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Posts Tagged ‘March flowers’

At this time of the year the seasons are changing from winter to spring and with it comes unstable weather. One minute it is bright and sunny and the next it is almost dark and poring with rain, it is a challenge to get out into the garden to work. At this time I go for a quick walk in the park between rain showers and in a spot of light near the evergreen trees is a bright Rhododendron lutescens shining in the distance. Its pale buttery yellow flowers are almost unreal and beckon me to come closer.

Rhododendron lutescens is a delicate plant with the bright sunny flowers.

Rhododendron lutescens is a delicate plant with the bright sunny flowers.


Like many of our favorite plants Rhododendron lutescens comes from the treasure trove of China. The plant is found in north-east Yunnan, Sichuan, Hubei and Guizhou where is grows on the hillsides, thickets, mixed forest and limestone slopes.  It grows at elevations of 1700 to 2000 m (5600- 6600 ft.) . In China it is called Huang hua du juan.
 The brilliantly colored flowers of Rhododendron lutescens are a beacon of light in the garden at this time of the year.

The brilliantly colored flowers of Rhododendron lutescens are a beacon of light in the garden at this time of the year.


Rhododendron lutescens was discovered by Pere Jean Marie Delavay(1834-1895) in 1886 who was stationed in Kunming, Yunnan at that time. He was one of the important French Jesuit missionary collectors who explored China and other parts of the world and sent botanical samples(herbarium collections in this case) back to be identified and named by scholars at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. When these collections were received in Paris Botanist Adrien Franchet would study them and classify the new plant material.  E.H. Wilson recollected the plant when he was working James Veitch  & Sons Nursery and  it was re-introduced in 1904.
There are 2 Rhododendron lutescens found at Finnerty Gardens as well as 2 at Playfair Park.

There are 2 Rhododendron lutescens found at Finnerty Gardens as well as 2 at Playfair Park.


There are 2 leaf forms(one being narrower than the other) known of  Rhododendron lutescens although they do not seem to be recognized by specific names. Rhododendron lutescens ‘Bagshot Sands’ is a form of the species which is said to have stronger primrose yellow colored flowers. A notable feature of the species is the exquisite coloring of new foliage which can take on an amazingly deep wine red coloring, this appears to happen after the flowering has occurred.  With the yellow flower color, fine delicate leaves and early bloom time, Rhododendron lutescens has been used for crossing with other species to create new hybrids. Several are quite well-known such as ‘Bo Peep’ with its creamy flowers and “Goosander’ which has larger buttery yellow flowers slightly flushed with coral on their backsides. Both of these named hybrids are small in stature and are worth having in any garden.
Rhododendron 'Goosander' shows a similar yellow coloring of parent Rhododendron lutescens.

Rhododendron 'Goosander' shows a similar yellow coloring of parent Rhododendron lutescens.


Rhododendron lutescens is a graceful plant which deserves to be better known than it is. It grows best in a location with dappled light or spots of sun as the flowering will be better and leaf color more deep.It likes loamy to slightly sandy soil which is slightly acidic but is tolerant to more neutral qualities as long as it is not too clay rich.  These plants like good drainage and are somewhat drought tolerant. Like all Rhododendrons it has shallow root fine fibrous roots which do not like to compete with other plants, therefore mulch or a groundcover may be the best thing for under the plant. It should be sheltered from drying winter winds.
The flowers of Rhododendron lutescens vary in the yellow coloring from very pale to deeper shades and sometimes appear almost greenish.

The flowers of Rhododendron lutescens vary in the yellow coloring from very pale to deeper shades and sometimes appear almost greenish.


Rhododendron lutescens might be hard to find, check at a specialist nursery or society sales. It is fairly hardy and tolerates temperatures down to at least -10 c. (4 f.). It can grow to a reported 5.5 m. (18 ft.) tall and a narrower width often  a multi-stemmed tree form with age. Best placement is in shrub borders, winter gardens, for early spring interest or specimen plantings. it can be mass planted and even is used as an informal hedge in some places.

