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Posts Tagged ‘British Columbia’

When I was going to for Horticultural training the thing I missed the most was walking in the woods like I could do at Home. I had come from a rural area to a verge large city to go to school and going for a walk was a way to relieve tension from my studies. There was a small park at the end of my street which was undeveloped and I would visit there and find new(to me) plants which where native to the area. One plant I came across looked kind of familiar, like a Heuchera but different, as it turns out it was a close relative. Tellima grandiflora (Fringe Cups) is related to several well-known garden plants and should be seen more in gardens.

Tellima grandiflora (Fringe Cups) are found edging a shade path in Beacon Hill Park.

Tellima grandiflora (Fringe Cups) are found edging a shade path in Beacon Hill Park.

I always am interested in what the botanical latin name of a plant means and how it might relate to it. In the case of Tellima it turns out to be an anagram of another plant which is closely related to it: Mitella. I have found no information on why an anagram was chosen for its name. Another case I know of is for a species of cactus Lobivia which is an anagram of the country which it is found in Bolivia. Grandiflora is not at all unusual and refers to the large flowers.

The common name 'Fringe Cups' refers to the lacy petals of Tellima grandiflora flowers.

The common name 'Fringe Cups' refers to the lacy petals of Tellima grandiflora flowers.

Tellima grandiflora is a plant which grows in the woodlands and dappled light of the Pacific North-west from Alaska through British Columbia, Washington, Oregon into Northern California. This is generally a plant of coastal areas and along the mountains that run just inland. They are also found in the inland wet stripe running through eastern B.C., Washington, north Idaho and Montana. Here on Vancouver Island it is a common site along roadsides and is often mixed with other plants such as Tiarellas, Sedges and Ferns.

Here at U.B.C. Botanical Gardens the Tellima grandiflora grow wild as a natural groundcover in the Asian Garden.

Here at U.B.C. Botanical Gardens the Tellima grandiflora grow wild as a natural groundcover in the Asian Garden.

Tellima grandiflora comes from the Saxifragaeae which has given us many familiar garden plants such as Saxifraga, Heucheras, Tiarella and Fragaria (Strawberry). All of these species have been hybridized and are well used in the garden. Tellima grandiflora may have been hampered in its acceptance because it is a is the only species of the genus and is not represented in any other form in the world. There are records of crosses between Tiarella and Tellima being found as well as that of Tolmeia menziesii crosses but none of these have been seen as worth being developed as they have much smaller flowers than Fringe Cups and the foliage is not unique enough. Only recently has been offered a named Tellima grandiflora ‘Forest Frost’ which to me looks like it probably is mis-named and is fact a cross with a Heuchera. It will be interesting to see what comes of this new plant.

 Winter coloring of Tellima grandiflora often brings out burgundy tones which fade with new growth.

Winter coloring of Tellima grandiflora often brings out burgundy tones which fade with new growth.

Tellima grandiflora for the most part is a well-behaved garden plant. It self-sows in place that it is happy, if this is not wanted all that is needed is to remove the spent flower wands soon after they finnish blooming. It can be somewhat short-lived like many members of the Saxifragaeae family are, therefore i usually keep a few seedlings about to replenish older plants and I like how they will pop up in my pots of Hostas and amongst the hardy Geraniums. Fringe Cups make a good addition to the garden and its foliage and flowers work well in spring when other plants are slow to emerge.

This accidental combination of Meconopsis cambrica, Tellima grandiflora and Claytonia sibirica is charming and bright at the same time.

This accidental combination of Meconopsis cambrica, Tellima grandiflora and Claytonia sibirica is charming and bright at the same time.

Tellima grandiflora is an easy adaptable plant to have in your garden. It like rich, humusy soil which retains moisture well during the dry months of summer. It like dappled positions and will bloom admirably in more shady situations. In overly sunny sites it often has more yellowed foliage and is smaller in its overall stature. This last winter was colder than usual and Fringe Cups came through in great form, no damage is done to the foliage and steady growth is seen in the earliest spring. These plants are typically 60 cm.(2 ft.) high and 45 cm. (18 in.) wide but may be slightly large or smaller depending on conditions. They are rated as tolerating -20c.(-4 f.) which is suspect is with much snow cover. Here the extreme cold might get to be – 15 c. (5 f.) with the wild chill added and they do not suffer.

Tellima grandiflora is incorporated into several gardens at Government House in Victoria. Here it is the Cutting Flower Garden.

Tellima grandiflora is incorporated into several gardens at Government House in Victoria. Here it is the Cutting Flower Garden.

Fringe Cups can be used in a variety of ways in the garden. I have seen them used as accents, mass planted, in woodland and more formal settings. They fit into fragrant gardens and ones for cut flowers as well as shade and winter gardens. They also make an excellent mass planting  and blend in well with many damp tolerant plants. their delicate flowers on tall stems have an amusing effect against very bold foliage. These plants are much better known in Europe than they are here and we should start changing that.

T is for Tellima:

Rainyside has a good page: http://www.rainyside.com/features/plant_gallery/nativeplants/Tellima_grandiflora.html

In case you are wondering about anagrams:  http://www.anagramsite.com/cgi-bin/getanagram.cgi

Washington Native Plant Society page on Tellima: http://www.wnps.org/plants/tellima_grandiflora.html

…………..See you on the trails leading here soon………..

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This is the time of year which is the most exciting in the garden. After a cold winter we wait with bated breath to see what has survived and even will thrive. I note some Rhododendrons seem to have smaller flowers and the Tulips are finally beginning to show their buds. One plant I associate with spring is Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon Grape) which is bursting forth with its bright fragrant flowers.

