Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Winter color’

Often when we see a plant for the first time we do not have a chance to see what it would look like in the wild of its full potential. This is particularly true for very large species such as trees which we often we see mangled to fit into too small urban areas. One tree I see which is often treated this way is Cedrus deodara (Deodar Cedar), it is a wonderful plant for the right place.

One of the many majestic Deodar Cedars found in Beacon Hill Park.

One of the many majestic Deodar Cedars found in Beacon Hill Park.

Deodar Cedar has been used in many ways for a very long time this is partly because it comes from an area of very old civilization.  It is found in an area of asia which is from south-west Tibet traveling west through western Nepal,  north-central India, northern Pakistan and into the corner of Afghanistan. Over time these trees have been logged out from many of their former areas and are now rare. In its native area it grows at high altitudes of 1500 to 3000 m(5000-9800 ft.).

The large cones which sit up-right are just one of the attractive features of Cedrus deodara

The large cones which sit up-right are just one of the attractive features of Cedrus deodara

Himalayan Cedars were and are logged for their beautiful wood which has been in demand for many centuries. the wood has a fine, close grain and takes a high polish as well as being rot-resistant and durable. It has been used for building temples, houses and other buildings, ships and boats, bridges and furniture. The trees have been used for landscaping since ancient times.

This Cedrus deodara is found next to the driveway exit at Government House.

This Cedrus deodara is found next to the driveway exit at Government House.

Cedrus deodara is know as ‘the tree of the gods’  in Sanskrit which is where part of its botanical latin name originates. Deodara comes from Sanskrit ‘devadaru’ deva= god and daru meaning wood. Cedrus originally come from the ancient Greek ‘kedros’ which was the orginal name for the Juniperus species. The Cedrus genus is made up of 4 closely related species which are found in the Mediterranean area and Asia.  the common name of Cedar when it is used here in North America usually refers to a Thuja, Chamaecyparis or Juniperus.

The attractive bark of Cedrus deodara is seen in this multi-trunked tree.

The attractive bark of Cedrus deodara is seen in this multi-trunked tree.

The Deodar Cedar is the national tree of Pakistan. In the Hindu religion Deodars are worshiped as divine trees and are referred to in several of their legends. In ancient times forests of these trees where the favored places for Indian sages to meditate in. The tree also plays an important role in  Ayurvedic system of traditional medicine of India. The bark and oils which are extracted from the inner wood are still used. The bark and twigs are powdered and used as a powerful astringent while the distilled oils are used in aromatherapy and as an antiseptic.

The wonderful golden plumed Cedrus deodara 'Aurea' has stunning color and is found in Hollywood Park which is between Fairfield Rd. and Earle St.

The wonderful golden plumed Cedrus deodara 'Aurea' has stunning color and is found in Hollywood Park which is between Fairfield Rd. and Earle St.

The Deodar Cedar can have a slightly whimsical feel about it when it is young with the tips of its bows drooping, but don’t be fooled this will become a magnificent tree. These are trees for large areas with full sun, the exception is with golden and cream-colored trees which need protection in areas with extreme heat and sun. They are easy to grow and will take most soils as long as it drains well. These trees grow very fast when young and can attain heights of over 9 m. (30ft.) within 10 years. It will eventually grow to be about 24 m.(80 ft.) high and 13 m.(40 ft.) wide. These trees are specimens and are best featured in parks, estates and large properties, the largest one I have ever seen was at the Kyoto Botanical Garden and probably was at least 100 years old. Here in Victoria we see quite a few of that age such as the ones that the Herons perch on in Good Acre Lake in Beacon Hill Park.

This Deodar Cedar in Good Acre Lake is favorite Heron perch found in Beacon Hill Park.

This Deodar Cedar in Good Acre Lake is favorite Heron perch found in Beacon Hill Park.

There are many cultivars of Cedrus deodara which you can choose from, they range from full-sized to miniature and colors from creamy through chartreuse into greens and blue tinged foliage.  There are also weeping forms. All the cultivars are grafted and can be expensive especially for larger ones. Research what you might want to grow first before you buy as it is a life-time commitment when owning a tree. Take care when selecting color and choose that which is the most vibrant and healthy looking . These trees are from temperate areas and like it that way. They are rated as for zones 6 and above or -20c. (-10f.).

On the trek for Deodars:

Wiki site on Deodars’: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cedrus_deodara

Virginia Tech has good pictures of the various parts of the tree: http://www.cnr.vt.edu/dendro/dendrology/syllabus/factsheet.cfm?ID=456

Medicinal uses of Deodar Cedar in medicine: http://www.iloveindia.com/indian-herbs/cedrus-deodara.html

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

My father grew up mainly in the interior where the winters are long and cold and the warm summer months are short and much longed for. I am sure that and his father who loved gardening and nature influenced the way he experienced the world. My father always loved the scent of flowers and would check every new type he came into contact. I often wanted to show him new plant for him to experience and comment on. One plant I was especially happy for him to meet and smell its wonderful scent is Japanese Skimmia(Skimmia japonica).

Here in this group of Japanese Skimmia you can see the berried female plants in the front and the males in the back covered with flower buds waiting for the spring.

Here in this group of Japanese Skimmia you can see the berried female plants in the front and the males in the back covered with flower buds waiting for the spring.

There are 4 species of Skimmia and all are found in Asia; all of the species having attractive berries, aromatic foliage and fragrant flowers.  Skimmia japonica was first originally described by Carl Thunberg in ‘Flora Japonica'( published 1784), his record of plants which he collected in Japan in 1775-1776.  At that time it was thought the plant was a type of Holly(Ilex).  Holly like this Skimmia species has separate male and female plants.  Robert Fortune introduce a plant from China which was is a hermaphrodite(male and female parts on the same plant), this plant was later determined to be an important subspecies now known as Skimmia japonica subsp. reevesiana. What is now known is that Skimmia japonica is quite variable and is found in a wide range of areas ranging from Taiwan through the Japanese islands into Korea and Sakhalin. With the variability of the species, many new forms have been introduced.

 This appears to be a female Skimmia japonica plant as there does not appear to be any stamens with pollen present.

This appears to be a female Skimmia japonica plant as there does not appear to be any stamens with pollen present.

When Robert Fortune’s plant was introduced to the public by Sunniingdale Nursery in 1849 it was an instant hit and from that time Japanese Skimmia has been valued as a first-rate plant with many desirable qualities. In Japan it has long been used in gardens. The Japanese name for Skimmia japonica is ‘Miyama shikimi’ and Shikimi refers to a completely different species (Illicium anisatum) which is also a highly aromatic plant. The name Skimmia refers to the  latinized Japanese ‘Shikimi’. All of this has also confused people in the past as Illicum or Star Anise is well known spice and is a more tender plant.

This male Skimmia japonica clone has distinctly pink tinged blooms.

This male Skimmia japonica clone has distinctly pink tinged blooms.

The Skimmia species is a member of the Rutaceae family which we know better for giving us citrus fruit such as oranges, lemons, limes and Grapefruit.  Other members are as diverse as the bitter herb Rue(Ruta) and Zanthozylum which gives us Sichuan Pepper and Prickly Ash.  Many members of the family are edible and provide us with important fruit, spices and medicinal components.   Skimmia is probably is the most important  of the strictly ornamental plants.

 The berries of Skimia japonica are a bright shiny red and are very festive looking at this time of the year.

The berries of Skimia japonica are a bright shiny red and are very festive looking at this time of the year.

Japanese Skimmias are all around us and we often are not aware of them because their broadleaved evergreen foliage blend in so well with other plants. Skimmia japonica is very popular with better landscape designers and gardeners because the plant is versatile. One often sees them used in shady locations tucked under deciduous trees which will attract our attention most of the year. I see this in Beacon Hill Park  under the magnificent Japanese Maples between Goodacre and Fountain Lakes. When the Skimmia blooms the scent flows in the breeze along the path and across the near bridge to delight the many people strolling in the area.

 

 Skimmia japonica located under the Japanese Maples near Goodacre Lake.

Skimmia japonica located under the Japanese Maples near Goodacre Lake.

 

Skimmia japonica and all its forms are easy plants to grow. They like fertile rich soil which is slightly acidic but tolerate clay soils quite well. They like a site which is well-drained but is well watered during the hot summers as they do not like drought conditions. They prefer a site which is dappled or is more on the shady side or their leaves will yellow even in a strong winter sun. As they are evergreen they will do best being in a location which is protected from drying winds especially in the winter season.

 

 This recently planted Japanese Skimmia has a good mulch of leaves to help it survive the freezing weather and snow.

This recently planted Japanese Skimmia has a good mulch of leaves to help it survive the freezing weather and snow.

 

Japanese Skimmias are very slow-growing and dense but over a long time get to be quite large. I have seen plants which are 1.2m(4ft) tall and wide  in gardens and it is said that they can grow an astonishing(to me at least) 7m(22 ft) tall. Often now we seen many of the smaller forms such as sbsp. reevesiana which is small enough to fit well into any garden. Skimmias are rated as hardy to zone 7 or -12 to-18c (0-10f). Skimmias are easily propagated by seed or softwood cuttings although they are slow to root.

 

 The smaller forms of Japanese Skimmia make excellent container plants which can be moved easily.

The smaller forms of Japanese Skimmia make excellent container plants which can be moved easily.

Use Skimmia japonica as an accent, in a winter garden, for fragrance in the spring, along paths where you brush the aromatic foliage. Their colorful berries are bright winter interest and the foliage is not popular with deer or slugs which may visit you. They work well as foundation plants especially when placed near entrances or windows. Skimmias are also popular in a woodland setting or in borders as they are very low maintainance and will need little care over their long life.

 

Stirring up the Skimmia:

Rainyside’s page on Skimmia japonica: http://www.rainyside.com/features/plant_gallery/shrubs/SkimmiaJaponica.html

Kwantlen University webpage on sbsp. reevsiana: https://appserver1.kwantlen.ca/apps/plantid/plantid.nsf/lookup/78AAF594F71CCF2988256F0200610584?OpenDocument

The mystery of the name:

http://books.google.ca/books?id=SvcWAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA520&dq=skimmia+japonica&hl=en&ei=UaHyTMDyLZC-sQOBoaTSCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=10&ved=0CFoQ6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=skimmia%20japonica&f=false

…Until we meet again soon…I hope….

 

Read Full Post »

There are some plants that are just plain strange! Even the family(genera) they are associated can be weird. Many of these peculiar plants have unusual flowers or growing habits because they might live in unusual situations or bloom out of season when there are few bees to spread the pollen. One family with strange flowers is the members of the Araceae family. The namesake of this family is the species Arum and the most common type seen in gardens is Arum Italicum (Cuckoo Pint).

This Arum italicum with its freshly unfurled leaves and bright seeds is a showy addition to the late autumn garden.

This Arum italicum with its freshly unfurled leaves and bright seeds is a showy addition to the late autumn garden.


The Cuckoo Pint is one of the best known members of the Araceae family which all have several characteristics in common.  All members of the family have spathe/spadix flowers which make them stand out from other plants.  The spathe is a specialized leaf which protects the spike(spadix) of tiny flowers. The spathe is generally much larger than the complete spadix and is often showy and can be colorful. In the case of Arum italicum the tiny flowers’ are usually on very short stems and the spathe is a greenish color. The flowers structures are usually hidden underneath the much larger leaves. Another thing common to Aracae members is they all have calcium oxalate found in all parts of the plants. Calcium oxalate is a chemical compound that is a well-known irritant and anything which has it must be handled with care.
All parts of the Cuckoo Pint has calcium oxalate in it.

All parts of the Cuckoo Pint has calcium oxalate in it.


Arum Italicum is a fairly widespread plant and grows wild in southern England most of southern Europe, Northern Africa and into Asia Minor. It is an ancient plant and representations are seen painted on the walls of the Temple of Amun at Karnak in the ancient capital of Thebes in Egypt, the plants are not native to that area. During the 16th century the roots of Arums where boiled and powdered to produce a white starch which was used to stiffen collars and ruffles of the elaborate clothing of the times. Later the same powder was added to cosmetics called Cyprus powder which was used for the skin in Paris. The thick gummy sap of the plants was at the time was collected and refined for use as a substitute for soap for laundry. It’s hard to believe  we used this plant for these things as processing it would have been a long slow process and in some cases taking many weeks.
 The seedheads of Arum italicum on elongated stems beginning to ripen in the early June.

The seed heads of Arum italicum on elongated stems beginning to ripen in the early June.


Arum italicum has a life cycle which backwards compared to most plants we are familiar with. Here the leaves are produced every autumn and winter over into the spring, they area undamaged by frosts.  In spring Cuckoo Pint flowers are produced and the foliage later withers leaving the elongating floral stems with the seed developing on it.  As the seed is almost is ripe new leaves unfurl in late autumn and a new cycle begins again. The seed ripens and is sown in the winter as it has a short viability and does not tolerate drying out at all therefore the time of ripening guarantees the best chance of germination.
 The same Cuckoo Pint in late August with the seeds starting to color up but no leaves in sight yet.

The same Cuckoo Pint in late August with the seeds starting to color up but no leaves in sight yet.


Arum italicun is an attractive plant for the garden and can be used in number of ways. It is very tolerant of shade and even deep shade and can be planted in areas where many other plants will struggle. It is quite a show at this dark time of the year and provides late autumn and winter interest. The bright color of the seeds are noticeable deep in a border or it can be used in a container for a winter show. Cuckoo Pints can be placed as accents or specimens and work as a groundcover if they are in a spot where they can naturally produce seedlings.
 The variation of leave coloring and varigation is typical of seedling Arum italicum, no two plants are identical.

The variation of leave coloring and varigation is typical of seedling Arum italicum, no two plants are identical.


Growing the Cuckoo Pint is easy, you need a site with rich slightly acidic moisture retentive soil and full sun to shade. If you like more leaves plant them in more shade and for more seedheads a bit more light. Arum italicum die down during the summer heat and you might need to mark the site so you do not over plant on them. You should consider wearing gloves when handling any part of these plants do to the calcium oxalate found in the plant might irritate your skin. Wash your hands after touching any part of the plant. If you are worried about pets and children eating any part of this plant you might choose to put it deep in a border where they will be less noticeable (except to you). One good thing about this plant is that slugs and wild life generally does not touch it.  Propagation is by seed or division of clumps during May and june when the plant becomes more dormant.
Here at Finnerty Gardens the Arum italicum has found a happy home and has spread under this Davidia tree.

Here at Finnerty Gardens the Arum italicum has found a happy home and has spread under this Davidia tree.

Cuckoo Pints are hardy to -25 c.(-13 f.) or zone 5 through 9.  An average plant grows about 30cm(1ft.) tall and wide.  Spacing is 45cm (16 in.) apart of you want more of a mass planting. Breeders have become interested in this plant and there are now have selected leaf types which are more marbled and showy, these should become more common in time. Arum italicum ‘Pictum’ for a long time was considered to be separate form has now been demoted to plain Arum italicum.
Looking for the elusive Cuckoo Pint:

Some species of Arums to compare: http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/Arum

Growing Arum is easy, check here: http://www.perennials.com/seeplant.html?item=1.077.120

Calcium oxalate and what it is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calcium_oxalate

The Araceae family: http://zipcodezoo.com/Key/Plantae/Araceae_Family.asp

…………Hope you come back here soon……….

Read Full Post »

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

Winter Aconites blooming in the sun.

Winter Aconites at Glendale Gardens blooming in the sun.

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

A group of Eranthis hymalis at Finnerty Gardens.

A group of Eranthis hyemalis at Finnerty Gardens.

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

Glorious Gleaming Golden Winter Aconites

Glorious Gleaming Golden Winter Aconites

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

Fully opened Winter Aconites February 17 2009

Fully opened Winter Aconites February 17 2009

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

Several healthy clumps of Eranthis hyemalis.

Several healthy clumps of Eranthis hyemalis.

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

Winter Aconite blossoms in detail.

Winter Aconite blossoms in detail.

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

Links to This Weeks Subject:

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

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

A good source of information on Winter Aconites

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

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

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: