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Posts Tagged ‘groundcovers’

When I was small we would go for walks with our mother in the neighborhood and stop and look at the gardens, some were interesting others where more playful and some just a plain messy. You could tell the ones who liked kids by the plants they often chose, fun ones like squashes, scarlet runner beans, and bright flowers like Cosmos, Marigolds and who could not resist Nasturtiums!  Nasturtiums(Tropaeolum majus) are a fond memory of many of us who had them in our garden when we where young.

The bright array of colors found in Tropaeolum majus always appeals to children of any age.

The bright array of colors found in Tropaeolum majus always appeals to children of any age.

Tropaeolum majus orginally is from South America, growing in an area from Bolivia and Columbia and is said to be found in areas such as central Chile as well.  Nasturtiums were first brought to Europe by Spanish around 1500, it is likely seeds where carried back. In South America the plant was used for medicinal purposes such as treating coughs, colds, flu by creating at tea. Topically it was used in poultice for for cuts and burns. Nasturtiums are high in vitamin c and have natural antiboitics in them. It was in Europe that the plant was first used for culinary purposes.

Here the trailing variety of Nasturtium is used as a simple but charming ground cover that is a riot of color during summer and autumn.

Here the trailing variety of Nasturtium is used as a simple but charming ground cover that is a riot of color during summer and autumn.

As a culinary plant Nasturtiums have a lot to offer: the leaves, flowers, stems and buds can all be used and impart a spicy sweet flavor reminiscent of Garden Cress (Lepidium savaticum) or Water Cress(Tropaeolum officinale). The flowers and leaves are used in many ways from salads to sandwiches, in dressings and spreads. The flower buds are pickled and used as a substitute for capers. I like to use the stems as they are especially spicy and add them into salads, my dad who loved extra spicy things was surprised with the intensity of heat in them.

Nasturtium leaves are unusual as the stem is attached to the very middle of the leaf giving it a curious round shape which is part of this plants charm.

Nasturtium leaves are unusual as the stem is attached to the very middle of the leaf giving it a curious round shape which is part of this plants charm.

The unusual shape of the leaves and flowers lead Linnaeus to choose a an interesting botanical Latin name for Tropaeolum majus. ‘Trope’ is from the Greek tropaion or trophy which refers to how the round shields(leaves) and helmets(flowers) where hung on a pillar which was said to be a sign of victory on a battlefield.  The common name Nasturium comes from the latin ‘nastos’ (nose) and ‘turtum’ (torment) and this refers to the spicy taste of the plant. Majus just means big which refers to the size of the leaves.

The stained glass coloring of the Nasturtium flowers and the curious rounded leaves have inspired for many famous artists and writers.

The stained glass coloring of the Nasturtium flowers and the curious rounded leaves have inspired for many famous artists and writers.

Nasturtiums have long been known but during the Victorian era, into the early 20th century seemed most charmed by these plants. From Monet, William Morris, Moorcroft(pottery) to Tiffany’s famous glass, the plants where used everywhere as a charming and attractive subject. Nasturtiums of course are a famous subject for botanical prints. Who does not love a bouquet of the fragrant brightly colored Nasturtiums on a table or windowsill to cheer one up.

This bunny hides in the Nasturtiums in the Childrens Garden at Glendale Gardens.

This bunny hides in the Nasturtiums in the Childrens Garden at Glendale Gardens.

Tropaeolum majus is an easy plant to grow for the new or junior gardener. The seeds are big and easily handled and once planted germinate and grow quickly. They are not fussy and like sandy light, poorer soils, but will do equally well in richer soils although it will produce more leaves and less flowers. Full sun is most important to get the best showing of flowers unless you are in a very hot climate where a little shade in the afternoon will be appreciated. although they are somewhat drought tolerant regular watering will insure your plants continue to bloom for a long time. dead-heading the spent blossoms will help the plant to continue to bloom for months. Nasturtiums are considered to be hardy annuals and can tolerate a light frost, a hard one will kill them outright.

The Nasturtiums here are a cheery welcome to this garden.

