Archive for the ‘Full Sun’ Category

Lysimachia punctata - Dotted Loosestrife - July 2011 - Hill Farm. Image: HFN

Lysimachia punctata – Dotted Loosestrife – July 2011 – Hill Farm. Image: HFN

Perennial. Zone 2. Myrsinaceae, formerly Primulaceae. A.k.a. YELLOW LOOSESTRIFE, GOLDEN STARFLOWER. Austria, Italy, and east to Turkey.

This rather romping species is native to Europe, and has been grown in gardens for centuries. It was thought to have medicinal properties, being used as a wound herb to stop bleeding, and also to repel insects. Now we grow it strictly for ornament, for its adaptability and the summer beauty of its bright yellow star flowers.

Looking at the vivid yellow, unmarked flowers, you may wonder why Dotted Loosestrife is a common name, but if you look very closely at the undersides of the leave, you will see the tiny dark oil glands which led to Linnaeus choosing punctata – in Latin, “a point” – as its specific designation.

Lysimachia punctata detail Image: HFN

Lysimachia punctata detail, showing the tiny oil glands – the dark specks on the leaf undersides, looking rather like little spots of dirt – which have led to the “dotted” designation. Image: HFN

This plant is quite a tidy clump former its first few years, but keep an eye on it, as it will suddenly decide it needs more ground and it will expand outwards in all directions, though not by runners, merely by shouldering aside less robust neighbours. Lysimachia punctata is a well-respected garden plant, but it is not exactly what one would call shy, so you will want to site it appropriately.

Though Dotted Loosestrife is decidedly a moisture lover, I have had great success with it in a rather dry, neglected bed. It shares its space with a huge clump of ribbon grass (Phalaris arundinacea picta), ‘Europa’ tawny daylily (Hemerocallis flava), and a perennial sunflower, Heliopsis helianthoides, all of which are equally vigorous and have reached a kind of boundary stalemate. This combination has been working nicely for over ten years, though I do occasionally steal a few divisions to put elsewhere or to sell. I did initially grow it in a moist, fertile, newly prepared bed, but it was much too happy there and overran some more delicately precious plants, hence its relative exile to its present location.

Lysimachia punctata and Ribbon Grass (Phalaris arundinaceae picta) - summer morning - Hill Farm - July 2012. Image: HFN

Lysimachia punctata and Ribbon Grass (Phalaris arundinaceae picta) – backlit by summer morning sun – Hill Farm – July 2012. Image: HFN

Lysimachia punctata grows to about 2 feet tall and wide in its present place; I suspect it would be even taller with more care. It’s a beautiful plant when in bloom, and something I particularly enjoy is its habit of shedding spent flowers like a cloud of star-shaped confetti all over the ground. It blooms for weeks and weeks, mid June right through July and into August most years, and even after flowering the foliage stays handsome, though a few leaves will brown a bit. It is also an excellent cutflower, though it does shed flowers from the bottom up.

A galaxy of fallen starts - Lysimachia punctata - Hill Farm - July 2011. Image: HFN

A galaxy of fallen stars – Lysimachia punctata – Hill Farm – July 2011. Image: HFN

There are two variegated varieties which are now in cultivation, both developed from spontaneous colour breaks in plantings of Lysimachia punctata in England.

The first is a white-edged sport called ‘Alexander’, or sometimes ‘Alexander’s’, named after the late husband of its discoverer, Pauline Alexander. First identified in 1990, the plant was patented in 1998, after nursery trials proved its colour stability and growth trait predictability.

Lysimachia punctata 'Alexander'. Hill Farm, July 2013. Image: HFN

Lysimachia punctata ‘Alexander’. Hill Farm, July 2013. Image: HFN

‘Alexander’ is much slower growing than its mother species, and needs a bit of nurturing and a good moist soil at least the first few years. It has extremely appealing pink-blushed emerging growth in spring, very exotic! If this cultivar has a fault it is that the variegation causes puckering along much of the foliage; “purse-stringing”, as it is called. This puckering looks rather like disease or insect damage at first glance, and may be worrisome if you’re not aware that this is a varietal characteristic.

