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Posts Tagged ‘February blooming’

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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Although it has been unusually cool and wet already this winter it is surprising how much is going on in the garden right now. Already the buds on many shrubs are stirring and growing larger and I have seen germinated seedlings with their first leaves emerging from places. The earliest blooming plants are starting to show up. One group of plants which never let us down are Hellebores and several species and hybrids are blooming or are in bud. One of the more interesting and fairly new to this area are the Helleborus x ericsmithii group. This plant selection was formerly known as Helleborus x nigerstern.

 Helleborus x ericsmithii brings together the best genes of 3 species into a spectacular plant.

Helleborus x ericsmithii brings together the best genes of 3 species into a spectacular plant.


Helleborus x ericsmithii is named after the important plantsman and propagator Eric Smith (1917-1986) who was the first person to successfully cross Helleborus niger( the Christmas Rose) with Helleborus x sternii ((H.argutifolius x lividus).
 Here we have Helleborus niger on the left, H. argutifolius on the lower right with H.lividus leaves in the background.

Here we have Helleborus niger on the left, H. argutifolius on the lower right with H.lividus leaves in the background.


Eric Smith grew up in South Hampshire England, he came from a middle class family. In 1940 he joined the army and was stationed for part of his time in Italy. After the war he was educated as an architect and worked as an assistant for several year. He always had a love for plant and joined the famous nursery Hilliers in Winchester from 1961 to 1965. While at Hilliers he worked as a propagator and first made the cross which lead to the group of plants we know as Helleborus x ericsmithii today. Later in the 1960s he would leave Hilliers and continue developing many other plants which are now associated with him. These plants would include many Hostas, Bergenias, Anemones and Kniphofias.
 A fine combination of plants found at Government House with Helleborus x ericsmithii being the star in earliest spring.

A fine combination of plants found at Government House with Helleborus x ericsmithii being the star in earliest spring.


Each of the 3 species of Hellebore brought something important to the new Helleborus x ericsmithii.  Helleborus niger brought the largest flowers. Helleborus argutifolius brought much-needed tolerance for the cold, green shades to the flower color range and toughness to the leaves.  Helleborus lividus brought pink tones to the flower coloring and improvement in the leaves with wonderful silver veins which new varieties are showing off more than the past.
 The pink and green shades blend together with the cream into a tapestry of tones in Helleborus x ericsmithii.

The pink and green shades blend together with the cream into a tapestry of tones in Helleborus x ericsmithii.


Helleborus  x ericsmithii brings us a long blooming season which usually begins here in early January and lasts through March. As the flowers are somewhat papery they generally can stand up well to the wet weather. The only thing one sees is soil which may splash up on the lower flowers. The leaves may sometimes become damaged when we have a particularly early frost such as the one we had in November of last year. Have no fear new leaves will appear to replace any of the damaged ones.
 This recently planted Helleborus x ericsmithii and will with time grow to be a formidable plant with countless blossoms.

This recently planted Helleborus x ericsmithii and will with time grow to be a formidable plant with countless blossoms.


Helleborus x ericsmithii is an easily grown plant and can be used in many ways as long as you fulfill its basic needs.  This is a plant which likes rich deep soil that is well-drained, it does not like to have overly wet roots as this can lead to rot. In the area I live in the Pacific north-west this plant does best in about half day sun, dappled situations are the best. In hotter and drier climates it will need more shade and more frequent watering.  Another thing to keep in mind is all Hellebores hate having their roots disturbed and sulk or sometimes die, therefore, carefully choose where you are going to place them and try not to move it. Always remove spent leaves and flowers to keep the area clean.
 Several Helleborus x  ericsmithii plants make an excellent container planting for winter color.

Several Helleborus x ericsmithii plants make an excellent container planting for winter color.


