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Posts Tagged ‘Playfair Park’

2 days of bright sun light and everyone is out mowing their lawns, the garden centers a full of shoppers buying plants, then back into the grey. It has been grey and dreary almost everyday this year! It is not surprising at all that we rush out into the rare spots of sun and then slump around the rest of the time in a mental fog. Is it no wonder that brightly colored flowers appeal to us so much, at this point any garish and screaming color at all is welcome. One of the brightest groups of plants that bloom at this time are the deciduous Azaleas which come in the purest oranges,tangerines, golds and yellows. Rhododendron luteum (Pontic Azalea) says it all in its name –  I have brilliant yellow flowers and I am here to seduce you out of your fog with my fragrance.

 Rhododendron luteum has brilliant flowers which have a wonderfully sweet fragrance

Rhododendron luteum has brilliant flowers which have a wonderfully sweet fragrance

Here most people associate Rhododendrons with the evergreen types and do not realize that the Azaleas are actually Rhododendrons as well. The ‘so-called’ Azaleas often are seen to be a poor plants you see in mass plantings used to landscape large shopping centers, townhouse complexes and other institutions and are often poorly maintained.  Rhododendron luteum represents the deciduous Azaleas most often found in parks and often have the reputation of ‘smelling skunky’. Pontic Azalea does not have the ‘skunkiness’, people often wonder were the wonderful scent is coming from and find out it’s from that yellow Azalea!

The elusive fragrance of the Rhododendron lutuem flowers entrance the bees and our noses, but be wary as the pollen and honey is poisonous.

The elusive fragrance of the Rhododendron lutuem flowers entrance the bees and our noses, but be wary as the pollen and honey is poisonous.

Pontic Azalea is a fairly wide-spread plant and is found in Poland, Austria through the Balkans, Southern Russia running into the Caucasus into the southern tip of the Black Sea, an area once called Pontus. The first reference to Rhododendron luteum comes from Pliny and Doiscorides ( circa 40-90 AD) who refered to the works of Xenophon(430-354 BC). Xenophon participated and chronicled the conflict between Cyrus the younger(and gardener) and his older brother who would become Artaxerxes II. They went to war and Cyrus died and his army retreated to the Pontus Hills near the Black Sea. The plan was to collect supplies there and escape by sea back to Greece. While the troops where there the ate the locally collected honey which came from the Azaleas which grew there. The army became ill and seemed drugged. This mystery of what happened was blamed by Dioscorides on the Pontic Azlaeas and the honey which was consumed there.

As Rhododendron luteum is often grown from seed there is some variation in the flowers such as the vibrancy of coloring and width of the petals.

As Rhododendron luteum is often grown from seed there is some variation in the flowers such as the vibrancy of coloring and width of the petals.

Many centuries later French botanist Joseph Pitton de Tournefort(1656-1708) travelled to examine the geography of the area as he was studying Dioscorides. There he wrote a description of and did a drawing the Pontic Azalea which he named Chamaebodobendron Pontica Maxima flore lutea, this was just the first of the names this plant has been given.

The bright yellow color of the Pontic Azalea is pleasing and blends well in many plant combinations.

The bright yellow color of the Pontic Azalea is pleasing and blends well in many plant combinations.

Rhododendron luteum went through several name changes until in the 1830s it was decided to give it the name it is known by now. Most recently the claim to fame by the Pontic Azalea is that it is an important contributor to hybridization of Azaleas in creating a wide range of pleasing colors for the softest pastels into most vibrant colors. Pontic Azaleas are particularly associated with the Ghent group of hybrids which were developed in Belgium over 150 years ago. More than 100 were named and at least 25 are still available to buy now. The other use for Pontic Azaleas is for a understock to graft weaker growing forms onto.

This small Pontic Azalea is part of the extensive Rhododendron collection at Glendale Gardens.

This small Pontic Azalea is part of the extensive Rhododendron collection at Glendale Gardens.

Rhododendron luteum is an easy and adaptable plant to grow. It likes dappled light and rich, slightly acidic moisture retentive soil which does not dry out completely in droughts. This helps promote a larger number of blooms the following year. Good air circulation is important to help ward off any chance of mildews or fungus which can develop later in the season. Established plants do not need fertilizer but appreciate a light mulch of pine needles or other acidic material applied every year. Do major pruning as soon as the plant has finished blooming to avoid cutting of next years blossoms.

Playfair Park has several areas with Pontic Azaleas included in the gardens.

Playfair Park has several areas with Pontic Azaleas included in the gardens.

Rhododendron luteum  grows 3-4 m(9-12 ft.) tall and is narrower in width. It is not densely branches and is light and airy in the garden. In autumn it give another show of red and yellow foliage colors. It can be used as a specimen or accent and as a mass planting. It is a good plant for a woodland or wilder setting or can be used in more formal locations. It is said to take -15 c. (5 f.) which makes it one of the more hardy deciduous Azaleas available.

