold temperatures down to -28 c. (-20 f.) In colder climates they generally are cut to the ground which is like the mentioned coppicing.  Cotinus can be used as specimens, in shrub borders,  as accents, masses, in less watered areas and can pruned into tree forms which are very effective. Cotinus have a lot of appeal in the shape of the leaves and wispy flowers to add to a garden along with strong color.

Cotinus 'Golden Spirit'('Ancot') was found as a chance seedling at a Dutch nursery in 1990 and holds its color well in the September garden.

Cotinus 'Golden Spirit'('Ancot') was found as a chance seedling at a Dutch nursery in 1990 and holds its color well in the September garden.

Cotinus in all its Glory:

Cotinus species : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cotinus

Cotinus obovatus, a web site devoted to it: http://cotinus.net/

Google image page of Cotinus coggygria cultivars, choose your color:

http://www.google.com/search?q=cotinus+coggygria+cultivars&hl=en&authuser=0&rls=com.microsoft:*:IE-SearchBox&rlz=1I7GGIE&biw=1920&bih=955&prmd=ivns&source=lnms&tbm=isch&ei=L5AHTuXmNYnViAKMl8zSDQ&sa=X&oi=mode_link&ct=mode&cd=2&ved=0CAsQ_AUoAQ

Why Coppice? http://apps.rhs.org.uk/advicesearch/profile.aspx?pid=121

Venetian

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2 days of bright sun light and everyone is out mowing their lawns, the garden centers a full of shoppers buying plants, then back into the grey. It has been grey and dreary almost everyday this year! It is not surprising at all that we rush out into the rare spots of sun and then slump around the rest of the time in a mental fog. Is it no wonder that brightly colored flowers appeal to us so much, at this point any garish and screaming color at all is welcome. One of the brightest groups of plants that bloom at this time are the deciduous Azaleas which come in the purest oranges,tangerines, golds and yellows. Rhododendron luteum (Pontic Azalea) says it all in its name –  I have brilliant yellow flowers and I am here to seduce you out of your fog with my fragrance.

 Rhododendron luteum has brilliant flowers which have a wonderfully sweet fragrance

Rhododendron luteum has brilliant flowers which have a wonderfully sweet fragrance

Here most people associate Rhododendrons with the evergreen types and do not realize that the Azaleas are actually Rhododendrons as well. The ‘so-called’ Azaleas often are seen to be a poor plants you see in mass plantings used to landscape large shopping centers, townhouse complexes and other institutions and are often poorly maintained.  Rhododendron luteum represents the deciduous Azaleas most often found in parks and often have the reputation of ‘smelling skunky’. Pontic Azalea does not have the ‘skunkiness’, people often wonder were the wonderful scent is coming from and find out it’s from that yellow Azalea!

The elusive fragrance of the Rhododendron lutuem flowers entrance the bees and our noses, but be wary as the pollen and honey is poisonous.

The elusive fragrance of the Rhododendron lutuem flowers entrance the bees and our noses, but be wary as the pollen and honey is poisonous.

Pontic Azalea is a fairly wide-spread plant and is found in Poland, Austria through the Balkans, Southern Russia running into the Caucasus into the southern tip of the Black Sea, an area once called Pontus. The first reference to Rhododendron luteum comes from Pliny and Doiscorides ( circa 40-90 AD) who refered to the works of Xenophon(430-354 BC). Xenophon participated and chronicled the conflict between Cyrus the younger(and gardener) and his older brother who would become Artaxerxes II. They went to war and Cyrus died and his army retreated to the Pontus Hills near the Black Sea. The plan was to collect supplies there and escape by sea back to Greece. While the troops where there the ate the locally collected honey which came from the Azaleas which grew there. The army became ill and seemed drugged. This mystery of what happened was blamed by Dioscorides on the Pontic Azlaeas and the honey which was consumed there.

As Rhododendron luteum is often grown from seed there is some variation in the flowers such as the vibrancy of coloring and width of the petals.

As Rhododendron luteum is often grown from seed there is some variation in the flowers such as the vibrancy of coloring and width of the petals.

Many centuries later French botanist Joseph Pitton de Tournefort(1656-1708) travelled to examine the geography of the area as he was studying Dioscorides. There he wrote a description of and did a drawing the Pontic Azalea which he named Chamaebodobendron Pontica Maxima flore lutea, this was just the first of the names this plant has been given.

