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Posts Tagged ‘Glendale Gardens’

When I was working at Park & Tilford  Gardens during my practicum I worked rotations in all parts of the gardens there. Each section had different challenges and things to learn. Everyday we would have to start with the rotine things like skimming the pool for leaves or deadheading the roses, one day as I cleaned in the display garden I smelled the most wonderful perfume coming from a plant. Being curious I had to find out where the scent was coming from and to my surprise it came from a huge white rhododendron. I asked about this plant and found out it was one of the famous Loderi Rhododendrons‘, ‘Loders White’which I have not seen since that time. Here in Victoria I have discovered several more all with the same delicious scent.

Rhododendron x 'Loderi Venus' has the most sumptuous of coloring in the Loderi group.

Rhododendron x 'Loderi Venus' has the most sumptuous of coloring in the Loderi group.

‘Loderi’ Rhododendron where developed by Sir Edmund Loder (1849-1920) who bought Leonardslee Estate(St. Leonard’s forest) in 1889 from his wifes family.  Sir Edmund then started to plant the estate with a collection of plants which included everything from vegetables and fruit for household use  as well as trees and shrubs. It is here that he did his crossing of two well known species of Rhododendron to produce what we know as Loder Rhododendrons.

Rhododendron 'King George' is considered to be the best of the 'Loder' Rhododendrons.

Rhododendron 'King George' is considered to be the best of the 'Loder' Rhododendrons.

‘Loderi’ Rhododendrons were developed by crossing the pollen(male)of species griffithianum with fortunei (female). The species ‘griffithianum which is very tender contributed the extremely large flowers and often the beautiful bark, and the ‘fortunei’ added its scent, hardiness and more vigorous growth. Both of these species had already been used a great deal for hybridizing as they were some of the first to be brought to Europe.

The species 'fortunei' contributed color, fragrance, vigor and cold hardiness to Loderi Rhododendrons.

The species 'fortunei' contributed color, fragrance, vigor and cold hardiness to Loderi Rhododendrons.

From the original crosses made in 1901 a number of selections of ‘Loderi’ Rhododendrons were made and named. All of the plants are extremely large growing and obtain tree-like size.  Colors range from pure white through creamy shades into a mid pink. All have been award numerous medals in the garden world including Awards of Merit(AM), First Class Certificates(FCC) and Awards of Garden Merit(AGM) which all come from the Royal Horticultal Society(RHS).  Here in Victoria there are several places to view these plant  with the best being Finnerty Gardens. Also look in the Novitiate Garden at St. Ann’s Academy and Glendale Gardens for other forms.

The attractive 'Loderi' bark is seen here in the collection at Finnerty Gardens.

The attractive 'Loderi' bark is seen here in the collection at Finnerty Gardens.

‘Loderi’ Rhododendrons are big plants with some attaining over 10m(30ft) with time, they are also as wide. You will need a large space which is not near a building for them to grow their best. Here they can be grown in almost full sun with no damage seen, in other areas where light is stronger a woodland setting would be more appropriate. Rhododendrons likes acidic soils which are slightly damp as they have shallow roots. Mulching every year is also a good idea. Loderi Rhododendrons are rated as tolerating -15c(5f) at the extreme. Propagation is by cuttings which are slow to produce.

Every year People come to Finnerty Garden to photograph the beautiful 'Miss Josephine Firth', a massive Loderi Rhododendron.

Every year People come to Finnerty Garden to photograph the beautiful 'Miss Josephine Firth', a massive Loderi Rhododendron.

The flowers of Rhododendron 'Miss Josephine Firth' fade to almost white as they age.

The flowers of Rhododendron 'Miss Josephine Firth' fade to almost white as they age.

Notes to Look at:

History of Leonardsee and Loders’ Nursery:http://www.leonardsleenursery.com/history

Rhododendron fortunei:http://www.rosebay.org/chapterweb/specfort.htm

Rhododendron griffithianum: http://www.rhododendron.org/descriptionS_taxon.asp?ID=17

Until we meet again along the garden path….

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

Dodecatheon hendersonii is known as Broad Leaved Shooting Star.

Dodecatheon hendersonii is known as Broad Leaved Shooting Star.

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

An extremely rare white form of Dodecatheon hendersonii.

An extremely rare white form of Dodecatheon hendersonii.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some choice places to look for Shooting Stars:

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

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

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

Until we meet again on these blogging pages….

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This is an article I wrote for ‘The Society of Friends of  St Ann’s Academy‘.  St Ann’s Academy is where  most of the pictures for this article were taken.

One job I have done at St. Ann’s Academy is checking the plants(trees and shrubs) listed as growing here in 1986 was correct. For the most part the list was correct, some had trees had been removed due to damage or illness. Many new plants had to be added to the list by 2004 when I started doing this work. This was because of the reworking of many areas including the formal driveway, parking lot, courtyard and most especially the Novitiate Garden which had not existed before. Many of the new plants are common such as Box and Yew which are suitable for the style of building and it’s age, others are more decorative. One plant special plant is hidden in the corner of the Novitiate Garden To see it you have to climb the stairs at the back of the church to be able to view it. This plant is the wonderful Mahonia x (media) ‘Charity’ a formidable cousin of our well-known Oregon Grape.

This Mahonia x 'Charity found at St Ann's Academy will bloom for months.

This Mahonia x 'Charity found at St Ann's Academy will bloom for months.

Mahonia x ‘Charity’ is one of several named seedlings of a cross of two species which are native to Asia; M. Japonica and M. Lomarifolia. This crossing was done at the famous Slieve Donard Nursery in Northern Ireland in about 1950. From the seedlings which prospered several were selected for their special qualities and named. They were named by the famous plantsman Christopher Brickwell ‘Faith’, ‘Hope’ and ‘Charity’ Of these three ‘Charity has become the most famous and easily obtainable, why this is I am not sure. I can say every time I see this plant; no matter where it has been or the season, I am impressed.

Mahonia x Charity spring growth.

The wonderful color of the new growth contrasts nicely with the exterior or Government House in Victoria.

Mahonia x ‘Charity’ is one of those gems which blooms in the winter season and then produces a great flush of wine tinted foliage followed by a great show of berries in the spring. The many small flowers are a buttery yellow and held upright on long racemes which are at the top of the plant. The flowers bloom from the base of the racemes up and continue to open for several weeks and not damaged by frosts. The golden spikes are quite a show being 2 ft(1.5m) tall and wide as well as being fragrant.

Mahonia x 'Charity' spring foliage and berries coloring up.

Mahonia x Charity has wonderful spring foliage color and a large crop of berries begining to color up, all feaures worthy of a star plant.

The leaves are typical Mahonia like, but, in giant proportions. Each leaf is made up of an average 17 leaflets. ‘Mahonia x Charity’ leaves are a typical thick leathery medium green with spines along the edges and tip.They can get a reddish tinge in the cooler months that is attractive. The leaves also have a subtle glossiness which looks good all year-round.

Mahonia x Charity leaves and flowers.

The leaves and flower raceme of Mahonia x 'Charity are huge compared to others of the species.

With such large leaves and big flower spikes you would expect big stems and you are right, although they look elegant because this is a multi-stemmed beast. The stems light brown color nicely contrasts with the green leaves.The whole plant can grow to be dense with closely held foliage if it is placed in the right location. Mahonia x ‘Charity’ like to placed where they are in dappled sun during the bright summer months, then with full sun during their flowering season which is anywhere from late October into March depending on where you are. Here it blooms every year during October and November(which is why I am writing about it now).

Mahonia x Charity

This Mahonia x Charity is found at Glendale Gardens and shows off it stems which are quite attractive.

Mahonia x ‘Charity’ prefers rich moisture retentive soil. It is best to place it in a spot where it gets some shade as it will be more yellowed otherwise.You have to be patient with this plant as it is slow to establish and may take several years before it blooms for you. It needs a good-sized space 8 ft(2.5m) by 6 to 8 ft(2-2.5m) wide to be comfortable. It is a very versatile shrub which looks good all year especially now. It is commonly used as a specimen, for winter interest, in large borders which can be mixed shrubs and or with perennials. If you have the space you won’t be disappointed in this Deer resistant shrub.

Buttery yellow Mahonia x Charity flowers.

Each flower spike is made up of many tiny, highly fragrant, buttery yellow blossoms.

More on Mahonia x Charity:
Gardeners’ World page on this plant: http://www.gardenersworld.com/plant-detail/PL00080263/11042/lily-of-the-valley-bush

Bellevue Botanical Garden page on the plant: http://www.bellevuebotanical.org/plantmonth/fmplantmonthindex.html

Until We Meet Again Later…..