Some Azalea Madness for you:

A good technical description of the plant: http://www.rosebay.org/chapterweb/speclut.htm

Toxicity of Rhododendrons: http://rhodyman.net/rarhodytox.html

A Pdf file from Arnold Arboretum on Ghent Azaleas http://arnoldia.arboretum.harvard.edu/pdf/articles/1355.pdf

Xenophon, Greek historian,  soldier and mercenary:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xenophon

How this Rhododendron almost stopped an army   http://www.atlanticrhodo.org/kiosk/features/misc/luteum.html

…..Will you follow my trails through the plant world?……

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When I moved to go to school I soon missed the outdoors in the way I had experienced it during my life. I was no longer able step outside and wander in the woods within a few steps of the home I had lived in. It was not until I moved to the island I am on now that I had time to find the wild again as it was much closer. Now I wander in the woods and along paths where wildflowers and nature is close to undisturbed. People here care a great deal about keeping it that way. I have had the chance to become re-aquainted to some plants which were beloved by our family here. The Maianthemum family offer up 2 of these loved plants and 1 other which is new to me. I a particularly fond of Maianthemum dilatatum( Wild Lily of the Valley)

 Maianthemum dilatatum (Wild Lily of the Valley) is now is the same  botanical family as the real Lily of the Valley(Convillaria majalis).

Maianthemum dilatatum (Wild Lily of the Valley) is now is the same botanical family as the real Lily of the Valley(Convillaria majalis).

Maianthemum family has recently gone through several changes which are important to note: first it has expanded to include the species which were once known as Smilacina.  The other more important thing is that Maianthemum species was moved from the Lilacae (Lily)family into the Ruscaceae family which includes Convillaria(Lily of the Valley) now. It shows the close relation of Maianthemum and Convillaria.  This realignment is quite interesting botanically as it changes what we used to think of as Lilies(Lileaceae).

As a child I would pick armloads of Maianthemum racemosum (Smilacina) and give them to my mother to put in vases at home.

As a child I would pick armloads of Maianthemum racemosum (Smilacina) and give them to my mother to put in vases at home.

Around here you will most like come across Maianthemum dilatatum in the moister areas of the woodlands. I first came across it along the path that ran next to the house I lived in for many years. Not far away I found it growing with horsetail under the Rhododendron plantings at Dominion Brook Park, the contrast in textures was interesting. I was delighted to find it on my first visit to Finnerty Gardens where it is used as a lush groundcover. I now see it in many places which are shady and somewhat damp throughout the year.

 This bright Rhododendron luteum is set of by the lush Maianthemum dilatatum covering the ground so completely at Finnerty Gardens.

This bright Rhododendron luteum is set of by the lush Maianthemum dilatatum covering the ground so completely at Finnerty Gardens.

The similarity of False Lily of theValley  to Convillaria is somewhat hard to find as the leaves are so broad and the flowers are not bell-shaped. Both plants are highly fragrant and all parts are poisonous to consume in any form. Mainathemum dilatatum is found in a large area running from Northern California along the coast through Alaska on to the Russian coast south into Korea and finally into Japan.  Maianthemum was named by Linnaeus most likely after M. canadense which was already known from samples collected in eastern North America.

The leaves of Wild Lily of the Valley (Maianthemum dilatatum) remind me very much of that of some Hosta cultivars with their overall shape and vein pattern of the leaves.

The leaves of Wild Lily of the Valley (Maianthemum dilatatum) remind me very much of that of some Hosta cultivars with their overall shape and vein pattern of the leaves.

There are other members of the Maianthemum family which are more refined, the already mentioned M. canadense is a charming smaller version of dilatatum. Maianthemum stellatum grows here and was originally classed as a Smilacina which is seen in its foliage. It has few flowers and is delicate, I first came across it near Playfair Park at the top of Judge Place growing along a seep area.

Maianthemum stellatum is a delicate colonizing plant found in the woodland across northern areas on North America.

Maianthemum stellatum is a delicate colonizing plant found in the woodland across northern areas on North America.

All the Maianthemum species I have mentioned here can be vigorous spreading plants and care must be taken when placing them in your garden so they do not overwhelm other weaker plants. The most agressive of these plants is M. dilatatum which creeps into gardens and provides a seemingly smothering coat of  leaves. These plants grow by creeping rhizomes(roots) which are able to branch and spread more widely. They all like rich moisture retentive soil which does not dry out completely during hot periods. These plants prefer dappled to fairly deep shade and will go prematurely dormant if they are too exposed to overly bright, dry situations.

Wild(False) Lily of the Valley (Maianthemum dilatatum) provides a strong and lush groundcover.

Wild(False) Lily of the Valley (Maianthemum dilatatum) provides a strong and lush groundcover.

 Maianthemum racemosum, stellatum  and canadense are extremely hardy plants and take zone 3-8 (-40 c and f.). Maianthemum dilatatum tolerates probably -20 c (-4 f.).  M.racemosum grows to 1-1.25 m.(4 ft.) tall and easily as wide. The other species will grow no higher than 35 cm.(15 in.) tall and an indeterminant width. M. canadense is the smallest and least vigorous growing plant and could be used in more delicate places. All these plants are highly fragrant, have good autumn coloring and make good cut flowers. All these plants fit into the woodland garden and can be used for groundcover, massing  or as accents. Maianthemum racemosum is a standout plant with attractive foliage, berries and golden autumn coloring which makes it an excellent specimen for a shady garden.

Maianthemum madness:

Pacific Bulb Society listing of species: http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/Maianthemum

Wiki listing of all the species http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maianthemum

PNW Flowers listing of M.dilatatum: http://www.pnwflowers.com/flower/maianthemum-dilatatum

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There are many plants that just give me the feeling that they have been in gardens for a long time. Plants which are some how familiar when you first see them but you can not think of what it is in that moment. One such plant for me is Kerria japonica (Kerria) which seems sold but was so new to me. Kerria is closely related to the Raspberries (Rubus) on my youth and the stems and flowers are similar.

Kerria japonica 'Pleniflora', the double form is most commonly in gardens.

Kerria japonica 'Pleniflora', the double form is most commonly in gardens.

Kerria japonica was a confused plant when it was introduced by Carl Peter Thunberg in 1776 and was mis-classified as being a member of the Tilaceae (Linden) family. This happened because the sample which was sent back by him not being complete, the specimen was also the double form ‘Pleniflora’ (Yae Yamabuki). On top of the naming problem was the fact that the plant does not come from Japan originally but was brought in from China as an ornamental shrub for gardens in ancient times. In Japan the single flowered Yamabuki (Mountain Spray) has naturalized and become part of the culture as seen in paintings, poetry and other forms of writing. We know that Yamabuki has been in Japan a very long time as the 11th century novel ‘The Tale of Genji’  mentions the plant numerous times.

The more common Kerria japonica 'Pleniflora' on the upper right and on the lower left is the single type.

The more common Kerria japonica 'Pleniflora' on the upper right and on the lower left is the single type.

It was William Kerr who in 1804 sent a living specimen of the single flowered plant back to the Royal Botanical Garden at Kew in England It was there that Kerria japonica  became recognized as being a seperate member of the Rosaceae family. For this reason the plant is now named Kerria to commemorate Kerr.

This unusual double flowered form of Kerria japonica 'Pleniflora' is found at Esquimalt Gorge Park.

This unusual double-flowered form of Kerria japonica 'Pleniflora' is found at Esquimalt Gorge Park.

William Kerr (1779-1814) was a gardener who was born in Hawick on the Scottish Borders and came to garden at Kew. There he was noticed by Sir Joseph Banks who was in charge of sending collectors and explorers throughout the world to bring back plant, animal and geological specimens to be studied and be classified in England. Banks instructed Kerr and then dispatched him to China in 1803 where he was posted at Guangzhou for 8 years. While Kerr was not allowed to travel in China he sent many important plants back from his location which was a port not far from Macao. During the time that he was posted in China it is believed that he became an opium addict and by the time he was re-posted to Colombo, Ceylon(Sri Lanka) in 1812 he was quite ill. In Columbo he was the supervisor of the gardens as Slave Island and at King House.  Kerr is considered to be the first professional of plant hunters which have changed gardening as we know it today.

Kerria japonica 'Variegata' (Picta') has single flowers and  green leaves which are delicately edged in cream. This plant can been seen at Finnerty Gardens.

Kerria japonica 'Variegata' (Picta') has single flowers and green leaves which are delicately edged in cream. This plant can been seen at Finnerty Gardens.

 Kerria japonica is interesting in that the most vigorous form is ‘Pleniflora’ which grows into impressive multi-stemmed clumps. Another thing that stands out for this plant is the beauty of them during the period when they are without leaves, what I am referring to is the bright green stems they have and how they almost glow in the gloomy winter and earliest spring period.

The bright green stems of Kerria japonica put on a show during the drab winter months here.

The bright green stems of Kerria japonica put on a show during the drab winter months here.

Kerria is an easy plant to grow and is easily placed in most gardens. Kerria japonica like filtered sun as its blooms will completely wash out in too much sun. The best locations are under deciduous trees. The like any soil which has average moisture content and will tolerate a drier location when it is established. As you see these plants can become dense clumps, fortunately they are easily pruned after flowers. cut stems by 1/3 to 1/2 or remove them from the base as you would for Rubus(Raspberry) which they are closely related to.

This single flowered Kerria japonica is seen amoungst the mixed perennial and shrub border at Government House.

This single flowered Kerria japonica is seen amongst the mixed perennial and shrub border at Government House.

 Kerria japonica grow from .9 to 1.8 m (3-6 ft.) tall and about as wide, it has strongly ascending branches. It tolerated temperature down to -15 c. (5 f.) and still bloom very well. Give this plant protection from cold winter winds and late frost pockets as this can damage the flower production and makes them smaller and less in quantity.  the plant can be used in many ways, as an informal border, mass planted in mixed deciduous borders and for early spring interest. With the right placement it is a specimen or more usually an accent plant. The Victorian feeling this plant gives off makes this plant an excellent inclusion in heritage and period themed gardens.

Check these links to learn more:

U.B.C. botanical plant of the day: http://www.botanicalgarden.ubc.ca/potd/2011/02/kerria_japonica_pleniflora.php

the ‘In Bloom article from the Japan Times: http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fe20080402li.html

William Kerr, an important plant hunter: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Kerr_(gardener)

………Hope to see you on this path soon………..

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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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The are a few types of plants which can be found just about anywhere on earth. Some are grasses others are very successful annuals which have short life cycles and survive even in hostile climate even if it is for a short while. Others are extremely ancient and where some of the first types of recognizable plants that are known such as ferns. The plants I am referring to today are also among the oldest and simplest known to us. We see them in the woods, on rocks, along roadsides, in our lawns and on roofs. I am referring to a group of plants called Moss of which there are thousands of species and many variations. They all look beautiful at this time of year here in the Pacific Northwest.

aMany Mosses co-exist peacefully close together and with other plants.

Many Mosses co-exist peacefully close together and with other plants.

Mosses are part of a group of plants called bryophytes which also include Lichens and Hornworts. These plants are generally tiny in stature and lack vascular systems.  Mosses are made up of a single layer of cells which are usually arranged in overlapping leaves or scales and are generally a shade of green. Because Moss lacks a vascular system it has to live in an area which is damp most of the time. Without water it would not be able to sexually reproduce.

One of the most beautiful of Mosses found in this area is Oregon Beaked Moss (Kindbergia oregona).

