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Posts Tagged ‘July blooming’

I have come to like many of plants that have been in gardens for hundreds of years. I love to find out the stories behind their common names. Some plants I have grown and others I like from afar, most of these plants have shown that they are still worthy of being in a garden somewhere. One plant has I like has velvet-like leaves and tiny chartreuse flowers. I bet you know what I mean and if you can not guess …..Lady’s Mantle(Alchemilla mollis) is its name.

Tiny chartreuse flowers and the sage green velvety leaves of Lady's manltle (Alchemilla mollis) are the feature most loved by gardeners and florist alike.

Tiny chartreuse flowers and the sage green velvety leaves of Lady's manltle (Alchemilla mollis) are the feature most loved by gardeners and florist alike.

Lady’s Mantle is a plant that comes to us from northern Greece east into western Russia and into the Caucasus then south all  into northern Iran. In its natural habitat it grows in wide range of habitats from stream banks to meadows and wind swept plains and mountainous areas.  A close relative Alchemilla xanthocholra was formerly named A. vulgaris and is the European version of Lady’s Mantle. It is said to be less hairy than A. mollis.

The green-blue leaves of Alchemilla mollis are seductive and beautiful especially in the rain. One can really imagine a Lady's Mantle made of soft material which looks like this foliage.

The green-blue leaves of Alchemilla mollis are seductive and beautiful especially in the rain. One can really imagine a Lady's Mantle made of soft material which looks like this foliage.

Alchemilla mollis is a plant often seen frothing over the edges of paths or edging paths with its softness in flowers and foliage. It is a beautiful foil to cover unsightly bare stems of all sorts of larger plants and is used this way in many places. The name Lady’s Mantle is said to have come from the edges of the leaves that are similar to a cloak (or mantle) a lady would wear. The orgin of Alchemilla is unknown but is thought to possibly have originated from a Arabic world that has been ‘Latinized’.  Mollis means soft or with soft hairs and refers to the leaves.

Alchemilla mollis (Lady's Mantle) is used here to soften edges of this sunken Rose garden at Esquimalt Gorge park

Alchemilla mollis (Lady's Mantle) is used here to soften edges of this sunken Rose garden at Esquimalt Gorge Park.

Species of Alchemilla and especially the look-a-like Alchemilla xanthocholra have been much used in medicine in the past.  The plant contain salicylic acid (ASA), a strong pain reliever that we use today. Lady’s Mantle was used as a herb for women and was gathered in June and July, the roots were used fresh while the leaves were used when dried.  It was used for painful periods and was especially  associated with excess bleeding as well as during menopause. It was also used as an astringent in mouth washes for sore gums and ulcers.

In this artistic garden the charteuse flower colors of Alchimilla mollis contrasts with the more somber plum and coppery rust tones.

In this artistic garden the charteuse flower colors of Alchimilla mollis contrasts with the more somber plum and coppery rust tones.

Alchemilla mollis is a versatile plant which can be used in many places from fairly deep shade to full sun. That versatility also applies to the growing conditions as it is not to fussy in soil type as long as it does not become water logged or completely dried out.  This plant stays a fairly compact 45 cm.(18 in.) wide and high.  It is a very hardy plant and will survive temperature down to below -40 c. or f. (zone 2-9).

Here Alchemilla mollis take over from hardy Geraniums and leads the Hostas and Asilbes in a wave of color and texutres.

Here Alchemilla mollis take over from hardy Geraniums and leads the Hostas and Asilbes in a wave of color and texutres.

 Lady’s Mantle can be used in many ways but it will always be more informal as the plant is loose looking and soft. The most often seen use is as edging along paths where it spills over and softens edges. Another use is to hide more gangly larger plants long stems. It works well in large containers and give an all year show of color and texture. It should be found in all floral arrangers gardens as the leaves, flowers and seedheads all are used in bouquets. The chartreuse color of the flowers and sea-green foliage of Alchemilla  mollis is beautiful in most gardens and the colors are appealing to the eye, many artists have been inspired to include it in painting and other works. it can be mass planted and used as ground cover and is especially attractive in rocky areas popping out amongst the rocks.