The Nasturtiums here are a cheery welcome to this garden.

There are 2 main forms of Nasturtiums, the compact(or dwarf) and the trailing. The dwarf are at the most 45cm(18in) wide and tall with the trailing form being able to cover a 1m(3ft) space per plant. The beguiling flowers come in a vast tapestry of single-colors, bi-colors and blends ranging from the blackish-red ‘Mahogany’ to a pale buttery yellow and all ranges from red through scarlet, orange and yellows. Many named color varieties, singles, doubles and variegated(‘Alaska’)  and dark leaved(‘Empress of India’)  forms can be found in seed strains and are cheap to buy. Seed is easily saved for next year and often will reseed and grow in the same spot for many years.

Nasturtium 'Mahogany' has the darkest flowers that i have seen here in Victoria.

Nasturtium 'Mahogany' has the darkest flowers that i have seen here in Victoria.

Tropaeolum majus can be used in the garden in so many ways: edging, colorful filler for early bulbs and bloomers, childrens’ first garden, ground-cover, edible garden, fragrant garden, self seeding garden, old fashioned gardens, window boxes and containers, formal and informal settings and as artists subjects and fairy gardens.

Trailing and Twinning with Tropaeolums:

What is the reationship with the Cresses:  http://www.uni-graz.at/~katzer/engl/Lepi_sat.html

Nasturtiums as garden vegetables: http://www.veraveg.org/Veg%20History/Veg%20History%20Nasturtium.html

Look at all the art from these plants: http://www.google.ca/images?hl=en&q=Nasturtiums%20in%20art&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&biw=1309&bih=741

Will you be following on this path?

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The first time I was introduced to todays plant I really did not appreciate its sublime beauty. It was at I time when I knew to gardening in this  mild  west coast climate which was like coming to a treasure trove of exotic from the plant desert i had lived in.  The plant in question was in the ‘white garden found in Park and Tilford Gardens where I was doing my practicum over the summer months. With experience I have learned big and bright are not always the most easy to work with in designing gardens whereas sublime and subtle are often the key to the best. Astrantias major (Masterwort) are delicate and sublime at the same time while being outstanding garden plants which deserve to be included in many more gardens.

Astrantia major, or Masterwort  has slight variations in  shades of color and flower size.

Astrantia major, or Masterwort has slight variations in shades of color and flower size.

Astrantias have long been known to gardens in Europe where they grow amongst the alpine meadows in the mountains of Austria through the Swiss Alps, and  into the Pyrenees of north-west Spain.  There at the  high elevations and they bloom from July into September.  (Great) Masterwort is first noted by English herbalist John Gerard(1545-1611-12?) in 1596 in his famous  publication ‘Great Herball, or Generall Historie of Plantes’. In this book he wrote a detailed description of all the herbal plants which he had collected and grew at his garden in Holborn.

Frothy Astrantia major blooming with Alchemilla mollis make a beautiful floral display in this dappled spot.

Frothy Astrantia major blooming with Alchemilla mollis make a beautiful floral display in this dappled spot.

Astrantia are without a doubt are recently being discovered by gardeners here in North America. I was lucky that many years ago to have experience them in the ‘white garden’  as I did not see them again until I came to Vancouver Island and worked as a grower at a nursery here. There I soon found that there were several color forms from dark red through pinks and creams. My favorite Masterwort was one called “Shaggy’ which has a large deeply toothed bracts which are green tipped on cream, it is sometimes sold as ‘Margery Fish’ and should only be propagated by division.

The tiny fertile flowers of Astrantia major are found in the middle of the papery green tipped bracts.

The tiny fertile flowers of Astrantia major are found in the middle of the papery green tipped bracts.

Astrantias are now used in many types of gardens as they are extremely versatile.  Margery Fish, the influential English Cottage Gardener recognized their charm, as have many of the well know garden writers and designers of today.  You can use Masterwort in full sun or nearly  complete shade and still get a respectable showing of flowers. the flowers are extremely long-lasting because they are papery and dry quite well, this guarantee that they make their way into florist shops for their work. The leaves are clean and attractive.

