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Posts Tagged ‘Specimen Plants’

This week I was planning to do a group of three related species. There was so much information on one species and not enough on another and I have changed my mind, some plants deserve an article all their own. The plant I have chosen is not very common here, but when you see it you will want it. Just yesterday in my research I stumbled across a entry about how this plant has been stolen from a well known public garden here in B.C. and the effect that can have on other people including students. The plant I am referring to is the ‘Crown Imperial‘ (Fritillaria imperialis).

Fritillaria imperialis is also known as the 'Crown Imperial' or Kaiser's Crown.

Fritillaria imperialis is also known as the 'Crown Imperial' or Kaiser's Crown.

The Crown Imperial comes to us by the route so many plants have followed, through Constantinople, in 1576  a plant was collected in Persia. From there a sample was taken by Clusius to the Imperial Collection in Vienna. In Vienna it is said to be given it’s common name by Alphonsus Pancus because it was grown in the Imperial Gardens there. Another version says it was named because it has ‘the true shape of the Imperial Crown’.

The most common color of the Crown Imperial is this brilliant orange shade which is a standout in the garden at this time of year.

The most common color of the Crown Imperial is this brilliant orange shade which is a standout in the garden at this time of year.

Fritillaria imperialis are mainly native to south east Turkey but is found through western Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and finally resting in Kashmir. It is now found at 1000-3000 m(3300-9000ft) growing on rocky slopes and in the scrub.  In earlier times the orange-red blossoms where used as a source of dye coloring for the rugs which were made in the area.

Fritillaria imperialis 'Lutea' the yellow Imperial Crown.

Fritillaria imperialis 'Lutea' the yellow Imperial Crown.

Many historians feel that the Fritillaria imperialis was the plant refered to in the Greek myth of Hyacinthus.  Hyacinthus  was a beautiful young man, (possibly a Spartan Prince) who the god Apollo admired.  It was said that Apollo accidentally killed Hyacinthus when they were taking turns throwing a discus. Hyacinthus wanted to impress Apollo by running and catching the discus and instead was struck by it and died. Another form of the myth says that Zephyr, god of the west wind was feuding with Apollo over Hyacinthus,  when Apollo threw the discus Zephyr blew it off course which caused the accident.

These Crown Imperials have been located on the long annual show border in Beacon Hill Park for several years.

These Crown Imperials have been located on the long annual show border in Beacon Hill Park for several years.

As Crown Imperials have been in cultivation such a long time, several varieties have been found and are now available to grow. Fritillaria imperialis ‘Lutea’ is yellow and is the oldest and dates back to 1665. Other forms are ‘Aurora’ which is orange-red, Rubra is the red form, ‘Premier’ is noted to be pale tangerine with purple tinged veins, ‘Argenteo Variegata’ has leaves which are edged in white and somber orange flowers and  ‘Orange Brilliant’ is said to be a rusty orange. All Fritillaria  have an unpleasant scent which people have said ranges from raw meat to wet fur to musty smelling, this helps to repel rodents who commonly decimate bulbs by eating them.  I have read several sources who say the scent really does work as rodents do not touch these bulbs.

After blooming the flowers of Crown Imperial turn up and produce these interesting, large seed capsules.

After blooming the flowers of Crown Imperial turn up and produce these interesting, large seed capsules.

Fritillaria imperialis have bulbs which are noticeably bowl-shaped and because of this should be planted on their side so water will not sit in and rot them.  the bulbs should be planted  at least 10cm(4 in) deep and the spacing should be 22cm to 30cm(9 to 12 in). These bulbs do not like being moved except when the clumps become big enough to split up. If you live in a cold climate it might be a good idea to plant them in a container and then lift it for storage over the cold months.

Many Fritillaria have an unusual blocky shape and Crown Imperials are no exception.

Many Fritillaria flowers have an unusual blocky shape and Crown Imperials are no exception.

To get the best bloom give Fritillaria imperialis full sun during their growing season. Like many other bulbs they need lots of water when they are growing and very little when they are dormant. They like well-drained, rich soil with plenty of grit to assist drainage during wetter seasons. These impressive plants are quite hardy and rate between zones 5 through 9, -23 c(-10 f).

More about Crown Imperials:

The Wiki page is a good place to start:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritillaria_imperialis

Naming and history of plant: http://books.google.com/books?id=2AknHP_NRBgC&pg=PA74&sig=sdRm87XtnjBYNRRPGrhIvpGgzlI&hl=en#v=onepage&q&f=false

The story of the stolen bulb and how it can effect us: http://www.ubcbotanicalgarden.org/potd/2007/03/fritillaria_imperialis_rubra_1.php

See you soon in a garden….

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We are now on the edge of what I call ‘change over season’ which is when we move from the summer season of warm dry weather to the cool wet winter. This time of the late year is when big storms start to roll in dumping vast amounts of rain along with heavy winds. Now until the start of December is when we have power outages and roads blocked by tree limbs falling across them. The trees which were glorious in their fall coat of colorful leaves are suddenly bear from the repeated gusting of wind and punishing rains. The sounds of creaking tree limbs, rumblings of the tides and sometimes distant thunder make us want to bundle up warmly.  This is the time of the year where our gardens start to become skeletons of their former vibrant selves, only the backbones are left. One of the best bones left in the garden here is Miscanthus as it does stand up well with the new heavy fall season. The best of these grasses for staying power is Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’).

A wonderful Maiden Grass in bloom growing in Sidney B.C.

A wonderful 'Maiden Grass' in bloom growing in Sidney B.C.

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’ is a fairly old hybrid which was has been in use since its introduction into cultivation in 1888. It is an improvement on the original beuatiful Miscanthus sinensis in that it has much finer, narrower leaves giving it an overall dainty and graceful look.  The leaves and fine and narrow and stand up well over a long period of growth.  The  foliage delicacy makes it a useful and attractive addition to gardens which are too small for  the larger Miscanthus sinensis forms.

Miscanthus sinensis 'Gracillimus' in flower at Glendale Gardens.

Miscanthus sinensis 'Gracillimus' in flower at Glendale Gardens in mid October.

Miscanthus sinensis orginally comes from Japan, China, Taiwan and into Korea. I have not been able to find out exactly where the form I am writing about today originates from although several very similar forms clearly are from Japan. I suspect that is the case with Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’.

Miscanthus sinensis 'Gracillimus' blooming at Finerty Gardens in late October.

Miscanthus sinensis 'Gracillimus' blooming at Finerty Gardens in late October.

It is said that Maiden Grass is a shy bloomer in cooler climates, here in Victoria we often have hot dry summers which verge on droughts. It blooms here regularly whereas you might have problems in Vancouver or other areas near to here. Location in the brightest, warmest place you have will facilitate more blooms. This is one grass I would want to have even if it does not bloom, it’s vertical accent in the garden early in the year adds so much to a design. It is rated hardy to zone 4 or -30c (-20f) and up.

Here Maiden Grass is used in a mass planting, can you imagine the effect when it is blooming later in the year?

Here Maiden Grass is used in a mass planting, can you imagine the effect when it is blooming later in the year?

Even though Maiden Grass is delicate, it still is a formidable plant to put in a garden. the best plantings I have seen are using them in mass plantings, in long deep sunny borders and in grass gardens as specimens. They also make an attractive informal hedge and also make very good container subjects. Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’ grows to be a tall 1.5m(6ft) when in bloom. Its arching form also adds weight and substance coming in at a 1.5-2m(6to 8ft) space. It is a slow grower, but once established is very steady and  predictable in its habit year after year.

The delicate plumes of Maiden Grass hold up well in wet weather.

The delicate plumes of Maiden Grass hold up well in wet weather.

The emerging bronzy plumes of Maiden Grass will fade to a papery cream with age. The grass gradually turns golden shades from the base up the fades out to the familiar dried grassy color which it will hold over the winter. When we emerge into the other side of winter and plants are starting to emerge from slumber, now is the time to cut the Maiden skeletons down. Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’ is one of the first grasses to stir and needs to be unencumbered to resume its growth.

Miscanthus sinensis 'Gracillimus' seedheads have started to fade into the variegated foliage here.

Miscanthus sinensis 'Gracillimus' seedheads have started to fade into the variegated foliage here.

It is best to buy Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’ in a container as growing it from seed is exceedingly slow. Even dividing these plants is a hard job, when i worked in a nursery dividing grass required a machete to cut them up. Fortunately for us most nurseries carry Maiden Grass year round as they are popular plants. Also lucky for us these are easy plant to grow and do not require any special treatment.  Plant them a sunny site with  fertile well drained soil which can be sandy. You have to be a bit patient as they are slow to establish.

If you walk around the Sidney waterfront you will see many uses of Maiden Grass.

If you walk around the Sidney waterfront you will see many uses of Maiden Grass.

More about this charming Maiden Grass:

A great website all about grasses for all climates: http://www.bluestem.ca/miscanthus-gracillimus.htm

Wiki page on Miscanthus sinensis: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miscanthus_sinensis

Until we meet again soon…..

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When I moved down to Vancouver to go to Horticulture school I had only ever seen one type of Clematis which grew in the Prince George area. It is the  rare Western Blue Clematis (Clematis occidentalis) which is not at all vigorous or showy having small blue bells which are lost in the dense forest edges. Down in the warm Vancouver area there of course are many types with large flowers that can bloom from early spring into late summer. I was surprised that on my list of plants to learn was an evergreen species which naturally is Clematis Armandii commonly known as the Evergreen Clematis or more appropriately (I think) Armand’s Clematis.

Clematis armandii alnong a long fence at Sidney Library.

Clematis armandii growing along a log fence at Sidney Library.

Clematis armandii is very common in this area, I have found it in countless yards and municipal sites used in a variety of ways.  Many broadleaved evergreens here took a real beating with this winters  unusual cold which included a prolonged damaging dry northern wind. The Armand Clematis (zone8-10) that I have come across have not been touched.

Clematis armandii is a Popular Choice for Use in New Landscapes.

Clematis armandii is a Popular Choice for Use in New Landscapes.

Armand’s Clematis originates in almost the same area as Rhododendron strillgilosum, the plant I featured last week. It’s range is from south Yunnan, traveling west Guizhou and north into Hubie and Sichuan China. It is seen growing in the scrub, along riverbanks and up through trees where it blooms in April and May. Although it is named in honor of the French missionary Per’e David- Jean Pierre Armand David(1826-1900) the plant was introduced into cultivation by Ernest ‘Chinese’ Wilson around 1900. It was an immediate hit and earned a FCC( First Class Certificate) in 1914 from the Royal Horticulture Society.

A Fragrant Froth of Clematis armandii blossoms.

A Fragrant Froth of Clematis armandii blossoms.

Clematis armandii is a plant which is especially attractive in the spring, It’s fresh new growth is tinged with wine tones and the leaves are glossy and crisp in the sun. The flower buds are an delicate cream which burst forth into an incredible show. Often on a sunny spring day these plants are absolutely covered in flowers and the bees are happily buzzing about harvesting the honey.

Delicate Wine Tinted Stems and Cream Buds of Armand's Clematis.

Delicate Wine Tinted Stems and Cream Buds of Armand's Clematis.

All Clematis have gained an undeserved reputation for being difficult plants to grow and  this is not true at all.  They do need to be properly sited and have enough water during their growing season.  They need both sun and shade; at least 6 hours of full sun per day to grow their best and a cool shaded location to sink their roots in.  A large hole 2ft(60cm) deep by 3ft(1m) across to be filled with lots of compost and organic material will get your plant of to an extremely fine start.

A happy well sited Clematis armandii with it's roots in the Shade.

A happy well sited Clematis armandii with it's roots in the Shade.

If happy Clematis armandii will grow to be large vines up to 20 ft(5m) in spread and height. Staking to a strong trellis or other form of support is a must as these are extremely vigorous and eventually heavy plants do to their think leaves and dense growth.

The Attractive Glossy Evergreen Leaves of Clematis armandii.

The Attractive Glossy Evergreen Leaves of Clematis armandii.

It is advisable to give Clematis armandii an annual mulching of well rotted manure or compost each spring. If they get to big or need to be restrained they can be pruned after blooming.   They do not like having wet roots in the winter it it might rot off, this caused by a fungi which attacks Clematis. Signs of this are seen in wilting of the new growth. Unfortunately there is no known cure for this.  Carefully discard the plant in the garbage and do not replant with another clematis in the same site if this happens.

Links that Weaves This Together:

Paghat’s experience with Clematis armandii http://www.paghat.com/evergreenclematis.html

How to grow Clematis, a well laid out article: http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1247.html

Per’e David- Jean Pierre Armand David: another plant explorer who we honor for what he brought to horticulture.

http://www.plantexplorers.com/explorers/biographies/french-missionaries/pere-jean-pierre-armand-david.htm

What Treasure Will I Bring You Next Week? I Have go Out and Hunt Like the Plant Explorers!

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