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Posts Tagged ‘Victoria’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Help for hunting Indian Plums:

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

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

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

Until we meet again later….

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During the winter we always experience  the several weeks of unusually bad weather, I always like to check on how plants had made it through.  This is one way I evaluate if a plant is a good selection to grow int the Victoria area.  Some plants do better than others in cold weather while others clearly are not really hardy here. Hydrangeas all look bedraggled and brown as do many of the semi-deciduous plants. Lots of cutting back will be needed in the spring when it starts to warm up again. One plant that doesn’t suffer one bit is Common Box (Buxus sempervirens)  and it  is used extensively here.

Buxus sempervirens

Buxus sempervirens or Boxwood is used extensively at St Ann's Academy in Victoria.

Common Box or Boxwood has been with us for a very long time, in fact its first recorded use was during the Egyptian era around 4000 BC where they had clipped hedges of it. Ever since that time it has reappeared throughout history. On a side note it was used by the Romans for their gardens, and believe it or not, they had special slaves called Toparius (creators of topia or landscapes) who maintained their specially clipped bushes. Here in Victoria Boxwood is mostly used for edging and to give a more formal feeling to a garden design.

Buxus sempervirens 'Elegantissima'

A wonderfully round Variegated Box is incorporated into the Heather Garden at Glendale Gardens.

Speaking of topiary, the craze really got going in renaissance Italy. In their warmer climate they used Cypress which proved not hardy enough for northern Europe, box became the obvious choice being evergreen and being finely textured which is needed for creating topiary forms. This is how Common Box became so associated with English and particularly French gardens. Levens Hall in Cumbria and Chateau de Villandry are two famous examples. More recently a Boxwood (look-a-like) was on display in the movie ‘Edward Scissorhands’ in which Edward created fantastic forms with his ‘scissorhands’ and became a celebrity.

Tree form of Buxus sempervirens

This remarkable Boxwood specimen is found at St Andrew's Cathedral along View St. in downtown Victoria.

Boxwood is slow growing with finely textured foliage but in its native habit it can grow into a large shrub or small tree of 10ft with a width of 4 to 6ft.  Because of its slow growth, it should be planted for a couple of years before being clipped for the first time. Cutting back will encourage a more bushy, dense growth. Hedges and topiary, when mature, are usually cut twice a year, It is done once around May and then later near the end of August or early September.

Buxus sempervirens is used as a hedge

A more typical use of Buxus sempervirens is as a hedge.

Boxwood is a very versatile shrub that tolerates very low light to full sun and continues to look healthy and bushy. It is very adaptable to most soils and can withstand a fair amount of drought, but prefers rich well drained soil. It is one of the few plants which will tolerate a more alkaline location. Common Box is rated at at zone 6 (-10f to 0 . or to -18c). In cool weather it often takes on an attractive bronzy coloring which disappears when warm weather returns.

Buxus sempervirens in containers.

These Boxwood are used as a decorative feature outside a restaurant in Victoria.

Buxus sempervirens is the most common box and has numerous cultivars such as ‘Elegantissima’ which has leaves edged in cream. Another popular form is ‘Suffruticosa’ that is slower growing and is most suitable used for parterres and small hedges. There is one other species worth mentioning. Buxus microphylla which is exactly the same as Common Box is smaller in all ways and generally needs no clipping. Several forms of it are popular in rock gardens or for very short edging. ‘Compacta’ and ‘Green Pillow’ are the most popular for rock gardens and for very low edging. A variety known as var. koreana is particularly popular with bonsai enthusiasts who choose it for its narrower leaves and loose spreading habit. It is also the most hardy.

Buxus sempervirens 'Elegantissima'

Buxus sempervirens 'Elegantissima' will make a slow growing and attractive edging.

Care must be taken in placement of Common Box near roadways which may be given a salt treatment  during cold periods. Buxus sempervirens is very easily damaged from too much salt and unsightly damage and even death of the plant can occur.

Salt damaged Buxus semperviren plants.

This is an example of extreme salt damage to a Boxwood hedge next to a parking lot in Victoria.

More about Boxing the Buxus:

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

How to grow and maintain a Box hedge: http://www.boxtrees.com/hedging.html

Historic St Andrew’s Cathedral: http://www.standrewscathedral.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=45&Itemid=65

Until we meet again later….

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

Garry Oaks is  Quercus garryana

Garry Oaks at Beacon Hill Park in Victoria.

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

Garry Oaks found at Holy Trinity Church in North Saanich.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn more about Garry Oaks:

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

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

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

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

Polypodium glycyrrhiza or Licorice Fern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the right place Licorice Ferns are a luxuriant carpet.

In the right place Licorice Ferns are a luxuriant carpet.

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

Polypodium glycyrrhiza in Playfair Park.

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

More about Polypodium glycyrrhiza:

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

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

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

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When I was in Horticulture school we learned many plants ranging from small ground covers, larger shrubs and finally to the majestic trees. Some of these plants are very overused while others are not seen enough, it all depends on how well known and in fashion they are.  One tree I learned is much more common in Vancouver than it is in Victoria and that truly is a pity. What I am referring to is the ‘Katsura’ tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) which has many features that it should be on most peoples lists of ‘must have’ trees.

Cercidiphyllum japonicum or 'Katsura Trees' on a rainy spring day in Vancouver.

Cercidiphyllum japonicum or 'Katsura Trees' on a rainy spring day in Vancouver.

At one time, long ago, Cercidiphyllum japonicum grew wild in a much larger area. Fossil records show Katsura trees lived in Europe and western North America during the Miocene Epoch 5 to 23 million years ago. Now They are found only in Japan and China. They are found in south central China,  particularly in north west Szechwan province where E.H. Wilson found forests of them in 1907. The trees found in China were considered to be a variety Cercidiphyllum japonicum var. sinense at one time and were said to be more tree-like.  In Japan they are found at valley bottoms where the soil is richer and there is more rainfall which these trees need.

The attractively shaped leaves is one of the most appealing aspects of 'Katsura' trees

The attractively shaped leaves is one of the most appealing aspects of 'Katsura' trees

Cercidiphyllum japonicum was introduced into cultivation in a most unusual way. Thomas Hogg  Jr(1819-1892) who owned a plant nursery with his brother James. He was appointed a U.S. Marshal by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862 and was then assigned to a diplomatic mission to Japan. While he was there, Thomas sent seeds of Cercidiphyllum japonicum to his brother  in 1865. His brther germinated them. Thomas was in Japan 10 years and also introduced several other well known plants;  Hosta ‘Thomas Hogg’  now called H. undulata var. albomarginata is probably the most famous.

Typical fall color of Cericidiphyllum japonicum found in the perennial border at Playfair park in Saanich.

Typical fall color of Cericidiphyllum japonicum found in the perennial border at Playfair park in Saanich.

Katsura trees tend to be multi trunked specimens which have strongly ascending branches. The leaves are relatively small and delicate compared to what the trunk and branches can become when these trees become more massive with age. It is intersting to note that these trees are also somewhat unusual in that they are dioecious meaning they are male or female plants.

A massive trunk of a Cercidiphyllum japonicum found in Beaconhill Park in Victoria.

A massive trunk of a Cercidiphyllum japonicum found in Beaconhill Park in Victoria.

In an ideal world Katsura trees grow to be enormous, Wilson found forests of trees with trunks of 2(6cm) and 3ft(90cm) widths and had regrown from their original stumps after the original trees had been harvest.  The largest one he noted was a remnant of a 17.5ft(5.33m) wide stump base. In the wild these trees can attain a height of 100ft(30m), but about half this in garden settings.  These trees are the most important source of wood  in Japan, and is used extensively for cabinetry and paneling there.

The color range of Cercidiphyllum japonicum ranges from crystal clear yellows through oranges and crimsons into plums as seen here.

The color range of Cercidiphyllum japonicum ranges from crystal clear yellows through oranges and crimsons into plums as seen here.

As autumn approaches Katsura trees put on a display for the senses, visually they are stunning with a color range few trees can achieve. On any day you will feast your eyes on shades of clear yellow, butter, many shades of peach and apricot, and into more striking crimsons and plums. You will notice they give of a pleasant odor as the leaves turn color, some describe it as ‘honey like’ and others say it has more of a’caramel’ or ‘brown sugar’ quality. How ever you explain it, it is a pleasant surprise which many people look forward to every year.

The striking golden tones of a happy Katsura tree changing color in the fall.

The striking golden tones of a happy Katsura tree changing color in the fall.

Cercidiphyllum japonicum is almost a perfect tree. It is very pest free and adaptive to most locations. In a garden setting it will grow to about 50ft(15m) tall which will fit in nicely to many landscapes. It makes an excellent multi stemmed residential, commercial, golf course or park tree. One thing you must keep in mind when placing it is having an adequate supply of water during the dry months.  Plant them in deep, rich, well drained soil. They need full sun to look their best.  This tree tolerates temperature down to 20f(29c). Newly emerging leaves can be damaged by late frosts.  there are several forms now on the market worth looking into if you are interested. the weeping forms are very attractive in the right location.

The same Cercidiphyllum japonicum in summer and fall. The corner planting along Quadra and Fairfield in Victoria.