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Anyone who has a interest in plants will have heard of Linnaeus or at least experienced his worked when looking up a plant name. Carl Linnaeus(1707-1778) was the incredible man who developed the system which we use for naming plants and animals. Linnaeus brought order to already Latin named plants and animals by created a system to classify them by their  physical characteristics. He simplified plant names by giving them 2 parts (binomial), the genus and then the species. Often plants where and still are named from where they come from. One of the 9000 plants Linnaeus named is Verbena bonariensis or Purpletop Vervain or Brazilian Vervain). ‘Bonariensis’ refers to Buenos Aries, Argentina where the original plant sample is likely to have come from.

Verbena bonariensis has clusters of tiny mauve flowers held high above it's foliage.

Verbena bonariensis has clusters of tiny mauve flowers held high above it's foliage.

I first saw this plant at  Park and Tilford Gardens where I worked over the summer in a practicum. It was a nice change from the other Verbenas that I saw and was not too crazy about as they seemed to always get unsightly mildew.  Most Verbenas which we see are annuals and are used in our hanging baskets or bedding out.Verbena bonariensis is well named as Purpletop Vervain as it’s airy stems of flowers are almost like wands of color which is part of it’s charm.

Purpletop Vervain along a path at Glendale Gardens.

Purpletop Vervain along a path at Glendale Gardens.

Verbena bonariensis is a particularly useful plant as it’s flower stems are airy and can weave through other plants easily. It will pop through other plants easily and create wonderful combinations or fill awkward spaces with graceful color in late summer. It is the weaving quality of this plant which makes it a much used plant by gardeners who have just the right situation for it’s use.

This  mauve Verbena bonariensis weaves it's way through a white Agapanthus.

This mauve Verbena bonariensis weaves it's way through a white Agapanthus.

Purpletop Verbena is found growing in Southern Brazil, Argentina and through Uruguay and Paraguay.  It is rated at zone 7-10(-17.7 °C (0 °F)), therefore is often treated as a annual in colder areas. If it likes it’s place it will happily self-seed which in some places can be nuisance. Here we have the occasional cold winter so seeding is never a real problem. Seedlings are easily recognized and removed.  It seems that plants which originate from seed grown plants and not by way of cuttings are said to be more tough.

Verbena bonariensis growing amoung the rocks in the Terrace Garden at Government House.

Verbena bonariensis growing amoung the rocks in the Terrace Garden at Government House.

All Verbenas prefer full sun and good air circulation to prevent  powdery mildew. Purpletop Vervain tolerates most types of soil as long as it is well drained, this will ensure your plant has a longer life. It is advisable to pinch plants back when they are young to produce a bushier plant with more floral stems later int the year. Verbena bonariensis grows 40cm-1.2m(2-5ft) tall and takes a space between 30-60cm(1-2ft) in width.

The bright Purpletop Vervain flowers contrast well with the silvery tones of these plants.

The bright Purpletop Vervain flowers contrast well with the silvery tones of these plants.

Purpletop Vervain is a very useful plant in other ways as well. It is said to be one of the very best butterfly attracting plants and many people can attest to it.  It is often used as a cottage garden plant and is best placed mid border for this use. I have seen it used well in borders of mixed perennials and shrubs. the can be interesting combinations created with variegated and colored foliage of  other plants. Wherever you use it, Verbena bonariensis will add something interesting and people will ask you what plant it is. I know many people have asked me and are always surprised when I tell them this is the more stately cousin to the annual Verbenas in their garden….and they always want to get some!

The tiny long blooming flowers of Verbena bonariensis bloom from June through September here.

The tiny long blooming flowers of Verbena bonariensis bloom from June through September here.

Learn more about Verbena bonariensis:

Who is Carl Linnaeus and why he is so important to science: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nature-online/science-of-natural-history/biographies/linnaeus/index.html

Wiki page on Purpletop Vervain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verbena_bonariensis

Other gardeners experiences with Verbena bonariensis: http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/141/

Until We Meet Again Soon.

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When I write one of these articles I first do some research. I might think I know a plant quite well but I always learn some more in the process of looking in various places. I need to make sure of the botanical name, where it comes from and if possible I like to know who discovered the plant and why it was named. I also like to make sure I know the best way to grow it and what to expect in climate, pests and disease. It is not just  it’s looks and scent which are important, it’s a total of all aspects of the subject that help to inform me if this is the kind of plant to I would recommend. Without a doubt there will always be some mysteries I can not figure out. One such plant for me is the Echinops (Globe Thistle) that is seen growing in gardens for I can not say for sure ‘which species is which’ with any great authority. In this case it really does not matter as all Echinops are shining stalwarts in the garden and should be grown more.

A beautiful steely blue Echinops ritro, the most commonly seen form in the Victoria area

A beautiful steely blue Echinops ritro, the most commonly seen species in the Victoria.

Echinops have been known and noted in writing as early as the 16th century, it was Linaeaus who gave them their formal name in 1753. Echinops Latin name meaning is very descriptive; echinos(hedgehog) ops(looks like), put it together and you have an ‘Looks-Like -a-Hedgehog’ plant!  Globe Thistle are old world plants which means they come from Europe and spread through parts of Asia and northern Africa. Not surprisingly theses are members of the Asteraceae(Compositae) family which many other thistley things belong. All members of this family have composites of many tiny flowers which are close together. The Echinops flower structure is a good example of this, each of it flower ‘spheres’ is just that; a ball of tiny flowers close together.

Echinops or Globe Thistle are a good example of a Composite flower.

Echinops or Globe Thistle are a good example of a Composite flower.

Many people do not think of spiny plants as being attractive garden plants and Echinops show how wrong we are about this.  All parts of this plant are beautiful, the leaves are whether they are grayish or bright green are thick and leathery and stand up well through the seasons. the spherical balls which turn into the flowers are stunning during their whole development. The overall silvery grayness works very well in with many colors in the garden and this makes Globe Thistles very versatile.

A favorite planting at Government House with Echinops as the star at this time of the year.

A favorite planting at Government House with Echinops as the star at this time of the year.

We must consider ourselves lucky as Echinops are extremely easy to grow and are very hardy. Like all slightly silvery plants Globe Thistles like as much sun as they can get, full sun is the best to bring out the fullness of color. Full sun will also help combat any possibility of mildew discoloring the foliage. Average soil will do. Less than average amounts of water is better, these plants do quite nicely in drier situations and are less prone to disease.  Echinops are all large plants which can reach 2m(6ft) in height and nearly as wide.

his appears to be Echinops spaerocephalus with it's maroon toned flower stem.

This appears to be Echinops spaerocephalus with it's maroon toned flower stem.

Generally Echinops are considered hardy to zone 4(-20c) but I have read about situations where they live in places with temperatures regularly going down to -40f(-40c) or zone 3a. Echinops flowers are excellent in arrangement and as dried subjects they should be harvested before the pollen shows. Globe Thistles are prickly but not so much as to be really dangerous.

This Echinops exaltatus looks other worldy floating in the trees.

This Echinops exaltatus looks other worldy floating in the trees.

The many shades of blue, the silvery overtones on the foliage and unusual flowers, what more could one ask for in a plant? I like the foliage hairy, prickliness which contrasts with all the other smooth leaves which usually surround Echinops.  It makes me think of the common thistles living here and makes me wonder how one might use them in a landscape. When looking to buy a Globe Thistle you can choose a named form which will give the certainty of color or you can grow them from seed.  In species you can usually choose the blues of ritro, bannaticus, humilis and several more. Whites are commonly  represented by exaltatus and sphaerocephalus . Seed is easily germinated with no special tricks needed.

A Great

A great Globe Thistle planting at Finnerty Gardens with late summer colors.

Now is the time to Look for Echinops in gardens, the late summer heat here has produced a bumper crop this year. I have found them in many of the larger public parks which have perennial borders. Usually they are far enough in the plantings so that no one has to worry about little ones grabbing them and being surprised or scratched.

This very blue Echinops  is at Glendale Gardens in Saanich.

This very blue Echinops is at Glendale Gardens in Saanich.

More information on Echinops:

The Asteraceae family and their intricate flowers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asteraceae

Look at the middle of this page to see what others have to say about growing this plant: http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/634/

Growing Globe Thistles: http://www.garden-grower.com/flowers/echinops.shtml

Until we meet again Later….

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When we first come to be interested in flowers and gardening we often are totally in awe of the range of colors in flowers, we are like ‘kids in a candy shop’ and want to try every type and color tone. Slowly as we are exposed to other gardens and by reading(if we do) we learn more about composition of a garden and what makes for good design. We become more connoisseurs of  more subtle things like shape, texture of leaves, buds and bark. This is when we start to pass from being a consumer of gardens and plants to be more of a student of them and can fully appreciate what is trying to be achieved.  Astilbes are like this to me, I first was agog in their range of colors and then learned to love their texture within not only their flowers but their beautiful and useful foliage.

A fine show of blooming Atilbes in the Japanes Gardens at Glendale Gardens, Saanich.

A fine show of blooming Atilbes in the Japanes Gardens at Glendale Gardens, Saanich.

I first really got to know Astilbes when I worked for a wholesale perennial nursery, there we shipped literally thousands of Astilbes a year. They sold least a couple of dozen hybrids form the common types sold strictly by color to those named varieties which were being introduced to North America for the first time. It was quite an awe inspiring sight to see blocks of several hundred of one color type blooming at the same moment.  I soon learned that not only did the flowers have an interesting range of forms(from droopy and open to upright and tight) but the leaves often changed color as they matured some having bronzy tones and others keeping a bright green shade throughout the year.

Astilbe x 'Fanal', one of the most vibrant reds in the flower world.

Astilbe x arendsii 'Fanal' bred by Georg Arends, one of the most vibrant reds in the flower world.

Most Astilbe plants originate in Asia except for A. biternata which comes from eastern North America. Not surprisingly the first plants where grown in botanical collections as early as the 1830s, from that time many more have been discovered.  Georg Arends(1863-1952) is responsible for popularizing Astilbes. He took the many known species and started crossing them to create a completely new group of plants. Many of his plants have become famous since their introduction in the 1920s and 30s and are classed as ‘x arendsii’  One of his famous introductions is the first ‘red’ Astilbe ‘Fanal’ in 1933.  His ‘White(Weisse) Gloria’ from 1924 is considered to be the best of it’s color.  You can still count on easily finding ‘Amethyst, Bridal Veil'(Brautschleier), Cattleya, Granat, Hyacinth(Hyazinth) and Pink Pearl(Rosa Perle) in nurseries today.

Astilbe x 'Peach Blossom' which was introduced in 1902.

Astilbe x 'Peach Blossom' which was introduced in 1902.

There are several other groups of Astilbe hybrids which have been developed; x japonica look alot like x arendsii and have the same species as the parents.  The ‘chinensis’ groups generally all have mauve to magenta colors, more rough foliage texture and flower spikes of a slightly different shape.  A newer group from A. simplicifolia offers more restrained smaller plants which have delicately colored flowers and foliage.

Astilbe chinensis 'Pumila', a minature which is easily grown from seed.

Astilbe chinensis 'Pumila', a minature which is easily grown from seed.

Astilbes are very useful in the garden and are adaptable to many uses. They tolerate shady to bright sun as long as they have a good supply of water which is why they are often seen in boggy places or alongside water. They look attractive from the time they emerge from the ground with their delicate foliage and associate well with other plants such as Hosta, Heucheras, Ferns, Iris and Polygonatums to create beautiful nuanced foliage tapestries.

A lovely colorful shady border with Astilbes at Government House in Victoria, B.C.

A lovely colorful shady border with Astilbes at Government House in Victoria, B.C.

To grow Astilbes you need need rich moisture retaining soil which has lots of humus in it.  They prefer to be situated in shady or dappled sites which are out of  the way during the mid-day heat. Once they have flowered they should be pruned down so they can produce a fresh crop of leaves.  When selecting your plant consider it’s size as they range from miniature which are suitable for a rockery to fairly giant 4-5ft(1-1.5m) tall. They are generally hardy to zone 4(-20C) but with winter protection will survive lower temperatures. I have found Astilbe chineisis ‘Pumila’ thrives at zone 3a(-40c) in my mothers’ garden so much that it has been divided several times and produces large clumps which make a nice carpet there.  To have a longer bloom period select several varieties; x arendsii and x japonicas bloom earlier with chinensis a little later.

A low growing Astilbe simplicifolia hybrid blooming by a pathway.

A low growing Astilbe simplicifolia hybrid blooming by a pathway.

Astilbes are often used as cut flowers. The trick is to cut them before the blossoms have opened. They also can be preserved as dried flowers this way. The foliage is also a nice addition to a bouquet as greenery.

A mass planting of Astilbe at U.B.C. Botaincal Garden in Vancouver, B.C.

A mass planting of Astilbe at U.B.C. Botaincal Garden in Vancouver, B.C.

To Learn More About Astilbes:

A little about Georg(e) Arends and growing Astilbes: http://www.youngamericangrowers.com/app/our_plants.asp

A good article about Astilbes: http://www.arhomeandgarden.org/plantoftheweek/articles/Astilbe.htm

Until we meet again next week…..


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When I moved from the northern B.C. To Vancouver to go to school one plant which I did not have any experience with was Rhododendrons. Most of the time I have lived on the coast I have ignored them as they are a flourish of color in the spring and then just somewhat shapeless evergreen blobs the rest of the year. I had heard about a wonderful collection of Rhododendrons at Playfair Park and decided I must check them out.

Playfair Park Rhododendrons In May 2006.

Playfair Park Rhododendrons In May 2006.

The experience of seeing the variety at Playfair Park which is made up of many species more than hybrids and crosses made me change my mind about ‘Rhodos’. The Rhodos there are big and small leaved, fuzzy or grainy textured, and bloomy along with every color imaginable  blooming over many months. I went back week after week photographing trying to label what I saw and what really took my breath away every year has been the numerous  Rhododendron augustinii and their incredible color. It truly is to dream about.  Now every spring I hunt for Augustine’s Rhododendrons and hope to find new ones at other sites.

Rhododendron augustinii 'Cox's Form' at Glendale Garden.

Rhododendron augustinii 'Cox's Form' at Glendale Garden.

 Augustine Henry (1857-1930) was the first person to discover and send samples of this plant back to Kew in London in 1899. He was trained as an Assistant Medical Officer and was posted with the Chinese Customs Service in Shanghai in 1881 where he quickly picked up the ability to speak the language.

Rhododendron augustinii ssp. augustinii much like August Henry Would Have Seen.

Rhododendron augustinii ssp. augustinii Much Like Augustine Henry Would Have Seen.

From there he was posted to Yichang(Ichanh) in remote Hubei Province (Central China) in 1882. There he investigated plants used in Chinese medicine. While there he started to collects plant specimens and seed to send to England.Later he was stationed in Sichuan and Yunnan, both areas where forms of Rhododendron augustinii is found. over his lifetime August Henry contributed 15,000 specimens including seeds and 500 plants to Kew Gardens and worked with many other important plant explorers of his time. He is truly one of the giants of the plant world as we know it today.

Rhododendron augustinii ssp. hardyii, Found by Joesph Rock

Rhododendron augustinii ssp. hardyii Found by Joesph Rock

As soon as Augustine’s Rhododendron came to England it was a hit and was soon gained an AM(Award of Merit) in 1920.  The pureness of the blue color is unusual in the plant world and is coveted by all who see it. because of it’s color many forms of this plant have been collected. It has been crossed and recrossed with itself to produce dazzling results such as Lionel Rothchilds’ (Exbury) ‘Electra’ from 1937 which is an augustinii X augustinii ssp. ‘chasmanthum’ cross.   

Rhododendron augustinii 'Electra'

Rhododendron augustinii 'Electra' at Playfair Park.

Rhododendron augustinii has since been crossed with other blue and violet flowering Rhodos’ and the results have ranged from the icy blue ‘Blue Diamond’ through violet blue of ‘ Blaney’s Blue’ to the truly bluest of blue of ‘St. Breward’ and many more which have become famous in their own right. 

Rhododendron augustinii x St. Edward.

Rhododendron augustinii x St. Breward. found at Finnerty Gardens.

We must consider ourselves lucky that Augustine’s Rhododendron is an easy adaptable plant to grow. It grows best in a sheltered posistion such as under  or mixed with deciduous trees and shrubs. Rhododendron augustinii requires rich acidic soil which is moisture retaining, but well drained at the same time. Rhodos have shallow fine roots which can easily be damaged so it is advised to use mulch year round with little planting underneath.

Augustine Rhododendrons seen in the Rhodo grove at Playfair Park.

Augustine Rhododendrons seen in the Rhodo grove at Playfair Park.

Rhododendron augustinii plants are rated at zone 7b (-15c or 5f.) and grow up to 10ft(3m) in 10 years. These plants can be specimens in the garden because they have excellent small foliage and often become more tree form with age.

Happy Augustine’s Rhododendron Hunting!

Links to this weeks member of the plant world:

An excellent page of ‘augustinii’ pictures:http://www.rhododendron.dk/augustinii.html

Technical information on Rhododendron augustinii.http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=2&taxon_id=200016341

All about Augustine Henry, a famous and important plant explorer.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustine_Henry 

Until we meet again later this week….

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