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Posts Tagged ‘North Saanich’

Since I have moved this year I do not have the chance to visit some gardens as much as I used to, this week I went and investigate a few of my favorites. I went to check the plants in them and see if anything had changed, as you know gardens are always a work in progress. I was pleased with the progress, the plants, new and old looked healthy, new features were being added and old ones were being featured more prominently. One plant I wanted to check up on was a huge Eucryphia which grows there. It was just as spectacular as I remebered it to be.

Eucryphia, what ever the species or form are spectacular late summer blooming shrubs and small trees.

Eucryphia, what ever the species or form are spectacular late summer blooming shrubs and small trees.

Eucryphias are a genus that come from the very southern areas of the world. There are said to be 7 species with 5 from the east coast of Australia(and Tasmania) and the remaining 2 from southern central Chile and Argentina. In their native habitat they generally grow to be large shrubs or small trees which are evergreen. They are now classified as being part of the Cunoniaceae family. The first Eucryphia known were glutinosa and cordifolia from South America and are now considered to be threatened there. Eucryphia cordifolia was introduced in 1851 and later in 1859 glutinosa was collected for Veitch Nursery in England.

This Eucryphia x intermedia 'Rostrevor' is found by the the famous 'Stone Bridge' which crosses Goodacre Lake in Beacon Hill Park in Victoria.

This Eucryphia x intermedia 'Rostrevor' is found by the the famous 'Stone Bridge' which crosses Goodacre Lake in Beacon Hill Park in Victoria.

The most famous Eucryphias are crosses. Eucryphia x nymanensis  was a chance seedling which was found at Nymans, a famous garden which is now part of the National Trust gardens of Great Britain. This seedling was discovered in 1914 in the gardens and is a hybrid between the 2 Chilean species glutinosa and cordifolia. Another seedling(same cross) also was found at Mount Usher in County Wiklow in Ireland. It combines the best feature of the parents and is considered to be the hardiest of all Eucryphias.  It was given an AGM in 1924. These plants are collectively called Eucryphia x nymanensis ‘Nymansay’.

The large Eucryphia found at Dominion Brook Park in North Saanich is Eucryphia x nymanensis and was planted in 1958.

The large Eucryphia found at Dominion Brook Park in North Saanich is Eucryphia x nymanensis and was planted in 1958.

Another easily found Eucryphia is located in Beacon Hill Park by the Stone Bridge which crosses Goodacre Lake. It appears to be Eucryphia x intermedia ‘Rostrevor’. Eucyrphia x intermedia ‘Rostrevor’ is another plant from the ’emerald island’ but was discovered in a garden at Rostrevor,County Down, Northern Ireland. It was found in the 1930s. It is a cross of Chilean species  glutinosa and Australian lucida. The leaves are slightly toothed or not at all and have overall shiny,  smooth look. It is a smaller, more elegant small tree or shrub which has a narrower profile. It too is considered to be very hardy.

The leaves of Eucryphia x intermedia 'Rostrevor' are smooth and glossy.

The leaves of Eucryphia x intermedia 'Rostrevor' are smooth and glossy.

Here on Vancouver Island Eucryphias are seen in some of the more important plant collections public and private. I have also seen them at Government House, Finnerty Gardens and farther up the island at Milner Gardens at Qualicum Beach. The most commonly seen form  is ‘Rostrevor’ although I know that several of the species are grown in private collections which can ocasionally be seen by the public. Eucryphias grow very well in the mild marine climate here.

This huge Eucryphia x nymanensis is found at Dominion Brook Park in North Saanich.

This huge Eucryphia x nymanensis is found at Dominion Brook Park in North Saanich.

Eucryphias are fairly easy to grow. They need humus rich soil which is on the acid side. They like a good amount of water which drain away from the plant and does not sit during the rainy season. They like to have their roots shaded from the heat of day(like Clematis). they do not like to have their roots disturbed so care must be taken when placing them as well as when planting underneath them. They prefer a sunny sheltered positions away from cold drying winds which will damage their mostly evergreen leaves. If they get too much of a chill they can loose their leaves. Give your plant space as it can easily grow to more than 10m(30ft) tall and almost as wide if not pruned. They are fairly hardy and take -10(14f.) or zones 8 to 9,

The leaves of Eucryphia x nymanensis take after its parent E. glutinosa

The leaves of Eucryphia x nymanensis take after its parent E. glutinosa

Eucryphias re at home in a woodland setting  and other slightly shading plants. They are naturally a specimen in the garden at this time of year but also make an attractive accent in many settings such as a shrub or perennial border. Here they grow in a marine setting where the damp of the air helps them in drier times of the year. Some Eucryphia are highly fragrant and also are good sources of honey for bees at this late time of the year. In fact the South American species have in the past been used as a commercial source of honey.

On the Eucryphia Trail:

Techincal information on the genus:  http://zipcodezoo.com/Key/Plantae/Eucryphia_Genus.asp

Chilean Eucryphia cordifolia: http://www.chileflora.com/Florachilena/FloraEnglish/HighResPages/EH0093.htm

Search Gardenweb for Eucryphia dicussions: http://search.gardenweb.com/search/nph-ind.cgi?term=eucryphias&x=19&y=12

……Hope to see you here again soon……

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Growing up in the north, at this time of the year winter was long in the tooth… we were all tired of it. We desperately looked forward to any warm days when the snow would melt and maybe a patch of green would show through the dirty snow. My mother had planted some tiny bulbs under an Alder bush which would grow into a tree. the bulbs would be the absolutely first things to bloom often before the ice and snow had left the ground. No wonder their common name is Glory in the Snow (Chiodoxa forbesii). Their incredibly intense blue blossoms where always cherished.

Glory In The Snow-Chiondoxa forbesii

Glory In The Snow has such an 'eye catching' color which stands out against any background.

Chiondoxa in Greek means literally Glory in the Snow; ‘Chion’ being snow and ‘doxa’ being glory. There has been some confusion with the specific species name which was formerly lucillae and this is still commonly seen in trade as well as in publications.  Lucillae was the name given by Edward Boissier for his wife (Lucile (1822-1849) who died accompanying him on his travels.

A small clump of Chiondoxa forbesii found in the rock garden in Beacon Hill Park, Victoria.

A small clump of Chiondoxa forbesii found in the rock garden in Beacon Hill Park, Victoria.

The name we now use is Chiondoxa forbesii. Forbesii commemorates James Forbes(1773-1861), the head gardener and horticulturalist of Woburn Abbey which was owned by the passionate plant collector the Duke of Bedford. Forbes wrote Hortus Woburnensis which was a listing of all the  6000 + species and varieties of ornamental plants which were held in the collection in his time.

 Chiondoxa 'Pink Giant' is one of the more commonly seen varieties seen here.

Chiondoxa 'Pink Giant' is one of the more commonly seen varieties seen here.

Whatever the name on the bulbs is you can be sure they originated in the same small area in western Turkey high in the Tmolus Mountains near Izmir. In the area where they grow Glory In The Snow often bloom before the snows have completely melted, therefore the common name. There Chiondoxa species  grow on gritty, stony slopes in full sun or under deciduous trees and shrubs.

Here at Domion Brook Park in North Saanich, Glory in the Snow has naturalized in the lawn over many years.

Choindoxa forbesii has been with us for some time and the bright blue flowers are always a favorite in the garden and lawn. because they are so low growing, early blooming and aggressive seeders they make good bulbs to include in lawns for early color. I see this in many places here where it is common the see the same with Crocus, Galanthus and Daffodils. We have an ideal climate with winter wet and droughts during the summer when these types of bulbs are resting.

Outside more door every morning I see the bright Chiondoxa forbesii blooming happliy

Outside more door every morning I see the bright Chiondoxa forbesii blooming happliy

Growing these dainty darlings is easy. Glory In The Snow likes well-drained soil with full sun especially when they are growing in the late winter and early spring.  When they are growing is the time they most need some moisture, later when they are dormant they prefer to be quite dry.  These plants are best grown under deciduous shrubs and trees especially in areas of strong sun. I like them under many of the early blooming shrubs and in areas which are brightened up by the bright colors. One must be careful if planting them  that they do not over take other small plants growing near by.  Remove spent flowers and sometimes dig up excess bulbs will take care of the problem of their over population.

Chiondoxa 'Pink Giant'

A contrast in pink shades. Chiondoxa 'Pink Giant' and a dark Heather.

Glory In The Snow are hardy to zone 4 or -29c (-20f). At the colder extremes you should give them some extra mulch for winter protection. They grow at the most 15cm (6in.) above the ground. If you choose to naturalize them in your lawn you should postpone you first mowing until they have finished  their growing cycle and are in decline, this will assure you a good colorful show of flowers the following year. If you like white forms be on the lookout for Chiondoxa forbesii var alba, a glistening member which would be attractive to see.

Glory in the Snow links:

Paghat’s page on the ‘Pink Giant’ http://www.paghat.com/chionodoxapink.html

Wiki’s page on Choindoxa:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chionodoxa_luciliae

Until we meet again soon…

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This time of year, no matter where I am, up north in deep snow, down on the coast in the rain or somewhere else when the sun comes out I want to either work a garden or explore in the woods.  This year the spring weather has come extraordinarily early and since I have recently moved I have started explore new areas in the city. My first stop was to change my library card and to explore  Colquitz River Trail which runs along the river of the same name. I was hunting for the not so elusive Osoberry or Indian Plum(Oemleria cerasiformis)plants which are in bloom now, I stalked along the walk and …..alongside the path were several!

 The Oemleria cerasiformis is one of the first native plants to bloom.

The Osoberry is one of the first native plants to bloom.

On gloomy wet days when I go for a walk I see these shrubs with their glistening white racemes of pure white flowers which hang from the tips of branches like  perfect dew drop earings. The Osoberry is a small tree or more commonly shrub which lives on the Pacific side of the coastal mountains, its range is from Santa Barbara County in U.S.A. north though into southern B.C. One of its common names refers to the fruit (fleshy drupes) which when ripe look like tiny thumb-sized Italian plums, and indeed they have stones  which are also perfect miniatures of that fruit.

The Indian Plum has plentiful fruits, but you better be quick to harvest them.

The Indian Plum has plentiful fruits, but you better be quick to harvest them.

The fruit is ripe when it is bluish black and was eaten by local native groups, they savored them fresh, cooked and dried.   Oso(berry) refers to bears liking to eat them. Birds (Robins), squirrels, deer, coyotes and many other animals love to feast on the fruit as well. Let us not forget the bees which enjoy this early source of nectar.

Indian Plums can be found in many parks here, this group is found by the bathrooms at Beacon Hill Park.

Indian Plums can be found in many parks here, this group is found by the bathrooms at Beacon Hill Park.

Native people also used parts of the Osmaronia cerasiformis medicinally.  Burned twigs were pulverized, mixed with Oolican grease and applied to sores. A tea made from the bark was used as a purgative and tonic. Decotions where made for tuberculosis. It is said to be not only anesthetic  but an aphrodisiac as well. Osoberry is a member of the Rosaceae(Rose family) whos seeds often have small amounts of hydrogen cyanide in them. hydrogen cyanide from these types of sources  has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion if carefully administered by a professional.

Colquitz River Trail is a good area to view Osmaronia cerasiformis.

Colquitz River Trail is a good area to view Osmaronia cerasiformis.

To my eye Osoberry are vase-shaped shrubs which are delicate looking throughout the year, this is partly do to the attractive thin leaves which keep their bright green coloring until the fall when they change to a clear butter yellow. It is not a densely leaved shrub therefore it never looks heavy or lumpy, but has a more wispy quality to it. In the winter without leaves the form of these shrubs can be highlighted.

Finnerty Garden has done a wonderful job pruning their Osoberry into small tree forms.

Finnerty Garden has done a wonderful job pruning their Osoberry into small tree forms.

Osoberry is seen in many areas here, along paths, roadsides, meadow edges  and creeks and in many rocky areas growing under the Garry Oaks. They are in full sun or dappled light. They like rich humusy soils which can retain some moisture during our dry summers here. if they become too dry during the summer they will start to drop some of their leaves. They take pruning very well and this should be done after they have bloomed. They usually are pruned for shape but also can be cut to the ground to revive them and tidy them up.

Osoberry are male or female plants and often grow in thickets under Garry Oaks as seen here at Government House.

Osoberry are male or female plants and often grow in thickets under Garry Oaks as seen here at Government House.

Indian Plum are male or female plants. If you want a good crop of berries for the wildlife or you, you will have to have both sexes of plants.  I have seen incredible crops of berries and have made tasty syrups and jellies which are similar to cherry flavor. These plants grow to 6m(20ft) high and 3.7m wide in places where they are most happy. They are rated zones 7 though 10, cold tolerant to -18c(10f).

This unripe crop of Indian Plums is high above my head.

This unripe crop of Indian Plums is high above my head.

Help for hunting Indian Plums:

Rainyside has an interesting page: http://www.rainyside.com/features/plant_gallery/nativeplants/Oemleria_cerasiformis.html

Technical information on the berry: http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Oemleria%20cerasiformis

Paghats’ Indian Plum page: http://www.paghat.com/indianplum.html

Until we meet again later….

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Where I grew up is now deep in snow, winter truly has arrived. My brothers who live in the area that I grew up will be out finding a tree at the lake to be decorated for Christmas.  Often when I was little one of the excitements was getting the big box of gifts from Grandma who lived in Surrey, it would be sent up on the bus.  Along with the gifts, she always sent homemade cookies, fruitcake and some of the wonderful Holly which grew at their place. The Holly(Ilex aquifolium) was for my mother as it did not grow in such a cold place as Prince George.

Ilex aquifolium 'Argentea Marginata'

Many forms of Holly have been collected, one of the most attractive is Ilex aquifolium 'Argentea Marginata'

Holly has been with us a long time. the Romans used to send boughs of Holly with gifts to their friends for the Saturnalia Festival, which was the most popular of all. Holly was the sacred plant of Saturn. Saturnalia Festival was celebrated from  December 17th to the 23rd and commemorated the dedication of the Temple of Saturn to the the God of the same name. The festival popularity was do to it’s good hearted nature where much jesting and pranks were pulled. Another feature of the festival was the role reversal of masters and slaves.

Ilex 'Balearica'

Ilex 'Balearica' is an unusual form of Holly which has no spines.

From the Saturnalia Festival the Christians where thought to have adopted Holly. it is believed the used the Holly to avoid ill treatment and religious prosecution.  Holly being a common Northern European plant already was an important Pagan plant which was used by the Druids to adorn their heads. It was believed the plant had magical qualities and drove away evil spirits. Holly is now used to symbolize  the crown of thorns Jesus wore with the berries representing his blood.

Ilex 'Wilsonii'

Ilex 'Wilsonii' is a female which has very wide leaves of a Holly plant.

It is interesting that ‘Ilex’ it’s Latin name refers to another plant all together; the Holm Oak – Quercus ilex.  Pliny refers to Holly as ‘Aquifolius’ which is it’s classic Latin name and where our newer ‘aquifolium’ comes from. Pliny said that if it was planted near a home it would repel poison(which is strange because the berries are) and protect the  house from lightening and witchcraft. He also said that the flowers would cause water to freeze.

Ilex aquifolium 'Ferox Argentea'

This fierce looking Ilex aquifolium 'Ferox Argentea' is male and has pricles on the tops of it's leaves.

There are many Hollies now which have been collected as sports or crosses with other simalar species which most commonly include latifolia and or perado var. platyphylla. There are other species also which are attractive garden specimens and may be seen in Ilex species collections. A good collection of Hollies near me is located at Dominion Brook Park in North Saanich, at one time this collection was one of the best in North America.

Ilex perneyi

Ilex perneyi is an unusual species with attractive small leaves.

The first Holly was brought to Vancouver Island in 1851 by Joseph Despard Pemberton. At one time this area was an important Holly harvesting area because the plant grows so well here. Over time the industry has died out do to the extremely valuable land it is on and problems such as leaf miners and twig blight damaging the crops.

Ilex altaclerensis 'Golden King'

Ilex altaclerensis 'Golden King' is a bright form which has a habit of reverting to green.

Ilex aquifolium is interesting in that it has(monoecious) male and female plants, this is easily discerned by the presence of  brightly colored berries on the female plants. Holly is native in Western to Southern Europe, North Africa and Western Asia. it has spread by seed and has become a problem in other areas where it is considered invasive. Here we find it in woodlands where it becomes a prickly problem and is removed along with other pest species of plants. One must take this into to consideration when selecting a plant.

Ilex aquifolium 'Aurea Marginata'

A pair of large specimen Ilex aquifolium 'Aurea Marginata'(male) flank the formal staricase at St Ann's Academy in Victoria.

Hollies are easy to grow and are undemanding. It prefers slightly acidic soil which is well drained yet nutrient rich, a yearly mulch is much appreciated. These are plants which can take shade or sun very well. Pruning can be done at anytime and they have traditionally been used for topiary. Holly can be used many ways depending on the type you are growing, the more plain types make excellent hedges and shrubs in a border. The more attractive leaf forms are often used as specimens.  Old leaves dry and become very prickly so this is not a good plant for lawns or areas where people want to kick off their shoes or with small children.

Ilex  'Golden Milkboy'

Ilex 'Golden Milkboy' is another bright male plant.

Holly grows to 50 ft(15.5m) tall by15ft(4.5m) wide. It is rated as zones 6 (-10f or -12c) and above. Place your Holly so it does not get damaging dry North winds during the winter.

More about Holly:

Growing Holly: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/factsheets/trees-new/ilex_aquifolium.html

Saturnalia Festival:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturnalia

Dominion Brook Park: http://www.northsaanich.ca/Municipal_Hall/Departments/Parks_and_Trails/Parks_Information/Municipal_Parks.htm

Until we meet again later….

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One of the most noticeable things about southern Vancouver Island is how dry it is for long periods of the year. We often have little or no rain from late May through until the end of September. This is a very tough situation for most plants to endure if they are not adapted to it. I have seen many shrubs and trees scorch from the heat combined with lack of sufficient water. Luckily for us many native plants here are unusually attractive and grow well in the stony ground on the island. One tree which is endemic here is the Garry Oak (Quercus garryana) which stands out at this time of the year. it is also known as the Oregon Oak or Oregon White Oak.

Garry Oaks is  Quercus garryana

Garry Oaks at Beacon Hill Park in Victoria.

There are 3 varieties of Garry Oaks which live in Western North America. Quercus garryana var. garryana is found here and lives in the largest area which ranges from Southern California, along the coastal mountain ranges up to southern Vancouver Island and the gulf Islands. The variety var. breweri is found in the Siskiyou mountains in Oregon  with the final variety var. semota found in the Sierra Nevada area. This Oak was named by David Douglas to honor Nicholas Garry who helped him in his collection of plant samples in the Oregon area. Nicholas Garry(1782?-1856) was employed by Hudson’s Bay Company and later rose up to be the Deputy Governor of the company. Garrya elliptica is also named after him.

Garry Oaks found at Holy Trinity Church in North Saanich.

There are some majestic Garry Oaks found at Holy Trinity Church in North Saanich.

Garry Oaks are the only Oaks found in Western Canada and they are part of an endangered ecosystem which is in a very small area of southern British Columbia. Garry Oaks are very representative of the 116 species of plants, animals and insects which are found here and no where else in the world. This delicate ecosystem is under attack  mainly from expansion of human settlement and introduction of invasive and destructive species  from other places. large areas have been altered and changed and it is just recently that we have started to protect some of these remaining sites.

Sea Blush, Common Camas and Shooting Stars are but a few of the species growing amongst the Garry Oaks.

Garry Oaks have never really been important to the survival of native groups here.  They made combs and digging utensils with the wood or used it for fueling fires. The acorns were eaten but were not considered a choice food, but could be roasted or steamed and eaten.  Garry oak was known to be used medicinally for a treatment for tuberculosis and used as a drink for women before child birth.

The thick ridged bark protects the tree from fires which were used in creating Camas fields that native peoples farmed.

Quercus garryana generally have broad spreading rounded crowns which are made up of thick ascending crooked branches. These trees grow to 40-90ft (12-28m) tall  and nearly as wide. In areas where there are other competing plants these trees will often grow tall and gawky but in an open meadow their true form is seen. Young trees to around 25 years of age often look scrubby and will often be seen growing in groups.

These Garry Oak are found in Playfair Park and in the spring a sheet of blue Camas bloom underneath them.

Garry Oak are slow growing trees which will grow 8-12(20-30cm) in a year. They develop long tap roots and are amost impossible to transplant after they have been in the ground a few years. They need a sunny open site with very well drained soil. They do not make good lawn trees as they resent being watered during the summer and it can also cause them to become diseased. They do have natural insect pests which are often seen on the undersides of the leaves. These can become disfiguring  to the leaves some years but in others are hardy present at all. If you have the right site and would like a tree which needs little attention during the year, you might want to look into to this species or one of the other Oaks. Garry Oak grow in zones 6 through 10 (-10 f or  and higher temperature).

Male flowers are separate from the females on the same Garry Oak tree.

Learn more about Garry Oaks:

Garry Oak Ecosystem: http://www.goert.ca/

Where is Holy Trinity Church: http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM65KB_Holy_Trinity_Church__North_Saanich_BC_Canada

wiki on Garry Oaks: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quercus_garryana

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Were I come from the climate is cold and some types of plants are not well represented in the wild or are do not grow there at all. An example is broad leaf evergreen plants. The only types which have survived the extreme cold are those which have adapted themselves to be short enough to be coved by snow during the long winter. Another plant which has adapted itself in a most usual way is the Licorice Fern(Polypodium glycyrrhiza) which grow here on the mild wet coast.

Polypodium glycyrrhiza or Licorice Fern

Polypodium glycyrrhiza or Licorice Fern growing on top of a rocky ledge amoungst the moss.

I first saw Licorice Ferns in a park in Surrey, near Vancouver. They are not nearly as noticeable as they are here and that may be due to there being more rocky outcrops for them to hang off of and be more exposed. At this time of the year these plants stand out because the fronds are fresh and green, newly grown during the late fall. The adaption Polypodium glycyrrhiza uses is to be deciduous during the dry season summers here. As we approach late spring Licorice Ferns drop their leaves and go dormant over the dry hot summer. In early fall with the first rains of the approaching wet season the ferns wake up and start to grow a new crop of leaves.

Remnants of other years growth are seen at the base of this clump of Licorice Fern.

Remnants of other years growth are seen at the base of this clump of Licorice Fern.

Licorice Fern is a member of the Polypodium family of which there are up to 100 members.  They are spread throughout the world with the largest contingent found in tropical areas. All members of the family spread by rhizomes which are specialized stems that creep along the ground. The name Polypodium comes from ancient Greek and means: ‘poly’- many, and ‘podium(ion)’- little foot.  Glycyrrhiza is also from Greek and refers glykys(glycyr- sweet) and ‘rhiza’-root, this refers to the sweet licorice flavor of the root. The sweet flavor comes from ostadin which is a steroidal compound that is 3000 times sweeter than sucrose.

Several different clumps of Polypodium glycyrrhiza growing along Landsend Road in North Saanich.

Several different clumps of Polypodium glycyrrhiza growing along Landsend Road in North Saanich.

The Licorice Fern grows along a narrow strip which extends from central California through Oregon, Washington all the way up to Aleutin Islands. The area extends to the western slopes of the Coastal and Cascade Mountains and goes all the way to the ocean and then hops over the the major islands along the Pacific Ocean of North America. Polypodium glycyrrhiza grows in dappled to fully shaded sites which are often along road edges and rocky outcrops.  These ferns are also happy creeping up the bases of Big Leaf Maples(Acer macrophyllum), larger Alders and Garry Oaks. They are epiphytes which do no damage to the trees which they grow on. The fern roots have been used by native groups for healing sore throats and colds. The sweet rhizomes where sometimes chewed for the flavor. Licorice is one of only a few ferns which have been know to be eaten in various forms. The rhizomes were  eaten dried, steamed, raw or scorched.

You will find Licorice Ferns scattered through the gardens at Government House.

You will find Licorice Ferns scattered through the gardens at Government House.

Licorice Ferns grow in areas which often have very little soil. Often these sites have a layer of moss which spores of the ferns are able to grow in and develop into sheets of slowly creeping clumps of fronds. If you are lucky you will have a clump of these plants which will need little attention through the year. Many years ago I collected a piece of Polypodium glycyrrhiza which I have grown in a pot for many years. I bring it out to be on my steps during the winter for some seasonal color and later tuck into a less noticeable corner when it becomes dormant. I have divided it several times and given parts away to other gardeners.

My Licorice Fern growing in a colorful bucket on a step near my door.

My Licorice Fern growing in a colorful bucket on a step near my door.

In their native habitat Licorice Ferns can be seen growing along side wild Sedums, Tellima, Tiarellas and Heucheras. These ferns are charming to see in the winter and add a touch of bright green in areas which might be dingy and dark in the many conifers found here. I find Licorice Ferns facinating in where they choose to live and how they seem to miraculously appear on what look like barren rocks after the first rains of autumn every year. I always look forward to their appearance.

In the right place Licorice Ferns are a luxuriant carpet.

In the right place Licorice Ferns are a luxuriant carpet.

Growing Licorice Ferns are as easy as taking a piece and planting it where you want. It needs water during the winter when it is growing, now that is not hard at all here.  they are listed as growing in zones 5(-10 to -20f) through 8(10-20f). If they like their spot they will slowly increase the number of fronds which come up. they grow to 2ft tall, but rarely ever give that impression as they are usually bent over.

Polypodium glycyrrhiza in Playfair Park.

A great spot to view Polypodium glycyrrhiza is the top area of Playfair Park in Saanich.

More about Polypodium glycyrrhiza:

Wiki page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Licorice_fern

Efloras page about Licorice Ferns: http://efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=1&taxon_id=233500977

Northwest Native of the Month: http://www.portlandnursery.com/plants/nativePicks/natives_polypodium.shtml

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Every year this late in the season many of the native trees and shrubs here are suffering from drought conditions and start shedding their leaves. Fall here is drab with dried brownish leaves caused by the dryness. My mother commented on how drab it is here compared to the interior where glorious golden Birch and Poplars color swaths along hills and valleys. Happily there are good plantings in the mot surprising places which are enlivened with the best of fall colors from around the world. One place near me is a big mall which has spectacular shades or orange, peach and reds starting with the Sweet Gum(Liquidambar styraciflua) which provides a backbone of crimson running through the parking lot.

The Sweet Gum trees in Broadmead Village Shopping Centre in Saanich B.C.