One of  the many red forms of Astrantia major which are available now.

One of the many red forms of Astrantia major which are available now.

Growing Masterwort is fairly easy as long as you remember a few important things. Astrantias like rich fertile soil which has the ability to retain some moisture during dry periods, these plants sulk if they get too dried out. They will flower best in full sun as long as there is sufficient water available.These are plants which do not like to have their roots disturbed  therefore care must be taken when moving or dividing them, they can be slow to bounce back and patience is needed.  To get a prolonged  and repeat bloom remove spent flowers promptly, this will keep the plant vigorous.

Atrantia major will have a second flush of blooms after the first spent flowers are removed.

Atrantia major will have a second flush of blooms after the first spent flowers are removed.

To increase Masterwort you can do it in several ways by division or by growing them from seed. Division is done in the fall or spring when Astrantias are still dormant every 3 to 4 years. Division is the only way to increase your named varieties and keep them true to form and color. Seed may collected and germinates naturally on site if the plants are happy or you can do it yourself. The seed is multi-cycle dormant and I used a refrigerator to artificially speed up the process. Plants from seed will take several years to bloom using this method.

Astrantia 'Sunnidale Variegated' has some of the most attractive of all variegated plants.

Astrantia 'Sunnidale Variegated' has some of the most attractive of all variegated plants.

Before putting your Astrantias to bed in the late fall give them a side dressing of mulch and this will help them grow strong roots over the winter. Masterwort are listed as taking -20c(-4f) or zones 5 through 9.  These are tidy plant which for slowly spreading clumps of  30-60cm(1-2ft) wide. Hieght of the plants varies from 30-90cm (12-36in) high at the most, most are around 60cm(2ft) tall. New varieties are being introduced, the darkest red so far is ‘Hadspen Blood’, ‘Shaggy is said to have the largest flowers. Another Astrantia you can grow is Astrantia maxima which has pinker flowers with thicker bracts.

Here in the 'Cutting Garden' at Government House, the Astrantias are used as an informal groundcover.

Here in the 'Cutting Garden' at Government House, the Astrantias are used as an informal groundcover.

Use Astrantias in your perennial border, shade garden, woodland areas, informal areas, cut flower garden or butterfly and bee garden. Masterwort mixes well with many plants from Ferns to Rodgersia as well as Hostas, Heuchera, Tellima and Tiarellas and many others.

Mastering Astrantias:

Paghat is always a good place to start: http://www.paghat.com/masterwort.html

Astrantia ‘Shaggy’: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/3319801/How-to-grow-Astrantia-Shaggy.html

John Gerard, and one of the first important descriptive garden books: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Gerard

Until we meet again soon on this leafy path….

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Were I come from the climate is cold and some types of plants are not well represented in the wild or are do not grow there at all. An example is broad leaf evergreen plants. The only types which have survived the extreme cold are those which have adapted themselves to be short enough to be coved by snow during the long winter. Another plant which has adapted itself in a most usual way is the Licorice Fern(Polypodium glycyrrhiza) which grow here on the mild wet coast.

Polypodium glycyrrhiza or Licorice Fern

Polypodium glycyrrhiza or Licorice Fern growing on top of a rocky ledge amoungst the moss.

I first saw Licorice Ferns in a park in Surrey, near Vancouver. They are not nearly as noticeable as they are here and that may be due to there being more rocky outcrops for them to hang off of and be more exposed. At this time of the year these plants stand out because the fronds are fresh and green, newly grown during the late fall. The adaption Polypodium glycyrrhiza uses is to be deciduous during the dry season summers here. As we approach late spring Licorice Ferns drop their leaves and go dormant over the dry hot summer. In early fall with the first rains of the approaching wet season the ferns wake up and start to grow a new crop of leaves.

Remnants of other years growth are seen at the base of this clump of Licorice Fern.

Remnants of other years growth are seen at the base of this clump of Licorice Fern.