Spring foliage

‘Alexander’ Lysimachia punctata – exceptionally attractive early spring foliage. Image: HFN

Whatever genetic mutation was at work was not quite finished yet, for in 1998 another colour break was observed, this time in a test planting of ‘Alexander’ at Walburton Nursery in England. The leaf edges were golden, instead of white, and without the drawstring puckering which marked ‘Alexander’. ‘Golden Alexander’ was separated out, reproduced, and patented as a separate variety in 2003.

Both ‘Alexander’ and ‘Golden Alexander’ are hardy and suitable for the Cariboo-Chilcotin. They are not as vigorous as the green-leafed species, and require some care to ensure they reach full potential, but their bright colour is very appealing and they are worth growing for their strong curiousity value.

Something to watch out for in both of these cultivars is their strong tendency to revert to their all-green state. Vigilantly nip out any green shoots appearing in your colony, as these will quickly take over if allowed to remain.

Lysimachia punctata in all its colour variations thrives in full sun to part shade. It can happily be grown very moist, but accepts drier conditions with aplomb. It appreciates average garden soil – don’t grow it too rich. In general, a tough and trouble free species.

Read Full Post »

Perennial. Zone 4. Labiatae. Central and southern Russia, Romania, most notably in the Transylvanian Alps.

We are fortunate in the Cariboo in regard to our many summer perennial plant choices. The Salvias in particular appreciate our generally hot and dry summer season, and this handsome species puts on a grand show in July and August.

Large, dusky indigo-blue-violet flowers, “dragon head” shaped as is typical of all members of the Salvia genus (the Sage Family), are produced in loose whorls on multi-branching 18 to 24 inch tall bloom spikes. These arise from substantial rosettes of long, prettily wrinkled, rather hairy, deep green leaves. Foliage is slightly aromatic when touched, but is much less pungent than many of its relatives. A vigorous plant can be 2 feet or more in diameter, and rather sprawling in habit. Great on a slope, or under high-pruned, not-too-dense shrubs such as roses or spirea.

Transylvanian Sage blooms for a long period in summer, and, if spent spikes are clipped off occasionally, well into autumn. Grand for a sunny border, and drought tolerant enough to be a good xeriscape plant.

Plant it under roses in the traditional border, or with sedums and ornamental mulleins in the dry border. The colour harmonizes marvellously well with almost anything, and can be used for gentle compliment of other pastel shades or to set off hotter colours.

I have found that Salvia transylvanica overwinters extremely well as a young plant, but sometimes tends to bloom itself out, so I do not consider it particularly long lived. Allow it to set seed, and you will find enough babies to keep it going in your garden. These transplant well if you move them at a young age. Older plants should be left undisturbed; I wouldn’t recommend transplanting or dividing.

Sun is best, though very light shade is acceptable. Average to well drained soil; average fertility; average watering. Nicely drought tolerant once established.

Salvia transylvanica in full summer show in a Williams Lake garden, July 2014. Image: HFN

A Hill Farm-sourced Salvia transylvanica in full summer show in a Williams Lake garden, July 2014. Image: HFN

Read Full Post »

Biennial. Zone 2. Caryophyllaceae. Dianthus barbatus originated in the mountains of southern Europe.

‘Sooty’ is often billed as the “black” Sweet William, but in reality it is a deep, rich crimson, with nicely contrasting pure white stamens. Though ‘Sooty’ is often described as “new and improved”, in reality it is almost indistinguishable in my experience from the venerable English heirloom variety, ‘Dunnett’s Deep Crimson’, introduced in the late 1800s.

Many heads of clove-fragranced, velvety crimson flowers are produced in midsummer of the plant’s second year. Foliage shows a distinctive dark red blush, as do stems, particularly at the leaf joints. ‘Sooty’ tends not to be as tall or as substantial in form as many of the other traditional Sweet Williams, reaching only 12 to 18 inches tall, and proving occasionally rather lax in habit.

‘Sooty’ blooms for a fairly extended time. You may get a few flowers in autumn of its first year, but the best show comes in year two, when the cluster-heads bristling with dark-blushed, sharply pointed, modified leaflets unfold their blooms from early June and well into summer. For continued flower production, promptly deadhead when the clusters finally fade, or harvest at peak perfection for bouquets.

Something of a curiousity in the garden, though a very pleasant one.

I must confess that I have sometimes found ‘Sooty’ a little difficult to place. Self-sown seedlings generally manage to find a niche where they can blend well with their neighbours, but my greatest success with Sweet Williams in general, including ‘Sooty’, was way back when I grew ambitious vegetable gardens, which always included several rows of annual flowers for cutting. For a few years I included “biennial rows” which I planted out in late summer, full of Sweet Williams and Canterbury Bells and their like. With abundant fertility and regular watering, these bloomed the following spring and summer with great vigour, providing armfuls of flowers for arrangements. In the mixed border, fighting it out for growing space among various companions, I find that the Sweet Williams don’t reach such majestic proportions as when treated more as “crop” plants.

A true biennial which may carry on by offsets, but usually by self-seeding, so allow a few bloom heads to mature seed to re-sow.

Sun is best, though light shade is tolerated.  Good soil and moisture are appreciated.

Read Full Post »

'New Millenium' unnamed variety growing at Hill Farm from a packet of mixed seed - 2 year old plant. July 2014. Image: HFN

‘New Millennium’ unnamed delphinium variety growing at Hill Farm from a packet of hand-pollinated breeder’s mixed seed – 2 year old plant. July 2014. Image: HFN

Perennial. Zone 2. Ranunculaceae.

Delphiniums are such stalwarts of our Cariboo-Chilcotin gardens that we tend to take them somewhat for granted. But there are delphiniums, and then there are Delphiniums. I’ve long been aware but not particularly envious of the many British cultivars which are being continually introduced in such an amazing array of variations: rich buttery yellows, warm salmon pinks, bicolours, doubles and triples, and ever more and “better” blues. “Very nice,” I think to myself, “but not terribly hardy, because of their complicated ancestry involving numerous tender species. And only available from cuttings, if at all…these are not for us.”

Then I heard rumour of a new strain of delphinium coming out of New Zealand, under the trade name ‘New Millennium’. Seed grown, hardy in the colder zones, and strikingly beautiful. I investigated the website of the breeder, and highly impressed by what I saw there, and what I’d heard elsewhere – these were just then coming into commercial production and were receiving early rave reviews – I took the plunge. Off I sent for seed, taking a deep breath at the cost, NZ$18.50 for 50 seeds, which worked out to something like 35 cents per seed Canadian. But hey, if a substantial number sprouted, that’s not too bad, right? And they germinated promptly in reasonable numbers, and I ended up with a goodly number of young plants, most of which made their way to that year’s market, though I kept a few back for myself.

'New Millenium' Hill Farm, July 2013. Image: HFN

‘New Millennium’ Delphinium – ‘Moonlight Blues’ strain – 3 year old plant. Hill Farm, July 2013. Image: HFN

'New Millenium' Hill Farm, July 2014. Image: HFN

‘New Millennium’ Delphinium – ‘Dusky Maidens’ strain – Second year plant –  Hill Farm, July 2014. Image: HFN

'New Millenium' Hill Farm July 2014 Image: HFN

‘New Millennium’ Delphinium – unnamed seedling from breeder’s hand-pollinated mixture. Second year plant. Hill Farm, July 2014. Image: HFN

'New Millenium' Hill Farm July 2014

‘New Millennium’ Delphinium – unnamed second year seedling from breeder’s hand-pollinated mixture. Hill Farm, July 2014. Image: HFN

If you love delphiniums, take a look here: Dowdeswell’s Delphiniums. Their seed comes fresh and ready to sprout; if you are even the tiniest bit experienced with growing things from indoor-sown seed, give these a go. Much too costly to scatter about the garden, but with a bit of care the germination in starter packs is excellent. (Grow these cool, as too-hot temperatures are fatal.)

Colour and form of every strain of these we’ve tried have been outstanding. If you love delphiniums these will make you a very happy gardener!

Most are traditionally tall, from 6 to 8 feet once established, with multiple strong bloom stalks from basal clumps of healthy foliage.

Definitely prepare to stake these before they bloom, for though nicely sturdy they will snap off in summer storms if unsupported while in bloom. There are some shorter strains, which also need to be supported. The flowers are huge, and the bloom stalks very heavy.

At Dowdeswell’s the delphiniums are grown through grids, and a planting I recently visited at Van Dusen Garden in Vancouver had done much the same, with bamboo stakes neatly tied together. In my own garden I use upright stakes, but the grid idea has a lot of appeal, and would definitely be best in a dedicated planting to save much time and energy over tying every stalk up individually.

Delphiniums of all sorts thrive best in rich garden soil, with average moisture. Full sun is preferred, though they will take very light shade for part of the day.

A plot of seedling 'New Millenium' Delphiniums at Van Dusen Garden in Vancouver, B.C. - October 2014. The young plants frequently put out bloom in the autumn of their first year, a teasing foretaste of the glories to come when they reach full maturity. Note the bamboo grid arrangement, for support of the heavy bloom stems. Image: HFN

A plot of seedling ‘New Millennium’ Delphiniums at Van Dusen Garden in Vancouver, B.C., October 2014. The young plants frequently put out bloom in the autumn of their first year, a teasing foretaste of the glories to come when they reach full maturity. Note the bamboo grid arrangement, for support of the heavy bloom stems. Image: HFN

Here are the named ‘New Millennium’ strains we’ve grown so far. The following photos are from the breeder, and, from what we’ve personally experienced, do truly reflect the quality of these flowers.

 

 For more, take a look at the Dowdeswell’s website.

Read Full Post »

Lychnis chalcedonica - Scarlet Maltese Cross - Prince George, B.C. - July 2013. Image: HFN

Lychnis chalcedonica – Scarlet Maltese Cross – Prince George, B.C. – July 2013. Image: HFN

Perennial. Zone 1. Caryophyllaceae. Russia, Northern Asia. A.k.a., according to the Royal Horticultural Society, an astounding number of common names, among them: Cross of Jerusalem, Fireball, Flower of Bristow, Flower of Constantinople, Gardener’s Delight, Great Candlestick, Knight’s Cross, London Pride, None-Such, Red Robin, Scarlet Lightning,Tears of Christ.

If I think back to the gardens of my childhood, during the late 1960s and early 1970s, Maltese Cross is ever-present. My mother grew it and viewed it with great fondness, as did all of her gardening friends. It flourished in its scarlet glory in remote ranch gardens on the Chilcotin plateau as enthusiastically as it did in the town gardens we frequently visited in Williams Lake and 100 Mile House.

I sometimes muse on what a recreated Cariboo heritage garden would contain. Always a lilac bush, of course, and a massive clump of rhubarb. Red currants drooping with their luminescent clusters, promises of sweet jelly and mouth-puckering cordial to come. Raspberries, in generous wire-supported rows. Golden Glow lolling brightly by the fence, tied back with a length of sisal baler twine. In spring, a profusion of grape hyacinths, Johnny-Jump-Ups, striped ‘Pickwick’ crocuses, under a pinker-than-pink Flowering Almond bush. Red and yellow tulips. ‘Persian Yellow’ roses, blooming for a brief but wonderful time in June. Red-and-black oriental poppies, royal purple Cluster Bellflower, those ubiquitous purple and white bearded iris smelling strongly of grape Kool-Aid to my childish nose, identified in later years as the venerable variety ‘Wabash’. Double-flowered Achillea ptarmica – I can’t remember a common  name, though it must have had one. Did Mom call this one ‘Baby’s Breath’? I think she might have, though she had “real” baby’s breath, too – Gypsophila paniculata. Lanky delphiniums in shades of the sky. A colony of tall, pale purple phlox, alongside a fragrant yellow daylily. Columbines everywhere. Canterbury Bells and Sweet Williams. Orange tiger lilies in late summer. Cerise Rose Campion in the most unexpected places, and, inevitably, a sturdy clump of quite ridiculously red Maltese Cross.

My goodness. I should stop right there, before a tear comes to my eye. Our gardens are indeed full of memories…

Lychnis chalcedonica in a contemporary garden setting, in te perennial border at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George, July 2013. Image: UFN

Lychnis chalcedonica in a contemporary garden setting, perfectly combined with tall ornamental grasses in the perennial border at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George, July 2013. Image: UFN

 

So – here are the basics regarding Lychnis chalcedonica.  It forms strong clumps to 2 feet or taller. The sturdy stems topped by domed heads of brilliant scarlet, cross-like (though 5-petalled) flowers for a reasonably long period in mid-summer, 3 to 4 weeks. It reliably reblooms if cut back.

Maltese Cross prefers full sun, good soil, and average amounts of moisture. Mature clumps may be carefully divided, but so easy from seed that I never bother with division. Not at all invasive; well behaved in all its habits. You may wish to unobtrusively stake it, as it can occasionally birdsnest with summer thundershowers. But it is a truly sturdy thing, and requires minimal fussing.

Garden legend has it that this was one of those plants brought back to England from the Holy Land by returning Crusaders, but this is apparently not the case. More likely it came via regular trade routes from European travellers; the species originated in Russian and northern Chinese forests and steppes, and still can be found growing in the wild. Its first mention in garden literature predates the 1590s.

Can you see the cross-shaped form that leads to the common name? The fact that the blooms actually have five lobes versus four is a bit of a surprise - the effect is definitely geometric and cross-like. Image: HFN

Can you see the flower form that leads to the common name? The fact that the blooms actually have five fused petals versus four is a bit of a surprise – the overall effect is definitely geometric and cross-like. Image: HFN

Siting Maltese Cross in the contemporary garden can prove something of a dilemma, mostly for those who worry about colour harmony and contrasts. Here are some wise words from Cape Breton garden writer Jo Ann Gardner, in her 1992 book, The Heirloom Garden:

I have found folk gardeners to be less intimidated by Jerusalem-cross’s brilliant colour than are contemporary gardeners, who are often afraid of offending sensibilities by planting it near the varicoloured flowers of early summer and mid-summer. But it blends surprisingly well with soft pink Musk Mallow (Malva moschata), Lupines of all sorts, Siberian Iris, Bellflower, Foxglove, the lilac-white plumes of Clary Sage, and the yellow daisy-flowered Golden-Marguerite. One is often advised to banish Jerusalem-cross to the to the safety of low-growing evergreens, where its glowing colour will be reduced or neutralized. Consider that Gertrude Jekyll, the mistress of colour in the garden, grouped it among orange Daylilies, Dahlias, Marigolds and Nasturtiums…

There are a number of variations of Lychnis chalcedonica which you may find interesting. Last heard of in the 1920s and possibly lost forever – though one can hope they exist in some isolated cottage garden, waiting for their rediscovery – are double scarlet (first written about in 1629) and double white (1772) forms, but we do have some pretty singles to console ourselves with. A blushing pink – ‘Morgenrote’ a.k.a. ‘Morning Red’, sometimes sold as ‘Dusky Salmon’ – and a pristine white – ‘Raureif’ a.k.a. ‘Hoarfrost’, sometimes sold as ‘Snowbird’ – are still in the seed trade, and just a year or so ago I saw mention of a more compact scarlet variety, ‘Burning Love’, reported to be a compact 12 to 18 inches tall – perhaps easier to tuck into a small suburban planting?

Lychnis chalcedonica 'rosea' - 'Morgenrote', a.k.a. 'Morning Red', a.k.a. 'Dusky Salmon'. Image HFN

Lychnis chalcedonica ‘rosea’ – ‘Morgenrote’, a.k.a. ‘Morning Red’, a.k.a. ‘Dusky Salmon’. Heads of pale, rosy-salmon-pink blooms change colour as they age to give a variegated effect to the bloom clusters.  Williams Lake, B.C. – July 2014. Image HFN

 

 

Read Full Post »

Perennial. Zone 3. Compositae. North Africa, Spain, Mediterranean regions. Syn. Anacyclus depressus, syn. A. maroccanus. A.k.a. SPANISH CHAMOMILE, ALEXANDER’S FOOT. Though I can find no reference to it other than the name on a number of alpine plant society lists, I am assuming that the latter allusion is to Alexander the Great and his historical presence in the areas where this plant grows.

This small charmer completely bewitched me the first time I grew it many years ago, with its tidy, fern-leaved, very furry foliage rosettes, and I was thrilled when it overwintered and bloomed enthusiastically in the spring. I’d rather wondered, what with its warm-climate origins, but hardiness doesn’t appear to be a problem, as long as the plant has its roots down in well-drained soil.

Little white daisy flowers with crimson petal undersides emerge in spring from mats of ferny, curling foliage. These open wide in the sun, but close up on cloudy days and in the evening, showing off the vividly contrasting rosy blush on the petal undersides. Bloom stems radiate in a circle from a central point; plants are literally circular in shape, and tightly hugging the ground.

A quietly beautiful rockery or edging plant. To about 4 inches tall, and a foot or so wide. Its only flaw is that it often blooms itself to death, so you will want to leave some seed heads to mature to self-sow, or to collect seed for a guarantee of replacement plants.

Full sun, and well-drained soil. Very happy among rocks, or on a slope.

Read Full Post »

Annual. Papaveraceae. Syn. Argemone platyceras, A. intermedia, A. intermedia var. polyanthemos. A.k.a. WHITE PRICKLY POPPY, BLUESTEM PRICKLY POPPY. North America; Eastern base of the Rocky Mountains and throughout the Great Plains. Argemone is from the Greek argema, referring to an eye cataract, as the sap from the plants was once used to treat that ailment. Polyanthemos = many flowered.

The North American prickly poppies are surprising things. Stems, foliage and even the flower buds are wickedly armoured with thorny spines, yet the large blooms are silken textured and fragile-looking out of all expectation. The weaponry is obviously there to protect against grazing animals, and that useful adaptation has me wondering what purpose the showy flowers fulfill. Perhaps as a beacon and landing stage for pollinating insects, which may be scarce in Argemone‘s desert and near-desert natural habitats?

Whatever the reason for the extravagant floral display, the beauty of this wildflower and its equally attractive relatives is without debate, and it has become a treasured garden annual in botanical and collectors’ gardens around the world.

Grey-green, white-veined, relatively softly spined foliage clumps produce elongated bloom stalks topped by clusters of spiky buds. These bud sheaths break apart to release large, pure white, golden-eyed blooms in June, July and August. Petals are silken-sheened and wonderfully crinkled; the golden stamen clusters release their pollen to colour the flower centers a delicate yellow tint. Pollen darkens with age, tipping the central stamens with burgundy. Individual blooms last only a few days each, but are continually followed by others, for a prolonged period of show.

If you have occasion to snap off a leaf or stem, you will notice the sticky, bright yellow sap. This was once used medicinally by First Nations peoples for a variety of complaints, including eye ailments, and as a remedy against nervous irritability. Argemone polyanthemos is currently used in herbal medicine as a non-opioid, non-addictive, reportedly highly effective pain reliever, similar in action but not in side-effect to that other famed poppy product, morphine. However the body apparently quickly builds up a resistance to the effects of Prickly Poppy’s active alkaloid, argemonic acid, so it is useful for short term effects only. It also is reported to have no effect (beneficial or otherwise) on those already habituated to morphine and codeine use.

Argemone polyanthemos is quite a large plant, from 2 to 4 feet tall. It frequently branches out from a central stalk to form a somewhat bushy clump, though it is in general taller than it is wide. Crested Prickly Poppy fits in well with perennials in the permanent border, or among other annuals.

Reblooms if deadheaded, but leave a few pods to set seed, for if you are fortunate this will self-sow.

Poppies in general are notoriously difficult to transplant, so handle potted seedlings very carefully to avoid disturbing the delicate tap root, and try to get to self sown seedlings when they are still tiny, taking a generous trowel-full of soil with each baby you wish to relocate.

Sun; well-drained soil; drought tolerant.

 

Read Full Post »

Giant Crambe - Crambe cordifolia - a Hill Farm plant growing in our good friend Ellen's Soda Creek, B.C. garden - July 2008. Image: HFN

Giant Crambe – Crambe cordifolia – a Hill Farm plant growing in our good friend Ellen’s Soda Creek, B.C. garden – July 2008. Image: HFN

Perennial. Zone 3. Brassicaceae (formerly Cruciferae.) Caucasus Mountains. A.k.a. COLEWORT, GIANT SEA KALE.

This plant has been grown in gardens for at least 100 years, and is much sought after by anyone who has seen it in the dramatic mixed perennial flower borders of famous British country estates.

A most substantial plant, this is! Imagine a Volkswagen Beetle sized space commitment for its admittedly brief bloom time, 3 weeks at best. Okay, perhaps that is a slight exaggeration. But this thing can get huge.

Large, thick-textured, hairy basal leaves produce tall, multi-branching stems from 3 to 6 feet tall, which produce clouds of very sweetly-scented, pure white flowers in early summer. Looks like a Baby’s Breath gone wild, is one comment a happy customer made when proudly showing me a photo of her immense 5-year-old plant.

Crambe cordifolia takes a while to reach full size, usually blooming year three or thereabouts. Site carefully, as it is tap-rooted and dislikes being moved. Though not at all invasive, it may also persistently re-sprout from chunks of taproot left in the soil if you do decide to  move it once it is established. Frequently the transplanted piece will languish and die, after a long, yellow-leaved decline, so think hard before getting out your shovel.

Being in the Brassica Family, Crambe cordifolia is attractive to Cabbage Moths, so keep an eye out for the caterpillars, as they can skeletonize those big leaves surprisingly quickly, leaving nothing but the centre ribs. Most gardeners cut off the bloom stalks once flowering is finished, but if you want to try to ripen seed, or just simply like the look of the thing for its curiousity factor, you can certainly leave it alone, though a stake is a good idea, as summer thunderstorms may topple the aging edifice.

When I first experimented with Crambe cordifolia I was rather worried about its hardiness; most Zone ratings were for 6 or thereabouts, but after almost 20 years of growing and selling it, and much customer feedback (most enthusiastic, though some people felt it got too big, or were troubled by resprouting roots after digging up established plants) I can firmly state that Zone 3 suits it just fine.

Full sun. Very drought tolerant once established, though it appreciates summer moisture and reasonable fertility for the best after-blooming foliage health.

bbb

One more look at Ellen’s Giant Crambe, with Asiatic lilies at its feet. Honey-scented, and alive with bees. Soda Creek, B.C., July 2008. Image: HFN

Read Full Post »

Polemonium pauciflorum - Yellow Jacob's Ladder - Hill Farm, June 2011. Image: HFN

Polemonium pauciflorum – Yellow Jacob’s Ladder – Hill Farm, June 2011. Image: HFN

Short-Lived Perennial. Zone 4. Polemoniaceae. Arizona, New Mexico, Texas.

This is a Jacob’s Ladder with a difference. Instead of the usual clusters of blue and lavender wide-open flowers, P. pauciflorum produces graceful downfacing sulphur yellow trumpets, blushed with dusky red.

The specific name, pauciflorum, translates as “few-flowered”, but this is a relative designation. There may be few in each cluster compared to the dense arrangements of many of its relatives, but there are many blooming stems produced. So many, in fact, that Yellow Jacob Ladder frequently “blooms itself to death”, fading away completely after its exertion.

Delicate, many-leafleted foliage in lush 12-inch wide clumps. The graceful flower clusters on slender, 12 to 18 inch stalks appear in spring and early summer.

A very nice little plant, rarely found commercially but popular in the “plant fanatic” seed exchange world, which is where I originally obtained mine, from a gardener in Wales. (A rather roundabout trip from its native home in southern North America!)

Polemonium pauciflorum frequently blooms profusely in its first season, so may be treated as an annual, though technically it is perennial. Allow it to set seed and self sow to ensure its continued presence in your garden. If collecting seed for sharing or growing out, be aware that it has a short viability period in dry, cool room temperature storage, of 6 months to a year at most in my experience.

Sun to light shade; average soil and moisture.

This plant's membership in the Phlox Family is very evident from the appearance of the tightly furled buds - something I hadn't really noticed regarding other species. Image: HFN

This plant’s membership in the Phlox Family is very evident from the appearance of the tightly furled buds – something I hadn’t really noticed regarding other species. Image: HFN

Read Full Post »

Biennial or short-lived perennial. Zone 2. Brassicaceae. Syn. Cheiranthus x marshallii. Despite the common name, Siberian Wallflower is most accurately described as originating in England. It was a deliberate cross made by John Marshall in 1846 between Erysimum perofskianum, originally native to the Middle East, in specific Persia, and E. decumbens, from northern Spain, the Pyrenees and the southwestern Alps.

The Brassica Family makes up for its generally utilitarian foliage – think of the humble cabbage, and kale, and all of the mustards, not to mention the inconspicuous foliage of our cottage garden stalwarts such as Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis) and Stocks (Matthiola) – by frequently having the sweetest scented of flowers. The Wallflowers surpass all of their relatives in this characteristic, being famously planted in combination with less-fragrant spring bulbs such as tulips, both for the contrasting beauty of their velvety flowers and for their outpouring of honey-rich, spicy fragrance.

Sadly, the “traditional” English wallflowers, Cheiranthus/Erysimum cheiri, with their large blooms in shades of antique red and rich brown, copper, cream and crimson are not reliably hardy in our Canadian climate, unless one happens to live in gentler-wintered regions such as B.C.’s lower mainland. The Siberian Wallflower happily steps in to fulfill the role of its more delicate cousin for us Northerners, and it does so in a most eye-catching and deliciously fragrant way.

Siberian Wallflower is technically a biennial, but I have had it flower profusely in its first year from early-sown seed. From fast-growing clumps of strap-shaped foliage sprouted in early March, an abundance of bud clusters appear in May, which quickly pop open in an endless succession of very fragrant, absolutely neon-bright orange blooms well into mid-summer.

The plants elongate and get a bit weedy looking as summer advances, but it is best to ignore this and leave at least a few plants to mature their seeds, because this pretty flower is quite happy to establish itself as a self-sowing permanent resident in the garden. It naturalizes quite nicely; we’ve seen it used among other wildflowers as a bank erosion planting, as well as in more traditional plantings.

Despite the self-sowing trait, it is considered non-invasive; seedlings are shallow rooted and very easy to eliminate, but are generally welcome wherever they appear, or you can clip the plants back after blooming.

Siberian Wallflower is a fairly modest thing, size-wise, growing about a foot or so tall. It is easy to tuck in here and there where its vibrant colour will accent other spring and early summer flowers, and it harmonizes particularly beautifully with its fellow biennial Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis), the warm orange and cool sky blue proving the artistic theory of contrasting colours to be a Very Good Thing in the garden as well as on the canvas.

Siberian Wallflower is occasionally offered in a bright yellow variation, ‘Citrona Yellow’, and in a number of other named strains in various degrees of yellow, gold and orange.

Full sun is preferred, and any sort of soil. Thrives with average fertility and watering care, and is quite drought tolerant once established.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »