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Posts Tagged ‘January flowering plants’

As I look out my window today I remember what it was like at this time of year; it is the middle of February and still the snow is falling and the piles of it are getting higher and higher. Back then any sunny day would make me anxious for spring to come with the brightly colored bulbs of yellow, purple, blue and even white poking through patches of bare soil. Yes I am speaking of the first flowers of this early spring here which have a big impact. The Crocus are running amuck through the city in the parks and yards and have even gone rogue in some places! I offer up to you the  group of Crocus hybrids sometimes called ‘Dutch Crocus’ to brighten your very early spring.

 These Dutch Crocus Hybrids have incredibly huge flowers, yet have a delicate quality.

These Dutch Crocus Hybrids have incredibly huge flowers, yet have a delicate quality.

There are about 80 different species of Crocus with many subspecies and varieties. Of that group only about 30 species are regularly grown by collectors and us regular people.There are 2 distinct groups ones which flowers in spring and those which bloom in autumn. Of the autumn group we would be familiar with Saffron Crocus which produce Saffron for culinary uses, the spice comes from collecting the stamens from the flowers. Crocus species originate from a large area from north Africa into south-central Europe all of Italy and eastern Europe to Russia and down through former Yugoslavia and Greece, crossing through Turkey and as far east as Afghanistan and south into the Middle East Asia. .

 Crocus 'Pickwick' is my favorite Dutch Crocus with its gloriously striped blossoms.

Crocus 'Pickwick' is my favorite Dutch Crocus with its gloriously striped blossoms.

Most of us are more familiar with the spring blooming named hybrids which are commonly called Dutch Crocus. This group of Crocus have been developed over several hundred years of careful selection of the best flower qualities. ‘Dutch’ Crocus are a group of hybrids which are primarily made up of crosses made from 5 species of which the 3 predominant are C. vernus(with the largest blooms), chrysanthus(color) and biflorus.

 Here Crocus have taken over a lawn at this time of year and have revert to a color which is similar to what they look in the wild.

Here Crocus have taken over a lawn at this time of year and have revert to a color which is similar to what they look in the wild.

No one really knows were these 3 species of Crocus began to hybridise as it is possible their paths crossed in the wild. Vernus is from the Pyrenees in Europe into Yugoslavia, Chrysanthus also is found in Yugoslavia Romania, Greece and into southern Turkey. From there biflorus is found in southern Greece into Turkey and as far east as northern Iran. We do know that several species of bulbs ended up being sent to Carolus Clusius at the Botanical Garden in Leiden in the mid 16th century.

 

The golden yellow color of Dutch Crocus early in the spring is one of the gaudiest sights in the garden.

The golden-yellow color of Dutch Crocus early in the spring is one of the gaudiest sights in the garden.

Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder (1573-1621) specialized in painting flowers and included a golden Dutch Crocus in one of his paintings. By 1629 a yellow Crocus had made their way to England and were being written about.  By the early 1700s lists of bulbs were carefully cataloged with their prices by sellers of the product and more color forms we re becoming known.

 

 

 Crocus 'Remembrance' is an old clone with one of the darkest and richest colors.

Crocus 'Remembrance' is an old clone with one of the darkest and richest colors.

All Crocus species are generally easy to grow and adaptable to most soil types. The one thing Crocus hate is overly wet stagnant soil which causes the bulb to rot. To improve soil drainage add sharp sand.  If Crocus like where they are growing they will multiply by growing many tiny new bulbils which can be removed and replanted. Crocus should be planted at least 15cm(6 in.) apart and 5-8 cm(2-3 in.) deep in the ground. It is best to plant or replant bulbs in the fall 1-2 months before frosts come to the garden, this gives the bulbs a chance to start growing their roots firmly into the ground.

 

This is Crocus 'Snow Bunting', a cheery flower in which each petal base is bright yellow.

This is Crocus 'Snow Bunting', a cheery flower in which each petal base is bright yellow.

