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Posts Tagged ‘May 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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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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My father grew up mainly in the interior where the winters are long and cold and the warm summer months are short and much longed for. I am sure that and his father who loved gardening and nature influenced the way he experienced the world. My father always loved the scent of flowers and would check every new type he came into contact. I often wanted to show him new plant for him to experience and comment on. One plant I was especially happy for him to meet and smell its wonderful scent is Japanese Skimmia(Skimmia japonica).

Here in this group of Japanese Skimmia you can see the berried female plants in the front and the males in the back covered with flower buds waiting for the spring.

Here in this group of Japanese Skimmia you can see the berried female plants in the front and the males in the back covered with flower buds waiting for the spring.

There are 4 species of Skimmia and all are found in Asia; all of the species having attractive berries, aromatic foliage and fragrant flowers.  Skimmia japonica was first originally described by Carl Thunberg in ‘Flora Japonica'( published 1784), his record of plants which he collected in Japan in 1775-1776.  At that time it was thought the plant was a type of Holly(Ilex).  Holly like this Skimmia species has separate male and female plants.  Robert Fortune introduce a plant from China which was is a hermaphrodite(male and female parts on the same plant), this plant was later determined to be an important subspecies now known as Skimmia japonica subsp. reevesiana. What is now known is that Skimmia japonica is quite variable and is found in a wide range of areas ranging from Taiwan through the Japanese islands into Korea and Sakhalin. With the variability of the species, many new forms have been introduced.

 This appears to be a female Skimmia japonica plant as there does not appear to be any stamens with pollen present.

This appears to be a female Skimmia japonica plant as there does not appear to be any stamens with pollen present.

When Robert Fortune’s plant was introduced to the public by Sunniingdale Nursery in 1849 it was an instant hit and from that time Japanese Skimmia has been valued as a first-rate plant with many desirable qualities. In Japan it has long been used in gardens. The Japanese name for Skimmia japonica is ‘Miyama shikimi’ and Shikimi refers to a completely different species (Illicium anisatum) which is also a highly aromatic plant. The name Skimmia refers to the  latinized Japanese ‘Shikimi’. All of this has also confused people in the past as Illicum or Star Anise is well known spice and is a more tender plant.

This male Skimmia japonica clone has distinctly pink tinged blooms.

This male Skimmia japonica clone has distinctly pink tinged blooms.

The Skimmia species is a member of the Rutaceae family which we know better for giving us citrus fruit such as oranges, lemons, limes and Grapefruit.  Other members are as diverse as the bitter herb Rue(Ruta) and Zanthozylum which gives us Sichuan Pepper and Prickly Ash.  Many members of the family are edible and provide us with important fruit, spices and medicinal components.   Skimmia is probably is the most important  of the strictly ornamental plants.

 The berries of Skimia japonica are a bright shiny red and are very festive looking at this time of the year.

The berries of Skimia japonica are a bright shiny red and are very festive looking at this time of the year.

Japanese Skimmias are all around us and we often are not aware of them because their broadleaved evergreen foliage blend in so well with other plants. Skimmia japonica is very popular with better landscape designers and gardeners because the plant is versatile. One often sees them used in shady locations tucked under deciduous trees which will attract our attention most of the year. I see this in Beacon Hill Park  under the magnificent Japanese Maples between Goodacre and Fountain Lakes. When the Skimmia blooms the scent flows in the breeze along the path and across the near bridge to delight the many people strolling in the area.

 

 Skimmia japonica located under the Japanese Maples near Goodacre Lake.

Skimmia japonica located under the Japanese Maples near Goodacre Lake.

 

Skimmia japonica and all its forms are easy plants to grow. They like fertile rich soil which is slightly acidic but tolerate clay soils quite well. They like a site which is well-drained but is well watered during the hot summers as they do not like drought conditions. They prefer a site which is dappled or is more on the shady side or their leaves will yellow even in a strong winter sun. As they are evergreen they will do best being in a location which is protected from drying winds especially in the winter season.

 

 This recently planted Japanese Skimmia has a good mulch of leaves to help it survive the freezing weather and snow.

This recently planted Japanese Skimmia has a good mulch of leaves to help it survive the freezing weather and snow.

 

Japanese Skimmias are very slow-growing and dense but over a long time get to be quite large. I have seen plants which are 1.2m(4ft) tall and wide  in gardens and it is said that they can grow an astonishing(to me at least) 7m(22 ft) tall. Often now we seen many of the smaller forms such as sbsp. reevesiana which is small enough to fit well into any garden. Skimmias are rated as hardy to zone 7 or -12 to-18c (0-10f). Skimmias are easily propagated by seed or softwood cuttings although they are slow to root.

 

 The smaller forms of Japanese Skimmia make excellent container plants which can be moved easily.

The smaller forms of Japanese Skimmia make excellent container plants which can be moved easily.

Use Skimmia japonica as an accent, in a winter garden, for fragrance in the spring, along paths where you brush the aromatic foliage. Their colorful berries are bright winter interest and the foliage is not popular with deer or slugs which may visit you. They work well as foundation plants especially when placed near entrances or windows. Skimmias are also popular in a woodland setting or in borders as they are very low maintainance and will need little care over their long life.

 

Stirring up the Skimmia:

Rainyside’s page on Skimmia japonica: http://www.rainyside.com/features/plant_gallery/shrubs/SkimmiaJaponica.html

Kwantlen University webpage on sbsp. reevsiana: https://appserver1.kwantlen.ca/apps/plantid/plantid.nsf/lookup/78AAF594F71CCF2988256F0200610584?OpenDocument

The mystery of the name:

http://books.google.ca/books?id=SvcWAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA520&dq=skimmia+japonica&hl=en&ei=UaHyTMDyLZC-sQOBoaTSCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=10&ved=0CFoQ6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=skimmia%20japonica&f=false

…Until we meet again soon…I hope….

 

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The first gardening job I had was working for the summer at Park and Tilford  Gardens in North Vancouver. II was lucky as it was like an 4 month extension of education for me. Park And Tilford Gardens was at one time a well know distiller of the same name which was sold and turned into a shopping center on the condition that it kept the well known garden there.  The tiny space which is the garden had been neglected and then reclaimed to opened to the public.  The space is made up of 8 small themed gardens in a 3 acre site.

Magnolia sieboldii also known as the Oyama Magnolia.

Magnolia sieboldii also known as the Oyama Magnolia.

It was particular famous for it’s collection of Magnolia trees. As you moved from the display garden into the the colonnade on the right side was a shrub like tree with large attractive smooth green leaves that is  now  beginning it season of bloom. This is the beautiful Magnolia sieboldii or Oyama Magnolia. It slowly blooms over a longer period than most other Magnolias which is only one of it’s many features.

Oyama Magnolia with lighter color stamens.

Oyama Magnolia with lighter color stamens is likely to originate from Japan.

One thing that makes Magnolia siboldii attractive is that their flowers droop down so you look up into them. This downward facing flower is one of the features which shows off it’s attractive interior structure which is very primitive and found in Magnolia species.  the bizarre cone-like carpel is surrounded by many thick stamen which range from a rich dark blood red to a pale flesh color. There are both color forms in the Victoria area. The difference in stamen color tell us where the plant comes from. The plants which have the fleshy colored stamens are likely to originate in Japan(Honshu to Shikoku through to the Kyushu Islands) or southern China( Anhui, Fujian and Guangxi) and are  designated as Magnolia sieboldii subsp. japonica.  The red stamen plants come from a wider area including Korea and northern China(Manchuria) and are Magnolia sieboldii subsp. sieboldii.

The Other-worldlyMagnolia sieboldii  Seedpod Still Ripening.

The Other-worldlyMagnolia sieboldii Seedpod Still Ripening.

Oyama Magnolias are usually low multi-stemmed shrub trees which are wider than they are tall, growing 3.5m(10ft) by 4m(12ft) wide. The best placement of these trees is a elevated so the flowers are more visible. In Victoria the best location for this is most surprising, in a retail shopping center.  Look behind the Harris Green Village Shopping Center on View Street, at the bottom of the steps and going up into the shopping area there are several including a large one at the the top along the sunnier wall.  These are the pale stamen form. If you want to see the dark red form  of Magnolia sieboldii there is one in Beacon Hill Park along the stream  which runs between Goodacre and Fountain Lakes which parallel Blanchard Street. make sure you visit this species of Magnolia in the evening when it’s fragrance is most potent.

Magnolia sieboldii on View Street behind Quadra Village Shoping Center

Magnolia sieboldii on View Street behind Quadra Village Shoping Center

This is one Magnolia which is a forest dweller who does not like full sun.  All the Oyama Magnolias I have ever seen have been in sites which are sheltered from midday sun which would burn their leaves.  Care must be taken whenever you plant a Magnolia as it has fleshy brittle roots which can easily break, this is the time of most danger for these trees. they like fertile, moisture retentive soil which has some humus in it. It needs adequate water during the dry season here for good growth.  Do to it’s delicate roots it is not advisable to plant underneath(the trees in the above picture are under-planted with Pacysandra, a lush ground cover). Treat this tree as a specimen in your garden as it will be loved by all who see it.

Magnolia sieboldii in Beacon Hilll park in Early Spring.

Magnolia sieboldii in Beacon Hilll Park in Early Spring.

Oyama Magnolias bloom slowly over several months, from May sometimes into early August.  They are hardy to -20c(-5f) in North America but in their native setting have been known to withstand -40c(-40f). They are rated zone 6 through 8 here.

More Information on Siebolds’ Magnolia:

More information why this is a great plant: http://www.greatplantpicks.org/display?id=2619&searchterm=all

On the Magnolia flower structure: http://waynesword.palomar.edu/trmar98c.htm

Park & Tilford Garden: http://www.greatervancouverparks.com/ParkTilford01.html

Beacon Hill park map showing it’s features: http://www.beaconhillparkhistory.org/graphics/mapsA.htm

Until We Meet Agian Later This Week:

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