Posts Tagged ‘winter flowering’

As I look out my window today I remember what it was like at this time of year; it is the middle of February and still the snow is falling and the piles of it are getting higher and higher. Back then any sunny day would make me anxious for spring to come with the brightly colored bulbs of yellow, purple, blue and even white poking through patches of bare soil. Yes I am speaking of the first flowers of this early spring here which have a big impact. The Crocus are running amuck through the city in the parks and yards and have even gone rogue in some places! I offer up to you the  group of Crocus hybrids sometimes called ‘Dutch Crocus’ to brighten your very early spring.

 These Dutch Crocus Hybrids have incredibly huge flowers, yet have a delicate quality.

These Dutch Crocus Hybrids have incredibly huge flowers, yet have a delicate quality.

There are about 80 different species of Crocus with many subspecies and varieties. Of that group only about 30 species are regularly grown by collectors and us regular people.There are 2 distinct groups ones which flowers in spring and those which bloom in autumn. Of the autumn group we would be familiar with Saffron Crocus which produce Saffron for culinary uses, the spice comes from collecting the stamens from the flowers. Crocus species originate from a large area from north Africa into south-central Europe all of Italy and eastern Europe to Russia and down through former Yugoslavia and Greece, crossing through Turkey and as far east as Afghanistan and south into the Middle East Asia. .

 Crocus 'Pickwick' is my favorite Dutch Crocus with its gloriously striped blossoms.

Crocus 'Pickwick' is my favorite Dutch Crocus with its gloriously striped blossoms.

Most of us are more familiar with the spring blooming named hybrids which are commonly called Dutch Crocus. This group of Crocus have been developed over several hundred years of careful selection of the best flower qualities. ‘Dutch’ Crocus are a group of hybrids which are primarily made up of crosses made from 5 species of which the 3 predominant are C. vernus(with the largest blooms), chrysanthus(color) and biflorus.

 Here Crocus have taken over a lawn at this time of year and have revert to a color which is similar to what they look in the wild.

Here Crocus have taken over a lawn at this time of year and have revert to a color which is similar to what they look in the wild.

No one really knows were these 3 species of Crocus began to hybridise as it is possible their paths crossed in the wild. Vernus is from the Pyrenees in Europe into Yugoslavia, Chrysanthus also is found in Yugoslavia Romania, Greece and into southern Turkey. From there biflorus is found in southern Greece into Turkey and as far east as northern Iran. We do know that several species of bulbs ended up being sent to Carolus Clusius at the Botanical Garden in Leiden in the mid 16th century.


The golden yellow color of Dutch Crocus early in the spring is one of the gaudiest sights in the garden.

The golden-yellow color of Dutch Crocus early in the spring is one of the gaudiest sights in the garden.

Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder (1573-1621) specialized in painting flowers and included a golden Dutch Crocus in one of his paintings. By 1629 a yellow Crocus had made their way to England and were being written about.  By the early 1700s lists of bulbs were carefully cataloged with their prices by sellers of the product and more color forms we re becoming known.



 Crocus 'Remembrance' is an old clone with one of the darkest and richest colors.

Crocus 'Remembrance' is an old clone with one of the darkest and richest colors.

All Crocus species are generally easy to grow and adaptable to most soil types. The one thing Crocus hate is overly wet stagnant soil which causes the bulb to rot. To improve soil drainage add sharp sand.  If Crocus like where they are growing they will multiply by growing many tiny new bulbils which can be removed and replanted. Crocus should be planted at least 15cm(6 in.) apart and 5-8 cm(2-3 in.) deep in the ground. It is best to plant or replant bulbs in the fall 1-2 months before frosts come to the garden, this gives the bulbs a chance to start growing their roots firmly into the ground.


This is Crocus 'Snow Bunting', a cheery flower in which each petal base is bright yellow.

This is Crocus 'Snow Bunting', a cheery flower in which each petal base is bright yellow.


Dutch Crocus are fairly hardy and take about zone 5 (-29 c. or-20 f.) – temperatures with ease and if you give your plants so extra protection or more snow they can take even colder situations.  Crocus grow well in gardens and can be used as edging plants, accents or specimens in a winter garden. Crocus make excellent container plants and can be transferred into the garden later if you like. Another thing they can be used for is naturalizing in lawns and grassy areas, this is because they will grow and decline into dormancy before you need to do your first mowing. Here there are several parks where the plants have spread into the lawns and look spectacular at this time of the year, later people are unaware that they are walking over the areas where the bulbs have gone dormant.


