Archive for the ‘Pink’ Category

Slene dioica aurea - Ray's Golden Campion. Hill Farm, June 2012.

Silene dioica aurea – ‘Ray’s Golden Campion’. Hill Farm, June 2012. Image: HFN

Perennial. Zone 4. Caryophyllaceae. Syn. Melandrium rubrum; syn. Lychnis dioica. (Both names are now obsolete.)  The green-leaved Silene dioica, Rosy Campion, is a common European wildflower which has been grown in gardens for centuries. There are numerous cultivars, of which ‘Ray’s Golden’ is one of the most recent, and notable because of its ease of cultivation and trueness from seed.

This is one of those garden colour combinations which really shouldn’t work – shocking pink with chartreuse – but it does, and extremely well, too.

‘Ray’s Golden Campion’ is a recent introduction from English nurseryman Ray Brown at Plant World in Devon, who painstakingly stabilized this sport of the well-known Rosy Campion. When I received my packet of seed, I was warned to rogue out any green-leaved seedlings which appeared; this was tremendously easy to do, as the gold-foliaged seedlings were immediately conspicuous from the first unfolding of their cotyledons.

The first season the plants formed lush rosettes; the striking foliage colour remained true all summer. By late spring of the second year bloom stems appeared. I was very pleased to note that these were flushed with a contrasting red tint, as were the buds, which popped open into pretty, white-eyed, hot pink flowers in mid June. They bloomed and bloomed and bloomed, right through July, subsiding at last in mid August, when they started to mature seed in tiny, bottle-shaped capsules.

A few of the plants in my test row succumbed to their second winter, but most soldiered on. Self sown seedlings were mostly gold-leaved, and the population sustained itself quite nicely up in the “delphinium jungle” of my neglected growing-out garden. After the second year I did not bother rogueing out the green seedlings, and now, five years later, much of the stand has reverted to green foliage. Still very pretty – Rosy Campion is a nice cottage garden flower even in its “unimproved” state – but not nearly as eye-popping as the original planting.

This is a mid-sized sort of plant. Foliage rosettes are about a foot in diameter; bloom stalks are 12 inches or so tall when they first bloom, elongating to 18 inches by mid-summer. Nice in a foreground planting. These combine beautifully with delphiniums; the pink and gold of the Silene contrasting beautifully with any of the delphinium blues.

This plant appreciates full sun. It is not fussy as to soil, and, though it flourishes most lavishly with regular summer watering, it has proven itself quite drought tolerant, surviving and blooming for most of the summer among the grasses which have taken over the neglected sections of the nursery garden.


Blooming at the same time as delphiniums, Ray's Golden Campion is a eye-catching contrast plant and makes a grand foreground companion to the cobalts, azures, and sky blues of its garden neighbour. Hill Farm, July 2012.

Blooming at the same time as Delphinium, ‘Ray’s Golden Campion’ is a eye-catching contrast plant and makes a grand foreground companion to the cobalts, azures, and sky blues of its garden neighbour. Hill Farm, July 2012. Image: HFN



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Perennial Sweet Pea - Lathyrus latifolius - naturalized at Pitt Lake, near Maple Ridge, B.C., August 2011.

Perennial Sweet Pea – Lathyrus latifolius – naturalized along the shores of  Pitt Lake, near Maple Ridge, B.C., August 2011. Image: HFN

Perennial Herbaceous Vine. Zone 3. Fabaceae, formerly Leguminosae.  Originally native to Southern Europe, now sometimes seen naturalized in disturbed-soil areas as a garden escapee throughout Europe, Great Britain, and parts of North America, including coastal British Columbia. Lathyrus is from the Greek lathyros, pea; latifolius from the Latin latus + folium, wide + leaf.

Clump former to 18 inches wide; sprawls or climbs 3 to 6 feet tall by twining tendrils in the leaf axils. Fine in average soil and moisture; prefers full sun. Established plants are reasonably drought tolerant, but thrives best with summer moisture and fertile soil.

This pretty climber/sprawler is rather rare in Cariboo-Chilcotin gardens, but I have seen it thriving often enough here and there in Zone 3 and 4 Williams Lake and Quesnel area plantings to be able to confidently recommend its hardiness and adaptability.

