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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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My mother was born in the Vancouver(zone 8a) area and grew up in a fairly mild climate which is that of the lower mainland.  She learned to love the flowers and other plants which grew abundantly there. When she married, she and my father decided to move to Prince George(zone3a) which is located in the center of British Columbia. No longer did she see the flowers she grew up with as the climate was much colder.  When my parents built their permanent home they had a garden and of course mom wanted some of her favorite plants there.

English or Common Primrose like those in my mothers gardens

English or Common Primrose like those in my mothers gardens

When my grandparents visited from the coast they brought with them two plants, a  clump of  blue Siberian Iris and some  butter colored English or Common Primroses(Primula vulgaris).  This was my introduction to Primula species which has fascinated me ever since. Every year in the spring I am reminded of my mothers beloved English Primroses as they bloom before any other Primula.

Primulas Peeping Out From Under a Dusting of Snow.

Primulas Peeping Out From Under a Dusting of Snow.

This Primula may be called common but it is not seen as much as you might think  for a long time it was seen as an old fashioned plant and newer more exciting types came into fashion, most often the Polyanthus which you see sold at every grocer and florist shop.  Recently people have renewed their interest in English Primroses and exciting old forms are now available at garden centers everywhere. Old Double forms such as Dawn Ansell(white) and April Rose(red) and many others are making a return to the garden here.

Double Primulas bloom a little later.

Double Primulas bloom a little later.

Primula 'Hereford'

Primula 'Hereford'

Primula vulgaris has been with us for a very long time, the Romans knew this plant and Pliny wrote about it as being a panacea for what ailed his patients. Extracts of it were commonly used for muscular complaints, paralysis and gout.  It is not surprising it would have been used as it grows in a wide geographic area  from Ireland through to the Ukraine and the south as far as Lebanon. it grows in many places; wooded pastures, copses, meadows being where it is found. So popular was collecting this plant in the wild that laws have been passed to protect it form being removed completely from where is grows.

Two Color Forms Growing in my Backyard.

Two Color Forms Growing in my Backyard.

Fortunately for us these are really easy plants to grow and divide.  They need a fertile, nutrient rich moisture retaining soil for their best showing.  I have noticed the lighter colored flowers bloom first, are often deliciously fragrant and are slightly more vigorous.  to have a beautiful display all you have to do is remove the older leaves when the new ones start to grow and this keeps them tidy.  The best way to get more plants is to divide your own or a friends, one plant can be separated into many new ones.

This planting was created from dividing 2 plants.

This planting was created from dividing 2 plants.

The best use for this plant is in masses inter-planted with other later growing perennials for later color. They also can be used as an attractive edging which i have seen in a couple of places here.

An Example of Primulas used as Edging near Playfair Park.

An Example of Primulas used as Edging near Playfair Park.

If you want to see more Primulas, Government House has several varieties on their gardens, look about at older houses and you might be rewarded with the sight of some of the buttery yellow plants that have lived for many years.

Links For This Week:

All you might want to know about Primula vulgaris:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primula_vulgaris

Government House is a treasure trove of fantastic plants. Something new to see anytime of the year. Free to all with parking.

http://www.ltgov.bc.ca/

See you again on Wednesday for new clues to lead you to the identity of the next plant.

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My prim(e) name is usually connected to a Rose.

P.v

P.v

I come in many colors, pink, yellow, white and in between.

Magenta

Magenta

This is a common color you will see in me!

I am a very old fashioned plant  and am referred to in many old stories and poems.

I am Vein

I am Vein

People often say I’m vulgar.

I think I am more of a star in a star!

Pure and Pristine

Pure and Pristine

If you need more come back tomorrow.

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(Coast)Silk Tassel Bushes or Garrya elliptica are a very unusual plant to come across. The first time I saw one I was thrilled, I had never paid attention to the rather boring ungainly shrub located at the top of the long perennial border at Playfair Park in Saanich. It was early in the year and I knew  that this garden had a wonderful collection of Rhododendrons which I wanted to check on, they were not in bloom yet,  instead I found a Garrya.

Winter Damaged Garrya at Playfair Park.

Winter Damaged Garrya at Playfair Park.

The first thing I realized on seeing this plant for the first time is that at other times without its catkins I might have thought it was an Elaegnus which has similar leaves but not flowers. Garryas are dioecious meaning they are male or female plants(Holly is another plant like this). They both have long catkins but the males clones are the most prized.  Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’ is the most commonly grown male clone which can have catkins which are up to 12in (30 cm) long.

Garrya Male Catkins

Garrya Male Catkins

Garrya ellipticas are true west coasters and don’t like living far from the ocean, this is because there are smaller temperature swings when closer to a large body of water (marine effect).  Their range extends all along the coast from southern Oregon through California. There are a total of 18 Garrya species found along the West coast  from Washington state through to Panama and east to Texas

A Happy Garrya at Glendale Gardens

A Happy Garrya at Glendale Gardens

Here in Victoria We live in a rain shadow which keeps us drier and warmer than the  the British Columbia mainland. We have a very moderate climate which is similar to their native habitat of Chaparral, mixed evergreen forest or coastal Sage scrub. Garryas’ where first found by David Douglas in 1828 and named for Nicolas Garry who was the Secretary of the Hudson’s Bay Company.  He assisted Douglas in his explorations in the Pacific Northwest.

A well placed Silk Tassel Bush

A well placed Silk Tassel Bush

Placement of Silk Tassel Bushes here here is a very tricky thing. They like full sun to part shade preferably in mixed deciduous trees and shrubs to show off their winter blooms. The most important thing is to make sure this plant is kept out of the drying burning winds that can occur during a cold snap such as the ones we have during the November to March period.  Best placement is bottoms of slopes or beside walls or fences. Another use is as a transitional plant from a  naturalised setting into the more structured garden.

Winter damage to the evergreen foliage.

Winter damage to the evergreen foliage.

Garryas are easy to please,  for luxuriant growth they ask for no less than 25 in.(25cm) of rain. They are not very particular to soil and tolerate clays if they are well drained and nutrient rich. They will grow into a substantial 12ft(4m) by 12ft(4m) multi-stemmed shrub which is deer and rabbit resistant. They can be lightly pruned after blooming primarily for shape, do not too far down into the bush.  Although these plants can take temperatures as low as 4f(-10c) they prefer a warmer climate.  Zones 7 through 10 is recommended.

Lnks to this weeks Subject:

A very informative site about Garryas

http://groups.ucanr.org/sonomamg/Plant_of_the_Month/Garrya_Elliptica.htm

Playfair Park in Saanich is one of my favorite parks for great plant specimens. I will be regularly writing about the plants here.

http://www.saanich.ca/resident/parks/playfairpark.html

David Douglas, an important plant explorer who introduced many species into cultivation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Douglas

Which plant will I write about next week? It’s still a mystery to me, check back on Wednesday for a clue.

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I first came across the lovely Eranthis hyemalis or Winter Aconites at my grandmothers garden in South Surrey near Vancouver. My mother showed me them blooming under a huge Cherry tree and there where hundreds of  the golden gems dotting the ground . She wanted to know if she could grow them in Prince George(where I grew up), I said I didn’t know and would find out for her. As they seemed to be extremely dwarf Buttercup type plants I hoped they would grow in the north(zone3). It turns out that they can with protection as they are hardy from zone 3 to 8. Both my mother and grandmother are both dead now and I have thought about these delicate plants off and on through the years and wondered why were they so uncommon?

Winter Aconites blooming in the sun.

Winter Aconites at Glendale Gardens blooming in the sun.

I hadn’t seen any Winter Aconites until last week when I was out looking for a suitable plant to highlight for this weeks article and stumbled upon them at one of my favorite gardens. I knew at once what I had come across and  knew I would just have to write about them. after finding them at Glendale Gardens I wanted to see if they were planted elsewhere. The first place i thought of was Finnerty Gardens which are located on the grounds of the University of Victoria, so, I went there and was not disappointed. There were several groupings of them located near the edges of  of the developed gardens.

A group of Eranthis hymalis at Finnerty Gardens.

A group of Eranthis hyemalis at Finnerty Gardens.

Each plant is quite small but it’s impact is huge. they hug the ground being at the most 4in(10cm) high. Each stem bears a single large 5 petaled blossom which  is 3/4 to 1 in(2.5cm) across. Each flower is charmingly encircled by a delicate green ruffle. If these plants are happy they will increase and create carpets of bright blossoms followed by delicate foliage and then finally go dormant in late spring.

Glorious Gleaming Golden Winter Aconites

Glorious Gleaming Golden Winter Aconites

The tiny Winter Aconites  are truly one of the delights of spring which you won’t notice the rest of the year as they go dormant over the rest of the year. Being a member of theRanunculus family they do not like being moved which may have lead to their scarcity in gardens. This means they need careful placement. Fortunately there are many suitable locations which they can grow.

Fully opened Winter Aconites February 17 2009

Fully opened Winter Aconites February 17 2009

Ideally they are placed somewhere slightly out of the way that can be easily seen. Often good placement is at the base of a deciduous tree or in a rock garden niche which has sufficient moisture in the spring when they are erupting into a glowing show. They mix well with other spring bulbs such as Galanthus and Crocuses and other early blooming plants such as Primulas which bloom in the late January through early march period. It would also be possible to intermingle them with very low growing groundcovers which are not too dense.

Several healthy clumps of Eranthis hyemalis.

Several healthy clumps of Eranthis hyemalis.

Winter Aconites originate in Europe,  growing from France through Italy and crossing the sea into Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. They have happily naturalised in other areas of Europe as well. They grow there in deciduous woodlands  such as those dominated by Horse Chestnuts(Aesculus hippocastanum) and rocky places. Winter Aconite are relatively easy to grow as they are not too particular about soil and will accept any as long as its not at an alkaline or acidic extreme. It should be rich in nutrients such as a loam and able to retain moisture in the important early spring growing period.

Winter Aconite blossoms in detail.

Winter Aconite blossoms in detail.

If you are lucky you can find a neighbor who will share these dainty giants with you as they are best lifted and the tiny tubers divided up. The next best is to purchase the dormant tubers and then soak them a few days in damp peat before planting in the late summer about 1 in deep. Sow freshly collected seed in the location where they are to grow and then be patient as it tales 1 to 2 years before blossoms will be seen. Always remember to mark where you have planted the tubers or seeds so you will not accidentally disturb them while they are dormant.

Links to This Weeks Subject:

Finnerty Gardens where many of these pictures where taken is a hidden jewel at the University of Victoria grounds. It is a good place to learn the names of plants as many have been marked:

http://external.uvic.ca/gardens/index.php

A good source of information on Winter Aconites

http://www.hort.wisc.edu/mastergardener/Features/bulbs/winteraconite/winteraconite.htm

I look forward to chatting with you again next Sunday, right here.

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I am a Glowing Golden Globe peaking out across Southern Europe and all of Asia.

Glowing Golden Globe

Glowing Golden Globe

I often am found in the forest, but not always.

Green Ruffles

Green Ruffles

I have a green ruffle around each of my flowers.

I am dainty yet stocky all at the same time.

Golden Eye

Golden Eye

Buttercup is one of my more famous cousins. Now can you guess who I am?

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When I went to Horticulture school  in Vancouver we started in September. The largest and most challenging part of the curriculum was learning the 300 new plants. Learning to identify plants in the winter with no leaves, flowers or fruit was for the most part a new experience for all of us.  After learning 20 new plants a week for weeks on end with nary a bloom or deciduous leaf in sight it was an absolute delight to find there really were some that dared to bloom in the depths of winter here.  The first plant we actually studied when it was in bloom was Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’.

bodnant Viburnum at Our lady of Assumption Church, Central Saanich.

Bodnant Viburnum at Our lady of Assumption Church, Brentwood Bay.

Bodnant Viburnum has a most interesting history.  It has two already distinguished parents being; Viburnum grandiflorum(the pollen supplier) which is said to have lent it’s foliage and Viburnum farreri(formerly known as fragrans) which contributed it’s wonderful fragrance. This cross was originally done by Charles  Lamont at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh in 1933. He didn’t think much of the resulting batch of seedlings and never propagated them.  In 1934-5 the same cross was done at Bodnant Gardens and several forms of this crop are the ones we have come to know and love.

Viburnum x bodnatense 'Dawn' in full bloom.

Viburnum x bodnatense 'Dawn' in full bloom.

Bodnant Gardens is an 80 acre treasure trove of plant delights. It is famous for introducing many fine Rhododendron and Magnolias into cultivation. This was the ancestral  property of Henry Duncan McLaren, 2nd Baron of Aberconway was an important contributor to horticulture and garden plant development in the 20th century

Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn'

Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn' in bud

Wonderful clones were named, the first being  ‘Dawn’ with pink buds opening to a paler pink blossom, next was ‘Deben’ which is a paler color and said to have a more graceful form. Finally a pure white form was named to honor ‘Charles Lamont’ after he died.

Bodnant viburnums bloom over a long period through winter and are at their peak at the end of January and into early February. This is the period which which these plants shine, during the summer they are background fillers for the most part. These are easy plants to grow requiring moist well drained soil. The best blooming is produced in dappled to full sun.

Bodnant Viburnum used as a specimen plant.

Bodnant Viburnum used as a specimen plant.

They grow to a substantial shrubs of 6-10ft(2-3m) height and 7ft(2m) width. For winter blooming shrubs they are very hardy and tolerate tempetures down to -15 to 20c (zones 5 though 8). They take well to pruning which should be done soon after they have finniished blooming. These plants can be used several ways, I have seen them well used as specimens, in mixed shrub borders and as hedging which has winter interest.  They of course are mainly planted in gardens for winter interest.

An interesting use of Bodnat Viburnum next to windows at a motel.

An interesting use of Bodnat Viburnum next to windows at a motel.

For a treat you should take a blooming branch inside and enjoy the sweet spicy scent filling your house. This is what I did when i was in school and have loved the scent ever since.

The delicate pink blossoms of 'Dawn' Viburnum

The delicate pink blossoms of 'Dawn' Viburnum

Links Relatiing to this Article:

Everything you might want to know about Viburnum x bodnantense and how it came into being.

http://www.rhs.org.uk/WhatsOn/gardens/harlowcarr/archive/harlowcarrpomdec.asp

H.D. McLaren, 2nd Baron of Aberconway

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_McLaren,_2nd_Baron_Aberconway

Our Lady of Assumption Church at Brentwood Bay is where most of these pictures were taken. it is a spectacular location.

http://www.spparish.com/info/our-lady-of-assumption.htm

Bodnant Garden near Conwy Castle.

http://www.conwy-castle.co.uk/Attractions-near-Conwy-Castle/Bodnant-Garden.html

Until we meet again in the garden……

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