The same Cercidiphyllum japonicum tree in summer and fall. The corner planting along Quadra and Fairfield in Victoria.

More on Cercidiphyllum japonicum:

Excellent summation of  Katsura trees: http://www.arhomeandgarden.org/plantoftheweek/articles/katsura_tree_11-2-07.htm

A very complete listing of important plant people, scroll down to Hogg: http://www.plantsgalore.com/people/plant-people-H.htm

Wiki’s listing of the famous Katsura tree and relatives: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cercidiphyllum

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One of the hardest thing for new students who are taking Horticultural courses is being exposed to a form of Latin for the first time; Botanical Latin that is.  We were given a test to see how well we could spell the botanical Latin names of the first plant we were learning and of course we all failed (it was planed this way!). We learned from this experience how difficult and how it would be first on the list of things we would have to study every night. Many people created ways to remember the plants spelling and pronunciation.  One plant I remember people doing this for was the plant Buddleja davidii or (Butterfly Bush),  they did it like this: My ‘Bud’ ‘Lea’ and ‘I’ went out with ‘David’, or something like that.

Buddliea davidii fully in bloom, note the tiny orange centers of each flower.

Buddleja davidii fully in bloom, note the tiny orange centers of each flower.

There is some confusion with the name Buddleja and it’s spelling. When I was in school we learned it as ‘Buddliea’ which is logical in botanical spelling terms. The spelling ‘Buddleja’ was actually said to be spelling mistake made by ‘Linnaeus ‘ with the name ‘Buddle’ . In botanical naming protocol, the original name should take precedence over newer spellings,  The letters ‘J’ and ‘I’ are seen as being interchangeable and can be considered orthographical variants in this case.

A recently planted Buddleja Davidii 'Black Knight' planted at Government House.

A recently planted Buddleja Davidii 'Black Knight' planted at Government House.

There are about 150 species of Buddlejas which only a few are grown outside of botanical gardens. Buddleja was named after Rev Adam Buddle (1660-1715), an English botanist and Pere Armand David(davidii).  This Buddleja was named and described by Franchet in 1887. Buddleja davidii is by far the most commonly grown. It was discovered in central China(Sichuan and Hubei provinces) and was introduced into cultivation in 1890. It was an immediate hit and was awarded an Award of Merit in 1898.  That form of the plant had a  mid-magenta purple flower color, since that time many color forms have been found. There are at least 3 variegated form which are highly sought after.

Buddleja davidii 'Harlequin', a sought after sport of 'Royal Red'.

Buddleja davidii 'Harlequin', a sought after sport of 'Royal Red'.

Buddleja davidii have been a very successful introduction into cultivation and where they are happy they can become something of a pest by self-seeding and forming thickets.  This need not be the case as butterfly Bushes are easy to control by deadheading after they bloom and can be cut right down to 2ft if need be.  Butterfly Bushes are adaptable to many areas including difficult coastal zones. Their late season bloom is useful to give color in this hot time of the year and they have an added bonus of being pleasantly fragrant. They can be used in deep shrub or perennial borders, massed planted, cottage style gardens, as specimens and as butterfly attractants.

A 'Buddleja davidii' pruned into a tree, very attractive and fragrant.

A 'Buddleja davidii' pruned into a tree, very attractive and fragrant.

It is easy to grow a Butterfly Bush, you need full sun for the best bloom, rich well drained soil and water during their prolonged growing season. they are considered to be fairly drought tolerant. They grow into quite large opens shrubs 3m(12ft) x 4m(15ft) wide and can be pruned into a more tree form if wanted. The form B. davidii var. nahonensis is smaller form(1.5m or 4ft) which has become popular in small gardens. They grow best in a temperature down to -15c(-1f.)  In colder areas they will be cut down to the ground, but, because they are so fast growing and bloom on new wood you can expect a crop of flowers.

Buddleja davidii 'White Cloud'  in a 'white' garden display.

Buddleja davidii 'White Cloud' in a perennial border.

More on Buddleja davidii:

About buddlejas in general; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddleja

Adam Buddle:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Buddle

Growing Buddlejas: http://www.gardenseeker.com/plants_a_z/buddleja_davidii.htm

Until We Meet Again Here….

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When we first come to be interested in flowers and gardening we often are totally in awe of the range of colors in flowers, we are like ‘kids in a candy shop’ and want to try every type and color tone. Slowly as we are exposed to other gardens and by reading(if we do) we learn more about composition of a garden and what makes for good design. We become more connoisseurs of  more subtle things like shape, texture of leaves, buds and bark. This is when we start to pass from being a consumer of gardens and plants to be more of a student of them and can fully appreciate what is trying to be achieved.  Astilbes are like this to me, I first was agog in their range of colors and then learned to love their texture within not only their flowers but their beautiful and useful foliage.

A fine show of blooming Atilbes in the Japanes Gardens at Glendale Gardens, Saanich.

A fine show of blooming Atilbes in the Japanes Gardens at Glendale Gardens, Saanich.

I first really got to know Astilbes when I worked for a wholesale perennial nursery, there we shipped literally thousands of Astilbes a year. They sold least a couple of dozen hybrids form the common types sold strictly by color to those named varieties which were being introduced to North America for the first time. It was quite an awe inspiring sight to see blocks of several hundred of one color type blooming at the same moment.  I soon learned that not only did the flowers have an interesting range of forms(from droopy and open to upright and tight) but the leaves often changed color as they matured some having bronzy tones and others keeping a bright green shade throughout the year.

Astilbe x 'Fanal', one of the most vibrant reds in the flower world.

Astilbe x arendsii 'Fanal' bred by Georg Arends, one of the most vibrant reds in the flower world.

Most Astilbe plants originate in Asia except for A. biternata which comes from eastern North America. Not surprisingly the first plants where grown in botanical collections as early as the 1830s, from that time many more have been discovered.  Georg Arends(1863-1952) is responsible for popularizing Astilbes. He took the many known species and started crossing them to create a completely new group of plants. Many of his plants have become famous since their introduction in the 1920s and 30s and are classed as ‘x arendsii’  One of his famous introductions is the first ‘red’ Astilbe ‘Fanal’ in 1933.  His ‘White(Weisse) Gloria’ from 1924 is considered to be the best of it’s color.  You can still count on easily finding ‘Amethyst, Bridal Veil'(Brautschleier), Cattleya, Granat, Hyacinth(Hyazinth) and Pink Pearl(Rosa Perle) in nurseries today.

Astilbe x 'Peach Blossom' which was introduced in 1902.

Astilbe x 'Peach Blossom' which was introduced in 1902.

There are several other groups of Astilbe hybrids which have been developed; x japonica look alot like x arendsii and have the same species as the parents.  The ‘chinensis’ groups generally all have mauve to magenta colors, more rough foliage texture and flower spikes of a slightly different shape.  A newer group from A. simplicifolia offers more restrained smaller plants which have delicately colored flowers and foliage.

Astilbe chinensis 'Pumila', a minature which is easily grown from seed.

Astilbe chinensis 'Pumila', a minature which is easily grown from seed.

Astilbes are very useful in the garden and are adaptable to many uses. They tolerate shady to bright sun as long as they have a good supply of water which is why they are often seen in boggy places or alongside water. They look attractive from the time they emerge from the ground with their delicate foliage and associate well with other plants such as Hosta, Heucheras, Ferns, Iris and Polygonatums to create beautiful nuanced foliage tapestries.

A lovely colorful shady border with Astilbes at Government House in Victoria, B.C.

A lovely colorful shady border with Astilbes at Government House in Victoria, B.C.

To grow Astilbes you need need rich moisture retaining soil which has lots of humus in it.  They prefer to be situated in shady or dappled sites which are out of  the way during the mid-day heat. Once they have flowered they should be pruned down so they can produce a fresh crop of leaves.  When selecting your plant consider it’s size as they range from miniature which are suitable for a rockery to fairly giant 4-5ft(1-1.5m) tall. They are generally hardy to zone 4(-20C) but with winter protection will survive lower temperatures. I have found Astilbe chineisis ‘Pumila’ thrives at zone 3a(-40c) in my mothers’ garden so much that it has been divided several times and produces large clumps which make a nice carpet there.  To have a longer bloom period select several varieties; x arendsii and x japonicas bloom earlier with chinensis a little later.

A low growing Astilbe simplicifolia hybrid blooming by a pathway.

A low growing Astilbe simplicifolia hybrid blooming by a pathway.

Astilbes are often used as cut flowers. The trick is to cut them before the blossoms have opened. They also can be preserved as dried flowers this way. The foliage is also a nice addition to a bouquet as greenery.

A mass planting of Astilbe at U.B.C. Botaincal Garden in Vancouver, B.C.

A mass planting of Astilbe at U.B.C. Botaincal Garden in Vancouver, B.C.

To Learn More About Astilbes:

A little about Georg(e) Arends and growing Astilbes: http://www.youngamericangrowers.com/app/our_plants.asp

A good article about Astilbes: http://www.arhomeandgarden.org/plantoftheweek/articles/Astilbe.htm

Until we meet again next week…..


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