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Posts Tagged ‘Bog plants’

I have worked at several large nurseries over the years and the first was a large company which grew perennials. It was recommended I work there as it was the largest in Canada for that type of plant. I was not disappointed and learned a great deal from the vast array of plants they stocked on a regular basis. It was also interesting to see what plants they would introduce to this area of Canada which is by far the mildest and has the widest range of options. Many plants were new not to just me but in some cases to the rest of North America.  At that time many new plants were originating from New Zealand, South Africa and South America. One spectacular plant is the very late blooming scarlet red Schizostylis (Hesperantha)coccinea or Scarlet or Scarlet River Lily which is from the Drakensberg Mountain area of South Africa.

The spectacularly colored Schizostylis coccinea or Scarlet River Lily.

The spectacularly colored colored Schizostylis coccinea 'Major' or Scarlet River Lily.

Scarlet River Lilies have been known since 1864 when they were brought into cultivation in Europe. The area they come from is quite high up in the mountains 1500-2500m(4900-8200ft.). They also grow in very moist areas, beside stream banks and seasonal islands. It is felt that this is an adaption to their climatic situation which is part of why they have been reclassified to be listed as  Hesperantha coccinea. Other members of Hesperantha grow from corms and Schizostylis coccinea grows from rhizomes. ‘Schizostylis’ refers to the the flower being in parts of 3 which is common with all members of the Iris(Iridaceae) family. ‘Coccinea’ refers to it’s red  flower color which is how it is seen in the wild.

There are up to 30 color forms of Scarlet River Lily which range from pure white to deep scarl

There are up to 30 color forms of Scarlet River Lily which range from pure white Schizostylis cocccinea 'Alba' to deep scarlet.

In the wild Scarlet River Lilies live up to their color name and are good shade of red which works in many situations. Since being brought into cultivation many shades have become known and some are quite delightful. I first  became familiar Schisostylis coccinea with ‘Major’ with large red flowers, then,  ‘Sunrise’ which is coral pink and  Mrs. Hagarty which is a lighter pink color.

One of the pink forms of Schizostylis coccinea commonly seen in the Victoria area.

One of the pink forms of Schizostylis coccinea commonly seen in the Victoria area is 'Sunrise'.

As I noted Scarlet River Lilies normally live in moist areas and this feature makes them very useful in the gardens. It is hard to find such bright plants with attractive and disease resistant plants for boggy areas. I much prefer this plant to many of the Irises commonly used as they can become to aggressive. This plant is also easily adapted to other areas where there is adequate moisture in the soil.

A planting of Scarlet River Lillies in a broad border of mixed perenials ans shrubs at Governement House.

A planting of Scarlet River Lillies in a broad border of mixed perenials ans shrubs at Governement House.

When growing  the easy and adaptable Schizostylis coccinea, choose a sunny site for the best show of blooms. Soil should be rich and moisture retentive. Care must be taken to make sure they do not dry out  when they are setting their flower buds as they will be lost. Buds also can be damaged by early frosts. These plants take -10c(14f) and is rated at zones 7 through 10. I have seen them sited in mixed borders, at the base of sunny slopes and along water ways and next to informal ponds and pools.  They also can be used in mass plantings for long blooming fall color.

The clean damage free foliage of Schizostylis cocciniea at this late time of the year is a real bonus.

The clean damage free foliage of Schizostylis cocciniea at this late time of the year is a real bonus.

The overall effect of this plant is relaxed as the leaves and floral stems are often lax. Scarlet River Lilies make great cut flowers, I place the red form in my tall large dark blue glass vase for a wonderful effect. It is best when buying these plants to choose them when in bloom as I think there is quite a lot of mis-labeling happening.

Picture a vase overflowing with spikes of Scarlet River Lilies...beautiful.

Picture a vase overflowing with spikes of Scarlet River Lilies...beautiful.

More about Schizostylis coccinea:

How to grow them:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/3324532/How-to-grow-Schizostylis.html

Techincal information about why they have been reclassifed: http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/pbs/2003-February/001617.html

other members of the Hesparantha family: http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/HesperanthaTwo#coccinea

Until We Meet Again Later….

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When we first come to be interested in flowers and gardening we often are totally in awe of the range of colors in flowers, we are like ‘kids in a candy shop’ and want to try every type and color tone. Slowly as we are exposed to other gardens and by reading(if we do) we learn more about composition of a garden and what makes for good design. We become more connoisseurs of  more subtle things like shape, texture of leaves, buds and bark. This is when we start to pass from being a consumer of gardens and plants to be more of a student of them and can fully appreciate what is trying to be achieved.  Astilbes are like this to me, I first was agog in their range of colors and then learned to love their texture within not only their flowers but their beautiful and useful foliage.

A fine show of blooming Atilbes in the Japanes Gardens at Glendale Gardens, Saanich.

A fine show of blooming Atilbes in the Japanes Gardens at Glendale Gardens, Saanich.

I first really got to know Astilbes when I worked for a wholesale perennial nursery, there we shipped literally thousands of Astilbes a year. They sold least a couple of dozen hybrids form the common types sold strictly by color to those named varieties which were being introduced to North America for the first time. It was quite an awe inspiring sight to see blocks of several hundred of one color type blooming at the same moment.  I soon learned that not only did the flowers have an interesting range of forms(from droopy and open to upright and tight) but the leaves often changed color as they matured some having bronzy tones and others keeping a bright green shade throughout the year.

Astilbe x 'Fanal', one of the most vibrant reds in the flower world.

Astilbe x arendsii 'Fanal' bred by Georg Arends, one of the most vibrant reds in the flower world.

Most Astilbe plants originate in Asia except for A. biternata which comes from eastern North America. Not surprisingly the first plants where grown in botanical collections as early as the 1830s, from that time many more have been discovered.  Georg Arends(1863-1952) is responsible for popularizing Astilbes. He took the many known species and started crossing them to create a completely new group of plants. Many of his plants have become famous since their introduction in the 1920s and 30s and are classed as ‘x arendsii’  One of his famous introductions is the first ‘red’ Astilbe ‘Fanal’ in 1933.  His ‘White(Weisse) Gloria’ from 1924 is considered to be the best of it’s color.  You can still count on easily finding ‘Amethyst, Bridal Veil'(Brautschleier), Cattleya, Granat, Hyacinth(Hyazinth) and Pink Pearl(Rosa Perle) in nurseries today.

Astilbe x 'Peach Blossom' which was introduced in 1902.

Astilbe x 'Peach Blossom' which was introduced in 1902.

There are several other groups of Astilbe hybrids which have been developed; x japonica look alot like x arendsii and have the same species as the parents.  The ‘chinensis’ groups generally all have mauve to magenta colors, more rough foliage texture and flower spikes of a slightly different shape.  A newer group from A. simplicifolia offers more restrained smaller plants which have delicately colored flowers and foliage.

Astilbe chinensis 'Pumila', a minature which is easily grown from seed.

Astilbe chinensis 'Pumila', a minature which is easily grown from seed.

Astilbes are very useful in the garden and are adaptable to many uses. They tolerate shady to bright sun as long as they have a good supply of water which is why they are often seen in boggy places or alongside water. They look attractive from the time they emerge from the ground with their delicate foliage and associate well with other plants such as Hosta, Heucheras, Ferns, Iris and Polygonatums to create beautiful nuanced foliage tapestries.

A lovely colorful shady border with Astilbes at Government House in Victoria, B.C.

A lovely colorful shady border with Astilbes at Government House in Victoria, B.C.

To grow Astilbes you need need rich moisture retaining soil which has lots of humus in it.  They prefer to be situated in shady or dappled sites which are out of  the way during the mid-day heat. Once they have flowered they should be pruned down so they can produce a fresh crop of leaves.  When selecting your plant consider it’s size as they range from miniature which are suitable for a rockery to fairly giant 4-5ft(1-1.5m) tall. They are generally hardy to zone 4(-20C) but with winter protection will survive lower temperatures. I have found Astilbe chineisis ‘Pumila’ thrives at zone 3a(-40c) in my mothers’ garden so much that it has been divided several times and produces large clumps which make a nice carpet there.  To have a longer bloom period select several varieties; x arendsii and x japonicas bloom earlier with chinensis a little later.

A low growing Astilbe simplicifolia hybrid blooming by a pathway.

A low growing Astilbe simplicifolia hybrid blooming by a pathway.

Astilbes are often used as cut flowers. The trick is to cut them before the blossoms have opened. They also can be preserved as dried flowers this way. The foliage is also a nice addition to a bouquet as greenery.

A mass planting of Astilbe at U.B.C. Botaincal Garden in Vancouver, B.C.

A mass planting of Astilbe at U.B.C. Botaincal Garden in Vancouver, B.C.

To Learn More About Astilbes:

A little about Georg(e) Arends and growing Astilbes: http://www.youngamericangrowers.com/app/our_plants.asp

A good article about Astilbes: http://www.arhomeandgarden.org/plantoftheweek/articles/Astilbe.htm

Until we meet again next week…..


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