Licorice Fern is a member of the Polypodium family of which there are up to 100 members.  They are spread throughout the world with the largest contingent found in tropical areas. All members of the family spread by rhizomes which are specialized stems that creep along the ground. The name Polypodium comes from ancient Greek and means: ‘poly’- many, and ‘podium(ion)’- little foot.  Glycyrrhiza is also from Greek and refers glykys(glycyr- sweet) and ‘rhiza’-root, this refers to the sweet licorice flavor of the root. The sweet flavor comes from ostadin which is a steroidal compound that is 3000 times sweeter than sucrose.

Several different clumps of Polypodium glycyrrhiza growing along Landsend Road in North Saanich.

Several different clumps of Polypodium glycyrrhiza growing along Landsend Road in North Saanich.

The Licorice Fern grows along a narrow strip which extends from central California through Oregon, Washington all the way up to Aleutin Islands. The area extends to the western slopes of the Coastal and Cascade Mountains and goes all the way to the ocean and then hops over the the major islands along the Pacific Ocean of North America. Polypodium glycyrrhiza grows in dappled to fully shaded sites which are often along road edges and rocky outcrops.  These ferns are also happy creeping up the bases of Big Leaf Maples(Acer macrophyllum), larger Alders and Garry Oaks. They are epiphytes which do no damage to the trees which they grow on. The fern roots have been used by native groups for healing sore throats and colds. The sweet rhizomes where sometimes chewed for the flavor. Licorice is one of only a few ferns which have been know to be eaten in various forms. The rhizomes were  eaten dried, steamed, raw or scorched.

You will find Licorice Ferns scattered through the gardens at Government House.

You will find Licorice Ferns scattered through the gardens at Government House.

Licorice Ferns grow in areas which often have very little soil. Often these sites have a layer of moss which spores of the ferns are able to grow in and develop into sheets of slowly creeping clumps of fronds. If you are lucky you will have a clump of these plants which will need little attention through the year. Many years ago I collected a piece of Polypodium glycyrrhiza which I have grown in a pot for many years. I bring it out to be on my steps during the winter for some seasonal color and later tuck into a less noticeable corner when it becomes dormant. I have divided it several times and given parts away to other gardeners.

My Licorice Fern growing in a colorful bucket on a step near my door.

My Licorice Fern growing in a colorful bucket on a step near my door.

In their native habitat Licorice Ferns can be seen growing along side wild Sedums, Tellima, Tiarellas and Heucheras. These ferns are charming to see in the winter and add a touch of bright green in areas which might be dingy and dark in the many conifers found here. I find Licorice Ferns facinating in where they choose to live and how they seem to miraculously appear on what look like barren rocks after the first rains of autumn every year. I always look forward to their appearance.

In the right place Licorice Ferns are a luxuriant carpet.

In the right place Licorice Ferns are a luxuriant carpet.

Growing Licorice Ferns are as easy as taking a piece and planting it where you want. It needs water during the winter when it is growing, now that is not hard at all here.  they are listed as growing in zones 5(-10 to -20f) through 8(10-20f). If they like their spot they will slowly increase the number of fronds which come up. they grow to 2ft tall, but rarely ever give that impression as they are usually bent over.

Polypodium glycyrrhiza in Playfair Park.

A great spot to view Polypodium glycyrrhiza is the top area of Playfair Park in Saanich.

More about Polypodium glycyrrhiza:

Wiki page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Licorice_fern

Efloras page about Licorice Ferns: http://efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=1&taxon_id=233500977

Northwest Native of the Month: http://www.portlandnursery.com/plants/nativePicks/natives_polypodium.shtml

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When I moved to Vancouver Island I noticed right away the change in the native plants. On the southern tip of the island it is drier than the mainland and you find species not found elsewhere. The tree lupines are one of the plants which grow here, so is Oceanspray(Holodisus discolor) which is like a tree-form Astilbe. I also noticed some plants in gardens which I had not seen anywhere else. These where not uncommon plants, just forms which seemed almost endemic here. These where likely brought long ago by people who moved to the area and then passed about as plants were. My mother was given pieces of Daylily and Iris from her mother and then the clumps are split when someone enthuses about how beautiful they are…. and the cycle repeats. This must  be what happened here to see so many places with Hemerocallis fulva ‘Kwanso’.

