Archive for the ‘Spring’ Category

Physochlaina orientalis, Hill Farm, May 2017. Image:HFN

Perennial. Zone 3. Solanaceae. Eastern Europe into Asia: southeast Russia, Armenia, Crimea and Dagestan, Anatolia, and Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. Syn. Hyoscyamus orientalis, Scopolia orientalis. Slightly ironically, this is the westernmost species in its genus, despite the “orientalis” common to its synonyms.

The genus name, Physochlaina, comes from the Greek: physo meaning a bladder or air bubble, and chlaina, an outer garment, specifically a short coat. This descriptive epithet is in reference to the inflated calyx at the base of the flower structure, which swells  after the blossoms drop and the flattened ivory seeds develop. Orientalis meaning “of the orient”, “of the East”.

In its native regions Physochlaina orientalis is a plant of rocky mountain slopes and open deciduous forests, being found at elevations up to 2000 metres.

Here at Macalister, this small, rare Nightshade Family member is quietly noteworthy for the month or so of its early spring emergence and flowering.

Flower clusters of Physochlaina orientalis. Note the intricate veining, and the resemblance to its much larger relative Henbane, Hyoscyamus niger. Being in the Nightshade Family, Physochlaina most likely contains some of the powerful alkaloids of its many medicinally-valued cousins, but I am not aware of any herbal uses of this plant. It is presumably slightly toxic if consumed, as are many members of the Solanaceae, but again I have heard no reports of it being particularly dangerous in that way. Image: HFN

First shoots are dark purple – almost black – with the leaves turning green as they unfold. Bloom stalks appear in late April, crowded with clustered buds which open into nodding, smoky-purple, dark-veined bells. Flowers are produced over a period of several weeks, as the stems elongate to an eventual height of 12 inches or so.

Foliage is oblong, softly hairy, wavy-edged and dark-veined. Leaves clasp the bloom stalks and spread outwards as the season progresses, giving an effect similar to a smallish, unspotted Pulmonaria, though the two are not related.

The aging blooms drop off as spring advances, leaving behind inflated calyxes in which the seeds develop. Once seed matures sometime in early summer, the leaves begin to yellow and the plant goes into a dormant stage, completely disappearing until the next spring when it returns with a few more bloom stems than its previous year.

Physochlaina orientalis forms semi-tuberous, rhizomatous roots, with multiple shoots emerging from a central base, and its colonies slowly expand over time. It self seeds modestly once well established, but is in general a very restrained, well-behaved plant, staying exactly where it is placed, and growing in beauty year after year.

Spring-foraging bees are attracted to the small trumpets of the blooms, which are at their peak during appleblossom time, along with Fritillaria meleagris, the earliest species Columbines (Aquilegia flabellata, A. viridiflora), and the early spring Violas and Primulas.

This easy, hardy, summer ephemeral is quite adaptable as to siting. It thrives in sun to part shade, and though it enjoys a humusy woodland soil and early season moisture, it is very summer drought tolerant as it goes into dormancy with the onset of the hottest days. Good in the woodland border, mixed perennial border, or rock garden.

Image: HFN

This plant has been grown in gardens since at least the early 1800s. George Don, in his 1838 book A General System of Gardening and Botany, had this to say:

The species of Physochlaina are extremely desirable plants; being early flowerers, and elegant when in blossom. They will grow in any soil, and are readily propagated by divisions of the root, or by seed. They are well adapted for decorating borders in early spring.

 

Read Full Post »

Claytonia lanceolata Spring Beauty Wells B.C. Image: HFN

Claytonia lanceolata – Spring Beauty. West of Wells B.C., May 20, 2015. Image: HFN

Perennial. Zone 1. Montiaceae – Montia Family – formerly Portulacaceae. Native to western North America, widely occuring in subalpine and alpine meadows from the lower half of British Columbia south to New Mexico. The generic name Claytonia is after 17th century English botanist John Clayton, who collected plants in North America. Lanceolata refers to the shape of the rather fleshy, lance-shaped, paired leaves. Also known as INDIAN POTATO or MOUNTAIN POTATO, for its importance as a First Nations food crop.

British Columbia is a place of astonishing biodiversity, and one of the most fascinating aspects of this botanical richness is just how many of our native plants were foraged for and cultivated by the local indigenous peoples. Claytonia lanceolata, abundant in certain areas of the Cariboo-Chilcotin (in particular in the Potato Mountain range near Tatlayoko Lake on the Chilcotin Plateau) is perhaps one of the most important examples.