The Sweet Gum trees in Broadmead Village Shopping Centre in Saanich B.C.

We are lucky here that we can grow plants from anywhere in the world. Sweet Gum come from south eastern North America, growing from Connecticut in the north moving west to the very southern edge of Ohio and south to Florida and down through mexico into mountainous areas of Guatemala.  They have long been used by the various native groups medicinally. Medicinally the resin(sweet gum or liquid amber)  was used as a balm for various ailments but has been found to be not particularly useful. It’s sweet scent has meant it has been used in the as a fragrant adhesive, the manufacture of incense as well as in perfume industry. The resin was collected and used as a chewing gum. At one time the gum was mixed with wild tobacco and smoked at the court of the Mexican emperor.

Liquidambar styrciflua (Sweet Gum) are amoung collection of trees at  the Institute of Ocean Sciences in North Saanich.

Liquidambar styrciflua (Sweet Gum) are among collection of trees at the Institute of Ocean Sciences in North Saanich.

Francisco Hernández (1517-1587) was a botanist studied Mexican flora and was the first to write about Sweet Gum trees in his work published in 1651. He wrote about a large tree which produced a fragrant gum which was amber in color. The tree was brought to Europe by John Bannister( a missionary) in 1681 and specimens were planted at Fulham Palace Gardens. At that time it was called Styrax liquida.

The fruit of the Sweet Gum tree is a multi-capsuled bauble which is unpleasant to step on.

The fruit of the Sweet Gum tree is a multi-capsuled bauble which is unpleasant to step on.

One of the main reasons for planting Liquidambar styraciflua is it’s wonderful fall colors. It has a very wide range of shades ranging from a black plum through reds and crimson into oranges and peaches. This quality makes many people long for this tree when they move to other places. There is nothing like seeing the hills dotted with the flaming reds as autumn  as it starts to cool off. The leaves of this tree seem to keep their color for extended periods than many others, so we get to enjoy the effect for longer than most other species which drop their leaves quickly after they start to color up.

A crimson bed of Sweet Gum leaves under a crispy brown Red Oak leave.

A crimson bed of Sweet Gum foliage under a crispy brown Red Oak leaf.

Sweet Gums are often mistaken for Maples and they are not. Liqiudambar styraciflua are members of the Witch Hazel family. You can tell they are not maples by their fruit which is a spiky ball. Their leaves are attached to branches in an alternate pattern, whereas Maple leaves are always in opposite pairs. Sweet Gums also have interesting corky twigs which are ditinct from smooth Maple branches.

The very 'Maple-like' leaves of Liquidambar styraciflua.

The very 'Maple-like' leaves of Liquidambar styraciflua.

Sweet Gums do grow to be stately trees of up to 40m (130ft) so placement is important.  They tolerate zones 6-10 (-5c and up). They grow best in deep, rich, slightly acid moist soil. These are trees which like wet conditions and often grow in swampy areas. Full sun is a must to get the best color display in autumn. I see these trees used in many places, boulevards, parking lots school yards and other tough places.  They are also used as specimens. there are quite a few cultivars (clones) to choose from which give options in hardiness, shape and form, less seedy and color options. There should be one that will fit into any need.

Shades of Liquidambar styraciflua in a pond.

Shades of Liquidambar styraciflua in a pond.

Be sure to be on the look out for Sweet Gum in the coming weeks as the autumn season becomes  more pronounced in your area.

More About Liquidambar styraciflua:

Some excellent photographs of the flowers, fruit and bark of Sweet Gum: http://www.duke.edu/~cwcook/trees/list.html

The Institute of Ocean Sciences in North Saanich has good specimens of many trees: http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/science/facilities-installations/ios-ism/index-eng.htm

Description of growing the tree and list of common cultivars(clones) available: http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ldplants/list.htm

In depth description of growing and knowing Sweet Gums:

http://www.hcs.ohio-state.edu/pocketgardener/source/description/li_iflua.html

Until We Meet Again Later…..

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