The Oregon Grape(Mahonia aquifolium) here is a welcome addition to this spring garden of mixed bulbs and native plants.

The Oregon Grape(Mahonia aquifolium) here is a welcome addition to this spring garden of mixed bulbs and native plants.

Oregon Grape is a shrub which is from the west coast of British Columbia south into northern California west of the Cascade Mountains where this plant is generally found as an understory plant to trees such as Douglas Fir and here Garry Oaks. Mahonia was named after Bernard McMahon (1775-1816) who is said to have been the first ‘nurseryman’ in North America, he published the first plant catalogue and the book “American Gardeners’ Calender’  He was the curator of the plants of the Lewis and Clark collection of plants.  Thomas Nuttall honored his friend by using his name as “Mahonia’  for naming a plant (Mahonia nervosa) in the collection.

The bright flowers of Mahonia aquifolium contrast nicely with wine tinted evergreen foliage.

The bright flowers of Mahonia aquifolium contrast nicely with wine tinted evergreen foliage.


The leaves( and leaflets) of the Oregon Grape look similar to that of common Holly (Ilex aquifolium) but are larger, thinner and take on maroon and red tints in winter cold. This past winter was colder than normal here and the red tints are very evident on many plant here. Oregon Grape are well-known to the native people here and have in the past been used for medicinal and food uses.  The roots were used to make a tonic which was used to counteract weariness, loss of appetite  and other similar maladies. the roots contain the alkaloid berberine which is found in  ‘Goldenseal’ and has anti-inflamitory and anti bacterial properties. The fruit was as mild laxative. As a food the berries were sometimes mixed with other sweeter berries to make them more palatable. The fruit is very bitter until touched by frost and then can be used for making  jelly. Another way this plant has been used is for dying items, the roots have distinctive yellow sap and the berries provide purple coloring.
Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium) produced copius crops of blue fruit which are eaten by birds after it has been touched by frost to sweeten it.

Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium) produced copius crops of blue fruit which are eaten by birds after it has been touched by frost to sweeten it.


Mahonia aquifolium is much used in landscapes today and is often seen as a barrier plant in parking lots where it often is neglected and abused, there are better plants for that purpose. I like to see it used in more creative ways. One of the more interesting uses I have seen is as a background planting to Hydrangeas at Finnerty Gardens in Victoria. The garden has a collection of Hydrangeas which are dormant when our lovely Oregon Grape blooms. Oregon Grape works as winter and early spring interest and then the Hydrangea will take over for the late spring into autumn with a consistent evergreen background to show it off.
Here at Finnerty Gardens the Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon Grape) will bloom while the Hydrangea shrubs are leafing out in front.

Here at Finnerty Gardens the Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon Grape) will bloom while the Hydrangea shrubs are 'leafing' out in front.


Oregon Grape is an easy plant to grow if it is given the right conditions to grow in. Mahonia aquifolium likes part sun to full shade with the only exceptions in more northern areas where light is not as strong as in the south. For better flower and fruit production give it better light.  It grows best in moist, rich, well-drained soil which is more acidic than alkaline. It does poorly on thin, compacted and clay soils which stay wet and are poorly drained. Here it grows under the light shade of deciduous trees and mixed with other shrubs. It is best to place these plants where they will avoid the drying winds of winter which can do much damage to broad-leaved evergreens here. Most of the Oregon Grape I have seen here overwintered well with little damage, the added bonus was richer maroon tints to the foliage from the winter cold.
The maroon tints of the foliage of Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon Grape) were quite spectacular this spring.

The maroon tints of the foliage of Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon Grape) were quite spectacular this spring.


Mahonia aquifolium is a slow-growing multi-stemmed shrub which over time can grow to be well over 2 m. (6 ft.) tall. With the branches generally being very ascending , this shrub tends to have a narrow profile. The plant can easily be managed by removing branches from the base. Use this shrub in your native garden or in wilder places which might be a little out of the way. The leaves are prickly so keep it away from narrow paths or tight areas where you might brush up against it. Mahonia aquifolium is well used in mass planting or a specimen. It attracts bees by providing an early source of honey when there might be little available (the flowers are honey scented as well).  It is known to hybridise with other Mahonia species and these crosses can give varied results in height and sprawling habit.
I find the variation in the flower panicles  of Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon Grape) interesting, some are stumpy like this one while others are loose and open like the 2nd picture in this article.

I find the variation in the flower panicles of Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon Grape) interesting, some are stumpy like this one while others are loose and open like the 2nd picture in this article.

Mahonia is a much loved plant and has been adopted as the state plant of Oregon which is found between California and Washington. It has many appealing atributes to make a good garden plant which should be seen more ofte. There are 12 Mahonia species in North America and some of these have been listed as noxious weeds, I think that there might be some confusion in listing this species there.

 

Links a’plenty for you:

Washington State Native Plant Society page on the plant: http://www.wnps.org/landscaping/herbarium/pages/mahonia-aquifolium.html

The ‘Wiki’ page is interesting: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oregon-grape

Bernard McMahon and his contribution to gardening in early America: http://www.monticello.org/site/house-and-gardens/bernard-mcmahon

……….Hope to see you here again very soon………

 

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I have been fortunate to have worked as a grower at a nursery.  This gave me the opportunity to grow plants which are not that well known. Some plants aren’t well known because they are hard to grow while others just have a false reputation for that. One plant I grew was the eastern(North American) form of a local plant. I never saw the local plant until a few years ago when i was with my father driving near Nanaimo which is north of here. It was magical, carpeting a dappled area in the woods. Last year I finally found Henderson’s Shooting Star(Dodecatheon hendersonii) in many places.

Dodecatheon hendersonii is known as Broad Leaved Shooting Star.

Dodecatheon hendersonii is known as Broad Leaved Shooting Star.

Henderson’s Shooting Star is a very delicate looking plant which grows amoungst other more showy plants. it is often in bloom at the same time the local Erythronium oregonium(White Fawn Lily) is and grows in the same places. The hot magenta flower color helps it stand out even though the flowers themselves are quite small.  The shape of the flower, with it’s extremely reflexed petals make it look quite unique.

An extremely rare white form of Dodecatheon hendersonii.

An extremely rare white form of Dodecatheon hendersonii.

Shooting Stars are a strictly North American species. The most commonly grown member of them is an Dodecatheon meadia which is found in the east growing  from Pennsylvania to Manitoba and south through Georgia and Texas. In the west we have many species which overlap in some areas. Dodecatheon hendersonii is probably the most western as it grows on Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and moves  south to west central California. On the mainland it grows on the western side of the coastal mountains though the Siskiyous and the Sierra Nevadas. There are at least two named varieties. Var. hansonii is found in the Siskiyous and scattered locations in the Sierra Nevadas. Var. hendersonii is more widespread and found along coastal B.C.  to southern Oregon.

The leaves of Dodecatheon hendersonii lay flat to the ground unlike most others of the species.

The leaves of Dodecatheon hendersonii lay flat to the ground unlike most others of the species.

Dodecatheon are members of the Primulaceae family. Dodecatheon is Greek; Dode(ka) meaning 12 and theo(s)n meaning god. The word dodecatheon refers to the 12 principle or most important gods which resided on Olympus. Pliny gave this original name to Primulas which grew where he lived. Primulas were thought to be under the care and protection of the 12 gods. The reference to the gods in the scientific name is thought to note that the flowers look somewhat likes thunderbolts which would be cast down on earth the gods when they were unhappy about what was going on. Hendersonii refers Louis Forniquet Henderson(1853-1942) who was the first botany professor at the University of Idaho.

Dodecatheon hendersonii are seen on mass along the sides of Old West Saanich Road near Victoria.

Dodecatheon hendersonii are seen on mass along the sides of Old West Saanich Road near Victoria.

Henderson’s Shooting Star grow in shallow soils which are damp during the spring growing season and then become bone dry during the long summer droughts which can extend into October here. This is the perfect type of situation for these plants. Often I have found them growing amoungst the Camas leaves, along rocky edges of roads and on moss covered bluffs.

These  bright magenta  blossoms of Henderson's Dodecatheon will soon be replaced by brilliant blue Camus.

These bright magenta blossoms of Henderson's Dodecatheon will soon be replaced by brilliant blue field of Camus.

When growing Dodecatheon hendersonii it is best to reproduce their local environment the best you can. If you are successful they will seed themselves and you will have a nice colony to look forward to every spring.  plant in a mossy mix with rich soil, make sure it will drain adequately during the winter rainy season. They prefer to live below deciduous trees or shrubs or along the edge of such to be protected over the summer. These plants go completely dormant over the summer therefore it is wise to mark their site so as not to dig them up accidentally.

Henderson's Shooting Star next to a bluff of sandy gritty soil.

Henderson's Shooting Star next to a bluff of sandy gritty soil.

Henderson’s Shooting Star grow between 10 and  20cm tall(4-7in). They can grow taller if they are in richer soil. Here they tend to be in the shorter range. They are likely to be hardy to -10c(14f) or slightly colder. The last two winters have had spells of -10c and I think they have been more abundant than when the winters are warmer, maybe it is less likely they will rot. Slugs love these plants especially when they are just coming out of the ground in the early spring, protect them from these raiding feeders.

Can you imagine having a huge patch of Henderson's Shooting Stars growing wild in your backyard.

Can you imagine having a huge patch of Henderson's Shooting Stars growing wild in your backyard.

Some choice places to look for Shooting Stars:

Royla B.C. Museum has a great section on native plants:http://www.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/Natural_History/Plants.aspx?id=958

How to grow and propagate them from experts:http://www.goert.ca/propagation_guidelines/forbs/dodecatheon_hendersonii

All the Dodecatheons you could possibly want:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dodecatheon

Until we meet again on these blogging pages….

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One of the most noticeable things about southern Vancouver Island is how dry it is for long periods of the year. We often have little or no rain from late May through until the end of September. This is a very tough situation for most plants to endure if they are not adapted to it. I have seen many shrubs and trees scorch from the heat combined with lack of sufficient water. Luckily for us many native plants here are unusually attractive and grow well in the stony ground on the island. One tree which is endemic here is the Garry Oak (Quercus garryana) which stands out at this time of the year. it is also known as the Oregon Oak or Oregon White Oak.

Garry Oaks is  Quercus garryana

Garry Oaks at Beacon Hill Park in Victoria.

There are 3 varieties of Garry Oaks which live in Western North America. Quercus garryana var. garryana is found here and lives in the largest area which ranges from Southern California, along the coastal mountain ranges up to southern Vancouver Island and the gulf Islands. The variety var. breweri is found in the Siskiyou mountains in Oregon  with the final variety var. semota found in the Sierra Nevada area. This Oak was named by David Douglas to honor Nicholas Garry who helped him in his collection of plant samples in the Oregon area. Nicholas Garry(1782?-1856) was employed by Hudson’s Bay Company and later rose up to be the Deputy Governor of the company. Garrya elliptica is also named after him.

Garry Oaks found at Holy Trinity Church in North Saanich.

There are some majestic Garry Oaks found at Holy Trinity Church in North Saanich.

Garry Oaks are the only Oaks found in Western Canada and they are part of an endangered ecosystem which is in a very small area of southern British Columbia. Garry Oaks are very representative of the 116 species of plants, animals and insects which are found here and no where else in the world. This delicate ecosystem is under attack  mainly from expansion of human settlement and introduction of invasive and destructive species  from other places. large areas have been altered and changed and it is just recently that we have started to protect some of these remaining sites.

Sea Blush, Common Camas and Shooting Stars are but a few of the species growing amongst the Garry Oaks.

Garry Oaks have never really been important to the survival of native groups here.  They made combs and digging utensils with the wood or used it for fueling fires. The acorns were eaten but were not considered a choice food, but could be roasted or steamed and eaten.  Garry oak was known to be used medicinally for a treatment for tuberculosis and used as a drink for women before child birth.

The thick ridged bark protects the tree from fires which were used in creating Camas fields that native peoples farmed.

Quercus garryana generally have broad spreading rounded crowns which are made up of thick ascending crooked branches. These trees grow to 40-90ft (12-28m) tall  and nearly as wide. In areas where there are other competing plants these trees will often grow tall and gawky but in an open meadow their true form is seen. Young trees to around 25 years of age often look scrubby and will often be seen growing in groups.

These Garry Oak are found in Playfair Park and in the spring a sheet of blue Camas bloom underneath them.

Garry Oak are slow growing trees which will grow 8-12(20-30cm) in a year. They develop long tap roots and are amost impossible to transplant after they have been in the ground a few years. They need a sunny open site with very well drained soil. They do not make good lawn trees as they resent being watered during the summer and it can also cause them to become diseased. They do have natural insect pests which are often seen on the undersides of the leaves. These can become disfiguring  to the leaves some years but in others are hardy present at all. If you have the right site and would like a tree which needs little attention during the year, you might want to look into to this species or one of the other Oaks. Garry Oak grow in zones 6 through 10 (-10 f or  and higher temperature).

Male flowers are separate from the females on the same Garry Oak tree.

Learn more about Garry Oaks:

Garry Oak Ecosystem: http://www.goert.ca/

Where is Holy Trinity Church: http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM65KB_Holy_Trinity_Church__North_Saanich_BC_Canada

wiki on Garry Oaks: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quercus_garryana

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When I moved to the Victoria area I had heard about the wonderful climate, the slower pace and the stunning Garry Oaks. Naturally I was curious about everything, but it being the end of October when I arrived I had to wait to see what the spring would bring. I saw the Garry Oaks and waited in anticipation for the drier weather. I explored and read about the native plant and saw the Erythroniums (last weeks post) and then started to notice the bluest of blue Common Camas (Camassia quamash) blooming from what seemed to be the grass at the side of the road.

The Bluest of Blue Common Camassia quamash.

The Bluest of Blue Common Camassia quamash.

Common or Early Camas have probably been one of the most important plants in establishing a permanent aboriginal population in the Victoria area long before the area was visited by the Spanish and later by Captain Vancouver who visited in May of 1792 and saw the blue Common Camas fields in bloom. They were first discribed by David Douglas in 1827

The Camassia Field Seen From Dallas Road at the Bottom of Beacon Hill Park.

The Camassia Field Seen From Dallas Road at the Bottom of Beacon Hill Park.

West coast native groups were lucky to live in an area of abundant  natural food resources and were able to set up permanent settlements.  Camassia quamash bulbs were the main starch source for the people here. In fact families used to farm designated areas such as the Beacon Hill Park fields which were full of Commoon Camas. Like we do today they weeded, enriched the soil and harvested the Camassia quamash for a food crop in sustainable way. The bulbs were harvested in the fall and then processed.  One favorite method was to pit roast them for 24-36 hours, this produced a it becomes a product similar to a sweet potato except sweeter. These pit roasted Camas bulbs were eaten as soon as cooked.  They are a rich source of inulin and fructose a natural type of sweetener. Another method was to dry the bulbs and then pound them into a powder like material to add to thickens stews and other liquids. The other importance was as trade material, in this case the bulbs were dried and flattened into ‘Camas cakes’ for easier travel.

My Nephew Owen in the Camas Harvest Fields at Beacon Hill Park.

My Nephew Owen in the Camas Harvest Fields at Beacon Hill Park.

Who would not be dazzled when seeing the brilliant blue Camas fields in bloom for the first time. This is one of the prime tourist spots to go and have your picture taken. Many tour buses every day stop along Dallas Road at the bottom of Beacon Hill Park. Some other well known areas for Camas viewing are Uplands Park, Playfair Park, the Government House Woodlands area below Terrace Garden. Common Camas can be seen along  most sunny rural roadsides.

Garry Oak Restoration project of Camas Fields at Playfair Park in Saanich.

Garry Oak Restoration project of Camas Fields at Playfair Park in Saanich.

Common Camas species are part of one of the rarest ecosystems in Canada, the Garry Oak meadows which are endangered by development in southwestern British Columbia. Much of southeastern Vancouver Island was dominated by this ecosystem at one time. When settlers came they found vast open Camassia quamash fields already cultivated by the local population. These fields were perfect to introduce European crops to. Over time most of the meadows where turned over to crops and then to housing and commercial development. We are now learning to appreciate the importance of these areas and are trying to protect and reclaim areas from invasive and non-native plant materials.

The Camassia quamash Fields in the Woodlands at Govenment House.

The Camassia quamash Fields in the Woodlands at Government House.

If you are lucky you will see rare plants such as Shooting Stars(Dodecatheon), Trailing Yellow Violets(Viola), Spring Gold(Lomatium) and the rare Chocolate Lilies(Fritillaria) blooming in more undisturbed sites.

The Delicate and Beautiful Shooting Star(Dodecatheon hendersonii) amoungst the Common Camas.

The Delicate Shooting Star(Dodecatheon hendersonii) amongst the Common Camas.

Fortunately for us Common Camas are an easy plant to incorporate into the garden. They require deep well cultivated soil with plenty of water during their growing season in the spring and early summer. Add well composted material when planting them. Full sun is a must to produce good crops of flowers. If happy Camassia quamash will produce masses of seed which will  germinate and form colonies for you. When grown from seed Common Camas will take 2-3 years before you will see the first blooms. In the wild there is some variation in the blue shades, but all are spectacular. Bulbs are now mass produced and named hybrids have been developed. Common Camas bulbs and plants readily available from reputable nurseries therfore they should be seen more in gardens.

 Camassia quamash in the Terrace Garden at Government House.

Camassia quamash in the Terrace Garden at Government House.

So Much More to learn About Camas and the Garry oak Ecosystem:

Garry oak ecosytems and restoration: http://www.goert.ca/index.php

Paghat’s notes about Common Camas: http://www.paghat.com/camas.html

Cooking with Camas bulbs: http://mrcamas.com/Cooking-with-Camas.htm

Until We Meet Again Later This Week….

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When I first moved here I did what I always do, travel around the less used roads to get a feeling for the area. This area is quite different from where I had moved from (greater Vancouver) and the pace is slower.  It feels more like the area I grew up in, more rural and yet near a big city. Every season brings new things to learn about and experience that are different from anywhere I have been. One of the wonders are the delicate Lilies which grow along the roads and are in bloom right now.  Here the Erythronium oregonum used to be called the Easter Lilly. Now we call them White Fawn or WhiteTrout Lillies.

Erythronium oreganum Known as the White Fawn Lily.

Erythronium oreganum Known as the White Fawn Lily.

Children would pick arm loads of White Fawn Lillies and give them to their teachers because they they grew in such massive quantities. In some places they still grow thickly. Along Southgate Street which parallels Beacon Hill Park is a densely growing area of them which are readily seen as you  walk or drive between Blanchard and Quadra Street. They are truly spectacular and many people who visit the area stop and ask what they are and then just have to take some pictures.

Erygonium oregonum along Southgate Street in Victoria.

Erygonium oregonum along Southgate Street in Victoria.

We are truly blessed on the west coast of North America with having 23 of the 27 known species of Erythronium. They range from pure white to a strong yellow as well as pink and shades of these colors. Vancouver Island has 4 species; oregonum and montanum are white, revolutum is pink and grandiflorum represents the yellows.  Erythronium oregonum is the most common around this area.

The Attractive Mottled Foliage of of the White Fawn Lily.

The Attractive Mottled Foliage of of the White Fawn Lily.

There are many things that make Erythronium oregonum a choice plant for anywhere it would grow, the delicate flowers which dangle down high above the foliage, the foliage itself with it’s lovely yet subtle green and maroon tones, and the delicate seedpods which blow in the wind and are the only sign later that this plant has been here at all.  It is said that ‘John Burroughs’ named the species ‘Fawn Lily’ because he felt the leaves reminded him of the ears of a fawn. Most People think the name refers to the mottled leaves which is similar to the spotting and streaking on young  fawns which help them to hide better from predators. I think the White Trout Lily name comes from similar reasons.

White Fawn Lillies Growing Along a Road in North Saanich.

White Fawn Lillies Growing Along a Road in North Saanich.

Erythronium oregonum is definitely a connoisseur plant which we all dream about having in our garden, having said that, I know this is not an easy plant to grow. If you are lucky enough to have them already in your yard, you are indeed blessed. Last year I found one coming up in a area I had planted 10 years before, what a surprise. I already see it is blooming this year in the same spot. I truly hope it will spread itself and grow amongst the maroon colored Hellebores I have planted in the same area.

Southgate Erygonium oregonum Lily Field.

Southgate Erygonium oregonum Lily Field.

White Fawn Lillies are best grown in a site like which they come from. These are plants which grow in dappled sun, under deciduous trees. They need lots of moisture in their growing season which is in the first part of the year and then drier for the time that the seeds are ripening(if you want them) which is June and later.  they are fairly tolerant of soil types as long as it’s not chalky and dry. They of course need rich soil which is well drained as these are very deeply rooted plants. It is best to acquire these plants form a reputable nursery which does not collect them from the wild.

The Delicate Highlights of Maroon and Yellow Seen in White Trout Lily Blosssoms.

The Delicate Highlights of Maroon and Yellow Seen in White Trout Lily Blossoms.

Many areas where Erythronium oregonum live are being bulldozed to make way for city and road growth, fortunately for us there have been many areas set aside for the protection of native species. We are also becoming more aware of the beauty in which we live in and more of us are respectful of the sites where these and other rare local plants live.  Right now amongst the White Fawn Lillies you might find the delicate magenta Dodecatheon blooming and then very soon it will be the spectacular blue Camas which takes over.

Links to This Week’s Featured Plant:

A list of all the Erythroium which grow throughout the world and links to pages about them.

http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Erythronium

A little about growing Erythroniums and something about the meaning of the name.

http://www.rainyside.com/features/plant_gallery/nativeplants/Erythronium_oregonum.html

Beacon Hill Park in Victoria. http://www.beaconhillpark.com/

Until We Meet Again Later This Week…..

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I was fortunate to have spent much of my childhood out at the lake near the town we lived in. We spent weeks at the lake exploring it in the summer. I got to know every single native plant which grew there and we (my brothers and I) had our own imaginary gardens which had wild flowers… and what flowers we had!  When I came from the cold(zone3) to the Vancouver area(zone8) I had to learn a new group of native plants which grew on the coast. One of the most striking is Ribes sanguineum or Red Flowering Currant.

Red Flowerin Currant is Well Named.

Red Flowering Currant is Well Named.

The Red Flowering Currant is one of our showiest native plants and was introduced into cultivation by David Douglas (1799-1834) who had a short life but a huge impact in the world of horticulture. After starting work as a gardener at 11, he went on to apprentice at the gardens of Sir Robert Preston who had an incredible plant collection. after training at the botanical gardens at Glasgow University and the with the Royal Horticultural Society in London, he was sent to collect plant material in North America. He was quickly sponsored to go to the west coast by the Hudson’s Bay company who had a settlement at Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River.

A Paler Form of Red Flowering Currant, Possibly 'Tydman's White'.

A Paler Form of Red Flowering Currant, Possibly 'Tydman's White'.

Archibald Menzies had first discovered  Ribes sanguineum in1793 but it was introduced by David Douglas in 1826.  As you can imagine Red Flowering Currant was a great hit and is extensively used in gardens and parks in many areas now.  Since the original plant material has been introduce many fine forms have been selected ranging from the darkest red “King Edward IIV’  through pinks to the purest white ‘Icicle’.  there is even a golden leaved form ‘Brocklebankii’.

The Darkest Form Seen Here, 'King Edward IIV'

The Darkest Form Seen Here, 'King Edward IIV'

Ribes sanguineum is a small to medium size shrub which tends to have an upright form making it an easy plant to place in the garden.  it also lacks the thorns that many of the species have, which is why there is one placed in the children’s garden at Glendale Garden. I am sure the bright flowers and interesting maple-like foliage are interesting to kids who see it in the corner. Later it will produce a small crop of small dark fruit which is not very tasty unlike other Currants.

The Red Flowering Currant in the Childerns' Garden.

The Red Flowering Currant in the Childerns' Garden.

Growing Ribes sanguineum is easy.  One of the best plantings I see nearly every day is at the corner of Swartz Bay Rd and Wain Rd where the overpass is. If you are stopped waiting to turn onto Wain Rd from the overpass there, look across the road and see the Red Flowering Currants blooming right now.  This spot has no maintenance during the year except maybe some trimming of the shrubs. They can take full sun to fairly shaded locations, the only effect will be a more loose open plant in the shade.

The Largest Red Flowering Currant on the Corner of Wain Rd.

The Largest Red Flowering Currant on the Corner of Wain Rd.

Ribes sangiuneum will take any soil  which has some extra humus added to retain moisture during the dry months of summer and autumn here. Any park will have one or two planted. Pioneer Square (the Quadra Street cemetery) has a planting of pale pink and white ones along the back in deep shade which bloom very well.

Several of the Flowering Currants at Pioneer Square in Victoria.

Several of the Flowering Currants at Pioneer Square in Victoria.

Red Flowering Currants can be used in many situations such as in a shrub or perennial border, mass plantings, woodland settings of course and as  specimen in a early spring garden as the foliage is attractive the rest of the seasons.  Since there is a good range of  flower colors to choose from placing one of these will go with most color schemes. Their natural range is quite wide, from Southern California up into Alaska and east through Montana.  They are quite hardy(zone 6- 9) and tolerate -20c(-5f)  making it possible for these plants to be featured in most areas of the world.

Fruit and Foliage of Ribes sanguineum.

Fruit and Foliage of Ribes sanguineum.

Links For This Weeks Subject:

A little more on Red Flowering Currants http://www.habitas.org.uk/gardenflora/ribes_sanguineum.htm

On David Douglas who introduced Red Flowering Currants in 1827: http://www.plantsystematics.org/reveal/PBIO/LnC/douglas.html

Archibald Menzies who first found the plant and named it in 1793. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archibald_Menzies

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In the Great Victoria we a blessed to have many parks and rural areas which we can explore, often the nearest ones are the places that are overlooked.  I had been to Dominion Brook Park near where I live several times with my sister and her son to play and explore the large safe. It was only later when I took my father to see the park that I realized what interesting plants were there.  In reading about the history of the park this is not surprising. It has one of the oldest plant collections in the area. It dates back to 1913 when it was established by the then Canadian Department of Agriculture as a demonstration arboretum and ornamental garden for the public to enjoy.

Dominion Brook Park in North Saanich.

Dominion Brook Park in North Saanich.

Dominion Brook Park  still has significant collections of conifers, Hollies, Camellia and Rhododendrons which were imported from some of the most famous nurseries in the world. If you go to the park at this time and look across the main pond you will be surprised to see a fiery red Rhododendron blooming and sometimes reflected in the still water. This is one of the original Rhododendron which was brought from Arnold Arboretum by Ernest ‘Chinese’ Wilson to give to the new park. The red  Rhododendron strillgilosum is one of the species he discovered in his plant collecting trips in China which he became famous for.

 

Brillant Red Blossoms of Rhododendron strigillosum.

Brillant Red Blossoms of Rhododendron strigillosum.

 

 

Rhododendron strillgilosum overlooking the pond.

Rhododendron strillgilosum overlooking the pond at Dominion Brook Park.

Rhododendron strigillosum is a dramatic sight to behold at this time of the year and is a break from all the yellows, whites and other pastel colors that seem to dominate  now. The red coloring stands out from the other early blooming rhododendrons such as  sutcheunense(pink), dauricum(mauve) and moupinense(white to pale pink). the species is not too common to find and you will have to look in an specialty garden or collection. What is common are the hybrids from this strigillosum which bear definite resemblance to the parent and several have become famous in their own right.  Etta Burrow, Grace Seabrook, Malahat, and Taurus are but a few which are commonly seen in gardens in this area.

Rhododendron stigillosum is Loaded with Blooms.

Rhododendron strigillosum is Loaded with Blooms.

Rhododendron stigillosum is easy to recognize as is a large  rounded shrub or small tree which can grow to 25ft in a suitable location. It has long elliptical leaves with edges that are often rolled under. Looking more closely at the leaves, bristles which are reddish are seen coating it. These bristles are most noticeable on new growth  as well as on the branches.  This plant is found in the provinces of Sichaun and Yunnan, China at 7 to 11,00 ft( 2100-3400 m). It was introduced to Arnold Arboretum by E.H. Wilson in 1904.  It was award  an AM (Award of Merit) in 1925.

 

Rhododendron strigillosum in Finnerty Gardens.

Rhododendron strigillosum in Finnerty Gardens.

Rhododendron strigillosum and it’s hybrids are all easy to grow. Like all rhodos’ they like rich well drained soil with some extra organic material added early each year. Rhododendrons are shallow rooted therefore it is especially important that they are watered throughout the year. Next years flower buds are being set in late summer when we often have an extended dry period, if watering is neglected it will effect blooming the following spring!   Rhododendron are usually forest dwellers and show their displeasure at being exposed to too much sun by having yellowed leaves, dappled conditions are prefered.  These are fairly hardy plants and tolerate temperatures down to  5-14f (-10 to -15c). for short periods.

 

'Taurus', one of Rhododendron strigillosums offspring

'Taurus', one of Rhododendron strigillosums' offspring

 Links for Learning More About Rhododendron strigillosum:

A well researched article in the with some great insight  into the species. (PDF file)  http://www.ubcbotanicalgarden.org/vrs/january2008.pdf

Quick overview of the species. http://www.rhododendron.org/descriptionS_new.asp?ID=175

Dominion Brook Park Homepage:
http://www.northsaanich.ca/Municipal_Hall/Departments/Parks_and_Trails/Parks_Information/Municipal_Parks/Dominion_Brook_Park.htm

Who is Ernest ‘Chinese Wilson and why he is important to us.  http://www.plantexplorers.com/explorers/biographies/wilson/ernest-henry-willson.htm

Arnold Arboretum: http://www.arboretum.harvard.edu/

Until we meet again….

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This week I thought I would change things up and give you a bonus blog entry. There are just some many plants I want to write about.  Next week it will be back to the quiz, consider this to be your spring break.

Yellow is the colour I most associate with spring. There are some many yellow blooming flowers; Cornelian Cherries,Crocuses, Forsythia and the kings (or queens) of spring, Daffodils. I have always loved Narcissus from their bright sunny color to the light clean scent of their blooms. Having a vase of Daffodils in a room makes it feel more inviting and always brightens up a cloudy day.

Tete et Tete, the earliest Daffodil here.

Tete et Tete, the earliest Daffodil here.

Known from ancient Greek times and there are many references to the Daffodils in Greek literature. The coming of spring was associated with Persephone who was the goddess of the underworld and represented earth’s fertility. One day the beautiful Persephone went out to gather some flowers for her mother Demeter, she saw a golden flower that was put there her by her father Zeus, the king of all the gods. When she went to pick it, up popped Hades the god of the Underworld who whisked her down into the depths of the earth. He wanted her to be his consort and reign with him underground for all year but was forced to return to her mother’s people every spring. With her coming she brought spring, the reawakening of dormant fields and a new season of growing plants and productive crops. This is why the Daffodils have been called Persephone’s flower.

King Alfred, the Most Common Old Hybrid.

King Alfred, the Most Common Old Hybrid.

Another myth relates to the name Narcissus which is the species name for Daffodils. The handsome Narcissus was so self absorbed and in love with his own image that one day he paused to gaze at his image in a stream. As he leaned closer to admire himself more, he fell in and drowned in the water. Narcissus is the classic latin name derived from Greek “narkisso” or narke which is root of the word narcotic.

 

A Nice Bicolor which is Seen in the Victoria Area.

A Nice Bicolor which is Seen in the Victoria Area.

The name Daffodil is derived from an earlier “Affodell”, which is derived from the Dutch ‘de affodil’ meaning Asphodel (Asphodelus luteus, a member of the lily family found around the Mediterranean which has yellow flowers). Daffodil as a flower name is known from at least the sixteenth century in English literature. Another common name for Daffs is Jonquil which is said to come from Spanish jonquillo which refers to the leaves of the plant looking like that of common Rushes (Juncus species).

 

Some Daffodils Which are Closer to a Wild Form.

Some Daffodils Which are Closer to a Wild Form.

In Canada we often associate the Daffodil with the Canadian Cancer Society, for the flower is it’s symbol and represents hope. ‘Daffodil Days‘ began in 1954 in Toronto as a way to raise funds and has been incredibly successful. Originally it was a tea which was hosted at a large store which 700 ladies attended, Later it was extend to restaurants were involved in collecting funds for the society the first day of canvassing every year. Volunteers would be at the restaurants handing out Daffs to the diners. Curiosity from seeing so many Daffodils made people want to buy the flowers from the canvassers. The society realised that selling the flowers would be a good way to generate funds, and so the following year 5000 daffodils where shipped from Victoria to the Toronto area and sold. Selling of the blossoms continues to this day and the Cancer Society is now the worlds largest purchaser of the flowers, around 18 million a year, which are grown here. Last year in B.C. $450,000 was raised for the Cancer Society this way.

Imagine a Bouquet of These Daffodils on Your Kitchen Table.

Imagine a Bouquet of These Daffodils on Your Kitchen Table.

Daffodils are native to Central Europe, the Mediterranean region and a few species are found in China. There are many forms and colours for you to choose from if you want to grow some for yourself. Narcissus are probably the easiest bulbs to grow.. Choose plump clean bulbs which are not discoloured, dried out or mushy. The best planting time is between late August and early October after the ground has become moistened by rain, the longer the rooting period the better the product the following year. This gives the newly planted bulbs longer rooting time so they will increase in bulb, flower and stem size.

 

'Thalia', the Purest of the Whites.

'Thalia', the Purest of the Whites.

 Narcissus are not very particular about the soil they are grown in. the best will be slightly on the side of acid of neutral. They do not like sodden ground, so, free drainage is important. Soil should be deeply dug as these are large bulbs. Digging to double depth of a spade is recommended. At this time some humus can be incorporated with a dusting of potash to and further general fertiliser if needed. 

A White Bi-color With a Peachy Trumpet.

A White Bi-color With a Peachy Trumpet.

Planting depth is vital for the bulbs to produce flowers the following spring, if too deep flowers will not likely be seen and if planted to shallowly the bulbs could split. It is generally a rule to plant Daffodils with 10cm (8 inches) of soil over their tops. Smaller forms will be planted less deeply. The holes dug should be 2 ½ times the length of the bulb. By spacing of bulbs 15cm (6 inches) apart the plants can be left for up to 4 years before they need to be lifted for division. 

 

Mass Plantings of Daffodils are Impressive.

Mass Plantings of Daffodils are Impressive.

 

Links Related to This Post:

Wiki has an impressive page on Daffodilshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daffodil

The American Daffodil Societyhttp://www.daffodilusa.org/

The story of how Daffodils are associated with Cancer Research. http://www.cancer.ca/Canada-wide/How%20you%20can%20help/CW-Fundraising%20activities/CW-Daffodil%20Days.aspx

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When my sister was a little girl she was a very ‘girlie’ girl, wearing long prairie dresses and had long flowing beautiful hair like a little princess.  I always wanted to get her special little gifts, one time i found this charming little white glass flask of perfume which was painted with purple violets. She loved the gift and played with it in many ways and still cherishes that bottle to this day. The elusive fragrance in that container was extracted from the Sweet violet (Viola odorata), one of the most famous of all scents.

Sweet Violet

Sweet Violet

This extremely dainty plant has been known since the ancient times as having special appeal. Around the Mediterranean area most cultures which originated there knew of it’s special properties and used it for medicinal treatments. In Rome it was used Viola odorata for scenting sweet wines, the Greeks knew it as a herb and made perfumes with it.  It is used in Indian Ayurvedic and the Unani systems of medicine to reduce inflammation and easing of colds and coughs. It is also listed in Arabic and Persian medical writings.

Common color of Viola odorata.

Common color of Viola odorata.

Sweet Violets have been written about in famous verses, who hasn’t said at least once ” Roses are red, Violets are blue”, I know I have. In Medieval times Sweet Violets were used as a herb which was spread or strewn about the house to ‘sweeten’ the air. Napoleon was so obsessed with the tiny flower that he is said to have died wearing a locket filled with the tiny blooms from Josephine s'(his first wife who adored it) grave.  During Victorian times there was a mania for Sweet Violets, at this time there were 4 known varieties. It is noted that by 1874 over 6 tons of the tiny flowers were harvested in France each year to supply perfumery as well as to be sold as tiny bouquets or posies on street corners.  Corsages worn by women were very popular into the early 20th century. With the end of the Victorian era came the end of the Violet mania which was waning by 1910.

Viola odorata 'Alba'.

Viola odorata 'Alba'.

Sweet ‘Scented’ Violets have an elusive fragrance which is so ethereal that it disappears all most as soon as you sense it. For a few minutes it literally numbs your scent receptors. It of course is it’s Victorian connections which people relate it to, elderly ladies with blue hair and all of that and because of this it is thought of as somewhat cloying and old-fashioned.  The scent is interesting so it is no surprise that culinary confections have and are created using Viola odorata blossoms or extracts and fortunately all of the plant is edible. Candied flowers are a popular and beautiful addition to fancy cakes and petite-fours. It is a popular addition to salads for its delicate foliage, colorful flowers and flavor.

Viola odorata Foliage and Blossoms.

Viola odorata Foliage and Blossoms.

Viola odorata is a widespread plant, it is native to much of Europe and north Africa and spreads east to the Caucasus into to Turkey, through to northern Iran. It is a plant found along edges of woodlands and other sunny spots such as banks and along roadsides. It blooms extremely early in the year starting in late Febuary and continueing through March here.

A  more Red Form of Viola odorata.

A more Red Form of Viola odorata.

Viola odorata an easy plant to grow and will grow in any site from gravel to more damp to almost boggy sites.It is most important they have adiquate moisture during the hot summer months.  If happy Sweet Violets will seed around and this might be a problem to consider. It is common to see them in lawns as they are so short that they can be mown over with no damage.  There are color forms from deep violet(said to be most fragrant) through reddish forms to pure whites as well as doubles. The modern forms have lost their scent, so when selecting you might want to smell them first if that is important to you.  They respond very well to annual replanting, so don’t be afraid to move them around in the spring after they bloom. They are hardy to -20c(-30f)- zone 4 through 8. Newer forms might be less hardy.

Red Sweet Violets after Blooming.

Red Sweet Violets after Blooming.

Links for This Plant:

An intersting article about the plant and its history:  http://www.nytimes.com/1991/03/03/news/gardening-it-s-raining-violets.html

Plant Heritage page all about these wonderful Violets: http://www.nccpg.com/Page.Aspx?Page=94

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