In earliest spring, as the snow recedes, smooth, lance-shaped leaves emerge from the mountain meadow turf, and Spring Beauty sends up its slender 6-inch bloom stems, topped by clusters of delicate 5-petalled flowers, purest white to ethereal pink. These bloom with such abundance as to turn whole areas white, mimicking the just-vanished snow.

Claytonia lanceolata in a wet meadow, near WElls, B.C. May 20, 2015. Image: HFN

Claytonia lanceolata in a wet meadow, near Wells, B.C. May 20, 2015. Image: HFN

Aesthetically beautiful, to be sure, but the plant is more than just another pretty wildflower, for it sprouts from a sturdy bulb, high in starches and sugars, and local inhabitants, human and ursine, found these to be worthy of foraging as the flowers faded and the bulbs reached their peak in energy storage to prepare for summer dormancy.

Wild food foragers value these greatly. Xavier de la Foret shares the following on the Sustainable Living Project blog:

Spring beauties (Claytonia lanceolata) are a delight to the eyes, both from generous carpets in sunny meadows and single flowers up close. The above-ground parts are edible and great in salads. They can also be cooked but I find that they become quite slimy that way. I definitely prefer them raw. But their greatest treasures rest under the ground and fairly close to the surface at that. They have a corm resembling the appearance and taste of small round potatoes and they’re absolutely delicious.

To find the largest corms, look closely at the thickness and number of stems emerging from a single spot on the ground. In general, if the plant has at least 4 thick stems, or a least 10 thin stems, then the corm has a good chance of being large. Don’t bother digging up the smaller plants as these are best left to grow for subsequent years!

Cook the corms as you would a potato. They also dry very well if you cut them in half while raw or if you mash them and dry them as thin patties after cooking them. Alternately, you can store them in earthen pits or buckets full of dirt to keep them fresh.

This plant is a moisture lover, and flourishes in the acidic soils of snow-water seepages in higher elevation meadows throughout our region. An easy-to-access population flourishes beside the road to Wells and Barkerville, east of Quesnel, where sharp-eyed botanists will catch sight of intriguing flushes of low-growing white bloom in May.

Though the species is yellow-listed in B.C., as stable and not in danger of extirpation, casual observers should not disturb the wild populations, enjoying them instead for their beauty. However, grizzly bears are under no such injunctions, and they will forage the bulbs with great enthusiasm, which gives further credence to their reputed delectability as a food source.

Bulbs are generally quite small, 1 or 2 inches in diameter, but I have read ethnobotanical accounts of the Claytonia lanceolata habitats of the Potato Mountains being subjected to controlled burning in the fall, to decrease shrub and competitive plant growth. In those cases, bulbs as large as a person’s fist were reported to occur.

The bulbs are very close to the surface, and are easily harvested. They sometimes grow in conjunction with another lovely ephemeral, the Avalance or Glacier Lily, Erythronium grandiflorum, which was also harvested for its sweet roots. Large quantities of Claytonia bulbs were collected during foraging trips, and were then eaten right away, or processed by cooking and drying, or stored in raw form in deep pits for future winter consumption.

This is not a plant I would recommend for inclusion in a cultivated garden, though if you live in an area such as Wells where the plants naturally occur, and if your property includes a wet spot, you might find it interesting to develop a wild garden featuring Claytonia and other native species, such as the dwarf white Trollius laxus, yellow Viola glabella, and the white-flowered Rhododendron albiflorum. Or just enjoy them all in the wild; a great excuse for a spring ramble. (Watch out for those bears!)

Claytonia lanceolata Image: HFN

Claytonia lanceolata. Pink-tipped stamens await a visit by the first foraging pollinators. Image: HFN

Claytonia laceolata, getting its pretty feet wet. Wells, May 20, 2015. Image: HFN

Claytonia lanceolata, happily getting its roots wet. Near Wells, B.C., May 20, 2015. Image: HFN

Read Full Post »

Lewisia rediviva - Bitterroot. Near Ashcroft, B.C., May 2014. Image: HFN

Lewisia rediviva – Bitterroot. Near Ashcroft, B.C., May 2014. Image: HFN

Perennial. Zone 3. Montiaceae – Montia Family – formerly Portulacaceae. Native to western North America, east of the Cascades in southern British Columbia, south to California and east to Montana, Colorado and Arizona.This plant is the state flower of Montana. Also known as ROCK-ROSE and RESURRECTION FLOWER.

This improbable ephemeral of the sagebrush hillsides of southern British Columbia (from approximately Cache Creek, south and eastwards) is of remarkable delicacy, rather unexpected considering its challenging home.

Tiny rosettes of succulent foliage emerge in early autumn, taking advantage of fall rains to fatten them enough for overwintering. In spring, the foliage withers away, and, as the leaves die, elongated flower buds emerge on short stems in April and early May, and proceed to unfold tissue-thin, delicately veined petals in shades of white to rich rose-pink.

Lewisia rediviva was an important food plant for the region’s First Nations people, though European settlers who sampled the roots reported that its bitterness was not to their liking.

The genus is named after botanist-explorer Meriwether Lewis, of Lewis and Clark renown, who tried eating the roots of Lewisia rediviva at some point during that exploratory expedition into the Louisiana Purchase lands and the Pacific Northwest, from 1804 to 1806. He wrote in his journal that: “(T)hey became perfectly soft by boiling, but had a very bitter taste, which was naucious to my pallate, and I transferred them to the Indians who had ate them heartily.”

Lewisia rediviva growing in great abundance on cattle-grazed rangeland, west of Ashcroft, B.C., May 2014. Image: HFN

Lewisia rediviva growing in great abundance on cattle-grazed rangeland, west of Ashcroft, B.C., May 2014. Image: HFN

Here is an excerpt of this plant’s entry in Lewis J. Clark’s 1972 masterwork, Wild Flowers of the Pacific Northwest.

This extraordinary plant, remarkable for its spectacular flowers and adaptation to a harsh environment, is the state flower of Montana, and gives its name to the Bitter Root Mountains.

The origin of the specific name is illustrated by an anecdote. Captain Meriwether Lewis, on July 1, 1806, when the celebrated expedition he led with William Clark had reached (on their return from Oregon) a point just south of the present city of Missoula, Montana, collected a specimen of what he recognized to be a remarkable plant, and pressed it between dry papers in a botanical press. Months afterward (in Philadelphia) this completely desiccated specimen was planted, since it still showed signs of life – and proceeded to grow! Pursh was so impressed that he aptly named the new species rediviva, restored to life.

We would like to see the Indian name retained, just as we have seen that the native name has survived for Camas, and has even been Latinized as Camassia. Spatlum, or Spaetlum, was even more important as a food resource to the aborigines, being more widespread and more readily kept for winter use. Bitter Root is, of course, the white man’s name – for even after removal of the intensely bitter, orange-coloured, inner bark, the white interior pulp remains rather unpalatable to the European taste.

Lewisia rediviva occurs – at times in vast numbers – both among the rock spurs of the high country, and the desert flats of the inter-mountain regions, from the crests of the Cascades eastward, and from southern British Columbia to southern California.

The relatively big, forked, fat rhizomes of the plant, after the first rains of waning summer, sprout a thick tuft of succulent leaves that resemble large plump fir-needles. These leaves survive the winter but begin to shrivel, and are often quite withered away by the following May, when the arid wastes are sprinkled – it seems almost overnight, miraculously – with brilliant “water-lily” blossoms – white, pink, and rose. These open only in bright sunshine, and afford a quite astounding spectacle. On dull days the spectacular waxen petals become furled, like an umbrella, within the brownish bracts and sepals, only to reappear within minutes – as if by magic – when the hot sun breaks through. The effect is breath-taking on some of the dry flats, where the plants adorn every few inches over many acres.

Each 2-inch flower (with its 12-18 petals) is solitary, carried about 3 inches above the ground, and ripens 6-20 shining brown seeds (that are spread widely when the dried capsule is broken off and rolled away by the wind). In spite of the destruction of many fields by cultivation, the lovely Bitter Root still is abundant in arid flats unsuited for irrigation.

On a 2014 journey through south-central British Columbia, we were thrilled to observe Lewisia rediviva in full bloom along the roadside near Ashcroft, B.C. A casual driver-by might miss this botanical spectacular, but a sharp-eyed plant person will have no difficulty in noticing something worthy of further investigation. Start searching on the west side of Highway 97, just south of the racetrack. Late April to mid-May is the time.

Lewisia rediviva habitat west of ashcroft may 2014 Image: HFN

This is what you’re looking for: Lewisia rediviva habitat, west of Ashcroft, B.C. May 2014. Image: HFN

Lewisia Image: HFN

Lewisia rediviva.  Image: HFN

Lewisia rediviva close-up Image: HFN

Lewisia rediviva. Image: HFN

Plants should not be taken from the wild, but can be grown from collected or commercially-purchased seed. Seeds should be sown in pots in autumn, and placed outside to overwinter in a freeze-thaw cycle. They will sprout when the weather warms in spring, and generally take several years to reach flowering stage.

Lewisia rediviva is only happy in a well-drained location with zero supplemental watering in summer – too much moisture will be fatal. Tiny foliage tufts overwinter under the snow, to give way to the spring blooms. Not for the garden proper, but a lovely rock garden plant, and worth trying in a hypertufa trough, if such is your horticultural pleasure.

 

Read Full Post »

Myrrhis odorata - Sweet Cicely - Hill Farm - June 2013. Image: HFN

Myrrhis odorata – Sweet Cicely – Hill Farm – June 2013. Image: HFN

Perennial. Zone 3. Apiaceae syn. Umbelliferae. Central Europe, the Pyrenees and the Caucasus. Widely naturalized in Europe and Great Britain. Myrrhis is from the Greek, in reference to the similarity of this plant’s aroma to that of the sap of the tropical myrrh tree (Commiphora species), much valued for perfumery. (The true myrrh was traditionally one of the costly gifts presented to the Baby Jesus by the Three Wise Men.) Odorata is from the Latin, “scented”.

I have never seen this lovely herb for sale in commercial nurseries in our area, which is why I was so thrilled to find it in a small roadside nursery near Bella Coola way back in 1998. I tucked it into a corner of the flower border, where it has maintained itself ever since, forming quite a vigorous colony of ferny, liquorice-scented foliage accented by lacy umbels of pure white blooms in spring.

The lacy flowers of Sweet Cicely are highly attractive to pollinating insects of all sorts. Hill Farm, May 2013. Image: HFN

The delicate flowers of Sweet Cicely are highly attractive to pollinating insects of all sorts. Hill Farm, May 2013. Image: HFN

I’ve transplanted seedlings – very carefully, for Myrrhis odorata has a long, brittle tap root – into various shady spots, where it happily settles in and adds its delicate leafiness to the general green tapestry effect. The blooms are followed by upright clusters of huge, light green seeds, which slowly darken to glossy black.

Sweet Cicely seed cluster - Hill Farm, May 2014. Image: HFN

Sweet Cicely seed cluster – Hill Farm, May 2014. Image: HFN

Where happy the plant reaches a substantial size, easily 2 feet or taller, and eventually several feet wide as the foliage expands through spring into early summer. Once blooming is finished, the plant may be shorn back to the ground, where it will re-sprout with renewed vigour and provide a pleasant backdrop for later-blooming flowers.

The texture of the foliage is delicately downy – it feels as soft as it looks. I have occasionally added it to cut flower bouquets for its ferny effect, but it isn’t really happy once cut, so I now mostly enjoy it in the garden.

Sweet Cicely has a long history of use as an herb, being strongly anise (licorice-like) scented in all of its parts, and having a very sweet flavour. It is one of the benign “innocent herbs” – edible in all of its parts, and free of potentially harmful components.

Myrrhis odorata will thrive in the sunny mixed perennial border, as it enjoys fertile soil and summer moisture. It can also be placed in quite deep shade, and, if encouraged to self-sow, will spread to fill in the area under high-pruned shrubs and trees.

I have not found Sweet Cicely to be particularly weedy – seedlings are easy to identify and easily plucked out – but it is a persistent plant once established (that taproot goes a long way down), so consider its siting carefully. Mature plants do not move well, so container grown starts and young seedlings are your best bet for bringing it into your own garden or for spreading it around.

Myrrhis odorata - Sweet Cicely - Hill Farm - June 2014. Image: HFN

Myrrhis odorata – Sweet Cicely – Hill Farm – June 2014. Image: HFN

Maud Grieve’s massive reference book, A Modern Herbal, first published in 1931, has these notes on Myrrhis odorata:

It is a native of Great Britain, a perennial with a thick root and very aromatic foliage, on account of which it was used in former days as a salad herb, or boiled, when the root, leaves, and seed were all used. The leaves are very large, somewhat downy beneath, and have a flavour rather like Anise, with a scent like Lovage. The first shoots consist of an almost triangular, lacey leaf, with a simple wing curving up from each side of its root. The stem grows from 2 to 3 feet high, bearing many leaves, and white flowers in early summer appear in compound umbels. In appearance it is rather like Hemlock, but is of a fresher green colour. The fruit is remarkably large, an inch long, dark brown, and fully flavoured. The leaves taste as if sugar had been sprinkled over them.

It is probable that it is not truly a wild plant, as it is usually found near houses, where it may very probably be cultivated in the garden. Sweet Cicely is very attractive to bees; in the north of England it is said that the seeds are used to polish and scent oak floors and furniture. In Germany they are still very generally used in cookery. The old herbalists describe the plant as ‘so harmless you cannot use it amiss.’ The roots were supposed to be not only excellent in a salad, but when boiled and eaten with oil and vinegar, to be ‘very good for old people that are dull and without courage; it rejoiceth and comforteth the heart and increaseth their lust and strength.’

 

Read Full Post »

Brunnera macrophylla - Vancouver, B.C. - April 2014. Image: HFN

Brunnera macrophylla – Vancouver, B.C. – April 2014. Image: HFN

Perennial. Zone 2. Boraginaceae. Syn. Anchusa myosotidiflora. A.k.a. SIBERIAN BUGLOSS. Caucasus Mountains; Asia Minor. The odd common name “Bugloss” is derived from the Greek words for “ox’s tongue” – bous = head of a cow, and gloss = tongue – in reference to the shape and texture of the leaves. The Siberian moniker is a bit inaccurate, as there is another, very similar, but much rarer species, Brunnera sibirica, which no doubt better deserves the title. The genus is named after Samuel Brunner (1790-1844), a Swiss botanist. Macrophylla = “large leaves”, again in reference to the substantial basal foliage.

I am very fond of this attractive spring bloomer, though I must admit that I once killed a newly transplanted colony through neglect one hot, busy summer, from lack of water. It’s definitely a shade/good soil/plenty of moisture sort of thing in our Cariboo-Chilcotin climate, and it is very happy in the high shade of trees, or even at the north side of the house, far enough out from the wall so it can catch a few sun rays for part of the day.

Handsome, heart-shaped, rough-textured, deep green foliage in big clumps to 18 inches tall produce many clusters of tiny, true blue, yellow-eyed, forget-me-not-like flowers from mid-spring into summer.

An excellent pairing of Brunnera macrocephalla and a red-leaved Epimidium at the UBC Botanical Garden, April 2014. Image: HFN

An excellent pairing of Brunnera macrocphylla with a red-leaved Epimidium at the UBC Botanical Garden, Vancouver, B.C. – April 2014. Image: HFN

Brunnera macrophylla received much attention in 1802 from European botanists and gardeners when it was collected during an exploratory expedition to the Caucasus Mountains led by Count Apollos Apollosovich Mussin-Pushkin, a dedicated scientist with interests in both mineralogy and botany. Others had apparently noticed the plant’s horticultural possibilities before the roving Russian Count brought it home, as the plant was first documented in English gardens almost a century earlier, in 1713.

I think it’s a rather wonderful plant, and so did the noted American gardener and writer Louise Beebe Wilder, for in her charming and informative 1935 book, What Happens in My Garden, she had this to say in the chapter titled “True Blues Among the Early Blossoms”:

Anchusa myosotidiflora, like a giant dark blue Forget-me-not and blooming before it, is invaluable. It grows well in sun or shade, but likes a soil that is not too dry. It has a thousand uses in the garden. It wreathes the yellow skirts of the Forsythias with lovely effect, is lovely in low borders with early Trollius, Doronicum, and blue and white Camassias, is lovely as an interplanting for Tulips of almost any colour. Try it with some of the “difficult” bronzes, as well as those of purer hue…The Anchusa enjoys a long season. It is, I believe, now properly known as Brunnera macrophylla.

Stylish silvery-white-variegated cultivars of this old-fashioned plant are supremely popular right now, but the good old green-leaved sort sets off the pretty flowers without distraction, and I think I may still like it best.

A silvery-variegated cultivar of Brunnera macrophylla pairs up with species daffodils at Van Dusen Garden in Vancouver, B.C. - April 2014. Image: HFN

A silvery-variegated cultivar of Brunnera macrophylla pairs up with species daffodils at Van Dusen Garden in Vancouver, B.C. – April 2014. Image: HFN

And here is a lovelu planting of a strongly variegated cultivar at the now-closed Minter Gardens in Chilliwack, B.C. - May 2013. Image: HFN

And here is a handsome planting of a strongly variegated Brunnera macrophylla cultivar at the now-closed Minter Gardens in Chilliwack, B.C. – May 2013. Image: HFN

Once the flowers finally subside in early summer, the plants can start to look a little bit tired, but can be refreshed by some judicious pruning, and perhaps some compost or well-rotted manure gently scratched into the soil at the base of the foliage crowns. Don’t forget to water this in well, and keep an eye on soil moisture levels, especially through the heat of July and August.

