Archive for the ‘Tall’ Category

More bees on Scabiosa cousin Cephalaria tchihatchewii - 10 feet tall and alive with humming visitors. Hill Farm, July 21, 2014

Cephalaria tchihatchewii – Tchihatchev’s Cephalaria. This Scabiosa cousin is a true bee magnet. It reached 10 feet tall and was alive with humming and buzzing visitors at Hill Farm, July 21, 2014. Image: HFN

Perennial. Zone 2. Dipsacaceae – Teasel Family. Native to Turkey and Iran. The genus name Cephalaria originates from the Greek kephale, “head”, and ala (alaria), “winged”, in reference to the large outer petals of the blooms. Tchihatchewii is after the Russian naturalist and biologist Pyotr Alexandrovich Chikhachyov (alternatively Chikhatchev/Tchihatchev), 1808-1890, who traveled widely throughout his long life and documented the flora of Asia Minor in his 3500-species Herbarium Chikhatchev.

This big, back-of-the-border, trouble-free plant has thrived here for almost twenty years. It originally arrived as part of an order of interesting perennials from a small, now-defunct Canadian prairie mailorder nursery. It has given me a whole lot of pleasure over the years, and has received a lot of positive comment from garden visitors.

Occasionally we dig it up and move it to a new position, knocking a division or two off to share with others, and it always settles back in without any issues, other than shorter bloom stalks for the season of the move.

Great big clumps of raggedly cut foliage reach 2 or 3 feet tall and wide, and send up many tall, multi-branched stems, 6 to 10 feet tall, which are starred by round, creamy sulphur-yellow, white-stamened “pincushion flowers” in July and August.

Bees and butterflies of all sorts love Cephalaria, as they do its close relation Scabiosa.

This plant is not particularily showy in the traditional sense of the word, but it is decidedly attactive. It is a good accent plant for others sharing its bloom season, and is a long-lasting cutflower for mixed bouquets. Place it mid or back of the border, where the graceful blooms can be best appreciated as a foil for the other things sharing its space.

It doesn’t generally need staking. Bloom stalks with their bristling, rounded seed clusters may be left intact to delight small birds in autumn, or cut back in the interests of garden tidiness. It will self sow if allowed, but we have found young plants easy to remove from where they’re not wanted. One plant is probably enough for any but the most expansive garden.

Tchihatchev’s Cephalaria has a number of equally garden-worthy relations, including the well-known Cephalaria gigantea – just as large, with identical blooms – I’m not quite sure what the botanical differences are, because they look pretty well interchangeable to me – and Cephalaria alpina, slightly smaller and more compact at a mere 4 to 6 feet.

Sun is best, average soil and moisture. Quite drought tolerant, but not what I’d call a true xeriscape plant, as the foliage yellows in very dry locations, and flower production suffers.

Cephalaria habit hill farm, July 2, 2014. Image: HFN

Cephalaria tchihatchewii. At the back of a sunny border, Hill Farm, July 21, 2014. Image: HFN

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Cepahalaria foliage hill farm july 2, 2015 Image: HFN

Cephalaria tchihatchewii. An out-of-focus glimpse of the foliage clump. (Leaves in left foreground are Echinops sphaerocephalus.) The Cephalaria‘s substantial dark green leaves are large and divided with raggedly-margined leaflets. Flowers are produced on individual stems coming from the leaf axils of the bloom stalks, starting at the base and going all the way up. Image: HFN

 

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Perennial. Zone 2. Asteraceae, formerly Compositae. East-Central Europe, Asia.  The genus name is from the Greek echinos = “hedgehog-like” (in some references “sea-urchin-like”) – in reference to the spiky structure of the bloom; ritro = “of gardens”.

This is often the first Globe Thistle every gardener starts out with – my original plant is alive and well and giving great pleasure more than twenty years after I received a hefty division of it, overflowing its disintegrating cardboard box, from a fellow-gardener friend. I’d admired her gorgeous dried flower bouquets containing the perfectly round, frosted blue Globe Thistles at an early autumn farmers’ market, and she remembered my interest the following spring.

Though the common name “thistle” might cause the neophyte Echinops grower some initial concern, the prickles on this plant are soft and benign. The lush, dark green, raggedly-cut foliage is tipped with flexible points, but they do not detach, and the plant can be handled easily with bare hands.

Echinops ritro is a clump former, with a height of 2 to 4 feet or so, depending on soil fertility and moisture, and a spread of about half its height.

Sturdy stems covered by fine white hairs produce perfectly globular buds in mid-summer, and these enlarge and expand and take on an increasingly intense blue tint, until the tiny electric-blue flowers pop open one by one and immediately attract bees, butterflies, and a host of other nectar and pollen seeking visitors. Bloom time of the large golf ball-sized and -shaped flower clusters is extended, easily 6 to 8 weeks or more, and the aging flower heads stay attractive well into fall, when they will be visited by chickadees and other small birds which relish the seeds.

Echinops ritro aging seedhead - still blue, ans still showing its perfectly globular structure - Hill Farm - early October, 2013. Foliage in background is of Plume Poppy, Macleaya cordata. Image: HFN

Echinops ritro – aging seed head – still blue, and still showing its perfectly globular structure – Hill Farm – early October, 2013. Foliage in background is of Plume Poppy, Macleaya cordata. Image: HFN

Echinops ritro is hardy and drought tolerant, but produces the best show in good garden soil with summer moisture. It spreads modestly at the roots, expanding its clump year by year, and it will also self sow in a mild way. Plants are tap rooted, but mature clumps may be divided with care in early spring.

Full sun to light shade is acceptable to this plant. It combines beautifully with the other blue garden thistle, Eryngium planum (Blue Sea Holly), as well as fall-blooming sedums such as Hylotephium x ‘Autumn Joy’, any of the Rudbeckias, and all sorts of ornamental grasses.

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Aconitum carmichaelii ‘arendsii’ – Hill Farm – October, 2012. Image: HFN

Perennial. Zone 3. Ranunculaceae.

This is a very late bloomer; the photo here was taken in October of 2012. Many years the buds are frozen before it can bloom, so I’m not going to recommend it for Cariboo gardeners, unless you’re willing to put up with several years of disappointment to each lucky combination of circumstances which will give you bloom. But when it does bloom, it’s a lovely, unexpected thing!

Aconitum carmichaelii 'arendsii' - Hill Farm, October 2014. Image: HFN

Aconitum carmichaelii ‘arendsii’ bud cluster showing petal veining – Hill Farm, November 2014. Image: HFN

This is a tall Monkshood, with sturdy stems which can reach 6 feet. Buds are produced in August and take their time maturing and opening, but when and if they do they are classic monkshood cowls; smoky, dusky blue with green veining and sooty black stamens. The flower spikes are densely crowded, occasionally branched.

Very handsome, dark green, deeply cut foliage in healthy, ever-increasing clumps.

Site at the back of the border, with extra moisture during the dry times, and light shade if possible. Then cross your fingers!

This is another one you won’t often find for sale; we won’t be offering it this year either, but may one day in the future. Our own cherished clump is coming along nicely, but we are hesitant to disturb it until it gets a little larger and we can steal some pieces off the edges instead of digging the whole thing up.

Note: All monkshoods are poisonous, in all of their parts. Handle with care.

Aconitum carmichaelii 'arendsii' - Van Duen Garden, Vancouver, B.C. - October 2014. Image: HFN

Aconitum carmichaelii ‘arendsii’ – Van Dusen Garden, Vancouver, B.C. – October 2014. Image: HFN

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'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.

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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.

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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

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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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White Moth Mullein - Verbascum blattaria albiflorum. Hill Farm, July 14, 2014.

White Moth Mullein – Verbascum blattaria albiflorum. Hill Farm, July 14, 2014. Image: HFN

Biennial. Zone 3. Scrophulariaceae. Europe, northern Africa. Verbascum is from the Latin barbascum, bearded. Blattaria comes from the Latin blatta, cockroach, in homage to the plant’s history as an insect repellant. Thrives in full sun to part shade. Happy in a wide variety of soils. Quite drought tolerant.

A dainty and lovely biennial.

In its first year, smooth, deep green leaf rosettes form and lie close to the ground, giving no hint of next year’s tall and graceful flower stalks.

The rosettes overwinter and start to show signs of further development in the spring of the second year, when slender, multi-branched stems emerge and elongate, reaching an ultimate height of 4 feet or so for the white form, and up to 6 feet for the yellow. Though tall, Moth Mullein’s general effect is airy enough for the front of the border.

Neatly folded, angular buds on short pedicels pop open into large, gleaming white flowers blushed on the petal backs with purple, echoing the bright purple, intricately furred stamens tipped with brilliant orange pollen. Blooms unfold in late June or early July, and continue through summer, ending at last in September.

Bloom detail, Verbascum blattaria albiflorum. Hill Farm, July 2014.

Bloom detail, Verbascum blattaria albiflorum. Hill Farm, July 2014. Image: HFN

The common name of Moth Mullein is thought to come from the resemblance of the stamens to the intricately haired antennae of moths. The flowers are also attractive to all sorts of insects, including nocturnal moths and early-foraging bees. Blooms unfold in earliest morning, and subside by noon, to reopen the following day.

An early-foraging bee visits Moth Mullein just before sunrise. Hill Farm, July 14, 2014. (All of the Verbascum family are veritable bee magnets.)

An early-foraging wild bee visits Moth Mullein just before sunrise. Hill Farm, July 14, 2014. (All of the Verbascum family are veritable bee magnets.) Image: HFN

Neatly dropped flowers are followed by hard, round seed pods, each containing hundreds of small, black seeds. Seeds of this species remain viable in soil for a long time; in one well-documented experiment  initiated by Michigan State University Professor William James Beal in 1879, Moth Mullein seeds sprouted over 120 years after their storage outdoors in an upside-down bottle buried in dry sand.

Arriving with early European colonists, Moth Mullein has been known to grow in North America since at least the early 1800s. It has become naturalized to various degrees across the United States and into southern Canada, being particularly successful at establishing itself on freshly disturbed ground.

Moth Mullein was traditionally used to safeguard fabrics against moths and other insects; American colonial gardens grew Moth Mullein for this purpose and also for use as a dye plant. With appropriate mordants Moth Mullein yields green and yellow dyes.

Verbascum blattaria has been investigated for various medicinal properties, and in 1974 was the subject of a study on its insecticidal properties, showing some intriguing possibilities as its application killed over half of the mosquito larvae in the study.

 

 

 

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