Helleborus x ericsmithii are used in many ways, in containers, as winter color and in the winter garden, as a specimen or accent or a border. These plants grow 20-25cm. (8-10 in.) height and grow into a clump up to 30-40cm (12-15in) wide making it an excellent addition to the rock or alpine garden. These plants are hardy to about -15 c.(5 f.) or a little colder with protection.These plants have few pests other than Aphids which may appear when the flowers are young and tender.  These Hellebores are said to be deer and rabbit resistant.
 These aged gflowers of Helleborus x ericsmithii will soon be finished as they are sterile and do not set viable seed.

These aged flowers of Helleborus x ericsmithii will soon be finished as they are sterile and do not set viable seed.


Propagation of Helleborus x ericsmithii is done by tissue culture or you can carefully divide your plant after is has finished blooming. Be careful when dividing the plants and do not damage the roots. Look at your nearby nursery or garden centre for many newer varieties which have a broader range of flower colors and variegation in the leaves. Many of the new plants are spectacular and can be hard to track down.

Hunting for this Hellebore:

The book about Hellebore is a wealth of information: http://grahamrice.com/hellebore/species/ericsmithii/index.html

One of the more commonly found forms you can find at your garden centre: http://www.perennials.com/seeplant.html?item=1.256.760

Information on Eric Smith is hard to find: http://books.google.ca/books?id=6idvRAeex8IC&pg=PA165&lpg=PA165&dq=propagator+eric+smith+hellebores&source=bl&ots=XKUbK-HBxl&sig=O0cSVUj4SqZxf08pAkCNmWnjT6A&hl=en&ei=NU8zTdyyM5TmsQPkwOmtBQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=8&ved=0CEMQ6AEwBzgK#v=onepage&q=propagator%20eric%20smith%20hellebores&f=false

……Until we meet again in the sun or showers…..

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When I was doing my Horticulture practicum in North Vancouver I saw many plants which were new to me. Some other plants were different, they grew more vigorously in the mild climate. I was introduced to some commonly grown plants which I was first seeing in a more wild form. One day when we taking a turn about the garden I spied a strange form of Tulip and asked what it was; I was told it was a species Tulip…much more delicate then the robust forms that are common at this time. I have been enamored of the dainty species Tulips ever since.

Tulipa kaufmanniana 'Johann Strauss'

Tulipa kaufmanniana 'Johann Strauss'

Many bulbs we are familiar with originate in the mountains of Central Asia and travel through Iran and Turkey and end up in eastern and southern Europe. Tulips fall exactly into this pattern. The species Tulips I am showing you today come mainly come from an area of Central Asia which is called the Tian Shan (Sky Mountains). It is part of the Himalayan orogenic belt which was formed when the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates collided and creates the highest mountain ranges in the world. It is also through this area that the Silk Roads of ancient commerce travelled.

 This group of Tulipa praetans are found high up in the Terrace Gardens at Government House.

This group of Tulipa praetans are found high up in the Terrace Gardens at Government House.

Tulips have come to us from those same commerce exchanges, this time from the Turkish court of Suleiman the Magnificent to the court of the Holy Roman Empire. They were brought by Ambassador Ogier Ghiselin de Bubecq. He had seen the flowers in his travels to Constantinople in 1554. We know the flowers grew in Augsburg in 1559 as they were described by Conrad Gessner. After that there was no turning back with the popularity of the flowers and they were soon in cultivation in the Nederlands. They became a symbol of luxury and were much  coveted by the wealthy.

Tulipa turkestanica has small starry flowers and a lax habit.

Tulipa turkestanica has small starry flowers and a lax habit.

Many Tulip species have been crossed with others, in some cases this happens in the wild where species ranges of growth overlap. In most cases crosses are done to produce larger flowers with strong stems and create new color ranges. Tulips cover a rainbow of colors from nearly blue through reds, oranges and yellows to creamy white and back into plums and violets. Every shade and variation within these colors is seen.

Tulipa clusiana var. 'Chrysantha', a form of the delicate Lady Tulip.

Tulipa clusiana var. 'Chrysantha', a form of the delicate Lady Tulip.

The orginal name for Tulip is leleh which is Persian. The French Tulipe is from the Turkish ‘tulbend’ which means turban.Turkish tulbend is corrupted form of Persian dulband also meaning turban. Tulipa is the Latinate form of this Turkish word. In English the word first appeared as Tuliphant and later changed to Tulip. Are you confused now?

Tulipa greigii 'Chopin', all greigii's have beautifully marked leaves.

Tulipa greigii 'Chopin', all greigii's have beautifully marked leaves.

These speices Tulips come from mountainous areas or the vast Steppes of Central Asia. many grow on rocky slopes or in scrub, others by streams which run early in the year and later dry up. Other species come from woodlands and are slightly more lush in their growth. they dot the slopes and grssy lands like jewels blooming briefly in the cool spring sunshine.

Tulipa bakeri 'Lilac Wonder' is also known as saxitilis and comes from the island of Crete. This is a light color form.

Tulipa bakeri 'Lilac Wonder' is also known as saxitilis and comes from the island of Crete. This is a light color form.

We are very fortunate that  many species Tulips are easy to find and as equally adaptable to grow in our gardens. Always buy your bulbs from a reputable dealer who does not get them from wild collected supplies. It is very important we protect all species of plants growing in the wild.

Tulipa kolpakowskiana  has a beautifully colored bud.

Tulipa kolpakowskiana has a beautifully colored bud.

It is best to grow all Tulips in rich, sandy well draining soil. The best flowers and foliage are produced by having a site which is in full sun. They need most watering during the spring when they are vigorously growing. Tulips do not like excess wetness when they are dormant over the summer into the winter. after flowering they should be left while their leaves die down and wither, after this the bulbs can be lifted and stored for later replanting. In warmer climates bulbs can be planted in the fall. Tulips generally are rated at zone 4-5  -25c(-20f).

Tulipa bakeri, a darker form.

Tulipa bakeri, a darker form.

Tulips make excellent container plants. For most impact plant bulbs in close groups. Species Tulips are generally small in overall height and should be placed near the front of a border. the are perfect in an alpine or rock garden.

Interesting Links For You:

Pacific Bulb Society has an excellent site for searching out new bulbs:http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/Tulipa

Tulip history and the madness which happened:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulip_mania

Central Asia, where so many of our treasured species come from:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Asia

Until we meet again along the flowering path…

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When I started horticulture school in North Vancouver I learned many plants which I thought would grow in greenhouses here. I was surprised to learn over time that this area has the best climate and the widest range of plant materials of anywhere in the world. This is do to the mild climate, not too hot or cold. One plant which I saw during the winter which looked very plain and burst forth in incredible bloom at this time of year were Camellias and specifically Camellia japonica(Japanese Camellia). These flowers look so incredibly beautiful to me.

Camellia japonica 'Debutante'

Camellia japonica 'Debutante' is one of the most popular named cultivars seen here.

Who would not want to fall in love with these beautiful plants. Japanese Camellias come in colors ranging from the purest white through pinks and corals in to blood reds. Some are blotched while other blooms are lined or edged with contrasting color. Many flower forms from single to double with many variations in between add to the interest  when waiting for a newly discovered plant to bloom.

Camellia (Contessa) 'Lavina Maggi'

Camellia (Contessa) 'Lavina Maggi' is an old variety which originated in Italy in 1858.

Camellias have long been cultivated and hybridized in their native Japan. They are found in the wild growing in the woods and hills on down to sea level on the islands of Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu. 3 varieties are recognized there and it is related to the flower shape and structure. The lowland form has upright flowers with filaments joined for 1/3 to 1/2 their length. The upland form is subspecies(subsp.) rusticana(honda) and has a more open flower with the stamen fused only at the base. The third variety has large fruit which have thick walls and are variety(var.) macrocarpa and are found by the mountains  on south Shikoku  and Yakushima islands.

I found this interesting Camellia japonica form in Beacon Hill Park.

I found this interesting Camellia japonica form in Beacon Hill Park.

Japanese Camellia were first introduced to Europe in 1739 by Lord Petre.  Portugal was one of the first places where Camellias where grown and appreciated. Linnaeus named these plants after Joseph Camellus or Kamel (1661-1706) who was a Moravian Jesuit priest that travelled and wrote about the plants especially those on the island of Luzon in the Phillipines.

The  beautiful and unusual Camellia japonica 'Magnoliaeflora'

The beautiful and unusual Camellia japonica 'Magnoliaeflora'

When Japanese Camellias where first introduced in the England they were thought to not be hardy. Wealthy plant collectors would build special greenhouses to keep their collections in. Several of these buildings still exist and have plants which grow up to the roof in them, one famous example is at Chatsworth House, the home of famous plant collectors the Dukes of Devonshire.

I found this Camellia Japonica cultivar at Esquimalt Gorge Park where a famous Japanese Tea Gardens are.

I found this Camellia Japonica cultivar at Esquimalt Gorge Park where a famous Japanese Tea Gardens are.

From Europe the wonderful Japanese Camellia has been grown throughout the world. Australia and New Zealand now have well known hybridizers who have given new vigour in to developement of new flowers.  Some of the best newer Camellia are crosses with other species such as reticulata, and especially saluenensis which is more hardy.

Camellia x williamsii 'Donation', probably the most beautiful and sucessful  japonica x saluenensis cross.

Camellia x williamsii 'Donation', probably the most beautiful and sucessful japonica x saluenensis cross.

we are lucky that Japanese Camellias are very adaptable and easy to please. They can grow to very large sizes with time, up to 9m(30ft) in height and 4.5m wide, I have seen very large plants which are taller than a house here. Fortunately giant plants take many, many years as Camellias are considered to be slow growers. Japanese Camellias like early season sun but need to be protected from strong light later in the year, ideal situations are under or near large deciduous trees and other woodland sites.. They yellow and burn when the sun is too strong here. they also need to be sheltered from cold, freezing, drying winds as the early blooms can be damaged by frost.

Camellia japonica 'Jury's Yellow', a 1976 developement from New Zealand.

Camellia japonica 'Jury's Yellow', a 1976 developement from New Zealand.

Japanese Camellias like good slightly acidic or neutral soils with good spring moisture for when they are growing and producing their blooms and leaves. Camellias are used as specimens, container plants, accents or even as informal hedges. They fit into shrub borders and the back of perennial beds for color when the bulbs come up. They require little or no pruning and are extremely long lived, plants can live several hundred years.

This Camellia was formerly known as 'Lady Clare', we are now using its correct Japanese name 'Akashi-Gata'

This Camellia was formerly known as 'Lady Clare', we are now using its correct Japanese name 'Akashi-Gata'

Some interesting and ravishing places for you to look at:

An interesting Japanese site in English: http://homepage3.nifty.com/plantsandjapan/page021.html

A vast collection of pages and pictures to identify Camellias:http://www.camelieantiche.com/index.php?osCsid=d57514480eeb38224cef68ba02bb1b9d

An incredible slide show of the 2008 Spanish Camellia Show: http://www.flickr.com/photos/24923827@N07/sets/72157604207205187/show/

Wiki page on Camellia japonica: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camellia_japonica

Until we meet again soon….

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Growing up in the north, at this time of the year winter was long in the tooth… we were all tired of it. We desperately looked forward to any warm days when the snow would melt and maybe a patch of green would show through the dirty snow. My mother had planted some tiny bulbs under an Alder bush which would grow into a tree. the bulbs would be the absolutely first things to bloom often before the ice and snow had left the ground. No wonder their common name is Glory in the Snow (Chiodoxa forbesii). Their incredibly intense blue blossoms where always cherished.

Glory In The Snow-Chiondoxa forbesii

Glory In The Snow has such an 'eye catching' color which stands out against any background.

Chiondoxa in Greek means literally Glory in the Snow; ‘Chion’ being snow and ‘doxa’ being glory. There has been some confusion with the specific species name which was formerly lucillae and this is still commonly seen in trade as well as in publications.  Lucillae was the name given by Edward Boissier for his wife (Lucile (1822-1849) who died accompanying him on his travels.

A small clump of Chiondoxa forbesii found in the rock garden in Beacon Hill Park, Victoria.

A small clump of Chiondoxa forbesii found in the rock garden in Beacon Hill Park, Victoria.

The name we now use is Chiondoxa forbesii. Forbesii commemorates James Forbes(1773-1861), the head gardener and horticulturalist of Woburn Abbey which was owned by the passionate plant collector the Duke of Bedford. Forbes wrote Hortus Woburnensis which was a listing of all the  6000 + species and varieties of ornamental plants which were held in the collection in his time.

 Chiondoxa 'Pink Giant' is one of the more commonly seen varieties seen here.

Chiondoxa 'Pink Giant' is one of the more commonly seen varieties seen here.

Whatever the name on the bulbs is you can be sure they originated in the same small area in western Turkey high in the Tmolus Mountains near Izmir. In the area where they grow Glory In The Snow often bloom before the snows have completely melted, therefore the common name. There Chiondoxa species  grow on gritty, stony slopes in full sun or under deciduous trees and shrubs.

Here at Domion Brook Park in North Saanich, Glory in the Snow has naturalized in the lawn over many years.

Choindoxa forbesii has been with us for some time and the bright blue flowers are always a favorite in the garden and lawn. because they are so low growing, early blooming and aggressive seeders they make good bulbs to include in lawns for early color. I see this in many places here where it is common the see the same with Crocus, Galanthus and Daffodils. We have an ideal climate with winter wet and droughts during the summer when these types of bulbs are resting.

Outside more door every morning I see the bright Chiondoxa forbesii blooming happliy

Outside more door every morning I see the bright Chiondoxa forbesii blooming happliy

Growing these dainty darlings is easy. Glory In The Snow likes well-drained soil with full sun especially when they are growing in the late winter and early spring.  When they are growing is the time they most need some moisture, later when they are dormant they prefer to be quite dry.  These plants are best grown under deciduous shrubs and trees especially in areas of strong sun. I like them under many of the early blooming shrubs and in areas which are brightened up by the bright colors. One must be careful if planting them  that they do not over take other small plants growing near by.  Remove spent flowers and sometimes dig up excess bulbs will take care of the problem of their over population.

Chiondoxa 'Pink Giant'

A contrast in pink shades. Chiondoxa 'Pink Giant' and a dark Heather.

Glory In The Snow are hardy to zone 4 or -29c (-20f). At the colder extremes you should give them some extra mulch for winter protection. They grow at the most 15cm (6in.) above the ground. If you choose to naturalize them in your lawn you should postpone you first mowing until they have finished  their growing cycle and are in decline, this will assure you a good colorful show of flowers the following year. If you like white forms be on the lookout for Chiondoxa forbesii var alba, a glistening member which would be attractive to see.

Glory in the Snow links:

Paghat’s page on the ‘Pink Giant’ http://www.paghat.com/chionodoxapink.html

Wiki’s page on Choindoxa:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chionodoxa_luciliae

Until we meet again soon…

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This time of year, no matter where I am, up north in deep snow, down on the coast in the rain or somewhere else when the sun comes out I want to either work a garden or explore in the woods.  This year the spring weather has come extraordinarily early and since I have recently moved I have started explore new areas in the city. My first stop was to change my library card and to explore  Colquitz River Trail which runs along the river of the same name. I was hunting for the not so elusive Osoberry or Indian Plum(Oemleria cerasiformis)plants which are in bloom now, I stalked along the walk and …..alongside the path were several!

 The Oemleria cerasiformis is one of the first native plants to bloom.

The Osoberry is one of the first native plants to bloom.

On gloomy wet days when I go for a walk I see these shrubs with their glistening white racemes of pure white flowers which hang from the tips of branches like  perfect dew drop earings. The Osoberry is a small tree or more commonly shrub which lives on the Pacific side of the coastal mountains, its range is from Santa Barbara County in U.S.A. north though into southern B.C. One of its common names refers to the fruit (fleshy drupes) which when ripe look like tiny thumb-sized Italian plums, and indeed they have stones  which are also perfect miniatures of that fruit.

The Indian Plum has plentiful fruits, but you better be quick to harvest them.

The Indian Plum has plentiful fruits, but you better be quick to harvest them.

The fruit is ripe when it is bluish black and was eaten by local native groups, they savored them fresh, cooked and dried.   Oso(berry) refers to bears liking to eat them. Birds (Robins), squirrels, deer, coyotes and many other animals love to feast on the fruit as well. Let us not forget the bees which enjoy this early source of nectar.

Indian Plums can be found in many parks here, this group is found by the bathrooms at Beacon Hill Park.

Indian Plums can be found in many parks here, this group is found by the bathrooms at Beacon Hill Park.

Native people also used parts of the Osmaronia cerasiformis medicinally.  Burned twigs were pulverized, mixed with Oolican grease and applied to sores. A tea made from the bark was used as a purgative and tonic. Decotions where made for tuberculosis. It is said to be not only anesthetic  but an aphrodisiac as well. Osoberry is a member of the Rosaceae(Rose family) whos seeds often have small amounts of hydrogen cyanide in them. hydrogen cyanide from these types of sources  has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion if carefully administered by a professional.

Colquitz River Trail is a good area to view Osmaronia cerasiformis.

Colquitz River Trail is a good area to view Osmaronia cerasiformis.

To my eye Osoberry are vase-shaped shrubs which are delicate looking throughout the year, this is partly do to the attractive thin leaves which keep their bright green coloring until the fall when they change to a clear butter yellow. It is not a densely leaved shrub therefore it never looks heavy or lumpy, but has a more wispy quality to it. In the winter without leaves the form of these shrubs can be highlighted.

Finnerty Garden has done a wonderful job pruning their Osoberry into small tree forms.

Finnerty Garden has done a wonderful job pruning their Osoberry into small tree forms.

Osoberry is seen in many areas here, along paths, roadsides, meadow edges  and creeks and in many rocky areas growing under the Garry Oaks. They are in full sun or dappled light. They like rich humusy soils which can retain some moisture during our dry summers here. if they become too dry during the summer they will start to drop some of their leaves. They take pruning very well and this should be done after they have bloomed. They usually are pruned for shape but also can be cut to the ground to revive them and tidy them up.

Osoberry are male or female plants and often grow in thickets under Garry Oaks as seen here at Government House.

Osoberry are male or female plants and often grow in thickets under Garry Oaks as seen here at Government House.

Indian Plum are male or female plants. If you want a good crop of berries for the wildlife or you, you will have to have both sexes of plants.  I have seen incredible crops of berries and have made tasty syrups and jellies which are similar to cherry flavor. These plants grow to 6m(20ft) high and 3.7m wide in places where they are most happy. They are rated zones 7 though 10, cold tolerant to -18c(10f).

This unripe crop of Indian Plums is high above my head.

This unripe crop of Indian Plums is high above my head.

Help for hunting Indian Plums:

Rainyside has an interesting page: http://www.rainyside.com/features/plant_gallery/nativeplants/Oemleria_cerasiformis.html

Technical information on the berry: http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Oemleria%20cerasiformis

Paghats’ Indian Plum page: http://www.paghat.com/indianplum.html

Until we meet again later….

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When I lived in Prince George I had a large cactus and succulent collection which I carefully brought outside during the warm months. I studied the species and hoped to find some of the more interesting forms. One form was round like a baseball and was a Euphorbia. Of the 2000 members of the Euphorbia species there are the cactus-like, weedy annuals,the festive Poinsettia and shrubby perennials. There are several great garden plants which are well worth growing in any garden. Euphorbia characias (Mediterranean Spurge) is one of the most attractive of all plants you can grow.

A perfectly grown Euphorbia characias ssp.characias in full sun.

A perfectly grown Euphorbia characias ssp.characias in full sun.

Like many of the plants we grow in our gardens Euphorbia characias has a long and interesting history. There are 2 main forms which grow from one end of the Mediterranean to the other side. We start in Portugal with the form Euphorbia characias subsp.characias which grows through Spain and across to Morocco and Libya. It travels through the islands of Sardinia and Malta and onto Italy. From this point  east you will encounter Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfeniii. In the ‘east’ I mean through the former Yugoslavia, Albania, through Greece and into western Turkey.

I think this is what Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii might look like growing in the wild.

I think this is what Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii might look like growing in the wild.

Theophrates(372-287B.C.) was the first to describe Euphorbia characias in ‘Enquiry into Plants’. specific name characias comes from the Greek xaraxias and was first was used to identify the plant by Dioscorides in the 1st century AD.  Dioscorides talked of using the white ‘juice’ or sap as a way to remove or lighten body hair. Pliny also mentioned using the sap medicinally. That ‘juice’ is a natural form of latex which is a well know irritant  as well as being poisonous.

Handle with care: All parts of Euphorbia characias can irritate the skin!

Handle with care: All parts of Euphorbia characias can irritate the skin!

Recently we have seen a new form of Mediterranean Spurge turning up in gardens; variegated forms which have very uniform variegation on the leaves and bracts. The coloring is generally lovely shades of creams which highlight the already beautiful uniformity of the plants.

The lovely Euphorbia characias 'Glacier Blue' is said to have a more intense blue green coloring.

The lovely Euphorbia characias 'Glacier Blue' is said to have a more intense blue-green coloring.

Mediterranean Spurge are unusual in that older plants are more susceptible to dying from bad weather, this is thought to be caused by them becoming more woody and leggy with age. Most plants generally do not live beyond 10 years. Fortunately for us, if the plant is in a site it likes it will self-sow and create it’s own replacement. Propagation for the named varieties has to be done by cuttings whereas the species and subspecies are often done by seed.

The color from the floral bracts of Euphorbia characias lasts for months

The color from the floral bracts of Euphorbia characias lasts for months

Euphorbias are interesting in because they have an unusual floral structure, their color comes from specialized leaves called bracts. The flowers themselves are very small and insignificant. The bracts are often somewhat papery and retain their coloring for long periods during the time that the seeds are developing.

The chartreuse bracts are much bigger than the Euphorbia characias flowers.

The chartreuse bracts are much bigger than the Euphorbia characias flowers.

We are lucky that Mediterranean Spurge is a fairly hardy and adaptable plant and is easy to grow in many places. They grow best in full sun and well drained soil. These plants have biennial stems which are leafy the first year and produce the flowers the second year, after they are starting to fade cut the stems down as far as you can.  Persistent cold with damp are especially hard on these plants and will often kill the older ones develop thick woody taproots. Use these plants in flower borders, mixed beds, as specimens or accents. They grow between 80cm and 160cm (3 to 5ft) depending on the type and location, the more shady the spot the more leggy the plant. They are hardy zones 7 through 10 and tolerate temperatures as low as –10c(10f) if it is a well drained site.

Several large Euphorbia characias 'Glacier Blue' found in the long border at Government House in Victoria.

Several large Euphorbia characias 'Glacier Blue' found in the long border at Government House in Victoria.

More on Mediterranean Spurge:

The best all round article I have come across:http://www.floridata.com/ref/E/euph_cha.cfm

I love to see where plants come from:http://www.maltawildplants.com/EUPH/Euphorbia_characias.php

Another page which is more on the science side: http://www.nature-diary.co.uk/mallorca/euphorbiales.htm

Until we meet again later on….

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