Hemerocallis fulva 'Kwanso' a very ancient triploid double flowering Daylily.

Hemerocallis fulva 'Kwanso' a very ancient triploid double flowering Daylily.

Here near Sidney I found little seaside cottages with gardens brimming with great big clumps of this unusual form of  the Tawny ‘Kwanso’ Daylily.

Hemerocallis fulva 'Kwanso comes full circle having been recently replanted at the Sidney Information Center with it's period plantings.

Hemerocallis fulva 'Kwanso' comes full circle having been recently replanted at the Sidney Information Center with it's period plantings.

It’s parent Hemeocallis fulva is not know in the wild, although it first appeared in China and Japan. It is a triploid and is self-sterile and has be reproduced by division of it’s rhizomes. It was brought here from Europe in the 17th century and it was so successful at this that it has become naturalized in parts of North America and Europe.

Hemerocallis fulva or the Tawny Daylily, which has spead in North America and Europe.

Hemerocallis fulva or the Tawny Daylily, which has spead in North America and Europe.

Another form of the Tawny Daylily is seen commonly as well. It is Hemerocallis fulva var. littorea which is native to Japan where is grows in the grass near the oceans on Western Honshu and Kyushu islands. It blooms in late October there.

Hemerocallis fulva var. littorea, the 'Tawny Lily' which is planted in Brentwood Bay.

Hemerocallis fulva var. littorea, the 'Tawny Lily' which is planted in Brentwood Bay.

Hemerocallis fulva var. littorea is said to be smaller in stature and the leaves appear to be a darker green. Here it is best seen in a planting in Brentwood Bay where it is used as a mass planting in the middle of the roundabout and is repeated at intervals in a perennial planting which runs along West Saanich Rd through the community. It has been interesting to see how this planting design has fared since it’s installation several years ago.

The 'roundabout' in Brentwood Bay palnted with Hemerocallis fulva var. littorea.

The 'Roundabout' in Brentwood Bay mass planted with Hemerocallis fulva var. littorea.

Anyone who loves Daylilies can understand the importance of this species in breeding of new varieties which there are now hundreds. All other known Hemerocallis are yellow toned to yellowy orange and pinkish. Breeding new colors only really began in the 1920’s with Dr. A.B. Stout who started a program to expand the color range. Since that time over 45,000 new hybrids have been introduced which range from nearly white through blood red to blackish purple.  The flowers themselves have changed to having broader petals to show off their extravagant colors. Many new plants have been breed to be shorter in  overall stature  and to have longer bloom periods.  More recently a new addition to the Hemerocallis fulva family has been seen; a variegated form of ‘Kwanso’ (H.f. var. Variegata) with white stripes running through it’s leaves.

The variegated Tawny 'Kwanso' Daylily in 2006 at Govenment House in Victoria.

The variegated Tawny 'Kwanso' Daylily in 2006 at Govenment House in Victoria.

Growing Daylilies is easy which is why they are such successful plants.  Tawny Daylilies need a bright sunny site with well drained, rich soil. They need a fairly large area as they can grow  into a 1m(3ft) by 1m(3ft) clump quickly. Daylilies make excellent subjects for mass planting and can make an attractive informal edging as the foliage is attractive, durable and does not get ratty looking during the late summer. Keep Daylilies tidy by removing the spent flowers stems when they are finished. Most forms are quite hardy and will easily withstand zone4 (-20c or -15f). Propagation of Hemerocallis fulva forms as well as all Daylilies is by division which is very easily done in the spring.

The broad foliage is an attravtive foil to the facinating Hemerocallis fulva 'Kwanso' blossom.

The broad foliage is an attractive foil to the fascinating Hemerocallis fulva 'Kwanso' blossoms.

Further information on Tawny Daylillies:

Paghat’s experience with the Tawny Daylily: http://www.paghat.com/daylily.html

Growing Daylilies; how to do it best: http://pss.uvm.edu/ppp/articles/daylily2.html

A more technical description of Hemerocallis fulva: http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=1&taxon_id=200027676

Visit Brentwood Bay: http://www.vancouverisland.com/regions/towns/?townID=30

Until We Meet Again Later This Week…..

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When I moved from the lower mainland to the Victoria area I noticed several plants growing here which I had not seen before. First there was the Oceanspray(Holodiscus dicolor) which grew everywhere along the rocky drier areas.  Then there is the abundance of Garry Oaks (Quercus garryana) which are so starkly noticeable in the winter landscape. Arbutus(Arbutus menziesii) trees grew everywhere as I live on the peninsula.  Soon after I settled into my new residence i was invited to dinner at a friends place which was near a lake. After dinner she showed me around her property and I saw for the first time the wonderful Vanilla Leaf(Achlys triphylla) which is an unusually attractive plant.

Achlys triphylla also known as 'Vanilla Leaf'.

Achlys triphylla also known as 'Vanilla Leaf''.

Vanilla Leaf (or ‘Sweet After Death’) is truly a beautiful plant which is often seen along trails in dappled spots of light, where it wanders amongst  the flora. I have found it in the vicinity of some of the most delicate and rare species. It also will pop up in thicker darker understory locations deep in the forest growing between the Mahonia, Salal and Sword Ferns.

Achlys triphylla Happily Growing in a Spot of Light.

Achlys triphylla Happily Growing in a Spot of Light at Horth Hill Park.

For me finding a patch of Achlys  triphylla growing along a path I am walking on is indeed a treat.  The main treat is the charming foliage which looks like a Clover leaf on steroids. The flowers spikes which are in bloom now are an additional bonus.  If I find one leaf I know there will be others as this is a plant which spreads by underground rhizomes(roots).  Along a path near my home I found a small colony, since then it has expanded gently to become more noticeable.  Horth Hill Park in North Saanich is a fine location for Vanilla Leaf hunting, I was there this week looking and found it in several places in fairly deep shade growing down a steep slope as well in spots of dappling.

A Mature 'Vanilla Leaf' with it's Charming Scalloped Leaves.

A Mature 'Vanilla Leaf' with it's Charming Scalloped Leaves.

The Latin name Achlys from the Greek goddess of hidden places and in this plant refers to where this plant is found, often deep in the woods.  The common name Vanilla Leaf or ‘Sweet After Death‘  is refers to the sweet fragrance of the dried leaves. The vanilla scent of the leaves is caused by the presences of natural coumarin which is a powerful blood thinner. Native peoples used to hang bundles of dried leaves in their resedences to deter bothersome inscects which swarm.  It is said that the leaves were at one time used to treat such ailments and tuberculosis, cataracts and used as an emetic(to cause vomiting).

'Sweet After Death' Growing Along a Path in North Saanich.

'Sweet After Death' Growing Along a Path in North Saanich.

Achlys triphylla makes an attractive taller(to 30cm,12in.) ground cover which would look smashing with more delicate Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Ferns and other rich woodland plants. Vanilla Leaf requires rich humusy, moisture retentive soil which is on the acidic side. It will not tolerate strong sun and will burn in it, so dappled is best. It grows best in zones 6 through 9.  If these plants are happy in their situation they will happily colonise and form healthy spreading clumps. It is best to buy these plants from a reputable nursery where you know they have not been dug up from the wilds.

Attractive Vanilla Leaf is Slug Proof.

Attractive Vanilla Leaf is Slug Proof.

Learn More About Achlys triphylla:

Wikipedia has a very good page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achlys_(plant)

More on it’s medicinal features:http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Achlys+triphylla

Horth Hill Park: http://www.crd.bc.ca/parks/horth-hill/index.htm

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When I first moved here I did what I always do, travel around the less used roads to get a feeling for the area. This area is quite different from where I had moved from (greater Vancouver) and the pace is slower.  It feels more like the area I grew up in, more rural and yet near a big city. Every season brings new things to learn about and experience that are different from anywhere I have been. One of the wonders are the delicate Lilies which grow along the roads and are in bloom right now.  Here the Erythronium oregonum used to be called the Easter Lilly. Now we call them White Fawn or WhiteTrout Lillies.

Erythronium oreganum Known as the White Fawn Lily.

Erythronium oreganum Known as the White Fawn Lily.

Children would pick arm loads of White Fawn Lillies and give them to their teachers because they they grew in such massive quantities. In some places they still grow thickly. Along Southgate Street which parallels Beacon Hill Park is a densely growing area of them which are readily seen as you  walk or drive between Blanchard and Quadra Street. They are truly spectacular and many people who visit the area stop and ask what they are and then just have to take some pictures.

Erygonium oregonum along Southgate Street in Victoria.

Erygonium oregonum along Southgate Street in Victoria.

We are truly blessed on the west coast of North America with having 23 of the 27 known species of Erythronium. They range from pure white to a strong yellow as well as pink and shades of these colors. Vancouver Island has 4 species; oregonum and montanum are white, revolutum is pink and grandiflorum represents the yellows.  Erythronium oregonum is the most common around this area.

The Attractive Mottled Foliage of of the White Fawn Lily.

The Attractive Mottled Foliage of of the White Fawn Lily.

There are many things that make Erythronium oregonum a choice plant for anywhere it would grow, the delicate flowers which dangle down high above the foliage, the foliage itself with it’s lovely yet subtle green and maroon tones, and the delicate seedpods which blow in the wind and are the only sign later that this plant has been here at all.  It is said that ‘John Burroughs’ named the species ‘Fawn Lily’ because he felt the leaves reminded him of the ears of a fawn. Most People think the name refers to the mottled leaves which is similar to the spotting and streaking on young  fawns which help them to hide better from predators. I think the White Trout Lily name comes from similar reasons.

White Fawn Lillies Growing Along a Road in North Saanich.

White Fawn Lillies Growing Along a Road in North Saanich.

Erythronium oregonum is definitely a connoisseur plant which we all dream about having in our garden, having said that, I know this is not an easy plant to grow. If you are lucky enough to have them already in your yard, you are indeed blessed. Last year I found one coming up in a area I had planted 10 years before, what a surprise. I already see it is blooming this year in the same spot. I truly hope it will spread itself and grow amongst the maroon colored Hellebores I have planted in the same area.

Southgate Erygonium oregonum Lily Field.

Southgate Erygonium oregonum Lily Field.

White Fawn Lillies are best grown in a site like which they come from. These are plants which grow in dappled sun, under deciduous trees. They need lots of moisture in their growing season which is in the first part of the year and then drier for the time that the seeds are ripening(if you want them) which is June and later.  they are fairly tolerant of soil types as long as it’s not chalky and dry. They of course need rich soil which is well drained as these are very deeply rooted plants. It is best to acquire these plants form a reputable nursery which does not collect them from the wild.

The Delicate Highlights of Maroon and Yellow Seen in White Trout Lily Blosssoms.

The Delicate Highlights of Maroon and Yellow Seen in White Trout Lily Blossoms.

Many areas where Erythronium oregonum live are being bulldozed to make way for city and road growth, fortunately for us there have been many areas set aside for the protection of native species. We are also becoming more aware of the beauty in which we live in and more of us are respectful of the sites where these and other rare local plants live.  Right now amongst the White Fawn Lillies you might find the delicate magenta Dodecatheon blooming and then very soon it will be the spectacular blue Camas which takes over.

Links to This Week’s Featured Plant:

A list of all the Erythroium which grow throughout the world and links to pages about them.

http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Erythronium

A little about growing Erythroniums and something about the meaning of the name.

http://www.rainyside.com/features/plant_gallery/nativeplants/Erythronium_oregonum.html

Beacon Hill Park in Victoria. http://www.beaconhillpark.com/

Until We Meet Again Later This Week…..