One of the most beautiful of Mosses found in this area is Oregon Beaked Moss (Kindbergia oregona).

Mosses are one of the first plants that were likely used by people from the very earliest times. Moss has been used in many ways all over the world. From the earliest times it has been used for padding for wounds, natural diapers and other padding.  It has been used to stuff mattresses, pillows and fill cracks in walls. Mosses used to heal burns and bruises has been successfully done for centuries. Some forms of moss have been powdered and turned into extracts which anti-septic and antiviral properties. Tonics an diuretics have been used for ages.

 Moss is an important part of the ecosystem of the Pacific Northwest and the rainforest.

Moss is an important part of the ecosystem of the Pacific Northwest and the rainforest.

The most important group of mosses are the Sphagnum which are used for many economic products and processes. In horticulture and gardening sphagnum produces the peat which we incorporate into soil mixes because it helps to improve moisture retention(it has the ability to absorb 12 times its weight in moisture). Peat is found in areas where the moss has for many centuries grown and partly decomposed creating deep layers of pure product. It is found in northern areas of the globe. In the past it has been cut, dried and burned as fuel to warm homes.   Now we also use it for filtering and treatment of waste waters, effluent detergents, dyes and other organic substances.

Wet Rock Moss (Dichodontium pellucidum) is found on sea level cliffs and bluffs is an important soil stabilizer.

Wet Rock Moss (Dichodontium pellucidum) is found on sea level cliffs and bluffs is an important soil stabilizer.

Many moss species are good indicators of soil conditions as the will survive in narrow pH conditions.  They also can indicate environmental condition such as levels of pollution. Moss create a covering to slow down erosion of nutrients by protecting underlying surfaces from excessive water run-off. It also provides protection from winds in the same way.

Fragile Fork Moss (Dicranum tauricum) is a commonly seen moss which grows on sidewalks and along paths.

Fragile Fork Moss (Dicranum tauricum) is a commonly seen moss which grows on sidewalks and along paths.

here in Victoria there are many rocky outcrops covered with moss. Within these areas are miniature ecosystems often populated with several forms of moss and lichens which are slowly breaking down the rocks. The mosses do this by releasing acids which work on the rock over milleniums. Crevices develop where soil is created and other plants can come in and grow.

Here we see Pixie Lichen and Licorice Fern getting established in a thin layer of moss-soil on a rock outcrop at Playfair Park.

Here we see Pixie Lichen and Licorice Fern getting established in a thin layer of moss-soil on a rock outcrop at Playfair Park.

We take the lowly Moss for a pest, but it really is an important part of the ecology of the earth. We should be more tolerant of its existence and learn to see it as a feature in our gardens as a simple groundcover which it is. In Japan Moss plays an important role in gardens and is featured in many well known ones.

Here at Government House Moss mingles with other alpine plants to create an attractive display which has interest thoughout the year.

Here at Government House Moss mingles with other alpine plants to create an attractive display which has interest thoughout the year.

Bryophyte files for you:

Facinating website about the mosses and Lichens of Stanley Park in Vancouver: http://www.botany.ubc.ca/bryophyte/stanleypark/basics.htm

A page on the mosses of Pacific Spirit Park: http://www.pacificspiritparksociety.org/About_PSRP/Mosses.html

Living with Mosses: http://bryophytes.science.oregonstate.edu/mosses.htm

…………..Hope to see you here again soon…………….

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So we are finally starting to have cooler nights. The last week was more rain than sun. Some trees are starting to color up and the sour tang of decay is beginning to creep into the air. There are a few plants which are in their glory now this late in flowering year. One group which stands out are Asters, their lavender blues are seen along roadsides and in gardens everywhere. Aster x frikartii ‘Monch’ (Monch Aster or Frikart’s Aster)is arguably the best of this mighty group of plants.

Aster x frikartii 'Monch' combines the best of its parents to create a wonderful plant.

Aster x frikartii 'Monch' combines the best of its parents to create a wonderful plant.

Frikart’s Aster was a planned meeting of 2 species to produces a plant that combined the best of the parents.  We do not know exactly why these plants were selected by Carl Ludwig Frikart (1879-1964) but we are grateful for the outcome. Little is known about Frikart other than he ran a nursery in Stafa, Switzerland and is said to have had a large rock garden which was built in the 1930s.

This clump of long lived Aster Frikartii 'Monch' is found in Playfair Park.

This clump of long lived Aster Frikartii 'Monch' is found in Playfair Park.

The two Asters Frikart decided to combine were Aster amellus and thompsonii.  Aster amellus is called Michealmas Daisy or Starwort in Europe where in comes from. It grows from France east through Italy into Czechoslovakia. It has more attractive leaves than most other Aster species and is more tolerant of dry conditions than most others. It also less effected by most of the common disease of Asters such as leaf spot and mildews. The other Aster selected was Aster thompsonii which comes from the Himalayas and is most commonly seen here as the form ‘Nana’ It has larger lavender blue flowers and wiry dark stems. I have grown both species and must say that they both are neat attractive plants with less pests or disease than other better known species.

The single flowers of Aster Frikartii 'Monch' make beautiful subjects for use in boquets.

The single flowers of Aster Frikartii 'Monch' make beautiful subjects for use in boquets.

Carl Ludwig Frikart began crossing amellus and thompsonii and named his first successful crosses after the famous mountains in his native Switzerland. Three were named in 1918: Eiger, Jung Frau and Monch, of these ‘Monch’ became the most famous and planted throughout the world. He continued making crosses and later released ‘Wunder von Stafa’ (‘Wonder of Stafa’) named after the town were he lived, it is still grown and is available especially in Europe. Later Alan Bloom of Bressingham Nursery would add the cross ‘King George’ to the list.

'Monch' Aster fits well in this mixed perennial and shrub planting at Government House.

'Monch' Aster fits well in this mixed perennial and shrub planting at Government House.

Monch Aster is in many ways really well suited for the garden where other Asters are not. Many of the Aster we grow originally come from plants which grow in swampy areas or on the edges of waterside. Aster x frikartii Monch‘s parents come from naturally dry areas. Here we have damp springs and bone dry summers which cause many Asters to develop diseases which are rarely seen with Monch’s Aster

.

The simplicity, large size and purity of color of Monch Aster flowers is one of most pleasing aspects of the plant.

The simplicity, large size and purity of color of Monch Aster flowers is one of most pleasing aspects of the plant.

Monch Aster are easy to grow, they like full sun, well drain soil with some nutrients and less than average water throughout the year. They are fairly compact especially in full sun, growing 60-90cm(2-3ft) tall and with about 50cm(1.5ft). If they are tending to flop stake them up, I have not really seen this here unless the plants are in to much shade.  They are hardy to zone 6 or -15c(5f).

The attractive foliage that Aster x frikartii `Monch`is an added benefit.

The attractive foliage that Aster x frikartii `Monch`is an added benefit.

Probably the best reason to use this plant is its extremely long season of bloom which lasts from late July into October.  Here you will see it in traffic medians in Saanich because its a low maintenance plant which gives color for several months. Frikart`s Aster is very versatile, it can be used in many places. It is seen in sunny perennial and shrub borders, as seasonal color, in containers, mass planted, in dry borders or hard to water areas and as an accent in gardens.

Searching for Monch Aster:

Aster amellus is also called Italian Aster:  http://www.gardening.eu/plants/Perennial-Plants/Aster-amellus/1742/

New York Times article on Asters: http://www.nytimes.com/1991/09/15/nyregion/gardening-asters-can-be-ordinary-or-spectacular.html

Sunset article on Monch Aster: http://plantfinder.sunset.com/sunset/plant-details.jsp?id=321

Until we meet again soon…

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Back to school, those are dreaded words for some, a relief for others and the beginning of a new chapter in life for many more. I must admit I did not like grade school. It was not until later when I had a break from the grind of it, had more perspective and experience in life that I enjoyed it more. Now I think about i more fondly look back at my time in school especially the time I was in Hort. school learning so many new things which I use all the time now. Learning the plants back then was more of a challenge, now it is adverture which takes me across the world and back in time. I first saw Nandina domestica (Heavenly Bamboo or Sacred Bamboo) at Van Duesen Gardens and over the years have always loved it’s simple elegant beauty.

Heavenly Bamboo is a triple treat with wonderful foliage, flowers and bright red berries which appear in the fall.

Heavenly Bamboo is a triple treat with wonderful foliage, flowers and bright red berries which appear in the fall.

Nandina domestica is a plant which comes to us from Asia, there it is found in central Northern India, China and Japan. In Japan it is known as Nantzen (meaning southern sky) is derived from the chinese name(southern heaven)and our latin name is from it.  Nandina is strongly connected with the new year in both China and Japan, in China it is associated with the kitchen god Zhao Jun(Zhen) who is the most important domestic god and protects the hearth and family.

The light delicate foliage and compact=

The light delicate foliage and compact habit makes Heavenly Bamboo very popular here.

In Japan it is especially popular and is often seen at the entrances of houses and is  also used during the holiday season of late December and January. Here it seen in traditional Kadumatsu decorations which are placed in pairs at the front door of  the home. It is also in Japan where Carl Peter Thunberg(1743-1828) first documented Nandina domestica while he was there in 1775-76. His name is one of the most important associated with botanical plants in Japan and he named many of the best known ones of today.

A good crop of berries is seen with this planting of Nandina domestica at U.B.C. Botanical Gardens in Vancouver.

A good crop of berries is seen with this planting of Nandina domestica at U.B.C. Botanical Gardens in Vancouver.

Heavenly Bamboo was introduced to the gardening public in 1804. Also back in Japan at that time there were new forms being discovered and it was becoming popular there as a bonsai subject.Some of the new forms had narrower leaves and lent themselves to Bonsai. By the late 1800s’ nearly 200 cultivars had been named and catalogued there. Sadly many of these forms have been lost although recently many new color forms have been selected by growers in Europe and North America.

Nandina domestica is often mass planted or used as informal hedgeing here.

Nandina domestica is often mass planted or used as informal hedging here.

Here we have come to love Heavenly Bamboo for its versatility, beauty and color throughout the year. It tolerates any type of soil as long as it is well-drained. It is not fussy about light and can take the full sun to full shade although it is best with some protection from harsh midday sun in the summer especially in drier and more southern areas that here. Nandina domestica is tolerant of fairly dry areas as long as it is sheltered from drying winds like most other evergreens. This plant grows by producing suckers from the base, this over time will produce a dense clump. Pruning can be done to remove damaged parts and to thin it out if it gets overgrown.

The leaves are very large and tri-pinnate which gives 'Heavenly Bamboo' its common name.

The leaves are very large and tri-pinnate which gives 'Heavenly Bamboo' its common name.