 

Dutch Crocus are fairly hardy and take about zone 5 (-29 c. or-20 f.) – temperatures with ease and if you give your plants so extra protection or more snow they can take even colder situations.  Crocus grow well in gardens and can be used as edging plants, accents or specimens in a winter garden. Crocus make excellent container plants and can be transferred into the garden later if you like. Another thing they can be used for is naturalizing in lawns and grassy areas, this is because they will grow and decline into dormancy before you need to do your first mowing. Here there are several parks where the plants have spread into the lawns and look spectacular at this time of the year, later people are unaware that they are walking over the areas where the bulbs have gone dormant.

 

Pacific Bulb Society have very detailed pages on many Crocus species: http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/Crocus

 

Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder was a fantastic painter of flowers and floral displays: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambrosius_Bosschaert

The Wiki page on Crocus is interesting: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crocus

……….Hope to see you around these pages soon………..

 

 

 

 

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I am always delighted when I come across plants which are new to me and are extra hardy, this is because I grew up in a much colder place. Many species will not live in a place that regularly visits temperature below -25 c. (-13 f.). It is particularly cum with interesting to find shrubs which are have colorful large flowers which bloom very early in the year and are not damaged by frost. One species which has been worked on to create more cold tolerant plants is the rhododendron. One of the important species which has been long known and is important in developing hardier hybrids with attractive flowers is Rhododenron dauricum (Dahurian Rhododendron) It has brightly colored flowered at this time of the year and is one of the toughest of the species.

 The Dahurian Rhododendron (Rhododendron dauricum) is a bright beacon in early spring.

The Dahurian Rhododendron (Rhododendron dauricum) is a bright beacon in early spring.

Rhododendron dauricum comes form a fairly wide area of northern Asia. Its path begins in the Altai mountains of eastern Siberia and moves east all the way to the Sakalin Island and into Hokkaido – the most northern main Japanese island. The species is found in Mongolia,  northern China and in through North and South Korea as well.  As the plant covers such a wide area there is some variability in color and form which has added some confusion in classification. Linnaeus first described this Rhododendron in 1753 in his text Species Plantarium. He got his specimen from the botanical garden in St Petersburg Russia. It is possible that the sample had been collected by Messerschmidt in 1736 and already described by Johann Amman in 1739.

 This is one of several Rhododendron dauricum found at Finnerty Gardens.

This is one of several Rhododendron dauricum found at Finnerty Gardens.

Rhododendron growers are always trying to broaden the range of their plants in many ways such as broader colro range, larger flowers, hardiness and bloom time. Rhododendron has played an important roll in making the species more avaialbel to those living in colder climate. Rhododendron dauricum is often used as pollen parent with other species to add cold hardiness to the hoped for hybrids. Probalby the most famous hybrid is  called ‘PJM'(PJ Mezitt’) and is a mid pink color, it has smaller leaves which densely clads which slowly grows to about 2m.(6ft.). It was developed at Weston Nursery in Massetussets by Peter John Mezitt (PJM). He crossed dauricum with Rhododendron minus to creat this grest new plant. Other selection were also made but have not become so famous.

 2 lesser known dauricum hybrids are Rhododendron 'Olga Mezitt' in the background and Rhododendron 'Black Satin' in the upper left corner.

2 lesser known dauricum hybrids are Rhododendron 'Olga Mezitt' in the background and Rhododendron 'Black Satin' in the upper left corner.

Rhododendron dauricum is classified as being semi-evergreen which is why most of the leaves are not seen in the winter,and the flowers are even more noticeable when they are in bloom. Here most winters the plants do look barren except for a few leaves and the buds which is tidy in appearance. This plant has smaller leaves and fairly fine stems and has an open airy quality about it. Most of the plants I have seen around here are still fairly young and many are taller than wide at the moment.

 This large Dahurian Rhododendron is found at Finnerty Gardens and the largest one at the gardens.