Brunnera macrophylla is shallow rooted, and is anchored in the ground by long, brittle rhizomes. It spreads to form a substantial colony where happy, but is very easily curbed by pulling back encroaching roots. It divides well in early spring, though divisions may take a season to re-establish.

Sun to shade, good soil and moisture.

Brunnera macrophylla has a long bloom time. Here it is, getting a bit tired but still lovely, in mid-June, 2011, at Van Dusen Garden in Vancouver, B.C. Image: HFN

Brunnera macrophylla has a respectably long bloom time. Here it is, flower clusters looking a bit tatty after 3 months of continual show in the coastal climate, but still very appealing, in mid-June, 2011, at Van Dusen Garden in Vancouver, B.C. Image: HFN

Read Full Post »

Perennial. Zone 3. Asteraceae. Central Europe, namely France, Italy and Spain. Tomentosa = Latin term meaning “covered with hairs”, referring to the dense silver hairs covering the leaves and stems of this species.

This tends to be one of those quietly ignored species. It is not showy or particularly exciting, but it is completely charming, especially in spring, when its freshly-emerged woolly rosettes are truly beautifully, especially when misted with tiny drops of morning dew.

After emergence of the ferny, fuzzy foliage rosettes, densely furred bud clusters emerge in May, opening up into corymbes of clear yellow flowers on 6 inch tall stems. These bloom through June and into July. The bright yellow tarnishes as the clusters fade, and the plants can then be shorn of bloom stalks, which, quite frankly, look rather tatty once flowering is finished.

The foliage and flowers are warmly aromatic when touched.

Achillea tomentosa is well suited to rockery or border edging, and thrives on well drained soil. It is very drought tolerant once established, and is a good xeriscape plant. It spreads to a foot or so in diameter, and makes a good cover plant over small bulbs such as crocus or species tulips, or early spring-blooming alliums.

The main named variety found under the name Achillea tomentosa  is ‘Maynard’s Gold’, also listed as ‘Aurea’.

There is another tomentosa-connected cultivar, ‘King Edward’, a hybrid cross (Achillea x lewisii), which is taller, with soft sulphur yellow flowers.

Sun, average soil, good drainage.

Read Full Post »

 

Aquilegia alpine - Alpine Columbine - Chilliwack, B.C. - June 2013. Image: HFN

Aquilegia alpina – Alpine Columbine – Chilliwack, B.C. – June 2013. Image: HFN

Perennial. Zone 2. Ranunculaceae. From the European Alps and Apennines.

This is a grand, very long-blooming species, native to European mountain meadows and open forests. It has been grown in gardens for centuries, and has been much used in Aquilegia hybridization.

Large, short-spurred, dusky violet-blue flowers in profusion top 12 to 18 inch tall plants from mid-spring well into summer. A tidy plant, hardy and adaptable. It will self sow, and will cross pollinate with other Aquilegias growing nearby, so your seedlings will always be something of a surprise as to colour and form.

Aquilegia alpine - Vancouver, June 2011. Image: HFN

Aquilegia alpina – Vancouver, June 2011. Image: HFN

It is noted by Aquilegia authority Robert Nold in his definitive 2003 monograph, Columbines: Aquilegia, Paraquilegia, and Semiaquilegia, that Aquilegia alpina in its pure form is seldom to be had in the plant trade due to the general promiscuity of this genus, to whit: “As with many columbines, the genetic purity seems to have been diluted by cultivation through the centuries…”

Plants I have grown from reliably-sourced seed labelled “alpina” have always shown a strong similarity in colour and habit; the species (or at least the cultivated, evolved form of the species) seems to exist in a fairly stable type.

It would be interesting to grow out some wild-collected seed from Aquilegia alpina’s native habitat to compare with the cultivated strain; perhaps I will request some from this fall’s collectors’ seed lists and see what we come up with.

Sun to shade, good soil and moisture.

Aquilegia alpine - June 2013. Image: HFN

Aquilegia alpina – June 2013. Image: HFN

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »