Monday, August 2, 2010

Giant Oxeye Daisy Telekia speciosa - Avoiding Thugly...

Telekia speciosa is a 2 m tall yellow daisy with huge leaves and late June/ early July flowers that are reminescent of yellow spider chrysanthemums. I orginally bought a single plant in a two gallon pot that was labelled Tellikia grandiflora which turns out to be a non-existant species.

The huge hosta-like leaves are what attracted me to this plant in the first place, and it is a great plant for providing a touch of the exotic to the garden. Its native to southern Europe, the Ukraine, the Balkans, the Caucusus and Turkey. The big leaves effectively shade out weeds completely. It has two aspects that are detrimental however, one is that when its finished blooming, it looks worn, ratty and rapidly becomes a ornamental liablility. The second is that it produces a sunflower-like seeds that germinate readily, which means the species has the potential of turning into a garden thug. Our single plant rapidly turned into a large clump that looked terrific from late April to July,and a pile of burned-edged ratty vegetation from August to October.

Both the rattiness and the over production of seedlings are solved by the same managment regime, as soon as the plants have finished blooming we cut them to the ground, fertilize and water - and the race begins.

The new Telekia growth that comes up within a week or ten days are large, lush, unblemished leaves that will last through until the first hard order to provide colour for this piece of garden we have some large pots of plants in waiting to plunk into place the day we cut the Telekia back. Canna lilies, Nicotiana sylvestris, Echinacheas, Castor Plants or other large robust plants that if planted large will compete with the Telekia's exuburiant growth are successful choices, more demure annuals are swamped by the startlingly vigourous leaves.

If you do miss cutting back the plants and let them go to seed, they are attractive to seed eating birds such as siskins, goldfinches, purple and house finches. Small seedlings are easy to weed out, more established plants take a sharp spade, some sweat and a few cuss words. The flowers are good for flower arranging, but you do have to remove some of the big leaves, or the cut stems can't keep up with the demand for water. The shaggy flowers also look great floating in bowls of water.Telekia has never been tasted by deer in our yard, the foliage is quite strong smelling and I suspect unpalatable.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Really Good Red-flowering Currant Ribes sanguineum

A few years ago our friend Helen Schwantje brought in a bouquet of a spectacular Red-flowering currant from a plant in her garden. I managed to strike a cutting from her plant and now have this form in our garden. It flowered in our garden for the first time this spring and confirmed my suspicions..this is a really good form of Red flowering Currant. I will do my best to take some more cutting this fall and hopefully get them into the nursery trade. Thank you Helen!!!

That of course begs the question do we need another form of Ribes sanguineum in the nursery trade..there are already over thirty cultivars that I have been able to find in catalogues or on websites. Here in Victoria the cultivar 'King Edward VII' is the one your most likely to find in a nursery. This cultivar is from a plant grown in Europe, even though the species is native to our west coast. Given the small gene pool available to old world growers its not terribly surprizing that there are plants that are as good or better than King Edward VII growing in the wild (or in Helen's backyard).

Over a decade ago we found a wonderful pink flowering form in Esquimalt, which we introduced into the nursery trade as "Blushing Victorian". It is very similar in colour to the more widely available "Appleblossom", but flowered a full ten days earlier in our garden this year.

Add caption
From left to right, cvs  'Appleblossom', 'Blushing Victorian', 'Dr.Schwantje', 'King Edward VII' and 'White Icicle'.

A list of Ribes sanguineum cultivars. UPDATED APRIL 2014.

1.'Albescens'= “Album’. White flowers.
about 6' tall, the branches arching attractively. The leaves are light green during the growing season, turning beautiful mixtures of yellow, orange and red in fall and early winter. White blossoms touched with pink are displayed on 3-6" slightly drooping stems. Plants that are forced or grown under poly or glass may be pure white.

2.'Appleblossom'Soft pink, moderately vigourous plant similar to Blushing Victorian but blooms about 10 days later.

3.'Atrorubens Select'. A dark pinky red flower.

4. 'Atrosanguineum flore pleno'A double flowered red.

5.'Barrie Coate'. A bushy selection from northern California, now alleged to belong to the type subspecies, rather than the variety glutinosum, . Deep pink blossoms in short, outfacing or only slightly nodding clusters.

6.‘Brokelbankii'Red flowers, followed by yellow foliage. Prone to burning in full sun, but useful in part shade.

7."Blushing Victorian” Introduced by Thimble Farms, Salt Spring Island from a plant found on s. Vancouver Island. Large pink racemes on a large vigourous plant.

8.“Carneaum grandiflorum’ White flowers tinted pink on the outside. Old variety that may be lost to cultivation.

9.'Claremont' A vigorous bright pink form of R.s.glutinosum.

10. 'Diamonds and Rubies' a new introduction from Thimble Farms.  White flowers with a good dash of ruby red at the boutber base of the flower bud and receptacle.

11.'Elk River Red' A form selected for very early in spring blooms of bright rosy-red flowers.

12.“flore pleno’Double flowered red.

13.Ribes x gordonianum This cross between Ribes aureum and R. sanguineum produces a mid-sized shrub about 6 ft. tall and 8 ft. wide. Red flowers with yellow insides are produced in profusion in spring. There is no fruit set. Hybrid between odoratum and sanguineum. Scented. Flowers red outside, inside yellow. Discovered in Ipswich England in 1837. Flowers reddish yellow in racemes followed by edible black fruit.Incorrectly this is often cited as hybrid between Ribes odoratum or R.petraeum and Ribes sanguineum

14.'Gibson Woods'Upright with dark pink/red flowers

15. Ribes sanguineum glutinosum Flowers earlier than sanguineum, usually paler. White form “albidum’ is also recorded.

16. 'Henry Henneman' Also spelled 'Hannaman’s White'. White flowered form

17.‘Inverness White’ A white flowered form of R.s.glutinosum found by Roger Raiche on Inverness Ridge, Marin County, California. Fading flowers have a rosy cast, as the flowering season ages this gives the plant a bicoloured appearance.

18.'King Edward VII' Stout trunked and compact selection. Appears to be quite variable, and I suspect that there are now several clones in the nursery trade under this name. Crimson red.

19.‘Joyce Rose’ One of several cultivars of Ribes sanguineum found and introduced into cultivation by Roger Raiche. Named for his mother, deep pink flowers on arching branches, fast growth and long bloom period. From seed collected on Montara Mtn, San Mateo County, California.

20.‘Lombarti’.White, tinted pink.

21. 'Koja' Compact flowering currant from Denmark with dark red flowers in spring. Sun or light shade.

22.‘Mesa Red’ “the flowers of this selection have more violet in their red”.

23. 'Pink Drops'A sister seedling to Joyce Rose, slower growing and more compact, very free flowering.

24. 'Pink Tails' huge pink flower trusses that tend to fork into two at the tips.  Result is a very large flower truss.  New introduction from Thimble Farms.

25.'Pokey's Pink' (or Poky’s Pink).A chance discovery in the Columbia Gorge with candy pink flowers.

26.'Pulborough Scarlet' Similar flower to King Edward VII, perhaps slightly pinker, but plant is more compact and recommended for smaller gardens.

27.'Pulborough Scarlet Variegated'As the name suggests this is a variegated sport of Pulborough Scarlet. Leaves heavily mottled and streaked with yellow.

27.'Poulsbo Scarlet' Listed by several nurseries, possibly misspelling of Pulborough Scarlet, although some growers list both. Scarlet flowers.

28.‘Roseum’ White, tinted pink.

29.'Red Pimpernel'Strong red colour.

30.‘Spring Showers’ Introduction from Suncrest Nurseries. Their website describes it as “a bushy, roughly vase shaped shrub, about 6' tall in the parent plant. It has fuzzy, bright green leaves and light pink flowers, displayed in pendant clusters up to 8" long. Probably 0-5oF.” Flowers later than Elk River Red.

31. 'Splendens' Similar to Pulborough Scarlet and King Edward VII, originally found in a garden in Ireland.

32'Spring Snow'White flowers appear in pendulous 3 inch long racemes along the length of the stems then produce blackish blue fruits.

33.'Strybing Pink'Soft pink flowers, a good form of R.s. glutinosum

34. 'Thourmaline Bells' a new introduction from Thimble Farms with white flowers that have a touch of tourmaline red at the base of the flower bud receptacles.

35.‘Tranquillon Ridge’ This large selection--10' x 10'--comes from a plant found on Tranquillon Ridge in Santa Barbara. Dark pink flower buds open into medium pink flowers. Does best with some shade.

36. Ribes sanguineum var. sanguineum The subspecies found from British Columbia to northern California

37.'Tydemann's White'Pale pink, almost white flowers.

38.var. glutinosum. The southern most of the two subspecies,

39. 'variegatum' or 'varigata' Leaves have of a misting of cream rather than bars and stripes. As the leaves age the cream mellows to a milky white.

40.‘Ubric' Another name for cv “White Icicle”

41.'White Icicle' Early flowering with large racemes of white flowers and black berries. Verty vigorous grower, branches can be long and unruly, responds well to occasional pruning. Introduced by the UBC botanic garden from a plant found in Victoria, B.C..

Monday, April 5, 2010

Corydalis solida naturalised in a lawn

A few years ago we were travelling in Nova Scotia in early May and drove through the town of Wolfville. One of the most spectacular "lawns" I have ever seen was there, an enormous sheet of pinky purple, a colour I immediately guessed as the product of thousands of plants of Corydalis solida. It was the first time I had seen this species used this way and resolved to starting planting some of this Corydalis in our own lawn.

For a few years, Corydalis solida was available cheaply in the fall as prepacked tubers, and I purchase two packages to try them in our lawn. They are great bulbs to use for this purpose, they emerge very early and as soon as they finish flowering and setting seed they go dormant and dissappear entirely, usually long before I have any intention of mowing the lawn. In fact, my luck with these naturalized in the lawn is far better than my track record in growing them in the garden, where their early dormancy means I usually forget that they are they and dig them up inadvertently.

A few years ago I also planted some plants of a bright red flowering cultivar of Corydalis solida cv "George Baker" which has also done well with this treatment. The site I chose for these plants is a little leaner than for the others and I have to fertilize them once a year to keep them expanding, otherwise they get no care at all.

Other plants we have planted in the lawn include Scilla sibirica, Narcissus, Galanthus nivalis, Dodecatheon hendersonii, Frittalaria pudica, Muscari fragrans,

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Buying Unusual Plants in Ordinary Places

Last week Fritillaria pudica popped up in the lawn, the result of some bulbs we had planted there two years ago. I had assumed that we had lost the bulbs due to winter wet, as this is a species of the dry southern interior and they didn't show themselves at all last spring. To be honest, I had completely forgotten that they had even been planted. I should have known better, I have had this experience with another species of Frittilaria before, where the bulb apparently did not come out of dormancy the first spring after I planted it. As I photographed it I thought about how I had found the package of Fritillaria pudica bulbsin an unexpected place....a department store. The addition of what to appears to be a yellow snowdrop in the lawn was a nice surprise. Wish I had planted more....

There are a few native plants that are so well established in gardens that you expect to find them in any nursery, Ribes sanguineum, Mahonia aquifolium,and Achillea millefolium among others. I did not however, expect to find this little native bulb at such a retailer, maybe its become more mainstream than I thought.

I have a couple of other plants I prize highly in the garden that came from large stores not usually noted for unusual plants. My plant of Sanguisorba menziesii was purchased, in bloom, as a one gallon pot in a grocery store. This red flowering species of burnet is on the Blue List for British Columbia, but also grows in Asia.

Our orignial plant of Phytolacca clavigera came from a tiny roadside nursery that has since gone out of was in a half gallon, stunted and cholorotic, but somehow you could see that it might be something far it is the best Phytolacca that I have seen and one of my favourite plants in the garden Despite stopping many times at the same nursery I never did see another unusual plant offered.

Deer: Fritillarias are usually not touched by deer, although I haven't had this species in the garden long enough to have personal experience with it. Phytolacca clavigera has never been eaten by deer and falls into the "deer proof" category. Sanguisorba menziesii does get eaten from time to time, but never enough to seriously damage the plant (as of yet anyway).

Sources: Fritillaria pudica bulbs were purchased from Sears. Phytolacca clavigera was purchased from a nursery that is no longer operating, however seeds can be obtained from the gift shop at the UBC Botanic Garden and Thimble Farms on Salt Spring Island offers plants. Sanguisorba menziesii was purchased at a Safeway in Victoria.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Asarum splendens Surprize

Leah Ramsay photos

Blooms in February are always a bonus, but usually when we have them pop up in the garden its the product of deliberate planning...we've chosen a plant for its early bloom on purpose. So it was particuarly surprizing when I discovered a plant in bloom yesterday that I had no idea flowered so early in the season. And they are bizarre blooms at that.

While clearing away a weeds I disturbed some Garry Oak leaves that had fallen on our plant of Asarum splendens, a wild ginger species from China. I was surprized to see a flower, and then as I cleared away more leaves, I was even more surprized to see more than a dozen of them..We had no idea that this species bloomed so early in the season.

Now they aren't the type of blooms that your going to see from across the driveway, or even at a distance of a few meters, but up close the purpled mottled flowers are subtle and decidedly wierd.

Our plant of this species had been purchased orginally as Asarum magnificum however, now that it has bloomed I know that it was mislabelled and is indeed A. splendens. It is a great plant for the shade, with large shiney leaves mottled with silver. It looks to be a variable species with many different forms in cultivation, and despite the fact that it has been grown in western gardens for only a short time, several good forms have already been selected to be introduced to gardeners as named cultivars.

Despite its decidedly tender looks, ours sailed through the cold winter of 08/09 with little problem. Frosty nights turn the leaves an omnimous black but they resurrect themselves with every thaw. For the first three years in the garden the deer showed no interest in our specimen at all, but this fall they took off most of the leaves - which if they hadn't done I likely would have missed the early bloom entirely as the flowers peek out between the bases of the petioles and full foliage would have hidden them.

Our plant came from Brentwood Nurseries. Thimble Farms on Salt Spring carries the species as well.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Helleborus thibetanus

The genus Helleborus is made up of a group of species in Europe and Asia minor, with the majority of species found in the Meditteranean countries and the former Yugoslavia. The lone species found in China, Helleborus thibetanus (also known as H. chinensis) is seperated from the other species by a vast distance. While the species has been "known" to western botanists from herbarium speciemens that go back to the 1800's, it was not until the 1990's that live speciemens of this species became available. Kew Gardens obtained seed in 1991 and their first flowering was in January 1997, and in the mid-1990's a small number of plants were made available from China.

Both the flowers and the foliage is more delicate than the other hellebores,and the blooms in particular are reminiscent of Glaucidium . Flowers are variable most opening white and quickly aging to pink with red viening. Some open pink and others open green. I suspect that selection of better than average forms will quickly take place and further improve an already terrific plant.

In the limited area in central China were the species is found, grows in moist north facing slopes, with moisture loving species such as Ostrich Fern and Petasites. Indeed the species is not nearly as drought tolerant as the other Hellebores, we lost our first plant by planting it in a too dry a spot, despite the fact that a number of other Hellebore species are perfectly happy in that bed.

The plant starts growth very early, and if allowed to dry out at all over the growing season, goes dormant and dissapears entirely early in the season. Our second attempt at this species has proven to be more successful with the first blooms this year. The last few years I have been bulking the plant up with early applications of fertilzer and ensuring the plant is kept moist over the growing season - it seems to have paid off, for its first year in bloom two of the crowns have blossomed and it has 13 blooms to date.

Sources: Our plants came from Thimble Farms on Salt Spring Island,they have a spectacular collection of Hellebores for sale this year.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

January Garden

Galanthus nivalis naturalized on the lawn
Hellebores, Snowdrops, Virburnum cv."Pink Dawn"

Its the last week of January and the garden is showing all sorts of signs of life, spring has definitely arrived for this year. The earliest of the Hellebores are blooming, several of the Helleborus purpurascens are already blooming and the our H. odorus has also opened its first blooms. They are reported to be quite variable with regards to the quality and quantity of perfume produced, so we were was pleased to find that our plant is nicely scented.

Helleborus thibeticanus
H. thibeticanus has opened two flowers to date, the first it has produced after slowly getting bigger each year in its 5 years in the garden. This was our second plant of this species, I sited our original plant in too dry a spot and watched it grow smaller each year until it disappeared entirely. Now that I know it grows in its native China with Ostrich Ferns, Astilbes and Petasites, we planted this one in deeper, moister soil and dedicated a drip irrigation nozzle to it.

Helleborus hybrid, a particularly early pink (T.O.Geernaert photo)
. Other hellebores are in bloom as well, a particularly nice pink H. x hybrid is in bloom, and cultivars "Betty Ranicar","Heronswood Double Pink" and "Ivory Prince" are in bud.

Our area of Galanthus nivalis naturalized in the lawn is bulking up nicely, with each year a better show than the year before.

Galanthus spp. aff. elwesii cv. 'Doris Page'
Galanthus spp. aff. elwesii cv. 'Doris Page' is also in full bloom, I think that its my favourite of the Galanthus we have in the garden. Large showy flowers with wide glaucous foliage on a short compact plant. My original stock came from Richard Hebda, curator of botany at the Royal B.C. Museum and unabashed Galanthophile, his plants came from the garden of Doris Page, hence the cultivar name.

"Pink Dawn "Viburn

Viburnum cv. 'Pink Dawn' is the spring workhorse of the bed by the front door, the garden where perfume is criteria for inclusion. Usually in bloom by November, with a pulse of blooms opening in every mild spell through February. This winter it is a particularly good year with such moderate temperatures and the blast of perfume comes right into the house when you open the front door. The deer have never touched it and now it towers well above their reach.

Sources: Thimble Farms on Salt Spring Island has most of the plants mentioned in this blog, look for thier Heleborganza this spring