This large Dahurian Rhododendron is found at Finnerty Gardens and the largest one at the gardens.

Rhododendrons are fairly easy to grow and this species is also easy. Rhododendron dauricum likes acidic moist soil which is well drained. Best placement is in part or dappled shade with some protection from bright summers sun and drying winds. I have seen these plants grow in quite deep shade and still put on a grest floral display at this time of the year.These plants can be used in a variety of ways such as massed, as an accent or specimen in a winter garden or in woodland settings. The floral color will draw your eye to wherever you choose to grow this plant.

 The small vibrant flowers of Rhododendron dauricum pack a bright punch on gloomy late winter days here.

The small vibrant flowers of Rhododendron dauricum pack a bright punch on gloomy late winter days here.

Dahurian Rhododendrons grow to a fairly large 2m.(6ft.) by the same width.  Rhododendron dauricum is rated as being zone 3b or -37c.(-35f.). They are rated as H4 or the hardiest of Rhododendrons. I have read notes from central  Alberta to Newfoundland of how well these plants grow in the extreme conditions of different parts of Canada. If you live in a colder area this is one plant you must try to find, I am sure with a little attention this plant will give you years of pleasure.

Some Dahurian links for you:

Where is Dauria:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transbaikal

An article about Dauricum hybrids which are grown here:http://www.rosebay.org/chapterweb/specdaur.htm

A technical description of the plant is here: http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=2&taxon_id=200016392

Information about the PJM group of Rhododendrons: http://www.hort.uconn.edu/plants/r/rhopjm/rhopjm1.html

……..Hope you wander this way soon……

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Sometimes I have to come back to review a plant and sometimes I like to look more closely at a group of plants. It is often the case that i have found another member of group whether it is a hybrid or completely new species. In this case it is because I see more of the species that I am seeing planted, which is a very good thing. I am particularly taken by the Hamamelis species which is one of the first plants I learned when I first went to Horticulture classes many years ago and was the very first plant I wrote about in this blog. Today I wish to look at Hamamelis x intermedia  ‘Pallida’ and ‘Arnold Promise’, 2 of the best yellow forms of  Witch Hazel around.

 On the upper right is Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise', on the lower left is H x i. 'Pallida' and in the backgorund is parent Hamamelis mollis.

On the upper right is Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise', on the lower left is H x i. 'Pallida' and in the background is parent Hamamelis mollis.

The group Hamamelis x intermedia is a natural crossing of the Chinese (mollis) and Japanese (japonica) species. In named forms this has happened far from where they might meet in the wild, usually in plant collections. In the case of Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’ it is likely to have occurred at Kalmthout which was a nursery in Holland where the seed came from. The seed was germinated and the seedlings were grown for some years and carefully watched. Different color variations were seen and named around 1932. The original plant still is located at Battleston Hill in Wisley and must be quite a slight at this time of year. Hamamalis x intermedia ‘Pallida’ has a pale yellow color and a pleasing cirtusy-spice scent.

Finnerty Gardens has several Hamamelis x intermedia including this group located near the main enterance naer the chapel.

Finnerty Gardens has several Hamamelis x intermedia including this group located near the main entrance near the chapel.

The specimens of Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’ I have seen flower extremely well and have large flowers which show up well in the dark background the often grey skies and evergreen trees here.

 Hamamelis x intermedia 'Pallida' flowers are beautifully colored and delacately scented on this cool sunny day.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Pallida' flowers are beautifully colored and delicately scented on this cool sunny day.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’ is another chance cross which occurred at the famous Arnold Arboretum near Boston, Massachusetts  William Judd, propagator of Arnold Arboretum collected seed from a Japanese Witch Hazel which was at the arboretum and germinated in around 1928. He assumed at the time it would be  pure Hamamelis japonica plants. Later it was realized that the seedlings were in fact a cross between a mollis plant which was nearby and the japonica. The original seedlings were grown on for a number of years until they started to flowers and selections were made. Several plants were named and ‘Arnold Promise’ was named and proved to be the best of the bunch. In 1963 the plant was released by the Arboretum for sale to nurseries.

 This Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise' is perfectly placed at Finnerty Gardens to draw your eyes to the end of the path where it intersects with another.

This Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise' is perfectly placed at Finnerty Gardens to draw your eyes to the end of the path where it intersects with another.

Arnold Promise Witch Hazel has a slightly darker flower than ‘Pallida’. The main difference which I see in the 2 plants is the way they grow with ‘Pallida seeming to be more horizontal  branches and Arnold Promise having a more vase shaped ascending branch pattern. On the day I photographed both of these plants it was cool and crisp with a good wind and the scent of the flowers was not strong.

 

 Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise' has a delicate coloring and scent and is beautiful in this deep winter month.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise' has a delicate coloring and scent and is beautiful in this deep winter month.

Both ‘Arnold Promise’ and ‘Pallida’  are becoming more popular as are all the Witch Hazels. These are wonderful and adaptable plants which can be used in a variety of ways to increase the pleasure of your garden. As mentioned they are fragrant, on warm days there is no more pleasing aroma I know of to encounter, the citrus-spice scent is warm and inviting. The foliage is attractive and similar to that of Corylus (Hazelnut) with broad green leaves which turn shades of butter to gold and tints of peach in autumn. The seed pods are also interesting on the bare branches during the early winter.

 

The attractive leaves and seed pods of Hamamelis.

The attractive leaves and seed pods of Hamamelis.

All Hamamelis species are woodland plants and like to have rich humus well-drained soil. they need deep watering to promote a good widespread deep root system to  help sustain them during drier times. They prefer a dappled location which offers some protection from strong summer sun. These plants have low widespread branches and should be carefully placed so little pruning is needed.  These 2 hybrids grow to the same size 4m(13ft.) heigh by the same wide. All named varieties are grafted or budded onto usually less attractive species plants and suckering from under the graft should be removed when seen.   Both of these hybrids are rated at tolerating temperatures down to -25c (-13 f.) or zones 5 through 9. These are pest and disease plants which are long-lived and will give you a lifetime of enjoyment.

Pallida or Arnold Promise, What will it be:

Hamamelis x intermedia hybrids: http://www.frenchgardening.com/inprofile.html?pid=309505181913723

Arnold Arboretum’s article about ‘Arnold Promise’ (Pdf): http://arnoldia.arboretum.harvard.edu/pdf/articles/842.pdf

RHS page on ‘Pallida’: http://www.rhs.org.uk/Gardens/Wisley/About-Wisley/Plant-of-the-month/January/Hamamelis-x-intermedia–Pallida-

……..Hope to see you soon on a bright cheery path near here……..

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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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Another grey week and another plant hunt for something special. Usually I have a list of plants in mind but right now it is hard because some of the plants I wanted to do were damaged by an unusually hard freeze which came in early November last year. At that time many of the plants were not hardened off for the winter with the damage especially seen by broad-leaved evergreens which have much browned and dead foliage now. In my wandering last week I stumbled upon two plants of the same family which are stars at this time of the year. They are the Algerian Iris (Iris unguicularis) and the Stinking or Gladwyn Iris (Iris foetidissima). They are the stars for different reasons as you will see!

 Winter or Algerian Iris (Iris unguicularis) is sometimes incorrectly labeled by its old name of Iris stylosa.

Winter or Algerian Iris (Iris unguicularis) is sometimes incorrectly labeled by its old name of Iris stylosa.


The first stop we make is with the Algerian or Winter Iris with its lovely large violet blooms. It was first described by Botanist/clergyman  Jean Louis Marie Pioret (1755-1834) in his journal ‘Voyage et Barbarie’ in 1789.  He had been sent to Algeria by Louis XVI between 1785-6 to study the flora. The lovely Iris is more widespread and found in area from Algeria and Tunisia across north Africa into Turkey, Greece Crete and Malta. In the vast area it is known to live int there is some variation in color and form.
The type of Iris unguicularis I have found in Victoria seems to be the 'Algerian' form which has the largest flowers of the species.

The type of Iris unguicularis I have found in Victoria seems to be the 'Algerian' form which has the largest flowers of the species.


Algerian Iris produce new leaves in late spring and through the summer. Often you can clip the old leave edges back when they get looking tattered. Iris unguicularis likes the sunniest, driest spot in the garden with the grittiest soil. At Government House in Victoria the plants are perfectly place in the terrace garden which is on a southern exposed rock-face.  The warmer and drier the summer the more blossoms will be produced.  One thing about these plants is they hate to be moved or have their roots disturbed in any way.
 A just opened Algerian Iris in the late afternoon sun has delicate coloring and scent.

A just opened Algerian Iris in the late afternoon sun has delicate coloring and scent.


The Gladwyn Iris is from more northern areas from southern England, Ireland through Portugal, Spain Canary Island on to Italy and finally the island of Malta.
The Gladwyn Iris (Iris foetidissma) is more famous for its brightly colored seeds which are seen during the winter months here.

The Gladwyn Iris (Iris foetidissma) is more famous for its brightly colored seeds which are seen during the winter months here.


The ‘Stinking Iris has gained an unfair reputation from its name. One has to crush the leaves and the flower to obtain even a faintly unpleasant scent. Iris foetidissima is a plant which has long been with us. It blooms in the traditional Iris time of late May and June, but, the flowers are small and often hidden in the foliage. The colors range from a creamy ochre into plummy shades.
The flowers of Iris foetidissima are often hidden in the plants foliage.

The flowers of Iris foetidissima are often hidden in the plants foliage.


The Gladwyn Iris is a plant of the woodlands, hedgerows, scrubs and cliff edges and other rocky sites. It is a plant which likes chalky and limestone  heavy locations. Gladwyn Iris can grow in the sun or dappled shade and like average soil. They like sufficient water when they are growing in the spring and then dry conditions the rest of the year.After blooming it produces larger than average seed pods which ripen through the summer and into early winter when they burst. Inside the pods are usually bright orange seeds which remain colorful throughout the winter. The other day I noticed pods recently opened and others still green and waiting to split. Just like the flowers there are other known seed colors which are sought after and they range from golden yellows to creams and white. Probably the most want of the Gladwyn Iris is Iris foetidissima ‘Variegata’ with beautifully uniform cream stripes running up the leaves.
The variegated Gladwyn Iris(Iris foetidissma 'Variegata') is most sought after, as you see it is stunning in dappled location at Glendale Garden.

The Variegated Gladwyn Iris (Iris foetidissma 'Variegata') is most sought after, as you see they are stunning in dappled location at Glendale Garden.

Algerian and Gladwyn Iris are about the same height 45-60cm.(12-18 in.) and width They also share the same temperature tolerance to 15 c. (5 f.) or zones 7 through 9. Both plants are drought tolerant when they have been established. They are rabbit and deer resistant but can be damaged by slugs and snails. They make excellent specimens, accents s, mass evergreen plantings and work well in containers. Both of these species are not easy to find in plant centres or garden shops, the best bet would be to find them at garden sales or from specialty Iris growers.

Gladwyn Iris on the upper left and Algerian Iris on the lower right.

Gladwyn Iris on the upper left and Algerian Iris on the lower right.


This Odd Couple of the Irises:

Pacific Bulb Society has interesting note on both plants on this page, look down the page to find the species you are interested in: http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/BeardlessIrises

Algerian Iris:

How to grow: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/4208463/How-to-Grow-Iris-unguicularis.html

Gladwyn Iris:

Wild in Malta: http://maltawildplants.com/IRID/Iris_foetidissima.php

……See you soon when we travel the path of plants again…..

 

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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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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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