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Posts Tagged ‘Early spring flowers’

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 was going to college in Vancouver in 1989 my mother came to visit me. While she was staying with me we decided to go to Dr. Sun Yat Sen Chinese Garden which had recently opened in Vancouver. It was built using the traditional techniques used during the Ming period in China. While were there admiring and learning about the construction we spotted a low shrub like tree with an enormous bizarre seedpod hanging from it. The seedpod had split open and the brilliant vermilion seeds were exposed and some of them were hanging down on sticky threads. We asked what kind of plant it was and were told it was a Magnolia.

he Fuzzy Perule Protects the Delicate Magnolia kobus Flowers Inside.

The Fuzzy Perule Protects the Delicate Magnolia kobus Flowers Inside.

Magnolias which are very common in this area.  Many spectacular Magnolias blooming at this time of the year  owe their parentage in part to the Magnolia kobus (Kobushi Magnolia) and there is a spectacular Kobus Magnolia at Dominion Brook Park which I eagerly look forward to seeing in bloom each year, and the time is now!

Kobus Magnolia in Bloom.

Kobus Magnolia in Bloom.

When I was in School at that time we spent a lot of time at Park & Tilford Garden where we did our practicum and has a large collection of other Magnolias. There I was able to study many Magnolia species but not  the Kobus Magnolia. I stumbled upon the one I am writng about because I frequently go to visit local parks searching for wonderful plant specimens to photograph.  The location of this Magnolia kobus is hard to miss when it is flower. It’s located next to the sunken garden which is across from the main pond.

Magnificant Magnolia kobus at Dominion Brook Park.

Magnificant Magnolia kobus at Dominion Brook Park.

Magnolias are fascinating as they look like they come from a different age and they do, they are older than most plants that inhabit the earth. They are thought to have evolved in the Tertiary period 2 to 65 million years ago.  They are a more primitive plant as their flowers attest to. Magnolias are unusual in that they have tepals which are neither petals or sepals(confused yet?), but look just like petals. The flower stamens and pistols are arranged in rings which encircle the stigmatic column where the seed is produced. Magnolias evolved over millions of years when there were only beetles to do the pollination. Beetle pollinated flowers are generally very large, white pink or red in color and have copious amounts of pollen which is a rich food source for them. They usually do not have nectar or fragrance (some Magnolias including kobus have a light scent).  The thick unusual seedpod carpals are designed to protect the embryonic seeds from the beetles.

A Closer Look at a Magnolia kobus Blossom.

A Closer Look at a Magnolia kobus Blossom.

Kobus or Kobushi Magnolia is a common tree throughout Japan and is found locally on the island of Cheju-do (Quelpart Island) on the southern coast of South Korea.  This Magnolia was introduced in to North America first in 1861 by Dr. George Hall of Rhode Island. Other seeds where later sent to Arnold Arboretum in 1876 which had been collected from trees in Sapporo by William Clark. Magnolia kobus was finally brought to  England in 1879 by Charles Maries, the famous plant explorer. The seed he brought back were grown at the world renowned Veitch’s Nursery.  The different seed sources has lead to the variability in the species in cultivation which I have seen here in Victoria.

One of Several Magnolia kobus Planted Along Linden St. in Victoria.

One of Several Magnolia kobus Planted Along Linden St. in Victoria.

Magnolia kobus are are probably the most spectacular of hardy all hardy trees with their fantastic blossoms. Thiss is a good tree to select for home gardens as it is smaller than many other Magnolias. It is particularly hardy for Magnolias and is known to withstand temperatures of -30c(-25f) for short period,but is safer to plant no lower than zone 5 . Kobus Magnolia are also more tolerant of different types of soil, only suffering when planted in thin dry soils. It is best if they have deep, moisture retentive soils which are humusy.  These are forest trees which prefer part shade but can grow in full sun.

The Delicate Buds of Magnolia kobus Can be Damaged by Late Frosts.

The Delicate Buds of Magnolia kobus Can be Damaged by Late Frosts.

You have to be patient for the first bloom as these trees are usually 12 or 15 before they first bloom. One thing you have to keep in mind with all Magnolias is they have very brittle roots and do not like being moved so much care must be taken in the process of choosing a site and planting. Later the fragile roots can be damaged by careless cultivation under the tree.

Links for this article:

More about Magnolias(great seedpod picture too).  http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Magnolia

Dr. Sun Yat Sen Garden in Vancouver. http://www.vancouverchinesegarden.com/

Dominion Brook Park is where you can see this tree.

http://www.northsaanich.ca/Municipal_Hall/Departments/Parks_and_Trails/Parks_Information/Municipal_Parks/Dominion_Brook_Park.htm

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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