There are many new forms of Nandina domestica which have recently appeared on the market. They range from the dwarfs  such as Nandina domestica ‘Nana Purpurea’ which grows 60cm(2 ft) which I think are best in containers as they do not have the elegant form as the full-sized ones. Nandina domestica ‘Plum Passion’ has great plum tinted blue-green foliage and grows 2m(6.5ft) by 90cm(3 ft) wide which is the normal size for Nandinas. There are also exciting golden-leaved  and yellow and white-fruited varieties which can be found so be on the lookout for more interesting varieties.

This dwarf Nandina would be best suited in a nice container.

This dwarf Nandina would be best suited in a nice container.

Nandinas are fairly hardy growing in zones 6 though 10 or-10c.(14f.) with little damage as long as they are in a spot shelter from drying winds. If they do lose their leaves in a hard winter they often come back quickly with new stems coming up from the base, the old ones can be removed. In areas where these plants have become a pest it is important to remove the spent flowers so they do not set seed. Speaking of seed, this is a common way to increase your crop of plants, germination is best if sown fresh with all pulp removed from the berries. The other method of propagation is by semi-ripe cuttings in mid spring.

This Nandina domestica is well palced in a sheltered location with some sun.

This Nandina domestica is well palced in a sheltered location with some sun.

Nandina domestica can be used in a variety of ways, as an informal hedge, mass planted, as an accent or for seasonal color. You will see it used in many public gardens as well as better institutional setting as it is a much more manageable substitute for true Bamboos.It fit well in asian, Japanese, understory or dappled and modern gardens very well. The graceful feeling of the plant is much appreciated by gardeners everywhere.

Searching for Heavenly Bamboo on earth:

The interesting forms grown in Japan: http://homepage3.nifty.com/plantsandjapan/page105.html

Carl Peter Thunberg: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Peter_Thunberg

Kadumatsu: http://www.humanflowerproject.com/index.php/weblog/comments/kadomatsu_welcoming_japans_new_year/

Propagation by seed: http://www.ubcbotanicalgarden.org/forums/showthread.php?t=16900

Paghat on Nandina: http://www.paghat.com/nandina2.html

Hope to see you soon…..here again.

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One type of plant which I really did not know when I was growing up were broad-leaved evergreens. You know the kind I mean, the leaved trees and shrubs which do not shed their foliage in autumn. I grew up in an area where this kind of plant had to grow below the snow line, the only native plant which fitted into this category were less than 30cm(12in.) high. Here in the mild west coast there are many broad-leaved evergreens, most are shrubs with only a few trees. One of these trees which I first saw in Vancouver was the impressive and beautiful Magnolia grandiflora (Southern Magnolia).

Magnolia grandiflora iss named for it's huge flowers which can be up to 30cm(12in) in diameter.

Magnolia grandiflora iss named for it's huge flowers which can be up to 30cm(12in) in diameter.

Southern Magnolias are indeed true southerners as they grow in the south-eastern United States from Florida up the coast to Virgina and west through Arkansas and Texas. It is a wide area and is found in a variety of locations which all usually have increased moisture. Often they are found on the edges of water, and swamps, along slopes and ravines and in floodplains, all these sites are good sources of water which are quickly drained.

Some of my relative are impressed with the massive flowers of the Southern Magnolia seen at Finnerty Gardens.

Some of my relative are impressed with the massive flowers of the Southern Magnolia seen at Finnerty Gardens.

Magnolia grandiflora was first brought to the garden world in 1726 by Mark Catesby(1682-1749). he was an English naturalist and always had an interest in collecting oddities.  To this end he travelled to Virginia to visit his sister in 1712. While he was there he collected seed and plant samples which he brought back to a nursery in London in 1719. In 1722  he was selected by the Royal Society to collect plant samples in Carolina. Catesby again came to North American and collected  plant and bird samples from the east coast and the West Indies. From his samples he later published ‘Natural History’ in folio style between 1733 and 1746. This folio was the first of its kind and was very influential. Many of his specimens ended up in the collection Hans Sloane who later gave everything to the British Museum.

The foliage of the Southern Magnolia is beautiful.

The foliage of the Southern Magnolia is beautiful.

Magnolia grandiflora has in the past been an important source of timber and was used in many ways;  for furniture, boxes, venetian blinds, sashes, doors and veneers. The characteristic qualities of the wood are that it is fairly hard, stiff and has little shrinkage.  The wood has a pleasing color with the sapwood being of a pale yellow tone and the heartwood being a deeper brown. The tree itself is one of several Magnolia species which were used in North America in a medicinal way. The foliage is now used by florists who appreciate its sturdy quality and the beautiful rust colored indumentum on the undersides of the leaves.

Magnolia grandiflora is the state tree and flower of Mississippi and is the state flower of Louisiana.

Magnolia grandiflora is the state tree and flower of Mississippi and is the state flower of Louisiana.

Magnolias are a very ancient plant and their seed heads have an almost reptilian quality to them, although here I have never seen ripened seed of Magnolia grandiflora. They seem to have evolved before bees existed and the flowers are designed to be pollinated by beetles. The name ‘Magnolia’ refers to Pierre Magnol who was a French Botanist who was the first person to use the concept of plant families for classification purposes. ‘Grandiflora’ not surprisingly refers to the giant sized flowers.

The unusual seed head of Magnolia grandiflora.

The unusual seed head of Magnolia grandiflora.

We are lucky to be able to grow such interesting plant like the Southern Magnolia and to see their magnificent blooms. These are trees which can grow to 27m(90ft) in the wild but rarely gets anywhere near that in a garden setting. The tree developes an attractive pyramidal form as it ages which makes it a good choice for the home garden. My sister has a postage-stamp size front yard and here their Magnolia grandiflora fits in beautifully. Some people complain about the fact that it sheds its leaves slowly during the year, this is common for all broad-leaved evergreens.

Magnolia grandiflora flowers have a delicate citrusy scent which is fresh and elusive in the garden.

Magnolia grandiflora flowers have a delicate citrusy scent which is fresh and elusive in the garden.

When choosing a site for your Southern Magnolia you need to select your site carefully. This will over time become a large tree, so not too close to a building is best. They have very brittle roots so only plant this tree only once, do not replant it later if at all possible as it might not survive the move. The roots are shallow and do not like to be damaged, care must be taken when planting under this type of tree, a simple groundcover or even grass is best. They like a nutrient rich, well draining soil. Pruning can be done during early spring but rarely need it except for shaping or removal of damaged limbs. Few pests or disease effect this tree or damage its foliage.

This avenue of Southen Magnolias is found off of Rock Street and leads to the top of Playfair Park in Saanich.

This avenue of Southen Magnolias is found off of Rock Street and leads to the top of Playfair Park in Saanich.

Magnolia grandiflora are said to be hardy to -20c(-10f) or rated  at zone (6)7-11. There are forms which are especially hardy and grow in colder areas such as Ontario and Ohio, ask at your local nursery for forms which are best for your site. In the colder zones they can be damaged by drying winds when the ground is frozen as they are unable to get water to their leaves, this is a common problem for broad-leaved evergreens. Choosing a site which is protected from these winds will help solving the problem.

On the Southern Magnolia Route:

Wiki has a lot of interesting information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnolia_grandiflora

You will enjoy the work of Mark Catesby:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Catesby

Check out my article about ‘Million Year Old Magnolias’:  https://namethatplant.wordpress.com/2009/04/20/multi-million-year-old-magnolias/

Botanical scientific information about this tree: http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=1&taxon_id=200008470

Until I see you on my blog again….soon I hope!

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I always like it when I find a plant which is versatile, can be used in many ways and has an unusual or desire color…what more could a plant lover want? I also like to find beautiful plants which can  live in a wide range of climates, be they very cold or very hot. So plants I first encountered in parks or botanical gardens while others I have been introduced to in nurseries where some clever person realized what a wonderful plant it was. This plant i was introduced to because I had to learn to grow it at a former job as a grower in a nursery. Knautia macedonica (Crimson Scabious) is a plant which has great qualities for a plant and adds long period of color into the  garden.

Knautia macedonica has an unusual deeply colored flower which blooms for months over the summer into late fall.

Knautia macedonica has an unusual deeply colored flower which blooms for months over the summer into late fall.

As you might have guessed Knautia macedonica comes from Eastern Europe near the Mediterranean and Black Seas, more specifically the former Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Albania and south eastern Romania. In the past this plant was used  to relieve skin roughness and was used as a treatment for dermatitis in the Balkans. Knautias are closely related to Scabiosa and at one time where classified as being from the same family, therefore the common name of Crimson Scabious. They both come from the Dipsacaceae family which also includes over 350 species which grow mostly in Europe, Asia , Africa and Australia.

Crimson Scabious blooms from June until late in the year.

Crimson Scabious blooms from June until late in the year.

There are several species of Knautia other than Knautia macedonica which are good garden plants and also bloom for a long period. Knautia is named after German doctor and botanist Christoph Knaut (1638-94),.He was born and lived in Halle where he published ‘Flora’ (Compendium Botanicum sive Methodus plantarum genuina) in 1687 with his brother Christian. In ‘Flora’ he described 17 different classes of plants. Carl von Linné( Linnaeus) later studied this work when developing the plant classification system we all know and use today.

Knautia macedonica produce masses of small flowers on wiry stems.

Knautia macedonica produce masses of small flowers on wiry stems.

Crimson Scabious is native to limestone scrub lands and grass meadows where the soil can be poor and scant rain falls during the long growing season.  The attractive basal leaves often have a greyish color and dry up during its period of bloom, at that time its blossom stems can easily be seen weaving through other plants and popping out to create interesting color combinations. The crimson color starts out with an almost blackish tone (like Chocolate Cosmos) and takes on a bluish hue as it ages, I have found it is a hard color to photograph.

The powerful red color of Knautia macedonica changes as the flower ages and takes on a bluish tinge.

The powerful red color of Knautia macedonica changes as the flower ages and takes on a bluish tinge.

Crimson Scabious is a plant which can grow in a variety of situations, this is because it a very easy plant to grow. You will need well drained soil which is rich in nutrients, full sun for the best possible blossoms and some dead-heading to keep the plant tidy. I think this is a plant for the middle of the border as it gets quite big and can flop if it is not staked  or cut back. It looks good weaving through strong foliage such as irises, Daylillies or grasses and can be used to cover areas of early bulbs which will have died down by late may and June.

Knautia macedonica may have small flowers...but... they have big impact in the garden.

Knautia macedonica may have small flowers...but... they have big impact in the garden.

Knautia macedonica grows to at least 1m(3ft) tall and by the same wide. There is now a shorter form(‘Mars Midget’) which you can easily grow from seed. There are also a seed color form (‘Melton Pastels’) which give a range of colors from from pinks through lavenders and the traditional red.

If you like intense colors, Crimson Scabious is a must for your garden!

If you like intense colors, Crimson Scabious is a must for your garden!