A serving of Alchemilla links please:

Wiki page on Alchemilla species: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alchemilla_mollis

How to grow it:http://www.uvm.edu/pss/ppp/jan99per.html

A French gardener write about Lady’s Mantle:http://www.frenchgardening.com/inprofile.html?pid=311933322533616

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We I was small we would visit my grandmother(my father’s mother) in Williams Lake which was closer than my other grand parents. She came from Scotland and had an accent any many things from her family at her home. She also special scented soaps and that scent I now always associate with her. The soap was Lavender scented (from Yardley) and I still love that fragance. Here in Victoria we are able to grow that most famous of aromatic plants in many forms. The Lavender plant which most reminds me of the soap in its scent is Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’ (Hidcote Lavender).

'Hidcote' Lavender Lavendula angustifolia 'Hidcote' has the fragrance that most reminds me of my grandmother.

'Hidcote' Lavender Lavendula angustifolia 'Hidcote' has the fragrance that most reminds me of my grandmother.

Lavenders are plants which originate form the mountainous areas of France and Italy and Spain. The numerous species of plants have been used for millennial for fragrance, medicinal, herbal and culinary purposes. Different Lavenders have slightly different scents, some are more resinous(pine scented) while others are are less potent and kind of dusty (almost musty). What we think of as ‘true’ English Lavender scent is Lavandula angustifolia with bright flower that are dried for sachets stuffing pillows,  used in oils lotions, soaps and pomanders. The scent is said to be calming and is used that way in herbal medicine. The flowers have many culinary uses from sweets to teas and inclusion in meat dishes and other savory foods.

Hidcote lavender is included in this herb garden.

Hidcote lavender is included in this herb garden.

Hidcote lavender is a true English Lavender selection( selected in 1950) which is named after the world-famous  garden at Hidcote Manor near Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire.  Hidecote Manor was an estate whose gardens were developed by Lawrence Johnson (1871-1958). Johnson was born in France to an American father who was a wealthy stockbroker. Lawrence Johnson has nor formal horticulture training but was extremely artistically talented. Lawrence when to Cambridge and graduated with a degree in history from Trinity College and later joined the British army fought in the Boer War and World War 1. In 1907 his mother bought Hidcote and he went to live with her in the 200 acre estate.

A contemporary west coast drought tolerant garden with Hidcote Lavender as one of the feature plants.

A contemporary west coast drought tolerant garden with Hidcote Lavender as one of the feature plants.

For the next 41 years Lawrence developed 10 acres into a magnificent series of garden rooms each with its own surprises and unique features.  he was much influenced by Gertrude Jekyll the Arts and Crafts movement which was primarily located in Great Britain.  The gardens of Hidcote were seen as being so important that the National Trust selected them for their first example of gardens to include in their collection of places of cultural heritage. 150,000 people visit the Hidcote gardens every year to learn and get inspiration from them.

A modern use of Hidcote Lavender(Lavanduala angustifolia 'Hidcote') seen in this garden at Parkside Victoria.

A modern use of Hidcote Lavender(Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote') seen in this garden at Parkside Victoria.

Most lavenders grow well on Vancouver Island even though we have much more rain that would occur where they originate, drainage is important. Here in Victoria most gardens are on top of a layer of clay and fine sand which means placing any Lavender is tricky. Hidcote Lavender seems to do the best of all the different species which are grown here as it is quite hardy and will take more moisture that some others which will regularly die or be severely damaged during colder winter here.

Hidcote Lavender is just one of the massed plantings used to create color throughout the year on the main street through Brentwood Bay.

Hidcote Lavender is just one of the massed plantings used to create color throughout the year on the main street through Brentwood Bay.

Growing Hidcote Lavender is easy in the right place. You need full sun and well-drained soil especially in wetter climates. The best plantings I have seen are completely exposed to the elements such as those in the Terraced Gardens at Government House. There they grow in rocky niches in soil which probably is not that deep and they will bake in the summer. Although Hidcote Lavender is a shorter dense plant it will do well with a cutting back after the flowers start to fade in color. This will set a flush of new vigorous growth before autumn dormancy will set in. Hidcote lavender grows up to  30-45 cm. (12-18 in.) tall and about as wide. It is  rated at tolerating -34 c.(-30 f.) or zone 4.

Here Hidcote Lavender is tucked in with Heaths, Heathers and small assorted succulents.

Here Hidcote Lavender is tucked in with Heaths, Heathers and small assorted succulents.

Hidcote Lavender can be used in a variety of ways such as in containers, as a formal or informal edging for paths, drought tolerant garden, deer or rabbit resistant garden, mass plantings or specimen plantings, as an accent, in herbal and fragrance gardens or collections.  True Hidcote Lavender is propagated by cuttings but what you get in most garden shops is a Hidcote strain of seed grown plants which generally are very uniform in their growth, color and size. This is an excellent seed strain.

Many forms of Lavandula angustifolia:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavandula_angustifolia

Hidcote Manor:http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace/w-hidcote.htm

Lawrence Johnson:http://www.countrylife.co.uk/gardens/article/473685/Great-British-garden-makers-Lawrence-Johnston-1871-1958.html

 

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At this time of the year I really become aware to the color of foliage in various plant in the landscape. Plants are still fairly fresh and their foliage is alive and vibrant with color. Colors other than greens stand out in ways that often fade as the season goes on. It is unusual to find a group of plants with more color than those of the Cotinus (Smoke Bush) family which gives a show from spring until late autumn.Their color ranges from black purples, wine reds, bluish green, green and into chartreuse yellow – and this does not include autumn tones which are just as show stopping!

The color tones in one branch of Cotinus coggygria 'Velvet Cloak' is remarkable

The color tones in one branch of Cotinus coggygria 'Velvet Cloak' is remarkable.

The genus Cotinus is a member of the family Anancardiaceae which also contains the  Mango, Cashew, Poison Ivy (Sumac) species and was at first classified as Sumac(Rhus) species until it was separated from the other members. It does not irritate the skin or have sap which can burn.

Smoke Bush(Cotinus) generally have brilliant autumn colors ranging from scarlet into to peach and golds.

Smoke Bush(Cotinus) generally have brilliant autumn colors ranging from scarlet into to peach and golds.

Cotinus is a small genus of 2 or possibly 4 species of which coggygria and obovatus are the best known.  Cotinus coggygria is the species which is best known in the landscape and originates in Europe from France into Eurasia and possibly all the way into China. The far eastern representative coggygria sometimes listed as another species C. szechuanensis (var.  szechuanensis). The other well known species is C. obovatus and comes from North America particularly in Tennessee, north Alabama, Missouri, Arkansas and isolated pockets in central Texas. All Cotinus species have been used extensively for a source of dye wood as it gives colors of orange-yellow and yellow coloring. The use of C. obovatus as a yellow dye source before the civil war in U.S.A. almost brought the species to extinction in its native habitats.

Cotinus 'Grace' is a cross between Cotinus coggygria 'Velvet Cloak' and C. obovatus.

Cotinus 'Grace' is a cross between Cotinus coggygria 'Velvet Cloak' and C. obovatus.

 Cotinus  is from ‘Greek’ kotinos meaning wild olive but why it is named this is unknown. Coggygria also comes from ‘Greek’ kokkugia- the name of ‘Smoke Tree’. C.Coggygria has been cultivated  in gardens for an unknown period but is first mentioned in the mid 17th century. The species form is not commonly seen in gardens as there are more exciting color forms.

The less commonly seen species form of Cotinus coggygria is seen here with its lovely green foliage.

The less commonly seen species form of Cotinus coggygria is seen here with its lovely green foliage.

Smoke Bush are well known for their colorful foliage and there are an increasing number of cultivars to choose from.  The oldest color form is probably C.c. ‘Foliis Purpureis'(Rubrifolius) which has rich purple -plum leaves which fade into to greenish tones as the summer progresses. C.c. f. purpureus(‘Atropurpureus’) refers to the coloring of the large panicles of purplish flowers. C.c. ‘Royal Purple’ (Notcutt’s Variety’) has leaves which start maroon red and then matures to black-purple(darkest of all forms) it holds its color well throughout the year and changes into scarlet autumn shades. C.c. ‘Velvet Cloak’ has red violet foliage which is dramatic, its floral display is longer than most. It holds is color well.  Cotinus ‘Grace’ leaves emerge in wine-red and has clouds of pink-tinged flowers. A new color yellow range has come out from a chance seedling found at a dutch nursery in 1990, it is C.c. ‘Golden Spirit'(Ancot’) – it does not fade out unless it is under-watered.

The 'smoke in Smoke Bush or tree(Cotinus species) is from the panicles of tiny flowers and then the whispy seedheads later on.

The 'smoke in Smoke Bush or tree(Cotinus species) is from the panicles of tiny flowers and then the whispy seedheads later on.

All Cotinus species drier areas often with rocky soil on slopes and hillsides. They have proven to be vary adaptable to many other situations and soils from heavy clay to sandy. They need full sun pr produce the best coloring and floral display. They need adequate watering while becoming established but later are much more drought resistant. They are pest and disease free but sometimes coloring tends to fade out in hotter southern areas, this is where coppicing helps rejuvenate the color. The best coloring is obtained by regularly pruning them hard, use a method such as coppicing to produce wanted effect.

Cotinus 'Royal Purple'(the darkest color) is coppiced to keep its best color and form.

Cotinus 'Royal Purple'(the darkest color) is coppiced to keep its best color and form.

All Smoke Bush are rated at zones 5to 9 and take cold temperatures down to -28 c. (-20 f.) In colder climates they generally are cut to the ground which is like the mentioned coppicing.  Cotinus can be used as specimens, in shrub borders,  as accents, masses, in less watered areas and can pruned into tree forms which are very effective. Cotinus have a lot of appeal in the shape of the leaves and wispy flowers to add to a garden along with strong color.

Cotinus 'Golden Spirit'('Ancot') was found as a chance seedling at a Dutch nursery in 1990 and holds its color well in the September garden.

Cotinus 'Golden Spirit'('Ancot') was found as a chance seedling at a Dutch nursery in 1990 and holds its color well in the September garden.

Cotinus in all its Glory:

Cotinus species : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cotinus

Cotinus obovatus, a web site devoted to it: http://cotinus.net/

Google image page of Cotinus coggygria cultivars, choose your color:

http://www.google.com/search?q=cotinus+coggygria+cultivars&hl=en&authuser=0&rls=com.microsoft:*:IE-SearchBox&rlz=1I7GGIE&biw=1920&bih=955&prmd=ivns&source=lnms&tbm=isch&ei=L5AHTuXmNYnViAKMl8zSDQ&sa=X&oi=mode_link&ct=mode&cd=2&ved=0CAsQ_AUoAQ

Why Coppice? http://apps.rhs.org.uk/advicesearch/profile.aspx?pid=121

Venetian

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I was listening to the local radio yesterday as I went about my business about town, they were interviewing a local vegetable grower who said crops are 5 to 6 weeks behind where they normally are at this time of year. I knew the season was behind although it seems to me that plants catch up at different speeds and some never really seemed to have been effected by the bad weather here this year. One plant which just rolls along without a care is Erigeron karvinskianus  Latin American Fleabane. It is rarely out of flower at any time of the year.

Erigeron karvinskianus (Latin American Fleabane) is a tiny sprawling plant perfect for containers,baskets and in rock cracks.

Erigeron karvinskianus (Latin American Fleabane) is a tiny sprawling plant perfect for containers,baskets and in rock cracks.

There are many Erigeron and most come from North America and as the common name tells you E. karvinskianus comes from more southern areas. It is found growing from Mexico south into Venezuela. In its native habitat it grows in the mountains at 1200-3500m (4000-11000  ft.) where is is evenly moist throughout the year. Spanish Daisy, Latin American Daisy, Santa Barbara Daisy or Mexican Daisy and even Bony Tip Fleabane – all are referring to the same plant.

With its tiny parts Erigeron karvinskianus does not seem out of place with other small plants here.

With its tiny parts Erigeron karvinskianus does not seem out of place with other small plants here.

Erigeron isthought to be Greek eri=early and geron= old man. Karvinskianus refers to Baron Wilhelm Friedrich Karwinski von Karvin (von Karvin Karvinski) 1780-1855. He  born in Hungary and was a naturalist with interests in Geology, Botany and particularly in the study of fossils from different periods. To this end he traveled to collect samples and the areas he went to was Brasil(1821-23) and Mexico(1827-32) . During his travels he sent back over 4000 plant specimens and several have been named after him, these include cactus, grasses and several others. He collected his sample of Erigeron karvinskianus while he was in Oaxaca Mexico.

Part of the charm of South American Fleabane lies in flowers which open white and change into pink as they age. This effect is also seen in other Erigeron species.

Part of the charm of South American Fleabane lies in flowers which open white and change into pink as they age. This effect is also seen in other Erigeron species.

 Erigeron karvinskianus is a very successful plant since it has been grown at sea level and in some areas it has become somewhat of a pest. In Australia and particularly it is not welcome (in these areas it is recommended to plant Branchyscome  multifida which is similar looking). The selection ‘Profusion’ refers to the flowers but also could well refer to its ability to reproduce quickly. In Victoria it is controlled by the climate being on the very edge of it being able to exist as a perennial here, many plant will have died this winter and new seedlings will take their place.

Here native Sedum, Cotoneasters and other mixed plants blend together in the rocks with Spanish Daisy to give a pleasing contrast in textures and color throughout the year.

Here native Sedum, Cotoneasters and other mixed plants blend together in the rocks with Spanish Daisy to give a pleasing contrast in textures and color throughout the year.

I first came to know this plant as a grower at a perennial nursery and thought that this plant might be a good container plant as it has proved to be in other areas. It has mainly been grown for this purpose as it is not hardy enough for most of Canada. Here it can be grown as a short lived perennial which reseeds to refresh with new plants. Victoria and nearby areas are the only places you will see it growing in gardens as a regular plant.

The diminutive flowers on wiry stems of Erigeron karvinskianus are long lasting as they go through their metamorphosis from pure white to deep pink.

The diminutive flowers on wiry stems of Erigeron karvinskianus are long lasting as they go through their metamorphosis from pure white to deep pink.

Erigeron karvinskianus like full sun and well drained soil which can be sandy or even having clay like it is around here. It like even moisture to slightly dry especially in colder areas as excess wetness promotes rot. These plants can be used in many ways, as fillers, accent,groundcover, massed, in large rockeries as long as its not near delicate growing or extremely small plants. They are fairly drought tolerant and attract butterflies to your garden. They are rated as zone 8 -10 c. (20-30 f.) They grow 15-20 cm high and wide.There are several named varieties, ‘Profusion’ is the best known and there is ‘Snowdrift’ which has white flowers. It is also thought that the species E. moerheimerii is just a form of karvinskianus and should be listed as E.k. ‘Moerheimii’

The Baron and the Little Flower:

Description of and cultivation for: http://www.perennials.com/seeplant.html?item=1.200.230

Fine Gardening has a good description: http://www.finegardening.com/plantguide/erigeron-karvinskianus-profusion-fleabane.aspx

Baron Wilhelm Friedrich Karwinski von Karvin: http://www.botanischestaatssammlung.de/DatabaseClients/BSMvplantscoll/About.html

…..Follow my trail to more interesting plant tails……..

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This time of the year usually is warmer and the Roses would be in full bloom, I guess I will have to wait a bit more. In the meantime I am reminded that there are so many other plants which are now stealing the show and some of them do it in a way which is more subtle than just big wonderful blooms. Often we overlook fantastic foliage which accompanies the flowers. How about this novel idea, a plant which the foliage is just as much the star if not more, a tall order I would say! One plant I and many other gardeners would nominate is Achillea ‘Moonshine’ (Moonshine Yarrow).

Achillea 'Moonshine is part of the street plantings in Brentwood Bay and looks good year round, tidy foliage and bright non-fading flowers.

Achillea 'Moonshine is part of the street plantings in Brentwood Bay and looks good year round, tidy foliage and bright non-fading flowers.

Achillea ‘Moonshine’ comes from the famous plantsman Alan Bloom(1906-2005) and Bressingham Gardens. If you look through perennial plant books you will see the name Alan Bloom and Bressingham Gardens mentions many times. Alan Bloom came from a plant family, his father grew cut flowers and fruit for a living . Alan left school to go into the business, his wise father said he should try as many areas as possible to find where his interest were and he settled on hardy perennials. After working as an apprentice Alan started his first wholesale perennial nursery in Oakington, the place of his birth. It took only 4 years for Blooms nursery to become the biggest of its kind in England. In 1946 he purchased the Bressingham Hall (near Diss in Norfolk) which included 228 acres of land. He  began developing it during the 1950s and early 60s, during this time he also introduced nearly 200 newly named  plant selections and hybrids which originated from his nursery and the famous  gardens.

The golden flowers and silver foliage of Achillea "Moonshine" is bright and soft at the same time making it an easy plant to work into garden designs.

The golden flowers and silver foliage of Achillea "Moonshine" is bright and soft at the same time making it an easy plant to work into garden designs.

‘Moonshine’ Yarrow is a cross between A. clypeolata (silvery foliage ,strong chrome yellow flowers) and taygetea( ferny foliage and creamy yellow flowers). It was discovered as a seedling around 1950 and introduced into gardens about 1954. It was quickly recognized to be an outstanding plant and was awarded an A.G.M.(Award of Garden Merit) from the Royal Horticultural Society. The plant has proved to be one of the best ‘Blooms’ introductions and is seen in many situations from well maintained gardens to the tough street side planting.

The silvery foliage of Achillea 'Moonshine combines the delicate 'ferniness' of A.taygetea with the silver sturdiness of A. clypeolata.

The silvery foliage of Achillea 'Moonshine combines the delicate 'ferniness' of A.taygetea with the silver sturdiness of A. clypeolata.

I first encountered Achillea ‘Moonshine’ a the wholesale perennial nursery I worked at in the early 1990s and I knew at once that this was a great plant compared to the other Yarrows which were grown there at the time. The foliage was beautiful by its self and the slightly creamy yellow flowers seemed to bloom for the longest time. These plant were always quickly bought up by the local nurseries, landscape architects and designers who put in orders or came to visit the nursery to see the plant stock we had there.

Here Achillea 'Moonshine' is used as a way to hide unsightly Rose stems along the exterior of the Rose Garden at Government House in Victoria.

Here Achillea 'Moonshine' is used as a way to hide unsightly Rose stems along the exterior of the Rose Garden at Government House in Victoria.

Achillea ‘Moonshine’ is an easy to grow plant which tolerate a good amount of neglect which makes it a very versatile plant for use in many situations. It does require full sun to produce the silveriest foliage and the most golden flowers, but, this is little to ask for such a grand reward! It takes most kinds of soil as long as its well-drained as wet feet can lead to trouble for most Achilleas. It is a fairly compact plant growing 60 cm.(2 ft.) high by about the same wide. Keeping it slightly under-watered will keep the floral stems from sprawling.Cut it back after its first flowering for it to repeat later in the summer. Divide it every couple of years to keep it vigorous.

Achillea 'Moonshine' is excellent as cut or dried flowers and will continue to give pleasure long after other flowers are spent.

Achillea 'Moonshine' is excellent as cut or dried flowers and will continue to give pleasure long after other flowers are spent.

Achillea ‘Moonshine’ is hardy to -30 c.(-20 f.) and takes wet climates well as long as the soil is well drained. In the hotter areas it is said that the plant melts out in full sun conditions but I can find no explanation as to what this means. I might assume it is better to give it richer soil(moisture retaining) in those areas. Use this plant in any hot border, such as that with Lavender and Sages. Let the yellows and purples play together with the silver foliage to create a classic color combination.It works as an accent, specimen, in borders or containers and massed. It attracts butterflies to your garden during the summer. An added bonus is it is both deer and rabbit resistant and drought proof.

These "Moonshine' Yarrow have been cut back and are now coming into their second bloom of the summer.

These "Moonshine' Yarrow have been cut back and are now coming into their second bloom of the summer.

Mining For Moonshine:

Good advise for growing you own ‘Moonshine’ http://www.perennials.com/seeplant.html?item=1.010.500

Alan Bloom: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Bloom_(plantsman)

Bressingham Gardens are worth a visit if you travel to England:

http://www.bloomsofbressinghamplants.com/about-us/the-perennial-tradition/the-bressingham-gardens.html

Other people comment about there experiences with this plant: http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/48885/

…………I hope you mine some gems here and come back soon…………

 

 

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So we are finally starting to have cooler nights. The last week was more rain than sun. Some trees are starting to color up and the sour tang of decay is beginning to creep into the air. There are a few plants which are in their glory now this late in flowering year. One group which stands out are Asters, their lavender blues are seen along roadsides and in gardens everywhere. Aster x frikartii ‘Monch’ (Monch Aster or Frikart’s Aster)is arguably the best of this mighty group of plants.

Aster x frikartii 'Monch' combines the best of its parents to create a wonderful plant.

Aster x frikartii 'Monch' combines the best of its parents to create a wonderful plant.

Frikart’s Aster was a planned meeting of 2 species to produces a plant that combined the best of the parents.  We do not know exactly why these plants were selected by Carl Ludwig Frikart (1879-1964) but we are grateful for the outcome. Little is known about Frikart other than he ran a nursery in Stafa, Switzerland and is said to have had a large rock garden which was built in the 1930s.

This clump of long lived Aster Frikartii 'Monch' is found in Playfair Park.

This clump of long lived Aster Frikartii 'Monch' is found in Playfair Park.

The two Asters Frikart decided to combine were Aster amellus and thompsonii.  Aster amellus is called Michealmas Daisy or Starwort in Europe where in comes from. It grows from France east through Italy into Czechoslovakia. It has more attractive leaves than most other Aster species and is more tolerant of dry conditions than most others. It also less effected by most of the common disease of Asters such as leaf spot and mildews. The other Aster selected was Aster thompsonii which comes from the Himalayas and is most commonly seen here as the form ‘Nana’ It has larger lavender blue flowers and wiry dark stems. I have grown both species and must say that they both are neat attractive plants with less pests or disease than other better known species.

The single flowers of Aster Frikartii 'Monch' make beautiful subjects for use in boquets.

The single flowers of Aster Frikartii 'Monch' make beautiful subjects for use in boquets.

Carl Ludwig Frikart began crossing amellus and thompsonii and named his first successful crosses after the famous mountains in his native Switzerland. Three were named in 1918: Eiger, Jung Frau and Monch, of these ‘Monch’ became the most famous and planted throughout the world. He continued making crosses and later released ‘Wunder von Stafa’ (‘Wonder of Stafa’) named after the town were he lived, it is still grown and is available especially in Europe. Later Alan Bloom of Bressingham Nursery would add the cross ‘King George’ to the list.

'Monch' Aster fits well in this mixed perennial and shrub planting at Government House.

'Monch' Aster fits well in this mixed perennial and shrub planting at Government House.

Monch Aster is in many ways really well suited for the garden where other Asters are not. Many of the Aster we grow originally come from plants which grow in swampy areas or on the edges of waterside. Aster x frikartii Monch‘s parents come from naturally dry areas. Here we have damp springs and bone dry summers which cause many Asters to develop diseases which are rarely seen with Monch’s Aster

.

The simplicity, large size and purity of color of Monch Aster flowers is one of most pleasing aspects of the plant.

The simplicity, large size and purity of color of Monch Aster flowers is one of most pleasing aspects of the plant.

Monch Aster are easy to grow, they like full sun, well drain soil with some nutrients and less than average water throughout the year. They are fairly compact especially in full sun, growing 60-90cm(2-3ft) tall and with about 50cm(1.5ft). If they are tending to flop stake them up, I have not really seen this here unless the plants are in to much shade.  They are hardy to zone 6 or -15c(5f).

The attractive foliage that Aster x frikartii `Monch`is an added benefit.

The attractive foliage that Aster x frikartii `Monch`is an added benefit.

Probably the best reason to use this plant is its extremely long season of bloom which lasts from late July into October.  Here you will see it in traffic medians in Saanich because its a low maintenance plant which gives color for several months. Frikart`s Aster is very versatile, it can be used in many places. It is seen in sunny perennial and shrub borders, as seasonal color, in containers, mass planted, in dry borders or hard to water areas and as an accent in gardens.

Searching for Monch Aster:

Aster amellus is also called Italian Aster:  http://www.gardening.eu/plants/Perennial-Plants/Aster-amellus/1742/

New York Times article on Asters: http://www.nytimes.com/1991/09/15/nyregion/gardening-asters-can-be-ordinary-or-spectacular.html

Sunset article on Monch Aster: http://plantfinder.sunset.com/sunset/plant-details.jsp?id=321

Until we meet again soon…

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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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