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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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