The bright yellow color of the Pontic Azalea is pleasing and blends well in many plant combinations.

The bright yellow color of the Pontic Azalea is pleasing and blends well in many plant combinations.

Rhododendron luteum went through several name changes until in the 1830s it was decided to give it the name it is known by now. Most recently the claim to fame by the Pontic Azalea is that it is an important contributor to hybridization of Azaleas in creating a wide range of pleasing colors for the softest pastels into most vibrant colors. Pontic Azaleas are particularly associated with the Ghent group of hybrids which were developed in Belgium over 150 years ago. More than 100 were named and at least 25 are still available to buy now. The other use for Pontic Azaleas is for a understock to graft weaker growing forms onto.

This small Pontic Azalea is part of the extensive Rhododendron collection at Glendale Gardens.

This small Pontic Azalea is part of the extensive Rhododendron collection at Glendale Gardens.

Rhododendron luteum is an easy and adaptable plant to grow. It likes dappled light and rich, slightly acidic moisture retentive soil which does not dry out completely in droughts. This helps promote a larger number of blooms the following year. Good air circulation is important to help ward off any chance of mildews or fungus which can develop later in the season. Established plants do not need fertilizer but appreciate a light mulch of pine needles or other acidic material applied every year. Do major pruning as soon as the plant has finished blooming to avoid cutting of next years blossoms.

Playfair Park has several areas with Pontic Azaleas included in the gardens.

Playfair Park has several areas with Pontic Azaleas included in the gardens.

Rhododendron luteum  grows 3-4 m(9-12 ft.) tall and is narrower in width. It is not densely branches and is light and airy in the garden. In autumn it give another show of red and yellow foliage colors. It can be used as a specimen or accent and as a mass planting. It is a good plant for a woodland or wilder setting or can be used in more formal locations. It is said to take -15 c. (5 f.) which makes it one of the more hardy deciduous Azaleas available.

Some Azalea Madness for you:

A good technical description of the plant: http://www.rosebay.org/chapterweb/speclut.htm

Toxicity of Rhododendrons: http://rhodyman.net/rarhodytox.html

A Pdf file from Arnold Arboretum on Ghent Azaleas http://arnoldia.arboretum.harvard.edu/pdf/articles/1355.pdf

Xenophon, Greek historian,  soldier and mercenary:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xenophon

How this Rhododendron almost stopped an army   http://www.atlanticrhodo.org/kiosk/features/misc/luteum.html

…..Will you follow my trails through the plant world?……

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There are some plants that are just plain strange! Even the family(genera) they are associated can be weird. Many of these peculiar plants have unusual flowers or growing habits because they might live in unusual situations or bloom out of season when there are few bees to spread the pollen. One family with strange flowers is the members of the Araceae family. The namesake of this family is the species Arum and the most common type seen in gardens is Arum Italicum (Cuckoo Pint).

This Arum italicum with its freshly unfurled leaves and bright seeds is a showy addition to the late autumn garden.

This Arum italicum with its freshly unfurled leaves and bright seeds is a showy addition to the late autumn garden.


The Cuckoo Pint is one of the best known members of the Araceae family which all have several characteristics in common.  All members of the family have spathe/spadix flowers which make them stand out from other plants.  The spathe is a specialized leaf which protects the spike(spadix) of tiny flowers. The spathe is generally much larger than the complete spadix and is often showy and can be colorful. In the case of Arum italicum the tiny flowers’ are usually on very short stems and the spathe is a greenish color. The flowers structures are usually hidden underneath the much larger leaves. Another thing common to Aracae members is they all have calcium oxalate found in all parts of the plants. Calcium oxalate is a chemical compound that is a well-known irritant and anything which has it must be handled with care.
All parts of the Cuckoo Pint has calcium oxalate in it.

All parts of the Cuckoo Pint has calcium oxalate in it.


Arum Italicum is a fairly widespread plant and grows wild in southern England most of southern Europe, Northern Africa and into Asia Minor. It is an ancient plant and representations are seen painted on the walls of the Temple of Amun at Karnak in the ancient capital of Thebes in Egypt, the plants are not native to that area. During the 16th century the roots of Arums where boiled and powdered to produce a white starch which was used to stiffen collars and ruffles of the elaborate clothing of the times. Later the same powder was added to cosmetics called Cyprus powder which was used for the skin in Paris. The thick gummy sap of the plants was at the time was collected and refined for use as a substitute for soap for laundry. It’s hard to believe  we used this plant for these things as processing it would have been a long slow process and in some cases taking many weeks.
 The seedheads of Arum italicum on elongated stems beginning to ripen in the early June.

The seed heads of Arum italicum on elongated stems beginning to ripen in the early June.


Arum italicum has a life cycle which backwards compared to most plants we are familiar with. Here the leaves are produced every autumn and winter over into the spring, they area undamaged by frosts.  In spring Cuckoo Pint flowers are produced and the foliage later withers leaving the elongating floral stems with the seed developing on it.  As the seed is almost is ripe new leaves unfurl in late autumn and a new cycle begins again. The seed ripens and is sown in the winter as it has a short viability and does not tolerate drying out at all therefore the time of ripening guarantees the best chance of germination.
 The same Cuckoo Pint in late August with the seeds starting to color up but no leaves in sight yet.

The same Cuckoo Pint in late August with the seeds starting to color up but no leaves in sight yet.


Arum italicun is an attractive plant for the garden and can be used in number of ways. It is very tolerant of shade and even deep shade and can be planted in areas where many other plants will struggle. It is quite a show at this dark time of the year and provides late autumn and winter interest. The bright color of the seeds are noticeable deep in a border or it can be used in a container for a winter show. Cuckoo Pints can be placed as accents or specimens and work as a groundcover if they are in a spot where they can naturally produce seedlings.
 The variation of leave coloring and varigation is typical of seedling Arum italicum, no two plants are identical.

The variation of leave coloring and varigation is typical of seedling Arum italicum, no two plants are identical.


Growing the Cuckoo Pint is easy, you need a site with rich slightly acidic moisture retentive soil and full sun to shade. If you like more leaves plant them in more shade and for more seedheads a bit more light. Arum italicum die down during the summer heat and you might need to mark the site so you do not over plant on them. You should consider wearing gloves when handling any part of these plants do to the calcium oxalate found in the plant might irritate your skin. Wash your hands after touching any part of the plant. If you are worried about pets and children eating any part of this plant you might choose to put it deep in a border where they will be less noticeable (except to you). One good thing about this plant is that slugs and wild life generally does not touch it.  Propagation is by seed or division of clumps during May and june when the plant becomes more dormant.
Here at Finnerty Gardens the Arum italicum has found a happy home and has spread under this Davidia tree.

Here at Finnerty Gardens the Arum italicum has found a happy home and has spread under this Davidia tree.

Cuckoo Pints are hardy to -25 c.(-13 f.) or zone 5 through 9.  An average plant grows about 30cm(1ft.) tall and wide.  Spacing is 45cm (16 in.) apart of you want more of a mass planting. Breeders have become interested in this plant and there are now have selected leaf types which are more marbled and showy, these should become more common in time. Arum italicum ‘Pictum’ for a long time was considered to be separate form has now been demoted to plain Arum italicum.
Looking for the elusive Cuckoo Pint:

Some species of Arums to compare: http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/Arum

Growing Arum is easy, check here: http://www.perennials.com/seeplant.html?item=1.077.120

Calcium oxalate and what it is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calcium_oxalate

The Araceae family: http://zipcodezoo.com/Key/Plantae/Araceae_Family.asp

…………Hope you come back here soon……….

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Autumn is known for its wonderful colors, the yellows, oranges reds and maroons add a bright splash of excitement to the coming winter season. I enjoy the many native trees in the area with their amber shades. One somewhat rare tree which should become much more widely grown is  the Paperbark Maple(Acer griseum) which has bright buttery yellow to crimson coloring. It is one of the best small specimen trees for a typical urban setting.

 

Autumn color of the Paperbark Maple some of the latest in the year for the Maple family.

Autumn color of the Paperbark Maple some of the latest in the year for the Maple family.

The year was 1901 Paperbark Maple was introduced to Europe by way of Vietch’s Nursery.  Acer griseum is another fabulous find by Ernest (Chinese) Henry Wilson. He was on one of his many explorations for plants in China looking for the famous handkerchief tree(Davidia involucrata) which was known but not collected at that time. The area he was exploring was central China.

 

 I can imagine Ernest 'Chinese' Wilson finding Acer griseum in the forest looking like this, bark glowing in the light.

I can imagine Ernest 'Chinese' Wilson finding Acer griseum in the forest looking like this, bark glowing in the light.

 

Paperbark Maples come from central China from north-east Gansu  province traveling west into Hebei and south to Sichuan and south-west into Hunan.  The tree is found at fairly high altitudes of 1500-2000 m. (5000-6500ft.). It is one of the better but not the most famous find of the over 1500 named plants which ‘Chinese ‘ Wilson brought to horticulture during his incredible explorations.

 

The peeling 'paperbark' of Acer griseum is very beautiful throughout the year.

The peeling 'paperbark' of Acer griseum is very beautiful throughout the year.

 

Acer griseum does not have the typical ‘maple’ shaped leaves, instead it is trifoliate. This gives it a delicate feeling as the foliage looks fine in texture. Many people are not familiar with the other leaf forms of  Maples. One similar leaved maple is the Box Elder(Acer negundo) which is extremely hardy and produces masses of seedlings making it become somewhat of a pest in many places.

 

 The delicate looking trifoliate leaves of Acer griseum come to life in flaming fashion in the fall.

The delicate looking trifoliate leaves of Acer griseum come to life in flaming fashion in the fall.

Acer griseum is an excellent small tree for the home and should be seen more often. One issue that has become known is the difficulty germinating the seed which is said to be between 2 and 8%. It produces a good amount of  seed but most of it has proven to be parthenocarpic. Parthenocarpic is seed which developes but is sterile. THere are now plans to make new collections of wild seed to increase the gene pool of this tree and increase the likelihood of better seed viability. Another issue is that these trees are androecious with males and hermaphrodite flower structures.

 

 

Acer griseum produces a great amount of seed but little of it is viable.

Acer griseum produces a great amount of seed but little of it is viable.

 

Acer griseum has many feature which lead it be seen as a specimen tree. It is attractive throughout the year; spring gives us delicate blooms and the flush of new leaves, summer is seen with the delicate green-blue of the leaves, autumn highlight the brilliant color late in the season and winter comes when the bark is highlighted especially with backlighting. The size of the tree is also especially appealing and works well in most garden situations whether they be in a border or by itself.

 

This wintery Acer griseum is found in Finnerty Gardens along a less traveled path where the bark is highlighted.

This wintery Acer griseum is found in Finnerty Gardens along a less traveled path where the bark is highlighted.

Acer griseum grow in full sun to part shade but not deep shade. They like fertile acidic soil which is well-drained. They need average amounts of waster and are not noted to be drought tolerant. They have few pests or disease. They can be pruned but it is rarely done except for  shaping or removal of damaged limbs and this is best done in late autumn or winter. They are slow-growing trees which can grow to 10-20 m (30-60ft). They are fairly hardy and are rated taking -20c(-4f) and higher.  Paperbark Maples are easily transplanted.

 

This Acer griseum is in the back yard of a garden in Vancouver.

This Acer griseum is in the back yard of a garden in Vancouver.

 

Paperbark Maples are propagated by cuttings or by seed and are somewhat rare in nurseries. They are becoming much sought after by good landscapers and gardens are more expensive to buy than many other trees. It is a tree I recommend for the small city gardens as a specimen or accent tree.

Marveling at this Maple:

An excellent technical description of the tree: https://appserver1.kwantlen.ca/apps/plantid/plantid.nsf/lookup/2C6CC1B288E3831088256EB500662648?OpenDocument

Parenthocarpy in seeds: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parthenocarpy

Ernest Henry Wilson: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Henry_Wilson

……I will be looking forward to seeing you again soon here…..

 

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Big winds are starting early this year, the forecast is for a colder winter here. I n=know our winters are nothing like those from the rest of Canada and much of North America, we are wet and very slippery with ice here if it gets cold. With cold weather comes more brilliant colors in the departing leaves which are on the trees. So here we are in the blustery weather wanting to go and walk in the forests and big parks to see bright colors. Some of the best color comes from the Quercus family and without a doubt the absolute star in the family is Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea). All I can say is Blaze on and warm us up with your firey flame-like leaves!

The Scarlet Oaks enliven the Stelly's Secondary School campus in the autumn.

The Scarlet Oaks enliven the Stelly's Secondary School campus in the autumn.

Scarlet Oaks are one of the trees which people think of when they want to experience the colors of autumn in eastern North America. The colors are so fine that many people take tours through the northern United States and eastern Canadian provinces to experience it. I have never been myself but can imagine how breath-taking it must be based on the color of the same trees here.

As the leaves of Quercus coccinea breakdown anthocytins are released giving the leaves their red coloring.

As the leaves of Quercus coccinea breakdown anthocyanins are released giving the leaves their red coloring.

Part of the reason of the strong bright colors in Quercus coccinea has to do with how the leaves break down in the fall. The component which affects color is anthocyanin( giving reds and blues) which is stored in the natural sugars found in the leaves. As the leaves start to break down in the fall the anthocyanins are released and their red and blue tones effect the color of the leaf. Many leaves of other trees change into yellow and orange tones which are caused by xanthophyll and carotenoids.It is surprising we get such good color because we are not that cold in the autumn here.

The Scarlet coloring of Quercus coccinea is very intense and brilliant.

The Scarlet coloring of Quercus coccinea is very intense and brilliant.

Scarlet Oaks are widespread in the east growing from Maine to Alabama and east into Oklahoma. It is a tree which tolerates a fairly wide range of conditions but often is seen growing in upland forests, ridges and hillside where the conditions are a bit drier and the soil is often is sandy and gritty. These are trees of the upper canopy and do not like to be in the shade.

This Scarlet Oak is one of many Oaks found in the 'Mayors Grove' at Beacon Hill Park in Victoria.

This Scarlet Oak is one of many Oaks found in the 'Mayors Grove' at Beacon Hill Park in Victoria.

Quercus coccinea grow to be large trees of up to 24m(80ft). When they are young they have a more pyramidal shape and with age get a more rounded shape.  The leaves are deeply lobed which gives this tree a more lacey feeling  and more delicate look compared to others of the species. The tree here which might be mistaken for Scarlet Oak is the Pin Oak (Quercus palustris), it needs a damper site and is more likely to be seen up island or in the Vancouver area which have more rain compared to the drought here.

These young Scarlet Oaks show thier pyramidal shape which will change with age.

These young Scarlet Oaks show their pyramidal shape which will change with age.

Scarlet Oaks are considered to be the best of the species to grow because of their adaptability to soils and water, their brilliant color and their tolerance of urban conditions.  They like an average to sandy soil which is on the acidic side to keep them from getting chlorosis. They are naturally from drier sites but tolerate damper sites as long that there is good drainage. These trees require full sun to perform their best. These trees are popular with landscapers and are often seen in industrial and commercial settings, here they are seen around parking lots and in parks. These trees have attractive foliage and bark.

 

The bark of Scarlet Oak is ridged and  an overall grey color.

The bark of Scarlet Oak is ridged and an overall grey color.

 

The acorns of Scarlet Oaks can be hard to come by here with the Squirrels  which eat store them. They are 1-2.5cm(1/2-1in.) long with their cap covering half the nut from the top. Acorns are produced in large quantity every 3 to 4 years. Propagation is by seed which has to be collected before the squirrels get the best ones. Check  your harvest in a bucket of water and throw away any that float. The seed has a short period of viability and needs to be sown as soon as possible.

 

Broadmead Village Shopping Centre has some of the best Scarlet Oaks and other autumn color in the Victoria area.

Broadmead Village Shopping Centre has some of the best Scarlet Oaks and other autumn color in the Victoria area.

 

 

Scarlet Oaks are rated at zones 4 through 9 and take -35c(-30f). If you have a large property this tree is an excellent choice for you as it makes an easy to maintain tree which need little work. It is best to buy these trees in a container as like other Oaks they have a tap-root which is easily damaged.

Looking at the quirks of Quercus coccinea:

A visual key to compare Oaks: http://www.cas.vanderbilt.edu/bioimages/pages/compare-oaks.htm

Wiki’s page on Scarlet Oaks: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quercus_coccinea

Another good site to look up plant at: http://www.hort.uconn.edu/plants/q/quecoc/quecoc1.html

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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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