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Posts Tagged ‘late summer blooming plants’

I have worked at several large nurseries over the years and the first was a large company which grew perennials. It was recommended I work there as it was the largest in Canada for that type of plant. I was not disappointed and learned a great deal from the vast array of plants they stocked on a regular basis. It was also interesting to see what plants they would introduce to this area of Canada which is by far the mildest and has the widest range of options. Many plants were new not to just me but in some cases to the rest of North America.  At that time many new plants were originating from New Zealand, South Africa and South America. One spectacular plant is the very late blooming scarlet red Schizostylis (Hesperantha)coccinea or Scarlet or Scarlet River Lily which is from the Drakensberg Mountain area of South Africa.

The spectacularly colored Schizostylis coccinea or Scarlet River Lily.

The spectacularly colored colored Schizostylis coccinea 'Major' or Scarlet River Lily.

Scarlet River Lilies have been known since 1864 when they were brought into cultivation in Europe. The area they come from is quite high up in the mountains 1500-2500m(4900-8200ft.). They also grow in very moist areas, beside stream banks and seasonal islands. It is felt that this is an adaption to their climatic situation which is part of why they have been reclassified to be listed as  Hesperantha coccinea. Other members of Hesperantha grow from corms and Schizostylis coccinea grows from rhizomes. ‘Schizostylis’ refers to the the flower being in parts of 3 which is common with all members of the Iris(Iridaceae) family. ‘Coccinea’ refers to it’s red  flower color which is how it is seen in the wild.

There are up to 30 color forms of Scarlet River Lily which range from pure white to deep scarl

There are up to 30 color forms of Scarlet River Lily which range from pure white Schizostylis cocccinea 'Alba' to deep scarlet.

In the wild Scarlet River Lilies live up to their color name and are good shade of red which works in many situations. Since being brought into cultivation many shades have become known and some are quite delightful. I first  became familiar Schisostylis coccinea with ‘Major’ with large red flowers, then,  ‘Sunrise’ which is coral pink and  Mrs. Hagarty which is a lighter pink color.

One of the pink forms of Schizostylis coccinea commonly seen in the Victoria area.

One of the pink forms of Schizostylis coccinea commonly seen in the Victoria area is 'Sunrise'.

As I noted Scarlet River Lilies normally live in moist areas and this feature makes them very useful in the gardens. It is hard to find such bright plants with attractive and disease resistant plants for boggy areas. I much prefer this plant to many of the Irises commonly used as they can become to aggressive. This plant is also easily adapted to other areas where there is adequate moisture in the soil.

A planting of Scarlet River Lillies in a broad border of mixed perenials ans shrubs at Governement House.

A planting of Scarlet River Lillies in a broad border of mixed perenials ans shrubs at Governement House.

When growing  the easy and adaptable Schizostylis coccinea, choose a sunny site for the best show of blooms. Soil should be rich and moisture retentive. Care must be taken to make sure they do not dry out  when they are setting their flower buds as they will be lost. Buds also can be damaged by early frosts. These plants take -10c(14f) and is rated at zones 7 through 10. I have seen them sited in mixed borders, at the base of sunny slopes and along water ways and next to informal ponds and pools.  They also can be used in mass plantings for long blooming fall color.

The clean damage free foliage of Schizostylis cocciniea at this late time of the year is a real bonus.

The clean damage free foliage of Schizostylis cocciniea at this late time of the year is a real bonus.

The overall effect of this plant is relaxed as the leaves and floral stems are often lax. Scarlet River Lilies make great cut flowers, I place the red form in my tall large dark blue glass vase for a wonderful effect. It is best when buying these plants to choose them when in bloom as I think there is quite a lot of mis-labeling happening.

Picture a vase overflowing with spikes of Scarlet River Lilies...beautiful.

Picture a vase overflowing with spikes of Scarlet River Lilies...beautiful.

More about Schizostylis coccinea:

How to grow them:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/3324532/How-to-grow-Schizostylis.html

Techincal information about why they have been reclassifed: http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/pbs/2003-February/001617.html

other members of the Hesparantha family: http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/HesperanthaTwo#coccinea

Until We Meet Again Later….

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

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

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

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

Purpletop Vervain along a path at Glendale Gardens.

Purpletop Vervain along a path at Glendale Gardens.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn more about Verbena bonariensis:

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

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

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

Until We Meet Again Soon.

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