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Posts Tagged ‘colorful foliage’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comparing Cyclamens:

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

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

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

……….See You Really Soon I hope……….

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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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The muted colors of the autumn season will soon be upon us, the plants are beginning to look tired from the long hot summer. The end of the season brings on a slow decline. It is harvest time, the moon is big and the crops are high and full of ripeness. Certain plants remind me of this season because I would only see them now when I was growing up in the north. Dahlias are the flowers I remember being huge and have brilliant and interesting petals and color combinations.

A sumptuously colored Dahlia with a 'Ball' classification of flower.

A sumptuously colored Dahlia with a 'Ball' classification of flower.

There are about 35 species of Dahlias which all originated from central America, from Mexico through Guatemala, Hondurans Nicaragua, Costa Rica and other areas. The first Dahlias which was documented were encountered by Francisco Hernández de Toledo(1514-87, who was a naturalist and physician to the King of Spain. He was sent on the first scientific exploration of the new world in 1571 and spent 7 years gathering and classifying specimens he collected and interviewing the local people on their use. His works were published in 1615.

The first species Dahlia recorded would have been single flowered and look something like this.

The first species Dahlia recorded would have been single flowered and look something like this.

Later another botanist, French Nicolas-Joseph Thiéry de Menonville was sent to Mexico in 1776 to steal cochineal insects (the source of red dye at the time). He went unofficially succeeded in bring back the insects. In the notes of his adventure he notes Dahlias were unusually attractive flowers. Dahlias where first grown in Europe at the Madrid in the botanical gardens there in 1789. The seed had been sent from the botanical gardens of Mexico. The first plants were named  Dahlia coccinea in 1791.

Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff'(1924) is one of the most famous culitvars of the past and is now widely available.

Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff'(1924) is one of the most famous culitvars of the past and is now widely available.

Other seeds of different species where later germinated in England and roots were sent to Netherlands to grow. Crossbreeding began from these original collections of plants is where all our fancy Dahlias come from today. During the 19th century thousands of new cultivars where grown and the best were selected for their brilliant colors and unusual flower and petal forms. The name Dahlia honors Anders Dahl who was a Swedish botanist.

This brilliant bi-color Dahlia is classified as a ' Semi-Cactus' flower form.

This brilliant bi-color Dahlia is classified as a ' Semi-Cactus' flower form.

Since 1900 flower forms have been classified into groups. Dahlias are now bred for competition which is very popular here, at this time there are test gardens and competitions which are judged. Kids love the flowers which can range in size from the small cm(2in) to 30cm(1ft) or more in diameter. The overall size of the plant also have an extraordinary range from less than 60cm(2ft) to 3.5m(10ft). The range of color and petal forms and heights is due to the fact that they are homologous and have 8 sets of chromosomes compared to the normal 2 which most other plant have.

This Dahlia cultivar exhibits not only very unual petals, but, also streaks of colors in them.

This Dahlia cultivar exhibits not only very unual petals, but, also streaks of colors in them.

The popularity of Dahlias is partly do to the ease of growing them and their availability in such a range of colors and forms. You can buy them anywhere that plants are sold as roots, seeds or in packs of small plants.  Like all good plants they like rich, deep, well-drained soil with plenty of nutrients. They need full sun and plenty of water during their growing and blooming stages, this will help them avoid getting unsightly mildew(greyish powdery fungus on their leaves). The larger flowered types should be in a shelter  from strong winds.

The vivid colors of Dahlia flowers are hard to overlook in the garden at this time of the year.

The vivid colors of Dahlia flowers are hard to overlook in the garden at this time of the year.

Although Dahlias are considered hardy annuals and can take a touch of frost and survive If you want to save the tubers it is best to harvest them before this happens.  Dig them up carefully as the skin is thin and can be damaged easily.Remove the leafy tops and let them dry slightly, After they have dried a bit place them in a layer of dry peat moss. Place them in a cool dark place for over winter storage.  Check them periodically for any signs of rot or decay and cut it off or throw it out. You can have flowers for many years this way. In a few months you will notice small bud which show which to plant them. Plant them when all chances of frost is over or start them in a sunny location in your house a few weeks before you plan to plant them.

There are many classes of Dahlia flower forms, this is a beautiful Semi-Double form.

There are many classes of Dahlia flower forms, this is a beautiful Semi-Double form.

Dahlias are important to Mexico. The Aztecs grew and harvest the plants for food, medicinal and decorative  purposes. The strong woody flower stems were also used for water tubes and pipes. In 1963 the Dahlia was declared the national flower of Mexico.

Deconstructing Dahlias:

Classification of Dahlia flower forms: http://www.dahliaworld.co.uk/dahlia.htm

Dahlias according to WIKI: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dahlia

Storing Dahlia tubers: http://www.dahlias.net/dahwebpg/TuberStor/TuberStor1.htm

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