Some beacons of information about this plant:

The most informative page about this plant: http://www.aussiegardening.com.au/findplants/plant/Rhododendron_lutescens

UBC has an interesting picture and info about the plant: http://www.ubcbotanicalgarden.org/potd/2008/04/rhododendron_lutescens_1.php

My page which tells the story of Pere Jean Marie Delavay and another of his wonderful dicoveries: https://namethatplant.wordpress.com/2010/05/17/delavays-maroon/

……..Until we meet here along the garden path, soon I hope………

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Many plants become famous for things other than their flowers. The form and structure of a plant influences how it is used in a garden. The overall color and texture of a plant contributes much to a plants use. Some plants remind people of other things and their name reflects that. Euphorbia species cover all these bases and more. Euphorbia myrsintes(Myrtle Spurge) has wonderful color, texture and form as well as an element which can be somewhat sinister.

 Mrytle Spurge(Euphorbia myrsinites) sprawls across a rock earlier this year.

Myrtle Spurge(Euphorbia myrsinites) sprawls across a rock earlier this year.

Myrtle Spurge has been known from the earliest time. Theophratus (372-287 B.C.) said it looked like a kind of  ‘Tithymallos’ and called it ‘Myrtle-like’. Dioscorides described it as ‘hath leaves like to Myrsine, but greater and strong and sharp and prickly on top’. We also come to Pliny who said ‘Mytites had medicinal uses. Flower heads where harvested and dried long before they had started to swell to blossom and were used with other plants and said to heal sores in the mouth and used as an emetic. We of course do not use this plant for any type of medical or edible use today.

The chartreuse flowers of Euphorbia myrsinites contrast with the  distinctive sea green foliage to produce a unique sight in the garden.

The chartreuse flowers of Euphorbia myrsinites contrast with the distinctive sea green foliage to produce a unique sight in the garden.

With such an ‘old’ plant we are not the least surprised to find out where Euphorbia myrsinites comes from; the Mediterranean. Euphorbia myrsinites grows naturally in a wide area from the Balearic Islands near Corsica, moves across southern Italy through Croatia, Bosnia Hercegovina and Montenegro and through Greece. From Greece it is found in Turkey and Asia Minor south and east all the way to Iran. It is found in rocky and sandy areas as well as in open areas under open forests often populated by Pine. The plant grows from near sea level into mountain slopes.

The serpentine foliage of Euphorbia myrsinites becomes grayer in the drought and heat of summer here.

The serpentine foliage of Euphorbia myrsinites becomes grayer in the drought and heat of summer here.

All Euphorbia species have milky sap wich is released when the plant is damaged. The sap is a form of natural latex which is sticky and contains Diterpene esters which are often irritating to people who have sensitivities. Not all people react to this chemical in the same way I for years propagated many species of Euphorbia and had no trouble, I was always careful when doing cuttings and did my work in well ventilated areas and washed my hands throughly. If you have any concerns do not grow Euphorbias which include Poinsettia of Christmas, or grow them in area where they are out of the way.

A seedling Myrtle Spurge is seen growing in a crevice with native Sedum and Oregon Grape.

A seedling Myrtle Spurge is seen growing in a crevice with native Sedum and Oregon Grape.

Euphorbia myrsinites grows in Victoria well as long as it has good drainage. The best plantings I have seen here are at Government House in the Terrace Garden which is a steep cliff area with gardens running down its face. In this garden there are many tender and exotic plants as well as those which are drought tolerant and can live in areas with little soil. Several species of Euphorbia are featured there. There is also a rough stone staircase which has plants in the cracks including todays plant. Another interesting planting is found at Glendale Gardens where these plants are displayed in the drought tolerant garden.

The rock staircase in the Terrace Gardens at Governemnt House is a perfect place to display Euphorbia myrsinites.

The rock staircase in the Terrace Gardens at Government House is a perfect place to display Euphorbia myrsinites.