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I first came across the lovely Eranthis hyemalis or Winter Aconites at my grandmothers garden in South Surrey near Vancouver. My mother showed me them blooming under a huge Cherry tree and there where hundreds of  the golden gems dotting the ground . She wanted to know if she could grow them in Prince George(where I grew up), I said I didn’t know and would find out for her. As they seemed to be extremely dwarf Buttercup type plants I hoped they would grow in the north(zone3). It turns out that they can with protection as they are hardy from zone 3 to 8. Both my mother and grandmother are both dead now and I have thought about these delicate plants off and on through the years and wondered why were they so uncommon?

Winter Aconites blooming in the sun.

Winter Aconites at Glendale Gardens blooming in the sun.

I hadn’t seen any Winter Aconites until last week when I was out looking for a suitable plant to highlight for this weeks article and stumbled upon them at one of my favorite gardens. I knew at once what I had come across and  knew I would just have to write about them. after finding them at Glendale Gardens I wanted to see if they were planted elsewhere. The first place i thought of was Finnerty Gardens which are located on the grounds of the University of Victoria, so, I went there and was not disappointed. There were several groupings of them located near the edges of  of the developed gardens.

A group of Eranthis hymalis at Finnerty Gardens.

A group of Eranthis hyemalis at Finnerty Gardens.

Each plant is quite small but it’s impact is huge. they hug the ground being at the most 4in(10cm) high. Each stem bears a single large 5 petaled blossom which  is 3/4 to 1 in(2.5cm) across. Each flower is charmingly encircled by a delicate green ruffle. If these plants are happy they will increase and create carpets of bright blossoms followed by delicate foliage and then finally go dormant in late spring.

Glorious Gleaming Golden Winter Aconites

Glorious Gleaming Golden Winter Aconites

The tiny Winter Aconites  are truly one of the delights of spring which you won’t notice the rest of the year as they go dormant over the rest of the year. Being a member of theRanunculus family they do not like being moved which may have lead to their scarcity in gardens. This means they need careful placement. Fortunately there are many suitable locations which they can grow.

Fully opened Winter Aconites February 17 2009

Fully opened Winter Aconites February 17 2009

Ideally they are placed somewhere slightly out of the way that can be easily seen. Often good placement is at the base of a deciduous tree or in a rock garden niche which has sufficient moisture in the spring when they are erupting into a glowing show. They mix well with other spring bulbs such as Galanthus and Crocuses and other early blooming plants such as Primulas which bloom in the late January through early march period. It would also be possible to intermingle them with very low growing groundcovers which are not too dense.

Several healthy clumps of Eranthis hyemalis.

Several healthy clumps of Eranthis hyemalis.

Winter Aconites originate in Europe,  growing from France through Italy and crossing the sea into Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. They have happily naturalised in other areas of Europe as well. They grow there in deciduous woodlands  such as those dominated by Horse Chestnuts(Aesculus hippocastanum) and rocky places. Winter Aconite are relatively easy to grow as they are not too particular about soil and will accept any as long as its not at an alkaline or acidic extreme. It should be rich in nutrients such as a loam and able to retain moisture in the important early spring growing period.

Winter Aconite blossoms in detail.

Winter Aconite blossoms in detail.

If you are lucky you can find a neighbor who will share these dainty giants with you as they are best lifted and the tiny tubers divided up. The next best is to purchase the dormant tubers and then soak them a few days in damp peat before planting in the late summer about 1 in deep. Sow freshly collected seed in the location where they are to grow and then be patient as it tales 1 to 2 years before blossoms will be seen. Always remember to mark where you have planted the tubers or seeds so you will not accidentally disturb them while they are dormant.

Links to This Weeks Subject:

Finnerty Gardens where many of these pictures where taken is a hidden jewel at the University of Victoria grounds. It is a good place to learn the names of plants as many have been marked:

http://external.uvic.ca/gardens/index.php

A good source of information on Winter Aconites

http://www.hort.wisc.edu/mastergardener/Features/bulbs/winteraconite/winteraconite.htm

I look forward to chatting with you again next Sunday, right here.

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