Pacific Bulb Society have very detailed pages on many Crocus species: http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/Crocus


Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder was a fantastic painter of flowers and floral displays: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambrosius_Bosschaert

The Wiki page on Crocus is interesting: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crocus

……….Hope to see you around these pages soon………..





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This September has been extraordinarily wet, in fact we have set a record for the most rain for this month every and still almost week to go. Most plants are loving it as the long summer drought is over early and this is guaranteed to save some of their lives. Some plants think it is fall already while others think it is spring and are blooming out of season. One plant which is in its glory during the waning days of summer is Hardy Fuchsia (Fuchsia magellanica) all its lovely forms.

One of the many forms of Fuchsia magellanica blooming in the Hardy Fuschia Garden at Glendale Garden.
One of the many forms of Fuschia magellanica blooming in the Hardy Fuschia Garden at Glendale Garden.

Fuchsias have been known for quite some time, the first type was brought back from the island of Hispaniola in 1703 by Charles Plumier( a french monk and botanist). He decided to name the plant after Lenard Fuchs(1501-1566) an early and important physician and professor of medicine in Germany. Magellanica commemorates Ferdinand Magellan(1480-1521) a Portuguese explorer who was the first to sail around Cape Horn from the Atlantic Ocean into the Pacific Ocean on the very southern tip of South America.

Fuchsia magellanica 'gracilis' shows off the delicate flowers which have been refered to as Ladys Eardrops.

Fuchsia magellanica 'gracilis' shows off the delicate flowers which have been refered to as Ladys Eardrops.

Fuchsias are found primarily in South America with Fuchsia magellanica coming from the farthest south; southern Argentina and Chile and to Tierra del Fuego. In Chile and Argentina it grows in the interior away from the coast up to the timberline there. It grows in damp to wet areas often on the edges of water(lakes, stream and rivers) or in swampy areas. It is  in an area of high humidity with heavy rainfall, this is a good clue why it likes areas like the pacific north-west and lurks as an escaped alien lining roads in south-west Ireland.

Fuchsia magellainca var.gracilis 'Aurea' brightens up any garden space.

Fuchsia magellainca var.gracilis 'Aurea' brightens up any garden space.

Over the years since it’s discovery many forms have been selected from Fuchsia magellanica, there are quite a few flower and leaf forms, some bright and showy and many others more subtle. The flowers range in color from the well-known fuchsia pink and blue through all pink, pale blush pink and then into white with a greenish tip. The flower itself also ranges in size and shape, most commonly being the long elegant drop, other forms are shorter to wider.

Fuchsia magellanica 'Hawkshead' has pure white flowers and light green foliage.

Fuchsia magellanica 'Hawkshead' has pure white flowers and light green foliage.

Leaf colors  of Hardy Fuchsia range from the standard green into golden ‘Aurem’ and several variegated forms; ‘Sharpitor’ with sage green with creamy edges, ‘variegata’ with more pinkish tints  and cream edges, ‘Versicolor'(‘Tricolor’) with even stronger rose tintng.

Fuchsia magellanica 'Versicolor' give an overall feeling of greyish-ness as the variegation is irregular and can disappear completely.

Fuchsia magellanica 'Versicolor' give an overall feeling of greyish-ness as the variegation is irregular and can disappear completely.

Hardy Fuchsias are very adaptable and useful in the garden. Although they come from a wet climate they have adjusted to the garden very well. They need rich moisture retentive soil to grow their best. They can take full sun as long as they have adequate moisture. At Glendale Garden here there is a Hardy Fuchsia Garden where many forms are tested, this area is mainly in full sun and exposed to the elements all year. It is a tough test for the Fuchsias to grow there and they come through with very well every year. They can grow in full sun to full shade, but the best placement is in part shade such as that provided by deciduous trees or those with smaller foliage so the light is dappled.

Fuchsia magellainca var. molinae 'Sharpitor' comes from England and is a very beautiful plant.

Fuchsia magellainca var. molinae 'Sharpitor' comes from England and is a very beautiful plant.

Hardy Fuchsias grow into attractive delicate looking shrubs which range from 75 to 200cm(2-6ft) tall and can grow to nearly as wide. The variegated forms tend to be smaller in height but nearly as wide. These plants can fill many uses in the garden, from specimen to accent though informal hedge to container plants. They fit well into perennial or shrub borders. They are said to be both deer and rabbit resistant.The large plum-colored oblong fruit is said to be edible, I have not tried it though.

Fuchsia magellanica var. molinae (Alba) is one of the more commonly seen color forms.

Fuchsia magellanica var. molinae (Alba) is one of the more commonly seen color forms.

Hardy Fuchsias bloom on new wood and can be cut down nearly to the ground in the late winter before they start to grow a-new. My grandmother cut her plant down to 15cm(6in) every year. They also can be pruned at any time for shaping or removal of damaged limbs.  One thing to keep in mind is they are slow to leaf out or sprout so do not throw it out it will come back. These are carefree plants with few if any seious pests or diseases. Often they come through the winter almost untouched here even though they are deciduous. They are rated at taking -10c(14f) with some varieties such as ‘Riccartonii’ and ‘Hawkshead’ said to withstand zone 6 -15c(5f).

This unusual flower form of Hardy Fuchsia('Miss Popple'?) is seen at Milner Gardens in Qualicum Beach.

This unusual flower form of Hardy Fuchsia('Miss Popple'?) is seen at Milner Gardens in Qualicum Beach.

Fuchsia links to follow:

The Fuchsia garden at Glendale: http://www.glendalegardens.ca/hardyfuchsias.php

Hardy Fuchsia in Chile: http://www.chileflora.com/Florachilena/FloraEnglish/HighResPages/EH0306.htm

Fuchsias in West Cork, Ireland: http://stoneartblog.blogspot.com/2010/08/fuchsia-magellanica-west-corks-adopted.html

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Many parking lots and other institutions have parking lots and landscaping which is populated by tough hardy and often broadleaved evergreen plants. These plants have to be attractive and durable and tolerate being neglected. Many of these plants are just green and a background with no real features. A select few are standouts and should be seen in other settings more often. Viburnum tinus (Laurustinus) is a great plant which is attractive and versatile in many ways.

Viburnum tinus

Viburnum tinus(Laurustinus) is used as an informal hedge outside this fence.

Viburnum tinus has been in cultivation for a long time. This is probably do to the fact that is comes from the Mediterranean, an area which is one of the first areas where gardens were developed for pleasure. We do know that it was brought to Great Britain at least 500 years ago and many old plants are found there. It’s evergreen nature and sweet scented flowers which bloom late in the year probably attracted attention to it for use as a decorative plant.


During the winter Laurustinus is a great show which it's many heads of rosey buds waiting to open.

The common name Laurustinus is thought to refer to the leaves which resemble those of the Bay Tree(Laurus nobilis). The Latin name Viburnum refers to this genus of plant but is thought not to refer to this particular species. the Latin meaning of ‘tinus’ is said to be the true ‘ancient’ name of this plant. It seems to me that Laurustinus is best described as a ‘Bay-leaved Viburnum’.

Viburnum tinus flowers

Although the flowers of Viburnum tinus are small, they are highly fragrant.

Viburnums are from the Carpifoliaceae family which includes many fragrant plants such as Honeysuckles, Beautybush and Twinflower. Laurustinus has a spicy sweet floral scent when in bloom. Other people say that it can have an unpleasant scent which may come from the leaves when they are growing early in the year. I know that the wild Viburnum which grows around here gives off an acidic scent in the fall when it sheds its leaves, it is a scent that I associate with autumn and look forward to experiencing every year. Scent is such a personal thing, one persons perfume is anothers most hated smell!

Laurustinus fruit

Often you will see Viburnum tinus blooming when there still are fruit on the bush.

Viburnum tinus have attractive drupes(fruit) which have a metallic steely blue black color, they are more sporadic and often do not develop well. The fruit of this species is not known to be edible and are said to cause stomach upset, this probably is do to the high acid content. The glossy smooth edged leaves, attractive berries and fragrant but delicate flowers make this a showy plant all year round. the added bonus is Laurustinus is easy to grow too.

The glossy leaves and red tints of the flower buds make Laurustinus attractive in the winter.

Growing Laurustinus is easy. They need well drained soil which is fertile and on the gritty side as they do not like overly wet roots. They do the best in a sunny location for the best flowering. They also tolerate dappled or shaded sites as well. they also are tolerant of ocean exposure and more chalky sites. They can grow to between 2 and 4.5m(6- 15ft)  in height and width depending on the variety you choose. This is a densely leaved plant which is excellent mass planting, informal hedges, winter gardens, shrub borders or containers. It is best to prune it for shape after it has finished blooming. There are several named forms which are more compact and one which is variegated, but is less cold tolerant. These plants are rated for zones 7 though9 (-10c or 10f).

More about Laurustinus:

Paghat’s post: http://www.paghat.com/viburnumtinus.html

Plants for a Future have some interesting notes: http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Viburnum+tinus

Oregon State University page:http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ldplants/viti-i.htm

*****Next Week I will be moving and will not be posting, I hope to post on the following Sunday Febuary 7th.  See you in 2 weeks!*****

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When I was in school I often learned one than one genus and from that point there can be many subspecies and hybrids. Often plants from a genus look very similar and other times do not. One genus we learned was Arbutus. Arbutus menziesii  is a tree and Arbutus unedo which is a shrub. Arbutus unedo or the Strawberry tree is a great shrub which is well adapted for use here it the Victoria area.

Arbutus unedo

An attractive Arbutus unedo at a driveway entrance.

Arbutus unedo come from the Mediterranean area and range from Turkey, Lebanon  through to western areas of France and Spain and Portugal. They are also found in south western Ireland and are believed to be pre-glaciation remnants of  the range where these plant originally lived. The area which Strawberry trees or more commonly bushes are found in the wild has drastically shrunk do to harvesting of the wood for manufacturing of charcoal.

A happy Arbutus unedo which is loaded with fruit.

Arbutus unedo or as they are known in Ireleand as Killarney Strawberry Trees are viewed as 4 season plants as they have beautiful evergreen foliage which looks good throughout the year, berries which are take a year to for and ripen and flowers which bloom late in the year when little else is.

Arbutus unedo blossoms

The small waxy blosoms of Arbutus unedo bloom from October through December here.

Right now there are still some flowers on many bushes and crops of fruit are coloring up in a most attractive way for the Christmas season. The shrub in the above picture is covered with fruit which suggests it is in a perfect location.  The fruit are actually aggregate drupes which have a pasty bland flavor. The fruit is now used to make jams, jellies and a strong Brandy type drink (Medronho) which is made in Portugal. Pliny the Elder felt that the fruit was not worth eating, he  wrote in 50 A.D. ‘unum edo’ – ‘I eat one’ which said to be where we get unedo. the name Arbutus is from their original Latin name.

Arbutus unedo fruit

The fruits of Arbutus unedo are brightly colored and unusual looking.

Arbutus are members of the Ericaceae family which tend to need acidic soil to grow their very best. Strawberry trees are and exception to this rule and tolerate limey soil very well and are found in France growing in sandy locations. Generally here Arbutus unedo are grown as shrubs, they can be trained as a tree which is achieved by removing the lower branches as they bud out. The bark is an attractive cinnamon color and is cracked and is said to come off in strips in larger trunks, I have not seen this.

Arbutus unedo bark

The attractive bark on this very large Arbutus unedo branch.

Although we usually see Arbutus unedo as shapely rounded shrubs, they can grow to be quite large. They grow  to 10.5m(33ft) tall by the same spread and can grow very large trunks.  In a perfect setting they have full exposure to sun and very well drained soil. They can also do very well in wetter climates as long as the soil is very well drained, they do not tolerate being in overly damps soil.  They are naturally adapted to dry summers and develop long taproots soon after they are established. The taproot mean you have to be careful about where you are planting this plant as they do not do well if they are moved later on.

These Arbutus unedo have been planted to form a hedge which can be infomal or formal with pruning.

Arbutus unedo are versatile and can be used as formal or informal  hedging, specimens or back ground shrubs. They are great in more neglected locations such as on driveways and areas which are not near water sources. The fruit will attract birds who will eat it.  There are few pests and diseases and these can be avoided with proper care of the plant. These plants are rated at zones 7 through 10 (0-10f or -7 to-12c).The leaves can be damaged by cold dry snaps such as what we had last winter, the plants I see around here where not damaged at all.  A Strawberry tree is seen on the city crest of Madrid Spain.

Arbutus unedo foliage.

The foliage of Arbutus unedo is clean and attractive.

There are several attractive forms which can be found in nurseries; ‘Elfin King’ is often sold as ‘Compacta’ and has white flowers and ‘Rubra’ is pink blooming.

More on Arbutus unedo:

Surprisingly I find Wiki a good source of information relating to plants: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strawberry_Tree

Great Plant Picks for the Northwest: http://www.greatplantpicks.org/display?id=2246

Paghat agrees with me: http://www.paghat.com/strawberrytree.html

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This is an article I wrote for ‘The Society of Friends of  St Ann’s Academy‘.  St Ann’s Academy is where  most of the pictures for this article were taken.

One job I have done at St. Ann’s Academy is checking the plants(trees and shrubs) listed as growing here in 1986 was correct. For the most part the list was correct, some had trees had been removed due to damage or illness. Many new plants had to be added to the list by 2004 when I started doing this work. This was because of the reworking of many areas including the formal driveway, parking lot, courtyard and most especially the Novitiate Garden which had not existed before. Many of the new plants are common such as Box and Yew which are suitable for the style of building and it’s age, others are more decorative. One plant special plant is hidden in the corner of the Novitiate Garden To see it you have to climb the stairs at the back of the church to be able to view it. This plant is the wonderful Mahonia x (media) ‘Charity’ a formidable cousin of our well-known Oregon Grape.

This Mahonia x 'Charity found at St Ann's Academy will bloom for months.

This Mahonia x 'Charity found at St Ann's Academy will bloom for months.

Mahonia x ‘Charity’ is one of several named seedlings of a cross of two species which are native to Asia; M. Japonica and M. Lomarifolia. This crossing was done at the famous Slieve Donard Nursery in Northern Ireland in about 1950. From the seedlings which prospered several were selected for their special qualities and named. They were named by the famous plantsman Christopher Brickwell ‘Faith’, ‘Hope’ and ‘Charity’ Of these three ‘Charity has become the most famous and easily obtainable, why this is I am not sure. I can say every time I see this plant; no matter where it has been or the season, I am impressed.

Mahonia x Charity spring growth.

The wonderful color of the new growth contrasts nicely with the exterior or Government House in Victoria.

Mahonia x ‘Charity’ is one of those gems which blooms in the winter season and then produces a great flush of wine tinted foliage followed by a great show of berries in the spring. The many small flowers are a buttery yellow and held upright on long racemes which are at the top of the plant. The flowers bloom from the base of the racemes up and continue to open for several weeks and not damaged by frosts. The golden spikes are quite a show being 2 ft(1.5m) tall and wide as well as being fragrant.

Mahonia x 'Charity' spring foliage and berries coloring up.

Mahonia x Charity has wonderful spring foliage color and a large crop of berries begining to color up, all feaures worthy of a star plant.

The leaves are typical Mahonia like, but, in giant proportions. Each leaf is made up of an average 17 leaflets. ‘Mahonia x Charity’ leaves are a typical thick leathery medium green with spines along the edges and tip.They can get a reddish tinge in the cooler months that is attractive. The leaves also have a subtle glossiness which looks good all year-round.

Mahonia x Charity leaves and flowers.

The leaves and flower raceme of Mahonia x 'Charity are huge compared to others of the species.

With such large leaves and big flower spikes you would expect big stems and you are right, although they look elegant because this is a multi-stemmed beast. The stems light brown color nicely contrasts with the green leaves.The whole plant can grow to be dense with closely held foliage if it is placed in the right location. Mahonia x ‘Charity’ like to placed where they are in dappled sun during the bright summer months, then with full sun during their flowering season which is anywhere from late October into March depending on where you are. Here it blooms every year during October and November(which is why I am writing about it now).

Mahonia x Charity

This Mahonia x Charity is found at Glendale Gardens and shows off it stems which are quite attractive.

Mahonia x ‘Charity’ prefers rich moisture retentive soil. It is best to place it in a spot where it gets some shade as it will be more yellowed otherwise.You have to be patient with this plant as it is slow to establish and may take several years before it blooms for you. It needs a good-sized space 8 ft(2.5m) by 6 to 8 ft(2-2.5m) wide to be comfortable. It is a very versatile shrub which looks good all year especially now. It is commonly used as a specimen, for winter interest, in large borders which can be mixed shrubs and or with perennials. If you have the space you won’t be disappointed in this Deer resistant shrub.

Buttery yellow Mahonia x Charity flowers.

Each flower spike is made up of many tiny, highly fragrant, buttery yellow blossoms.

More on Mahonia x Charity:
Gardeners’ World page on this plant: http://www.gardenersworld.com/plant-detail/PL00080263/11042/lily-of-the-valley-bush

Bellevue Botanical Garden page on the plant: http://www.bellevuebotanical.org/plantmonth/fmplantmonthindex.html

Until We Meet Again Later…..

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When I came to live on the coast i was surprised to see how some plants were used. the climate here is just a notch below where many tender annuals will grow as perennials such as Snapdragons which winter over, sometimes for many years like the ones outside my kitchen window. Others are house plants elsewhere like Fatsia which grows as an attractive shade tolerant shrub here. One of the most surprising to me was the delicate and dainty Cyclamen which even as a house plant where a mystery to us. It was quite thrilling to find that Cyclamen hederifolium(Ivy-leaved Cyclamen)produce an especially abundant display here.

The delicate and dainty Cyclamen hederifolium blossom.

The delicate and dainty Cyclamen hederifolium blossom.

Cyclamen hederifolium was named in 1789 by Aiton but for many years has wrongly been sold as Cyclamen neapolitanum. More recently it has been split into varieties which refer to where it is found. C. hederifolium var. hederifolium and C. hederifolium var. confusum which we non-specialists can say are basically the same. we do know that these plants do grow in a wide area from southern France down into Italy and its islands. Then it moves east through Croatia, Bosnia down through Greece and it’s many islands over to western Turkey. It grows in a wide range of terrains from sea level up to 1400m(4300ft). It ranges from the richer soils of woodlands to maquis and gariques which have dry thin soils and occur on the dry lower mountainous slopes of the Mediterranean area.

The summer drought here does not bother Cyclamen hederifolium at all.

The summer drought here does not bother Cyclamen hederifolium at all.

There are many places I have found these beauties. Playfair Park has the best and most bountiful display right now in amongst it’s Rhododendron collection.  In Finnerty Gardens you will find them dotted about in shady spots. I also found them out along a country roadside where they have naturalized in clumps.Cyclamen is from the ancient greek ‘kylos’ meaning circle which refers to the shape of  the corm it’s growth springs from. One Cyclamen hederifoliums’ common name is ‘Sowbread’ which refers to Cyclamen which is said to be the favorite food of swine in southern France and Italy. Ivy-leaved and ‘hederifolium’ refer  to this Cyclamens the attractive leaves.

The interesting markings of Ivy-leaved Cyclamen are varied and colorful in the cool grey, drab winters here.

The interesting markings of Ivy-leaved Cyclamen are varied and colorful in the cool grey, drab winters here.

There are several species of Cyclamen which are seen regularly in gardens here. Cyclamen coum is the other most commonly grown variety. It is easily separated from Cyclamen hederifolium by it round, kidney shaped leaves and it bloom period which is in the early spring.  Both are easy to grow and have long lasting, attractive foliage.

Cyclamen coum have rounded leaves and bloomin in Febuary and March.

Cyclamen coum have rounded leaves and bloom in February and March.

Cyclamen hederifolium grow from a thick woody corm which is bulb-like.  This corm helps the plant survive the long hot, dry summer season in the Mediterranean.  It is easy to grow these beauties. They like to grow in fun sun to part shade in a location with soil which has at least a good part in leaf mold.  Plant the tubers  with their budding side up  3-5cm(1/2-1 1/2in) deep. Avoid planting in an area which has summer wet as this is the time of rest for this species. Water throughout fall into late spring as this is the growing season. These plants grow well under dappled shrubs and are also excellent container plants. In the wild pink is the most common color, while in cultivation whites are much more commonly seen.

LushCyclamen hederifolium plants are attactive in the dead of winter at Playfair Park.

Lush Cyclamen hederifolium plants are attractive in the dead of winter at Playfair Park.

Ivy-leaved Cyclamen spring from the earth and remind us that summer is waning.  Autumn is about to come forth with all it’s brilliant shades and slowly the seasons change with longer nights to come.

More about Cyclamen hederifolium:

From the Cyclamen Society: http://www.cyclamen.org/hederif_set.html

How to grow Cyclamen: http://www.hardycyclamens.com/grow_hardy_cyclamen.html

Dave’s Garden always has interesting comments from other gardeners: http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/1590/

Until we meet again….

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When I was a small child we used to play by the hill which was close to our house. One day as we explored the trails at the bottom we discovered these strange nut-like things in the shrubs and took them home to show our parents who told us they were wild or Beaked Hazelnuts(Corylus cornuta). We then had to gather them in their itchy prickly cases as they were still green. We knew if we waited to long the squirrels would get them and would leave the empty and decayed ones behind.

Common European Hazelnut, Corylus avellana.

Common European Hazelnut, Corylus avellana.

Later on we found our grandparents had a large Hazelnut bush but it was different; it was the Common or European Hazelnut (Corylus avellana) which is grown as a commercial crop. It’s nuts are much bigger and their casings are much smaller and less prickly too. Many years later having moved far away to Vancouver Island I was out with my sister and her young son at Denham Till Park and guess what we found, an old Hazelnut grove!

Old Hazelnut Grove at Denham Till Park in North Saanich.

Old Hazelnut Grove at Denham Till Park in North Saanich.

I had by this time shown her the ”very cool’ Corkscrew Hazelnut( Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’) which was located at the library in Sidney near were she lived.

Corkscrew Hazelnut, Corylus avellana 'Contorta'

Corkscrew Hazelnut, Corylus avellana 'Contorta'

It’s interesting to think that a plain straight branched plant can give us a twisting ‘sport’ which was found accidentally in a Gloucestershire hedgerow in the 1860s. We must thank the unknown person who stumbled upon it and had the foresight to save it for all in the future to enjoy. Corkscrew Hazelnuts shine at this time of the year with their pale butter yellow catkins hanging amongst the mass of writhing branches which reminds one of Medusa’s tresses.

The Male Catkins Hanging in the Medusa-like Corkscrew Hazelnut branches.

The Male Catkins Hanging in the Medusa-like Corkscrew Hazelnut branches.

 If you see a Corylus avellana ‘Contorta you are not likely to forget it, even the leaves have a wierd look to them because they have the same kind of slight twistiness to them.  As you can see this can become a large dense shrub which should be given a spotlight like location to show itself off. Most of these shrubs are grafted which can lead to problems from the under-graft sending up straight shoots which must be removed as soon as they can be easily handled. Spring is also a good time to do any pruning for the odd awkward branches that need removal.

Vigorous Shoots Coming up From the Under-graft Should Be Removed Now.

Vigorous Shoots Coming up From the Under-graft Should Be Removed Now.

These are slow growing shrubs which can grow to 8-10ft by 6-8ft wide.  Corkscrew Hazelnuts are easy to grow as they are not fussy about soil as long as it’s well drained. they do best in full sun or slight shade. It is best to select your plant when it does not have its’s leaves yet as you will be able to see it’s form better.  Although this is a ‘nut’ plant do not expect any to be produced.  It looks delightful under-planted with low growing plants which bring attention to its attractive bark.

The Attractive Bark on Corylus avallana 'Contorta'

The Attractive Bark on Corylus avallana 'Contorta'

 Links to Learn From:  

European or Common Hazelnut : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corylus_avellana

Denham Till Park in North Saanich:  http://www.northsaanich.ca/Municipal_Hall/Departments/Parks_and_Trails/Parks_Information/Municipal_Parks/Denham_Till_Park.htm

Corkscrew Hazelnuts : http://www.mobot.org/GARDENINGHELP/PLANTFINDER/Plant.asp?code=C360



Who knows what treasures you will find here next time.

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