Euphorbia myrsinites is easily grown in soil which is extremely well-drained and not to nutrient rich. Full sun at all times in an absolute must. These plants ideally like to sprawl on rocks or gravel or hand slightly over edges which they dry quickly from rains.  This plant has thick leaves and a thick base which is almost a caudex which helps it withstand drought conditions for several months at a time. These plants are excellent in large rockeries, containers, slopes and out of the way crevices which are hard to maintain. Creeping Spurge grows about 15-20 cm.(6-8 in.) tall and sprawls 45-60 cm. (18- 24 in.). It is rated as growing in zones 5 though 9 or tolerates temperatures down to -29 c (-20 f.) with perfect drainage and protection from winter winds.

Here the thick caudex-like rootstock is visible where this Myrtle Spurge has been pulled out slightly.

Here the thick caudex-like rootstock is visible where this Myrtle Spurge has been pulled out slightly.

Myrtle Spurge often is not long-lived but can produce seedlings which can be moved into place. Seedlings also are easily removed if not wanted or remove the flower heads before the seed has ripened. In some areas Euphorbia myrsinites has been classified as a noxious weed for it has been able to seed and spread into unwanted areas. It can not be grown or brought into Colorado, Oregon or Washington states. It is up to us as  nursery growers and gardeners to make sure we are not causing a problem by not taking care of our plants. by removing spent flowers or disposing of seed heads we can make sure that attractive but foreign plants do not become a problem in the future.

 
Now for some interesting and informative links:

Wiki page of this plant: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euphorbia_myrsinites

How this plant is viewed at Poisonous Plants of North Carolina: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/Euphomy.htm

The Drought Tolerant Garden at Glendale Gardens: http://www.glendalegardens.ca/droughttolerantgarden.php

Expereinces of the people of Dave’s Garden, pro and con:  http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/781/

………See you very soon right back here………

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When I first started horticulture school many years ago it was autumn and the leaves where changing color.  The trees and shrubs we were leaning were all new to me and often did not impress me too much in ragged end of year state. As the season progressed into winter I learned to appreciate the form and shape of the simple things like tree structure, bark and buds and the often subtle differences between closely related species. The spring brought new hope of reawakening in the city which was my new classroom, those buds expanded and soon the earliest flowers were blooming. All around was color, especially yellow and the most vibrant of all were the Golden Bells or Common Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia).

 Forsythis x intermedia is one of the brightest shrubsto bloom at any time of the year.

Forsythis x intermedia is one of the brightest shrubsto bloom at any time of the year.


Forsythias like so many plants comes from the vast area of eastern Asia. There are 11 known species with only 1 which originates from Europe.The most important species in horticulture are Forsythia suspensa, viridissima, ovata and japonica. From this group the suspensa x  viridissima which is known as F. x intermedia is the most important and has contributed a number of well known garden plants.
 Although the flowers of Forsythia x intermedia are small, there are thoousands which coat the branches.

Although the flowers of Forsythia x intermedia are small, there are thoousands which coat the branches.


Forsythia x intermedia is a cross of 2 species(suspensa x viridissima) which originate in China. The first species seen and written about was F. suspensa (Weeping Forsythia) which was seen by Carl Peter Thunberg in Japan where he was posted in 1784. At that time he thought it was a form of Lilac (Syringa) and called it Syringa suspensa. An interesting factoid is that Lilacs and Forsythia are in the same family as Olives (Oleaceae).  This species brings a drooping habit to its branches and has rambling/suckering growth.

The 'greenstem' influence of Forsythia viridissima is seen here along with the slightly angular surface. The lenticels (bumps on barks) are typical for the species.

The 'greenstem' influence of Forsythia viridissima is seen here along with the slightly angular surface. The lenticels (bumps on bark) are typical for the species.


The other species in the cross is viridissima which is also from China and was discovered by Robert Fortune  in about 1850. Greenstem Forsythia blooms later than any of the other Forsythia species and has noticeably green, square stems. It is thought the species met in Holland and naturally crossed there but it also just as likely that there are natural crosses found in the wild where the plant species grow in the same areas close together.
The hardy Forsythia x intermedia buds are set in the fall and over-winter tightly before they burst forth into bloom usually in late February around here.

The hardy Forsythia x intermedia buds are set in the fall and over-winter tightly before they burst forth into bloom usually in late February around here.


Forsythia x intermedia are considered to be somewhat out of fashion these days because they are not really a controlled plant. I found it interesting that when I moved here to Victoria that it is hard to find these plants as they are much more common in the Vancouver area where I had been living at. Victoria is an older city  than Vancouver and Forsythia are a very ‘Victorian era’ type of plant and I just assumed in the spring they would show up in the older yards around here.
 A very old Forsythia x intermedia near Commercial Drive in Vancouver.

A very old Forsythia x intermedia near Commercial Drive in Vancouver.


Forsythia x intermedia are easy to grow and will live for many decades in the right place. They take all most any soil as long as it drains well and is not totally clay. They produce the best flowering in full sun but take light shade and give a good flower display. They often grow into dense multi-stemmed shrubs which sucker to expand that gives them a messy appearance. They typically grow up to 3.5 m. (10 ft.) by a similar width. The branches can be seen growing upright or drooping on the same plant. Branches that touch the soil and remain there often will root and produce new growth.  These plants can be severely pruned into shrubs but most of the flowers will be lost, often only seen deep in the plant or on the top.  Free form, informal hedges (less clipped) are beautiful and bright if you have the space.
 Here Forsythia x intermedia is seen with another brightly flowering shrub Pieris 'Valley Valentine'.

Here Forsythia x intermedia is seen with another brightly flowering shrub Pieris 'Valley Valentine'.


Often Forsythia x intermedia is not noticed until it bursts into color in the spring just when we need the bright colors to help us wake up from our winter slumber. It an excellent shrub for early spring color and autumn color as it often shows tinges of madder and plum in its golden foliage. Use Forsythia in mixed borders for early spring color, winter gardens, low maintainance areas, as informal or formal hedges or in heritage gardens. Another favorite use is for forcing the flowers by bringing in branches and letting them open inside.  The best thing might be that it is quite hardy and tolerates -20 c. (-4 f.) and I have seen it growing in much colder places than that with sheltering from harsh north winds. As a side note if you live in a very cold climate look out for Forsythia ‘Northern Gold’ which takes zone 3 (-40 c. or f.).

Following Forsythia:

What People are saying about their plants: http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/74859/

One of the best places to look up shrubs and tree and their description: http://www.hort.uconn.edu/plants/f/forint/forint1.html

The Genus Forsythia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forsythia

For you gardeners in the north here is Forsythia ‘North Gold’ http://www.northscaping.com/InfoZone/FS-0038/FS-0038.shtml

…….Hope you follow along with me here……

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When I went to work for a large wholesale perennial grower I was surprised by the diversity of material that was sold. They wanted to extend their sales season by selling not only perennials but include other related plant material such as Heather, herbs, small shrubs and in the earliest spring small bulb which you could buy in bloom at the grocer. Within the bulbs sold there were Crocus, small Daffodils, Snowdrops and Iris. The Reticulated Iris (Iris reticulata) were a brilliant blue and always sold out quickly.

The classic Iris reticulata (Reticulated Iris) ia a welcome shot of brilliant blue in the garden.

The classic Iris reticulata (Reticulated Iris) ia a welcome shot of brilliant blue in the garden.

Reticulated Iris are in a subgenus Hermodactyloides which include other closely related species. They are all bulbous with netted tunics(coverings), which is where the latin name ‘reticulata’ comes from meaning netted or networked. All of the species originate in western Asia ranging from Turkey south through Lebanon through into Iraq and Iran, to the east into the Caucasus and Transcaucasia and into the former USSR.  They live in areas high in areas just below the snow line down into the lower mountain meadows and on to rocky hillside where the water runs off and they bake in the summer heat while they are dormant like many of famous bulbous plants of the area.

Iris "George' is a standout form ith its rich coloring.

Iris "George' is a standout form ith its rich coloring.

There are several color forms of Iris reticulata ranging from the almost  icy white ‘Natascha’ through the light blue ‘Cantab’ into the violet ‘Lovely Liza’ and into deep purple  of ‘George’ and ‘Purple Gem’. Other species are sometimes seen in collections but are harder to find at garden centers. Here in Victoria we have a thriving, large garden community as well as many people who are interested in alpine gardens, it makes it possible to see a wider range of Reticulated Iris forms.

The exotic colored Iris 'Katherine Hodgkin' has wonderfully reticulated petals.

The exotic colored Iris 'Katherine Hodgkin' has wonderfully reticulated petals.

Several species have added their coloring and petal form to new hybrids in the Reticulated Iris group. One of the more spectacular of these is Iris ‘Katherine Hodgkin’ is a cross of Iris winogradowii with its pale yellow flowers and Iris histrioides which is pale blue. Iris histrioides  and histrio, both blue play important roles in new crosses that are being made, the both have similarly narrow petals and blue coloring. The markings on these species tends to be dark blue with little yellow seen if at all.

Iris reticulata "Alida' has a distinct solid pale blue coloring with a dash of lemon in its throat.

Iris reticulata "Alida' has a distinct solid pale blue coloring with a dash of lemon in its throat.

I am fortunate that every year at this time I can go to a grocer and buy a tiny pot with several Iris reticulata bulbs blooming in it, enjoy the flowers then plant them out in the garden. We are also fortunate that these plants are undemanding and give us such joy at this time of the year. the most important thing Reticulated Iris need is well-drained soil and a situation where they can dry out during their summer dormancy, this can be created by planting them on a slope or giving them extra gritty soil. Plant the bulbs 10-12 cm. (4-5 in.) deep and about 3 cm.(1 in.) apart.  They grow  1-15 cm. (4-6 in.) tall. they are quite hardy and rate zones 5 -29 c.(-20 f.)through 9. With extra mulch it is likely that they can survive even colder locations.

Tough Reticulated Iris flowers are not effected by winter freezes or snow piled up around them.

Tough Reticulated Iris flowers are not effected by winter freezes or snow piled up around them.

These are small plants that usually produce 1 to 2 flowers per bulb. Mass planting is the best way to display these Reticulated Iris. They are most often seen in container plantings, alpine gardens or rock gardens. Although they are tiny in statue Reticulated Iris are good cut flowers and have an unusual, delicate violet-like fragrance. They can be grown from seed but this is a slow process as it takes about 5 years to produce a flowering bulb. If they are in a favorable place the bulbs can be divided to thin the bulbs out every 2 years. The new bulbs can be moved to other places or massed where they are. One problem we have here are slugs which eat the tender flowers, so remember this when choosing a site for these tiny gems.

The slug damage to this Iris danfordiae makes it all most unrecognizable.

The slug damage to this Iris danfordiae makes it all most unrecognizable.

Marticulate this:

The Pacific Bulb Society page on these plants:  http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/ReticulataIrises

A fascinating site on reticulata with its many forms and colors: http://www.reticulatas.com/

……..Looking forward to seeing you here 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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When I started horticulture school in North Vancouver I learned many plants which I thought would grow in greenhouses here. I was surprised to learn over time that this area has the best climate and the widest range of plant materials of anywhere in the world. This is do to the mild climate, not too hot or cold. One plant which I saw during the winter which looked very plain and burst forth in incredible bloom at this time of year were Camellias and specifically Camellia japonica(Japanese Camellia). These flowers look so incredibly beautiful to me.

Camellia japonica 'Debutante'

Camellia japonica 'Debutante' is one of the most popular named cultivars seen here.

Who would not want to fall in love with these beautiful plants. Japanese Camellias come in colors ranging from the purest white through pinks and corals in to blood reds. Some are blotched while other blooms are lined or edged with contrasting color. Many flower forms from single to double with many variations in between add to the interest  when waiting for a newly discovered plant to bloom.

Camellia (Contessa) 'Lavina Maggi'

Camellia (Contessa) 'Lavina Maggi' is an old variety which originated in Italy in 1858.

Camellias have long been cultivated and hybridized in their native Japan. They are found in the wild growing in the woods and hills on down to sea level on the islands of Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu. 3 varieties are recognized there and it is related to the flower shape and structure. The lowland form has upright flowers with filaments joined for 1/3 to 1/2 their length. The upland form is subspecies(subsp.) rusticana(honda) and has a more open flower with the stamen fused only at the base. The third variety has large fruit which have thick walls and are variety(var.) macrocarpa and are found by the mountains  on south Shikoku  and Yakushima islands.

I found this interesting Camellia japonica form in Beacon Hill Park.

I found this interesting Camellia japonica form in Beacon Hill Park.

Japanese Camellia were first introduced to Europe in 1739 by Lord Petre.  Portugal was one of the first places where Camellias where grown and appreciated. Linnaeus named these plants after Joseph Camellus or Kamel (1661-1706) who was a Moravian Jesuit priest that travelled and wrote about the plants especially those on the island of Luzon in the Phillipines.

The  beautiful and unusual Camellia japonica 'Magnoliaeflora'

The beautiful and unusual Camellia japonica 'Magnoliaeflora'

When Japanese Camellias where first introduced in the England they were thought to not be hardy. Wealthy plant collectors would build special greenhouses to keep their collections in. Several of these buildings still exist and have plants which grow up to the roof in them, one famous example is at Chatsworth House, the home of famous plant collectors the Dukes of Devonshire.

I found this Camellia Japonica cultivar at Esquimalt Gorge Park where a famous Japanese Tea Gardens are.

I found this Camellia Japonica cultivar at Esquimalt Gorge Park where a famous Japanese Tea Gardens are.

From Europe the wonderful Japanese Camellia has been grown throughout the world. Australia and New Zealand now have well known hybridizers who have given new vigour in to developement of new flowers.  Some of the best newer Camellia are crosses with other species such as reticulata, and especially saluenensis which is more hardy.

Camellia x williamsii 'Donation', probably the most beautiful and sucessful  japonica x saluenensis cross.

Camellia x williamsii 'Donation', probably the most beautiful and sucessful japonica x saluenensis cross.

we are lucky that Japanese Camellias are very adaptable and easy to please. They can grow to very large sizes with time, up to 9m(30ft) in height and 4.5m wide, I have seen very large plants which are taller than a house here. Fortunately giant plants take many, many years as Camellias are considered to be slow growers. Japanese Camellias like early season sun but need to be protected from strong light later in the year, ideal situations are under or near large deciduous trees and other woodland sites.. They yellow and burn when the sun is too strong here. they also need to be sheltered from cold, freezing, drying winds as the early blooms can be damaged by frost.

Camellia japonica 'Jury's Yellow', a 1976 developement from New Zealand.

Camellia japonica 'Jury's Yellow', a 1976 developement from New Zealand.

Japanese Camellias like good slightly acidic or neutral soils with good spring moisture for when they are growing and producing their blooms and leaves. Camellias are used as specimens, container plants, accents or even as informal hedges. They fit into shrub borders and the back of perennial beds for color when the bulbs come up. They require little or no pruning and are extremely long lived, plants can live several hundred years.

This Camellia was formerly known as 'Lady Clare', we are now using its correct Japanese name 'Akashi-Gata'

This Camellia was formerly known as 'Lady Clare', we are now using its correct Japanese name 'Akashi-Gata'

Some interesting and ravishing places for you to look at:

An interesting Japanese site in English: http://homepage3.nifty.com/plantsandjapan/page021.html

A vast collection of pages and pictures to identify Camellias:http://www.camelieantiche.com/index.php?osCsid=d57514480eeb38224cef68ba02bb1b9d

An incredible slide show of the 2008 Spanish Camellia Show: http://www.flickr.com/photos/24923827@N07/sets/72157604207205187/show/

Wiki page on Camellia japonica: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camellia_japonica

Until we meet again soon….

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Many parking lots and other institutions have parking lots and landscaping which is populated by tough hardy and often broadleaved evergreen plants. These plants have to be attractive and durable and tolerate being neglected. Many of these plants are just green and a background with no real features. A select few are standouts and should be seen in other settings more often. Viburnum tinus (Laurustinus) is a great plant which is attractive and versatile in many ways.

Viburnum tinus

Viburnum tinus(Laurustinus) is used as an informal hedge outside this fence.

Viburnum tinus has been in cultivation for a long time. This is probably do to the fact that is comes from the Mediterranean, an area which is one of the first areas where gardens were developed for pleasure. We do know that it was brought to Great Britain at least 500 years ago and many old plants are found there. It’s evergreen nature and sweet scented flowers which bloom late in the year probably attracted attention to it for use as a decorative plant.

Laurustinus

During the winter Laurustinus is a great show which it's many heads of rosey buds waiting to open.

The common name Laurustinus is thought to refer to the leaves which resemble those of the Bay Tree(Laurus nobilis). The Latin name Viburnum refers to this genus of plant but is thought not to refer to this particular species. the Latin meaning of ‘tinus’ is said to be the true ‘ancient’ name of this plant. It seems to me that Laurustinus is best described as a ‘Bay-leaved Viburnum’.

Viburnum tinus flowers

Although the flowers of Viburnum tinus are small, they are highly fragrant.

Viburnums are from the Carpifoliaceae family which includes many fragrant plants such as Honeysuckles, Beautybush and Twinflower. Laurustinus has a spicy sweet floral scent when in bloom. Other people say that it can have an unpleasant scent which may come from the leaves when they are growing early in the year. I know that the wild Viburnum which grows around here gives off an acidic scent in the fall when it sheds its leaves, it is a scent that I associate with autumn and look forward to experiencing every year. Scent is such a personal thing, one persons perfume is anothers most hated smell!

Laurustinus fruit

Often you will see Viburnum tinus blooming when there still are fruit on the bush.

Viburnum tinus have attractive drupes(fruit) which have a metallic steely blue black color, they are more sporadic and often do not develop well. The fruit of this species is not known to be edible and are said to cause stomach upset, this probably is do to the high acid content. The glossy smooth edged leaves, attractive berries and fragrant but delicate flowers make this a showy plant all year round. the added bonus is Laurustinus is easy to grow too.

The glossy leaves and red tints of the flower buds make Laurustinus attractive in the winter.

Growing Laurustinus is easy. They need well drained soil which is fertile and on the gritty side as they do not like overly wet roots. They do the best in a sunny location for the best flowering. They also tolerate dappled or shaded sites as well. they also are tolerant of ocean exposure and more chalky sites. They can grow to between 2 and 4.5m(6- 15ft)  in height and width depending on the variety you choose. This is a densely leaved plant which is excellent mass planting, informal hedges, winter gardens, shrub borders or containers. It is best to prune it for shape after it has finished blooming. There are several named forms which are more compact and one which is variegated, but is less cold tolerant. These plants are rated for zones 7 though9 (-10c or 10f).

More about Laurustinus:

Paghat’s post: http://www.paghat.com/viburnumtinus.html

Plants for a Future have some interesting notes: http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Viburnum+tinus

Oregon State University page:http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ldplants/viti-i.htm

*****Next Week I will be moving and will not be posting, I hope to post on the following Sunday Febuary 7th.  See you in 2 weeks!*****

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