The plant forms a vigorous clump of rapidly elongating stems lined with paired, blue-green leaflets. Bloom stalks and twining tendrils emerge from the leaf axils as the stems lengthen. Clusters of very showy, sweet pea-like flowers bloom for a long period June through August, and are followed by typical large, flat pea-pods filled with big round seeds. (These are not considered edible, by the way, and occasionally are referenced as “poisonous”, though I have not seen any mention of actual incidents of poisoning.)

Sadly, the “sweet” reference is merely to its similar appearance to the highly fragrant annual sweet pea, Lathyrus odoratus, as Perennial Sweet Pea is not noticeably fragrant.

Vines reach 3 to 6 feet long – tallest where it can climb, and where grown in moist, fertile soil – and either sprawl along the ground or twine their way up whatever support they can find. Very nice grown on a bank where it can cascade, or on a sturdy trellis or garden obelisk arrangement. Vines are completely herbaceous, and die back to the ground in the winter, to re-sprout in spring. Sometimes late to emerge, so keep an eye out for it when digging about in the spring garden.

A very long-lived plant, which should be sited where it can remain as it does not transplant well. It may self sow, but though definitely a “survivor” where established, it is not aggressive and is not considered an invasive plant in our climate, though it is occasionally seen as a naturalized garden escapee in disturbed soil areas along coastal British Columbian roadsides where it has joined other exotics such as butterfly bush (Buddleja sp.), touch-me-not (Impatiens sp.), and the ubiquitous Himalayan Blackberries.

Lathyrus latifolius naturalized along the shoreline roadway at Pitt Lake, near Maple Ridge, B.C. August, 2011.

Lathyrus latifolius naturalized along the shoreline roadway at Pitt Lake, near Maple Ridge, B.C. August, 2011. Image: HFN

Lathyrus latifolius has been grown as a prized garden flower for centuries throughout Europe and the British Isles, and in North American colonial plantings, and the pink strain appears in the 1801 species inventory of Thomas Jefferson’s famed Monticello garden.

This plant often shows up on old herb garden lists, but no medicinal uses are recorded. Apparently the foliage was occasionally used as a pot herb, and the seeds cooked and consumed for their high protein content, but present-day consumption is definitely NOT recommended, as the seeds of some of the species in the Lathyrus genus do contain potentially harmful amino aids. Best to enjoy it for its beauty alone, as most of our gardening predecessors did.

Many species of bees and butterflies visit the flowers in search of nectar, as do occasional questing hummingbirds, but the floral structure is designed for pollination by bumblebees, as they alone are strong enough to part the keel petals which enclose the reproductive parts of the blooms.

Three old-fashioned named strains are still available; all are very lovely. ‘RED PEARL’  – rich carmine pink. ‘ROSE PEARL’ aka ‘PINK BEAUTY’ – pale pink flushed darker at petal edges. ‘WHITE PEARL’ – pristine snow white.

Lathyrus latifolius - Perennial Sweet Pea - 'Red Pearl'

Lathyrus latifolius – typical of  ‘Red Pearl’ colour strain – Maple Ridge, August 2011. Image: HFN




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Wild Four-O-Clocks - Mirabilis nyctaginea. Spences Bridge, B.C. May 30, 2014.

Wild Four-O-Clocks – Mirabilis nyctaginea. Spences Bridge, B.C. May 30, 2014. Image: HFN

Perennial. Zone 6, possibly colder. Nyctaginaceae. A.k.a. Heart-Leaved Four-O’Clock, Umbrellawort. Native to the Great Plains of the United States, as well as southern regions of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario. Isolated introduced populations found throughout B.C., Alberta and Quebec.

On a recent road trip, heading through the arid rangelands and rolling hills south of Cache Creek and following the Thompson River’s deeply carved valley as it heads towards its spectacular rendezvous with the Fraser at Lytton, my attention was caught by several tall clumps of lush, dark green foliage, showing clusters of small but vivid magenta-pink blooms. Pulling over in a wide spot on the road, I looped back to take a closer look.

An initial examination of the flower structure and foliage gave me an “Aha!” moment. Could this possibly be wild four-o’clocks? It wasn’t in any of the wildflower field guides I had along, nor, when back home, in my trusty and comprehensive Lewis J. Clark’s Wild Flowers of British Columbia, but an internet search yielded an immediate confirmation.

Plant habit is eye-catching, in this case because of its unexpectedly lush greenness set against a background of silver-green sagebrush and bunchgrass-tufted hills.

Near Spences Bridge, May 30, 2014. Plant habit is eye-catching, in this case because of its unexpectedly lush greenness set against a background of silver-green sagebrush and bunchgrass-tufted hills. Image: HFN

My online research yielded these details.

The plants grow in vigorous clumps from 1 to 3 feet tall (these were about 2 feet tall), with broad, heart-shaped, opposite leaves clasping the angle-sided stems. Flower clusters show green bracts at the bases of the tubular flowers, which are of a bright magenta pink. Stamens are also magenta, tipped with yellow pollen. After flowering, the bracts enlarge into a papery “umbrella” centered by a cluster of large, rather hairy nutlet-type seed. These bracts then act as parachutes during the seed dispersion stage.

The plant forms a large, tuberous tap-root, which extends a foot or more into the soil, allowing the plant to thrive in arid conditions. This root is what has led this plant to be classified as a weed-of-concern in some regions, as it is very hard to eradicate once established, being highly herbicide resistant, and able to resprout from root fragments left in the soil after pulling. (And of course the wind-dispersed seeds would also be a major factor in its ability to spread, especially in areas of disturbed soil.)

The sweet-tasting roots of this plant were used by indigenous peoples as a poultice for skin ailments and burns, and as a medicinal tea to expel worms, and to treat fevers and bladder complaints. Though pigs apparently dig up and eat the roots with great relish – they are recommended for eradication in agricultural infestations – there is some speculation that Mirabilis nyctaginea may contain some mildly toxic alkaloids, so experimentation with herbal use is not advised.

I suspect that this plant would not be winter hardy in the Cariboo-Chilcotin, but it might well succeed as an annual, as its domestic relative, the lovely and fragrant Mirabilis jalapa (the commonly grown garden flower Four-O’Clocks, or Marvel-of-Peru) blooms generously as a summer-flowering annual, and forms a similar fleshy root which does not withstand freezing soil.

While decidedly pretty in a low-key way, Mirabilis nyctaginea is not particularly showy, and reports of its “weedy” tendencies would make me cautious to recommend this plant, though it might be an interesting addition to a wildflower planting if one is feeling adventurous, and is prepared to remove seedheads before they can disperse. Seed is often available for this plant through botanical seed exchanges, and commercially through some specialist native plant seed houses.

Near Spences Bridge, B.C. May 30, 2014.

Near Spences Bridge, B.C. May 30, 2014. Image: HFN


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Achillea sibirica var. camptshatica 'Love Parade' - Williams Lake, B.C., July 2014.

Achillea sibirica var. camtschatica ‘Love Parade’ – Williams Lake, B.C., July 2014. Image: HFN

Perennial. Zone 2. Compositae. The species is from Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula. This improved selection is of garden origin.

Ten years or so ago, this glowing description in England’s iconic (and rather chatty) Chiltern Seeds catalogue caught my attention:

We forecast a great future for this fine new hardy perennial both for enhancing your border or for supplying attractive cut flowers to decorate your home. Developed from a newly introduced botanical variety from Kamchatka – that peninsula in the far, far north-east of Russia (so far it makes Vladivostok seem close!) with a somewhat unlovely climate – with highly ornamental and unique bright green, leathery foliage composed of narrow, lance-shaped, saw-edged, vaguely fern-like leaves (quite unlike any others in the genus), it bears from June to September flat-topped heads of clusters of numerous large and lovely soft pink flowers with pale yellow stamens…

I proceeded to acquire and grow this interesting Yarrow, and while it wasn’t anything close to being a traffic stopper, it did have a quiet charm that turned me into a sincere admirer. I have grown it ever since.

Clusters of large – for an Achillea – pastel pink, pale yellow-centered flowers top sturdy 18-24” stems during a long bloom time, from June to September. The blooms are darkest when they first open, fading to a paler pink and eventually white as the clusters age. Good cutflower.

It makes a rather loose clump, and expands itself by short underground runners, but it is not at all uncontrollable, being easily nipped back if required. The saw-toothed foliage is a glossy deep green, rather fleshy and brittle, and attractive throughout the growing season.

‘Love Parade’ seems to have settled down into being something of a standard variety, which is generally a good recommendation of garden merit.

Sun to part shade; average soil. Very easy from seed, and can be divided once plants reach a large enough size to take splitting.

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