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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

Looking at the quirks of Quercus coccinea:

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

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

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

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When I was going to horticulture school we learned mostly practical plants, not many where exotic or unusual. This is perfectly locical as we were going to be the designers and sellers of materials for people who did not know what was best for their yards. As I learned the trees and shrubs I would travel up and down the streets and avenues in the area I lived looking for new specimens I was learning. One winter day I went out and was walking along a school edge and admiring the symmetry of the tree species which was planted along the property edge, all of a sudden I realized this was a row of Tulip Trees(Liriodendron tulipifera)  which I found so appealing. I then had a new appreciation for the tree and why it was selected for us to learn about.

The typical shape of a Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) leave is seen here decked out in fabulous fall color.

The typical shape of a Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) leave is seen here decked out in fabulous fall color.

The Liriodendron species is very old, in fact it dates back to the Cretaceous era. This era was 145.5 to 65 million years ago.  At that time Liriodendrons grew in across the northern hemisphere. It is believed that the last ice age  Liriodendrons retreated into to two area, eastern North America(L. tulipifera) and China(L. chinense) and developed into 2 distinct species that we know today. Liriodendron tulipifera now grows in eastern North America from Florida to southern Ontario and west into parts of Texas and Missouri and Iowa. It is in the Great Smoky Mountains along the Tennessee , North Carolina state borders were it grows its best.

There are many Tulip Trees throughout  Victoria, these trees are along the Heywood St. entrance in Beacon Hill Park.

There are many Tulip Trees throughout Victoria, these trees are along the Heywood St. entrance in Beacon Hill Park.

The name Tulip tree is something of a puzzle, people wonder if it refers to the tulip- like leaves or the flowers.  In botanical latin Liriodendron refers to ‘greek’ Leirion meaning a lily and ‘dendron’ meaning a tree. Liriodendron= a ‘lily tree’. Then we add tulipafera or’tulipa’ the latin name for the Tulip flower. Liriodendron(lily tree) + tulipifera(Tulip) = Tulip Lily flowered Tree.  Although the leaves do look like tulips in their own way , it is the rarely seen flowers which are high up in the tree which are refered to. The flowers of this species are very primitive and are formed in a spiral of pistils and stamens in a conical receptacle. Surrounding the conical form are 9 narrow sepals which take the place of petals and on the inside of these is an orange stripe.

The unusual pale green 'Tulip Tree' flowers ishigh in the tree and often not easily seen.

The unusual pale green 'Tulip Tree' flowers is high in the tree and often not easily seen.

Tulip Trees are the largest broad-leaved trees in eastern North America and the wood they provide is a very good quality hardwood. Other common names they go by is Tulip or Yellow Poplar or even Yellow Wood. The wood quality is hard, finely grained and taking a high polish, this is why it is used for such things as furniture, veneers and paneling and toys. The first use of this wood was for dugout canoes made by the native  people who found the huge trunk size useful for the purpose.

Massive Tulip Trees are an important source of lumber in Eastern North America.

Massive Tulip Trees are an important source of lumber in Eastern North America.

Liriodendron tulipifera can grow to about 42-50m(150-165ft) in an urban situation which makes their placement difficult in most small garden plots. Tulip trees are really best for large lawns or park-like settings. They are excellent trees for boulevards and other street tree settings.  They have the added attraction of being fairly pest and disease free, I never see leaf damage on these trees around here. Another bonus is the beautiful golden and brass shades seen in the autumn as these trees shed their leaves in autumn.

The Attractive autumn color of the Tulip Trees line this walk at St Ann's Academy in Victoria.

The Attractive autumn color of the Tulip Trees line this walk at St Ann's Academy in Victoria.

Liriodendron tulipifera is an ancient tree but is easy to grow.  It grows best in full sun or  light shade in the hotter, drier parts of North America. It likes deep, rich, slightly acidic soil which does not dry out during hot spells in summer and fall. They have fleshy roots which are poorly branched and probably brittle therefore care must be taken when planting beneath them when they are young.  These trees tolerate -25c(-20f) or zones 5 through 9.

The conical arrangement of the Tulip Tree seed-head falls apart to reveal single-seeded samaras.

The conical arrangement of the Tulip Tree seed-head falls apart to reveal single-seeded samara.

Propagation of Liriodendron tulipifera is easily done by seed or grafting for the more attractive forms. There are at least 2  very attractive variegated forms. Other forms are fastigate or have more unusual growth habits.

The furrowed bark of Liriodendron tulipifera is attractive and easily recogonizable.

The furrowed bark of Liriodendron tulipifera is attractive and easily recogonizable.

Trailing Tulip Trees:

Some great pictures of the elusive flowers: http://ontariotrees.com/mondaygarden/article.php?id=0095

Always a good source of plant information: http://www.hort.uconn.edu/plants/l/lirtul/lirtul1.html

Wikis’ page on Tulip Trees: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liriodendron_tulipifera

Until we meet again here….

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Every season there is a plant that you really notice here on the island which you do not see in elsewhere. That is because we have a unique eco-system. In the winter the Garry Oaks are most noticable, in the spring it is the fields of blue Camas and the delicate Easter Lillies (as old timers call the plant) and during the summer there are these shrubs growing all over with white panicles of tiny flowers which are not seen on the mainland.  That plant is wonderfully named Ocean Spray(Holodicus discolor) and you see it everywhere right now.

The frothy white panicles of Ocean Spray(Holodiscus discolor) is seen everywhere here in the early summer.

The frothy white panicles of Ocean Spray(Holodiscus discolor) is seen everywhere here in the early summer.

Ocean Spray may look like a woody overgrown  Astilbe but is actually a member of the Rose (Rosacae) family, it’s all in the microscopic flower structure you know!  Holodiscus discolor grows here on southern Vancouver Island and then south through to California. It grows surprisingly scattered in areas of the southern  interior of B.C.  into Idaho, Montana and south  ending up in Nevada. sometimes the interior form is classified as Holodiscus dumosus but it is unclear if it is possibly a variety or seperate species. It grows in a range of areas because it is quite drought tolerant and hardy.

A typical Ocean Spray growing amongst the grass and rock.

A typical Ocean Spray growing amongst the grass and rock.

Ocean Spray is 1 of 8 in the species Holodiscus that range down the North and South American coast from British Columbia to Bolivia. The Greek name Holodiscus refers to the ‘disc’ structure in the flower and discolor refers to the leaves which are a greyish color on their undersides.

A panicle of thousands of tiny slightly fragrant, disc-like flowers make up the showy plume of Ocean Spray.

A panicle of thousands of tiny slightly fragrant, disc-like flowers make up the showy plume of Ocean Spray.

Holodiscus discolor was introduced by David Douglas in 1827, at that time is was thought to be a type of Spiarea and was later taken out of that species and renamed. Ocean Spray has long been used by native groups for many things. The wood is known to be very hard and the branches were harvested and used for tools, furniture and many small objects. The wood was often prepared by further hardening using fire and then polishing using Horsetail(Equistum). Arrows, spears and harpoons were also made this way.

Holodiscus discolor is a multi-stemmed shrub which can be pruned to show of the beautiful bark.

Holodiscus discolor is a multi-stemmed shrub which can be pruned to show of the beautiful bark.

When the leaves of Holodicus discolor come out in the spring they often have a nice burnished color which can continue into the early summer, in the fall they turn golden and glow out among the other vegetation.The leaves and flowers were in the past used for medical purposes, tonics were made to treat a wide range of maladies such as smallpox, measles, chickenpox and as a blood treatment.  The leaves were made into poultices and were used on sore lips and feet. The bark was ground,  with oil and then applied to burns.

The attractive leaves of Holodiscus discolor are often burnished in the spring and turn golden tones in the autumn.

The attractive leaves of Holodiscus discolor are often burnished in the spring and turn golden tones in the autumn.

Ocean Spray is a fast growing, multi-stemmed shrub which has an arching habit. It can grow to 5m(16ft) high by almost the same. Water, Soil and pruning can keep it well in control, I have seen much smaller shrubs which grow little over 1m(3ft) in hard to grow in sites. Holodiscus discolor can be pruned up and thinned out to make a more delicate and useful plant. These plants grow in full sun to part shade, they are often seen as under-story shrubs in the Garry Oaks here. Spent flowers can be removed as they are somewhat unattractive when they are finished.

A path in the Woodlands at Government House takes you through a natural arbour of Holodiscus dicolor shrubs.

A path in the Woodlands at Government House takes you through a natural arbour of Holodiscus dicolor shrubs.

Holodiscus discolor can be used in large gardens or borders. It also fits in native gardens, drought tolerant locations and the flowers and seedheads are butterfly and bird attractants. Little is needed to be done as these plant survive on poor to good soils and summer droughts. they also are good for retaining soil on slopes and grow right along the ocean-side (Ocean Spray really is a good name).

I found this wonderful pink tinged Holodiscus discolor and think it should be propagated and sold as a new color variation.

I found this wonderful pink tinged Holodiscus discolor and think it should be propagated and sold as a new color variation.

Holodiscus discolor is rated at hardy to -30c(-22f) or zone 4b-9a.  I think you should choose plants grown locally or at least as close to the temperature range as where you are to assure it will survive if you come from a colder area.

Discussing Holodiscus:

Fact sheet from Virginia Tech: http://www.cnr.vt.edu/Dendro/dendrology/syllabus/factsheet.cfm?ID=211

Plants for a Future: http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Holodiscus+discolor

Where it is distributed in British Columbia: http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Holodiscus%20discolor

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Since i started this blog in january last year one plant has been on the top of the list almost every day. It has the most hits every day other than ‘namethatplant.com. I have wondered why this is, maybe it’s the early time of year that it blooms, or is it the color of it’s flowers, or is it that it has very fragrant flowers…I think it is all of this and it’s genus. It’s genus is Viburnum and there are many other wonderful members to explore. One member which I am seeing increasingly here is  the Korean Spicebush Viburnum (Viburnum carlesii) and its wonderful named selections.

Vibrunum carlesii has light to almost red buds which open to pale pink in to a pure white.

Vibrunum carlesii has light to almost red buds which open to pale pink in to a pure white.

Korean Spicebush comes to us from (not to surprisingly) Korea mainly and ranges into areas of Japan. There are two varieties, var bitchiense which is found in Korea and on the Japanese islands of Honshu and Shikoku, it has narrower leaves and the individual flowers have longer tubes. Var. carlesii alos comes from Korea but is found in southern areas as well as the southern Japanese island of Tsushima which is found near the larger island Kyushu.

This Korean Spicebush Viburnum has broader leaves.

This Korean Spicebush Viburnum has broader leaves.

The Viburnum genus is quite large and consists of 150-175 separate species. They are almost all found in the northern hemisphere and are found around the globe through North America, Europe and Asia. There are a few species scattered in mountain ranges of South America and North Africa as well as south east Asia.

Viburnums always have attractive foliage and Korean Spicebush is no exception.

Viburnums always have attractive foliage and Korean Spicebush is no exception.

Viburnum is the original Latin name for the species and it is thought that the particular type was possibly Viburnum lantana. Carlesii refers to William Richard Carles (1849 – 1929) who collected plants in Korea during the years of 1883-85. He was the British Vice- Consul in China from 1867 to 1900.  During that time he was posted to Korea and took several trips to explore the interior of the country. He sent plants which he collected to The Royal Botanic Garden in England.

This Viburnum carlesii is found in a shady part of Beacon Hill Park.

This Viburnum carlesii is found in a shady part of Beacon Hill Park.

Several wonderful selections of Korean Spicebush have been made at the famous Slieve Donnard Nursery in Northern Ireland and these are probably are found in better gardens in my area. They are: ‘Aurora’ which has pinkish flowers, ‘Diana’ is said to be more vigorous, and ‘Charis’ has white flowers.  More recently new forms have been named  in North America.

This Vibrunum carlesii is found in the refurbished Japanese Tea garden found in Esquimalt Gorge Park.

This Vibrunum carlesii is found in the refurbished Japanese Tea garden found in Esquimalt Gorge Park.

Viburnums are fantastic garden plants which offer several seasons of beauty. Many have beautifully veined leaves which turn wondrous shades of amber, peach and scarlets in the fall. Many offer copious amounts of red or blackish berries also.  Korean Spicebush is no exception and this which is why it is an excellent garden plant. The scent where it gets it name is powerful and said to smell like Daphne or cloves.  Use this plant near travelled area, open windows or enclosed areas which have afternoon sun to release more scent.

A recently planted Virburnum carlesii is found in the lower cutting garden beside Government House.

A recently planted Virburnum carlesii is found in the lower cutting garden beside Government House.

Viburnum carlesii is an easy and accommodating plant to grow in the garden. It likes moist acidic well drained soil. It likes to be positioned in an area where it gets afternoon sun or full sun, this promotes better flowering and fruiting. It grows to be a rounded shrub of about 1.8m(6ft) high and slightly wider. It is quite hardy taking -20c(-4f) with no trouble at all. As it sets buds on old wood, the best time to prune is just after it blooms. Pruning is generally not needed except for shaping.

Stronger light leads to better heads of flowers and fruit on a Korean Spicebush.

Stronger light leads to better heads of flowers and fruit on a Korean Spicebush.

Links to like:

A good source of information: http://www.hort.net/profile/cap/vibca/

Another informative page on this plant: http://hcs.osu.edu/hcs/TMI/Plantlist/vi_lesii.html

A general Wiki page on Viburnums: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viburnum

The more plants I grow the more I know…

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When I was in Horticulture school we learned many plants ranging from small ground covers, larger shrubs and finally to the majestic trees. Some of these plants are very overused while others are not seen enough, it all depends on how well known and in fashion they are.  One tree I learned is much more common in Vancouver than it is in Victoria and that truly is a pity. What I am referring to is the ‘Katsura’ tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) which has many features that it should be on most peoples lists of ‘must have’ trees.

Cercidiphyllum japonicum or 'Katsura Trees' on a rainy spring day in Vancouver.

Cercidiphyllum japonicum or 'Katsura Trees' on a rainy spring day in Vancouver.

At one time, long ago, Cercidiphyllum japonicum grew wild in a much larger area. Fossil records show Katsura trees lived in Europe and western North America during the Miocene Epoch 5 to 23 million years ago. Now They are found only in Japan and China. They are found in south central China,  particularly in north west Szechwan province where E.H. Wilson found forests of them in 1907. The trees found in China were considered to be a variety Cercidiphyllum japonicum var. sinense at one time and were said to be more tree-like.  In Japan they are found at valley bottoms where the soil is richer and there is more rainfall which these trees need.

The attractively shaped leaves is one of the most appealing aspects of 'Katsura' trees

The attractively shaped leaves is one of the most appealing aspects of 'Katsura' trees

Cercidiphyllum japonicum was introduced into cultivation in a most unusual way. Thomas Hogg  Jr(1819-1892) who owned a plant nursery with his brother James. He was appointed a U.S. Marshal by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862 and was then assigned to a diplomatic mission to Japan. While he was there, Thomas sent seeds of Cercidiphyllum japonicum to his brother  in 1865. His brther germinated them. Thomas was in Japan 10 years and also introduced several other well known plants;  Hosta ‘Thomas Hogg’  now called H. undulata var. albomarginata is probably the most famous.

Typical fall color of Cericidiphyllum japonicum found in the perennial border at Playfair park in Saanich.

Typical fall color of Cericidiphyllum japonicum found in the perennial border at Playfair park in Saanich.

Katsura trees tend to be multi trunked specimens which have strongly ascending branches. The leaves are relatively small and delicate compared to what the trunk and branches can become when these trees become more massive with age. It is intersting to note that these trees are also somewhat unusual in that they are dioecious meaning they are male or female plants.

A massive trunk of a Cercidiphyllum japonicum found in Beaconhill Park in Victoria.

A massive trunk of a Cercidiphyllum japonicum found in Beaconhill Park in Victoria.

In an ideal world Katsura trees grow to be enormous, Wilson found forests of trees with trunks of 2(6cm) and 3ft(90cm) widths and had regrown from their original stumps after the original trees had been harvest.  The largest one he noted was a remnant of a 17.5ft(5.33m) wide stump base. In the wild these trees can attain a height of 100ft(30m), but about half this in garden settings.  These trees are the most important source of wood  in Japan, and is used extensively for cabinetry and paneling there.

The color range of Cercidiphyllum japonicum ranges from crystal clear yellows through oranges and crimsons into plums as seen here.

The color range of Cercidiphyllum japonicum ranges from crystal clear yellows through oranges and crimsons into plums as seen here.

As autumn approaches Katsura trees put on a display for the senses, visually they are stunning with a color range few trees can achieve. On any day you will feast your eyes on shades of clear yellow, butter, many shades of peach and apricot, and into more striking crimsons and plums. You will notice they give of a pleasant odor as the leaves turn color, some describe it as ‘honey like’ and others say it has more of a’caramel’ or ‘brown sugar’ quality. How ever you explain it, it is a pleasant surprise which many people look forward to every year.

The striking golden tones of a happy Katsura tree changing color in the fall.

The striking golden tones of a happy Katsura tree changing color in the fall.

Cercidiphyllum japonicum is almost a perfect tree. It is very pest free and adaptive to most locations. In a garden setting it will grow to about 50ft(15m) tall which will fit in nicely to many landscapes. It makes an excellent multi stemmed residential, commercial, golf course or park tree. One thing you must keep in mind when placing it is having an adequate supply of water during the dry months.  Plant them in deep, rich, well drained soil. They need full sun to look their best.  This tree tolerates temperature down to 20f(29c). Newly emerging leaves can be damaged by late frosts.  there are several forms now on the market worth looking into if you are interested. the weeping forms are very attractive in the right location.

The same Cercidiphyllum japonicum in summer and fall. The corner planting along Quadra and Fairfield in Victoria.

The same Cercidiphyllum japonicum tree in summer and fall. The corner planting along Quadra and Fairfield in Victoria.

More on Cercidiphyllum japonicum:

Excellent summation of  Katsura trees: http://www.arhomeandgarden.org/plantoftheweek/articles/katsura_tree_11-2-07.htm

A very complete listing of important plant people, scroll down to Hogg: http://www.plantsgalore.com/people/plant-people-H.htm

Wiki’s listing of the famous Katsura tree and relatives: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cercidiphyllum

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