Although Knautia macedonica is listed as tolerating temperatures down to zone 5 -20c(-4f) it can be pushed much lower in a drier site to the low zone 3(-30c or -20f)It is sucessfully grown in prairie gardens in Saskatchewan. This plant will give you months of pleasure not only in the garden but also in a vase as they make a excellent cut flower which needs no special treatment. Butterflies will come to your garden more often as well.

From bud through to seed-head Knautia macedonica is an intriguing plant.

From bud through to seed-head Knautia macedonica is an intriguing plant.

Knowing Knautia macedonica:

A prairie gardeners experience with Crimson Scabious: http://em.ca/garden/per_knautia_macedonica_mars_midget.html

Martha says…: http://www.marthastewart.com/plant/knautia-macedonica

Growing it in the pacific northwest: http://www.paghat.com/knautia.html

Same time, same place……next week?

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I have been fortunate to have worked as a grower at a nursery.  This gave me the opportunity to grow plants which are not that well known. Some plants aren’t well known because they are hard to grow while others just have a false reputation for that. One plant I grew was the eastern(North American) form of a local plant. I never saw the local plant until a few years ago when i was with my father driving near Nanaimo which is north of here. It was magical, carpeting a dappled area in the woods. Last year I finally found Henderson’s Shooting Star(Dodecatheon hendersonii) in many places.

Dodecatheon hendersonii is known as Broad Leaved Shooting Star.

Dodecatheon hendersonii is known as Broad Leaved Shooting Star.

Henderson’s Shooting Star is a very delicate looking plant which grows amoungst other more showy plants. it is often in bloom at the same time the local Erythronium oregonium(White Fawn Lily) is and grows in the same places. The hot magenta flower color helps it stand out even though the flowers themselves are quite small.  The shape of the flower, with it’s extremely reflexed petals make it look quite unique.

An extremely rare white form of Dodecatheon hendersonii.

An extremely rare white form of Dodecatheon hendersonii.

Shooting Stars are a strictly North American species. The most commonly grown member of them is an Dodecatheon meadia which is found in the east growing  from Pennsylvania to Manitoba and south through Georgia and Texas. In the west we have many species which overlap in some areas. Dodecatheon hendersonii is probably the most western as it grows on Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and moves  south to west central California. On the mainland it grows on the western side of the coastal mountains though the Siskiyous and the Sierra Nevadas. There are at least two named varieties. Var. hansonii is found in the Siskiyous and scattered locations in the Sierra Nevadas. Var. hendersonii is more widespread and found along coastal B.C.  to southern Oregon.

The leaves of Dodecatheon hendersonii lay flat to the ground unlike most others of the species.

The leaves of Dodecatheon hendersonii lay flat to the ground unlike most others of the species.

Dodecatheon are members of the Primulaceae family. Dodecatheon is Greek; Dode(ka) meaning 12 and theo(s)n meaning god. The word dodecatheon refers to the 12 principle or most important gods which resided on Olympus. Pliny gave this original name to Primulas which grew where he lived. Primulas were thought to be under the care and protection of the 12 gods. The reference to the gods in the scientific name is thought to note that the flowers look somewhat likes thunderbolts which would be cast down on earth the gods when they were unhappy about what was going on. Hendersonii refers Louis Forniquet Henderson(1853-1942) who was the first botany professor at the University of Idaho.

Dodecatheon hendersonii are seen on mass along the sides of Old West Saanich Road near Victoria.

Dodecatheon hendersonii are seen on mass along the sides of Old West Saanich Road near Victoria.

Henderson’s Shooting Star grow in shallow soils which are damp during the spring growing season and then become bone dry during the long summer droughts which can extend into October here. This is the perfect type of situation for these plants. Often I have found them growing amoungst the Camas leaves, along rocky edges of roads and on moss covered bluffs.

These  bright magenta  blossoms of Henderson's Dodecatheon will soon be replaced by brilliant blue Camus.

These bright magenta blossoms of Henderson's Dodecatheon will soon be replaced by brilliant blue field of Camus.

When growing Dodecatheon hendersonii it is best to reproduce their local environment the best you can. If you are successful they will seed themselves and you will have a nice colony to look forward to every spring.  plant in a mossy mix with rich soil, make sure it will drain adequately during the winter rainy season. They prefer to live below deciduous trees or shrubs or along the edge of such to be protected over the summer. These plants go completely dormant over the summer therefore it is wise to mark their site so as not to dig them up accidentally.

Henderson's Shooting Star next to a bluff of sandy gritty soil.

Henderson's Shooting Star next to a bluff of sandy gritty soil.

Henderson’s Shooting Star grow between 10 and  20cm tall(4-7in). They can grow taller if they are in richer soil. Here they tend to be in the shorter range. They are likely to be hardy to -10c(14f) or slightly colder. The last two winters have had spells of -10c and I think they have been more abundant than when the winters are warmer, maybe it is less likely they will rot. Slugs love these plants especially when they are just coming out of the ground in the early spring, protect them from these raiding feeders.

Can you imagine having a huge patch of Henderson's Shooting Stars growing wild in your backyard.

Can you imagine having a huge patch of Henderson's Shooting Stars growing wild in your backyard.

Some choice places to look for Shooting Stars:

Royla B.C. Museum has a great section on native plants:http://www.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/Natural_History/Plants.aspx?id=958

How to grow and propagate them from experts:http://www.goert.ca/propagation_guidelines/forbs/dodecatheon_hendersonii

All the Dodecatheons you could possibly want:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dodecatheon

Until we meet again on these blogging pages….

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