Archive for the ‘White’ Category

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

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Aegopodium podagraria

Variegated Bishop’s Goutwort – Aegopodium podagraria ‘variegata’. Penticton, B.C., June 2014. Image: HFN

Perennial. Zone 1. Apiaceae, formerly Umbelliferae.  Europe, Northeast Asia. Aka HANSEL-AND-GRETEL, JACK-JUMP-ABOUT, BISHOPSWEED, SNOW-ON-THE-MOUNTAIN, GROUND ELDER. 12 to 16  inches tall; spread infinite. Any soil, average moisture, sun to shade.

Aegopodium is derived from the Greek aix or aigos (a goat) and pous or podos (a foot), from the fancied resemblance in the shape of the leaves to a goat’s foot. Podagraria comes from the Latin word for gout, podagra, because this plant was highly valued as a treatment for that ailment in medieval times.

Goutwort is an attractively variegated pale green and ivory foliage plant, though it does produce umbels of tiny, creamy white flowers in summer.  It is an insidiously invasive but very valuable groundcover for difficult sites. A solid edging or path will generally contain it.

Avoid planting in a mixed border, as it will gobble up less rambunctious neighbours. I have had success growing it with other hold-your-own plants, namely with Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria majalis), Ribbon Grass (Phalaris arundinaceae ‘picta’), and Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum), but I do believe it is generally best alone, in a place where it can flourish to its (and the gardener’s) heart’s delight.

An excellent example of perfect placement of this exceediningly successful groundcover. Aegopodium podagraria grown in a shady border between a structure and a mown lawn in Penticton, B.C.  June 2014

An excellent example of perfect placement of this exceediningly successful groundcover. Aegopodium podagraria grown in a shady border between a structure and a mown lawn in Penticton, B.C., June 2014. Image: HFN

Bishop’s Goutwort is an old-time, pre-Medieval garden plant, once used in medicine and cookery. From Maude Grieve’s 1930 Modern Herbal:

 It has a creeping root-stock and by this means it spreads rapidly and soon establishes itself, smothering all vegetation less rampant than its own. It is a common pest of orchards, shrubberies and ill-kept gardens, and is found on the outskirts of almost every village or town, being indeed rarely absent from a building of some description. It is possible that Buckwheat might drive it out if planted where Goutweed has gained a hold.

It was called Bishopsweed and Bishopswort, because so frequently found near old ecclesiastical ruins. It is said to have been introduced by the monks of the Middle Ages, who cultivated it as a herb of healing. It was called Herb Gerard, because it was dedicated to St. Gerard, who was formerly invoked to cure the gout, against which the herb was chiefly employed.

The white root-stock is pungent and aromatic, but the flavour of the leaves is strong and disagreeable. (However) Linnaeus recommends the young leaves boiled and eaten as a green vegetable, as in Sweden and Switzerland, and it used also to be eaten as a spring salad.

A poultice made from the boiled leaves and roots was used with reportedly good effect as a treatment for all sorts of joint pains.

Aegopodium podagraria 'variegata'- Hill Farm, July 2011.

Aegopodium podagraria ‘variegata’– Hill Farm, July 2011. Image: HFN

Nowadays this plant is grown strictly as an ornamental, and it is a very good plant for difficult sites, as long as its land-grabbing habits are taken into consideration. Propagation of the variegated form is by division; it seldom sets viable seed. There original species is solid green, even more vigorous than its creamy-leaved sport, and a profuse self-seeder. Luckily it is not at all common in our country – the variegated version is sufficiently successful in our gardens.

Bishop’s Goutwort is frequently seen in old gardens and around abandoned homesteads. A particularly nice Cariboo planting is behind the Theatre Royal in the restored 1860s’ Gold Rush town of Barkerville, B.C., where it thrives in a lush colony hemmed in by Mountain Bluet (Centaurea montana) and Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla species), both vigorous survivor-type plants in their own right.

Read Full Post »

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.

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

 

Petasites sagittatus (syn. frigidus var. sagittatus) - Arrow-Leaf Coltsfoot, in roadside swamp, Gibraltar Mine Road, McLeese Lake, B.C. - June 9, 2014.

Petasites sagittatus (syn. P. frigidus var. sagittatus) – Arrow-Leaved Coltsfoot, in roadside swamp, Gibraltar Mine Road, McLeese Lake, B.C. – June 9, 2014. In full seedhead development, which is the plant’s most conspicuous stage. The pure white “fluffs”, on foot-high (or taller) stems, are extremely eye-catching. These quickly disperse, leaving only the broad leaves as evidence of the plant’s presence. Image: HFN

Perennial. Zone 2. Asteraceae. (Syn. Compositae.) Widespread through Northern North America, Alaska to Labrador. Found in wet seepages, swampy lake margins, and boggy meadows.

“I’ve seen a plant that I think you should look at,” reported Edwin the other day. “It’s got pure white flowers on tall stems, and it’s growing in the swamp on the Gibraltar Mine hill, just where the great blue heron hangs out.”

Well, that was like catnip to a cat, and off we went, camera at the ready. “What could it be?” I pondered, with dreams of finding something exotic. But as soon as we got close, the identification was immediate. It was the rather spectacular seed stage of yet another Coltsfoot.

This is decidedly the most noticeable Coltsfoot – Petasites –  in the Cariboo-Chilcotin, with its large (up to a foot long) arrowhead shaped leaves, green on the surface, and felted white underneath.

Leaves are large, thickly textured, and entire, with sharply toothed margins. The leaf surfaces are quite smooth, but the undersides are thickly coated with tiny, silky white hairs, making for an interesting contrast.

Leaves are large, thickly textured, and entire, with sharply toothed margins. The leaf surfaces are quite smooth, but the undersides are thickly coated with tiny, silky white hairs, making for an interesting contrast. Near McLeese Lake, June 9, 2014. Image: HFN

Petasites sagittatus has a creeping rootstalk, with flower stalks rising from it some distance away from the leaves. The flower stalks emerge in early spring, well before the leaves, and are thick, conspicuously bracted, and topped by clusters of typically Composite Family flowers, consisting of many disc flowers and surrounding ray flowers. Flowers range in shade from a slightly greyish white to faintly pink.

The seedheads are tall, up to 18 inches, and display cotton-ball white clusters of long-haired achenes, which soon disperse on the wind.

June 9, 2014 - Almost ready to fly away...

June 9, 2014 – Almost ready to fly away… Image: HFN

...and there they go.

…and there they go. Image: HFN

This species will sometimes overlap with the other regional Petasites, P. frigidus var. nivalis and P. frigidus var. palmatus, and hybrids showing a mixture of traits may result, but in general this is the easiest of the Coltsfoots to positively identify.

This plant will happily naturalize in a cultivated bog garden, though its vigorous nature and substantial size should be taken into consideration before introducing it.

First Nations’ uses of all of the Coltsfoots included use as an early spring green (cooked), and as a salt substitute (the leaves were burned, leaving a salty residue), and medicinally for chest and stomach ailments. These uses duly noted, it is not recommended that one experiment with consuming or self-medicating with any of the Petasites, as they all contain potentially harmful, liver-damaging alkaloids.

A handsome and unique genus.

One last look - June 9, 2014.

One last look – June 9, 2014. Image: HFN

Read Full Post »

 

Convallaria majalis - Lily-of-the-Valley - Williams Lake, B.C. - May 23, 2014

Convallaria majalis – Lily-of-the-Valley – Williams Lake, B.C. – May 23, 2014. Image: HFN

Perennial. Zone 1. Asparagaceae, formerly Liliaceae. Woodland flower of Northern Europe, from England east and south to the Caucasus, into northern Turkey. Also found in Japan, and the North American Appalachians, though there is some speculation that the American population originated from introduced plants.

Lily-of-the-Valley has been grown in gardens since at least 1000 B.C. It is well documented in many herbals and plant lists, and was an important medicinal herb as well as a highly-regarded ornamental. Today most of its uses are decorative, though the species’ chemical constituents are being studied for various medicinal applications, and it is used in homeopathy as a remedy for various heart conditions.

By mid to late April in Cariboo-Chilcotin garden, the tightly furled spikes of Lily-of-the-Valley start to emerge, soon unfolding into dark green, mule-ear shaped leaves, with the bloom clusters visible at the base of each foliage cluster.

A thriving colony of Convallaria majalis in early May - Hill Farm, 2014. If you look closely you will see the emerging flower buds at the base of the leaf clusters.

A thriving colony of Convallaria majalis in early May – Hill Farm, 2014. If you look closely you will see the emerging flower buds at the bases of the leaf clusters. Image: HFN

As May progresses the leaves expand to form a solid carpet of green, and the bloom stems lengthen, until one long-anticipated day one becomes aware, by catching a waft of the unmistakable fragrance, that the first flowers have opened.

Early June, Hill Farm, 2010.

Early June, Hill Farm, 2010. Image: HFN

The blooms are pristinely perfect: tiny pure white bells with pale yellow stamens, arranged in gently arching sprays. Thickly textured and long lasting, these are marvelous cut flowers, being free of their fragrance even after several days in a vase. Lilies-of-the-Valley are classic wedding bouquet flowers, and are commercially grown for the specialty florist market, though brides in months other than when the plants naturally flower should be prepared to pay a premium price for the artificially-forced greenhouse-grown blooms, which will also not be as fragrant as their garden-grown counterparts.

In the Victorian “Language of Flowers”, Lily-of-the-Valley signified “return to happiness” and “expectation of love”, which, along with the delicate virginal beauty of the blooms, no doubt accounts for its many bridal associations.

The fragrance of the flowers is outstanding, and perfumers have tried for centuries to mimic it in their concoctions, for though it is freely produced, it is not able to be captured in any sort of usable way. Reasonable imitations have been produced chemically, but there is truly nothing like the real thing, from a cluster of the dew-wet blooms picked on a fresh May morning.

To grow your own plot of Convallaria, you should first prepare a patch of shady ground by removing all surface tree and shrub roots and potentially competing grasses and other plants, and then digging in some well-rotted compost or manure. Plant the shallow-rooted pips just as they come out of their pots, with the rhizomes extending at right angles from the leaf clusters. Keep well watered and weeded the first season, and after that the plants should settle in to form an ever-expanding, maintenance-free colony. 

Lily-of-the-Valley does very well under trees and high-pruned shrubs, thriving on the filtered sunlight coming through leaves. Though very shade tolerant, plants do need some natural light if they are to bloom, so avoid dense shade such as that on the north side of buildings. Also avoid planting these in the mixed border, as they are happier where they can form a single-species colony. Very vigorous larger plants will crowd them out, and they in turn will gobble up more delicate things; the ongoing struggle will not be a happy thing, so it’s best to dedicate an area to your plantation right from the start.

Many people inquire as to the poisonous aspects of this plant, as it does appear on many “toxic garden flower” lists. Though all parts of the plant contain cardiac-affecting glycosides and digestive system-affecting saponins, though there are very few confirmed cases of actual poisonings, and no confirmed fatalities. It is theorized that, though potentially dangerous, the chemical constituents in the fresh plant matter are poorly absorbed by the digestive tract, so though accidental consumption might make you feel quite sick, it probably won’t kill you. (And I can’t imagine why one would accidentally consume this plant, as it is quite distinctive and not likely to be mistaken for anything else during any stages of its growth.)  The plants frequently produce red berries in the summer and autumn and this may be of some concern to those with very young children; be aware and garden with this in mind.

Convallaria majalis ‘striata’ – Hill Farm – May 26, 2014. Image: HFN

There are a number of interesting variations of this venerable garden plant occasionally available at specialty nurseries. We are in the process of propagating our own small colony of the striped-leaved variety, Convallaria majalis ‘striata’, and hope to be able to share these in a few more years. There is also a rosy-pink variation, Convallaria majalis ‘rosea’, and a double type, Convallaria majalis ‘prolificans’, though these last two are much less vigorous than their ancestors.

 

 

Read Full Post »

 

Mukdenia rossii syn. Aceriphyllum rossii - Hill Farm, Macalister, B.C. - May 21, 2014

Mukdenia rossii syn. Aceriphyllum rossii – Hill Farm, Macalister, B.C. – May 21, 2014 Image: HFN

Perennial. Zone 4. Saxifragaceae. Native to Korea, Northern China and Manchuria, where it grows in cool deciduous forest and on rocky slopes and subalpine ravines. The name Mukdenia comes from the Chinese province of Shenyang, then called Mukden, while the specific name, rossii, is after a Scottish missionary John Ross* (1842-1915) who established one of the first Christian churches in the region.

Quietly beautiful in all stages of growth. I fell for this the first time I saw it in autumn-leaf mode, long after flowering, in a coastal garden. The silk-sheened foliage was flushed with crimson, but that was merely what initially caught my eye; on closer examination I saw that the structure and habit of the plant made it a perfectly self-contained woodland garden sort of clump former. A bit of research and a description of the starry white spring blooms merely confirmed my first impression that this was a Very Good Thing, and so I set off on my quest to obtain it for myself.

This proved much more challenging than I had anticipated. Though various coastal nurseries occasionally showed the deluxe cultivar ‘Crimson Fans’ on their stock lists, there never seemed to be one available on my infrequent visits. I did find one rather bedraggled specimen on an end-of-season sale table for a breathtaking $40, but couldn’t bring myself to buy it for that sum, not knowing if it would prove hardy for me. (All plant people are by nature gamblers of sorts, but, like most of us, I do have my limits!)

Then, ten years or so ago, I found Mukdenia rossii listed on Kristl Walek’s most excellent Gardens North perennial seed list. A half dozen tiny seedlings survived the rigors of the germination and growing out stage, and I was set. I mulled over a suitable placement for them, and settled on the front of the border on the west side of the house, an area shaded by trees in the afternoon, and well protected by snow from the house roof in winter. The plants approved, and settled in happily, to expand their clump modestly each season and to give me more and more spikes of their tiny white starflowers with every succeeding spring. There they are at the top of the post, and here they are in close-up mode.

Hill Farm - May 21, 2014. A closer look at the starry blooms will show this plant's membership in the venerable Saxifrage family.

Hill Farm – May 21, 2014. A closer look at the starry blooms will show this plant’s membership in the venerable Saxifrage family. Image: HFN

I occasionally consider stealing some divisions from my cherished little colony, but so far I have resisted that temptation. It is modestly thriving but is in no way outgrowing its allocated space; I think I will leave it well enough alone. Seed remains hard to come by, and I haven’t seen it on Kristl’s list recently. I have managed to germinate a few seedlings from my own plants, but as they are delicate things in the early stages I sadly lost them all before they reached transplanting stage – damping off, too hot a greenhouse, and a day’s missed watering during the busiest time of the nursery year spelled their various dooms. I shall try again, though, because this is something I would love to share with my fellow Cariboo gardeners.

So, on to the nitty gritty.

Mukdenia rossii forms a compact clump which expands by slowly creeping rhizomatous roots. Rosy-blushed, crowded bud spikes emerge in earliest spring a little before the foliage, and the budding stems and leaves grow a little day by day, until at last, in late April or early May, the first white stars appear. These add to the number day by day, until at last the branched panicles are drooping from their combined weight; the show lasts for weeks, well into June if we don’t have a heat wave. The flowers slowly fade to brown, and the aging seed heads may be left in place or clipped off if you are of the exceedingly tidy sort.

Foliage is broad, fan-shaped with serrated edges, and of a most attractive silken texture, with a lovely light-catching sheen. The leaves are well flushed with dark red upon emergence, and though this fades to a uniform green for the majority of the growing season, autumn again brings out the red tints, until the plants disappear under the snow.

Mukdenia appreciates humus-rich soil and a fair bit of moisture in the heat of summer, though it never droops. Afternoon shade is definitely appreciated; this can be grown under tree cover in a woodland setting.

Once established, bloom stems will reach a foot or so in height, with clumps expanding to 1 or 2 feet. Perhaps nicest in a colony, with several planted together, as it is grown in the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden, and, in a more modest way, my own shady border.

A gorgeous colony of Mukdenia rossii in full bloom, UBC Botanical Garden, Vancouver, B.C. - April 8, 2014.

A gorgeous colony of Mukdenia rossii in full bloom, UBC Botanical Garden, Vancouver, B.C. – April 8, 2014. Image: HFN

UBC - April 8, 2014

UBC Botanical Garden – April 8, 2014 Image: HFN

I did eventually acquire a small start of ‘Crimson Fans’, but sadly it inadvertently spent a recent winter with the crown crushed under a brick which had tipped sideways – it (the brick) was meant to protect a promising hellebore seedling – and it (the mukdenia) was not looking at all well, so is now residing in a pot, being nursed back to health.

This is the one you will likely find if you are yourself scanning the more southerly nurseries. It is also sold under the original Japanese name, ‘Karasuba’. Ignore whatever the zone rating on the tag says – it might be a conservative Zone 6 or 7 – and give it a try. I would be confident to recommend it to at least Zone 4, or even Zone 3 if it can be guaranteed good snow cover. The red colour does fade by mid spring, after which it looks pretty much like the species type, but it is very pretty while it lasts.

Nice plant. Worth a try.

*I wondered if John Ross was also involved with botany in some way, but I found no mention of it in the few places I checked. There is this short biography, however, from the Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Christianity:

Born in northern Scotland, Ross served several Gaelic-speaking churches before leaving for China under the United Presbyterian Church in 1872. His ministry deeply touched two areas, Manchuria and Korea. By 1873 he had preached his first sermon in Chinese and had pioneered Manchurian work through wide itineration from his post in Shenyang (Mukden).

Known for his generous spirit toward Confucianism and Chinese ancestral rites, he supported the idea of a Chinese church that would not be a Western replica. In 1873, living on the northern border of a Korea still closed to outsiders, he met traders from the “hermit kingdom.” His growing interests produced the first Korean primer (1877) and grammar (1882) in English, the first history of Korea in any Western language (1879), and, under his direction, the first Korean translation of the New Testament (1887). Its unheralded distribution in Korea produced an authentic church there before Protestant missionary itineration began widely within the country. He retired to Scotland because of ill health in 1910 but continued to write and lecture.

 

Read Full Post »

Palmate Coltsfoot - Petasites frigidus var. palmatus - Van Dusen Garden, Vancouver, B.C. - April 8, 2014.

Palmate Coltsfoot – Petasites frigidus var. palmatus – Van Dusen Garden, Vancouver, B.C. – April 8, 2014. Image: HFN

 

Perennial. Zone 2. Asteraceae. (Syn. Compositae.) Widespread through Western North America. Common to wet coniferous forest and subalpine regions of B.C. A.k.a. Arctic Sweet Coltsfoot.

Lewis J. Clark, in Wild Flowers of British Columbia, 1973:

Petasites derives from the Greek petasos, a broad-rimmed hat, which describes the wide basal leaves. Palmatus (is) from the large hand-shaped leaves…

Most Composites bloom late in the year, but the Colt’s Foot pushes its thick stem through the ground at the beginning of March, sometimes while snow still lingers. Soon the rapidly lengthening shoot displays a heavy, flattened cluster of purplish (sometimes white, rarely yellow) flower-heads. These are of two kinds, the staminate soon withering. The pistillate-heads usually have a few short ray-florets. By early summer they are succeeded by clusters of achenes whose radiating pappus recall a very large, but flattened, Dandelion “puff”.

??????????????????????

Petasites frigidus var. palmatus – close-up of pistillate heads. Image: HFN

??????????????????????

Palmate Coltsfoot – Van Dusen Garden – April 8, 2014. Image: HFN

This species is very similar to Sweet Coltsfoot, Petasites frigidus var. nivalis, and as the ranges overlap, hybridization often occurs, making positive identification something of a challenge.

No matter what the details of nomenclature, the native Petasites found throughout the Cariboo are quietly spectacular in a low-growing, botanically interesting sort of way, being among the earliest bloomers and a sign of the start of the brief but intense growing season proper.

These plants happily grow in the garden, being most suited to moist wild gardens and boggy areas. They do spread vigorously where happy via underground rhizomes, so that is something to keep in mind when siting.

Coltsfoot is reported to be attractive to early foraging bees and other pollinating insects.

Ethnobotanical uses of Palmate Coltsfoot (and its relations) include flowering stalks and young leaves being used as an early “potherb”, no doubt highly welcome after a long winter of no fresh greens. According to the field guide Plants of Northern British Columbia (MacKinnon, Pojar and Coupé, 1992), Petasites leaves were used to cover berries in steam-cooking pits. Medicinal uses were widespread, with decoctions used to treat chest and respiratory ailments, as well as externally applied to treat rheumatism.

An interesting use which I have seen referred to in several places is the value of the plant as a salt substitute, either as an addition to stews, or from the ashes of the burned leaves.

As with any medicinal or culinary use of plants, it is best to be cautious about consuming or applying anything one is not familiar with; the above uses are provided merely as historical notes and not recommendations or suggestions. Petasites species contain alkaloids which may cause liver damage when ingested.

Palmate Coltsfoot at UBC Botanical Garden, April 8, 2014. This population shows the rosy colour variation.

Palmate Coltsfoot at UBC Botanical Garden, April 8, 2014. This population shows the rosy colour variation. Image: HFN

Newly emerging foliage in the background - notice the "palmate" form of the "hand-like" leaves. UBC Botanical Garden, April 8, 2014.

Newly emerging foliage in the background – notice the “palmate” form of the “hand-like” leaves. UBC Botanical Garden, April 8, 2014. Image: HFN

Close-up of flower cluster. UBC Botanical Garden, April 8, 2014.

Close-up of flower cluster. UBC Botanical Garden, April 8, 2014. Image: HFN

Read Full Post »

Big-Leaf White Tansy at Hill Farm, July 2012.

Tanacetum macrophyllum – Big-Leaf White Tansy at Hill Farm, July 2012. Image: HFN

Perennial. Zone 2. Asteraceae. (Formerly Compositae.) Syn. Chrysanthemum macrophyllum. Native from central and eastern Europe to southern Russia; the Carpathian Mountains south to Macedonia.

Grey-green, silky-textured, toothed leaves to 8 inches in length line 24 to 36 inch tall stems, which are topped by dense corymbes of ivory-white, yellow-stamened, yarrow-like flowers in June and July. Whole plant is pungently aromatic when touched.

Detail of flowers and bracted buds. Hill Farm, Macalister, B.C. - July 2011.

Tanacetum macrophyllum – Detail of flowers and bracted buds. Hill Farm, Macalister, B.C. – July 2011. Image: HFN

Detail of ray-and-disk composite flowers. Note small pollinator, mid-right. July 2011.

Detail of ray-and-disk composite flowers. Note small pollinator, mid-right. July 2011. Image: HFN

I recently came upon an interesting ethnobotanical report from Albania which reports that there is a traditional herbal use for Tanacetum macrophyllum. On St. George’s Day, May 6 – one of the most important rural religious festivals which is focussed around taking the flocks of sheep and goats to their summer pastures – this tansy in combination with nettles is rubbed on the goats’ udders in order to increase milk production. Also on St. George’s Day, a close relative, Tanacetum vulgare – Common Tansy, which we know as an introduced European species whose bright yellow button flowers are a common summer sight along rural Cariboo roadsides – is hung in Albanian and Macedonian stables and on butter churns as a good luck charm for abundant milk production.

Tanacetum macrophyllum has also been used to produce an essential oil which is being researched for its effectiveness as an antibacterial and antinflammatory.

If one doesn’t have a dairy goat around, or ambitions to pursue herbal medicine, one can still enjoy Big-Leaf Tansy in the garden. The early foliage is very lovely, being curled and frond-like with contrasting pale undersides, and the flower clusters quietly handsome in bloom. The bloom corymbs turn a mellow shade of greyish-brown as the florets fade; these can be clipped off for tidiness or allowed to remain on the plants, as they are not at all obtrusive.

Big-Leaf White Tansy forms a substantial clump in a year or two, reaching 2 feet in diameter and  3 to 4 feet in height. It is healthily vigorous but generally well-mannered. You may occasionally find a few seedlings, but they are easy to trowel out. Mature plants may be divided, the woody centers cut away, and the younger sections replanted.

This plant is good in mid-border as a contrast plant to showier-flowered things, and in the herb or wildflower garden.

Content in sun to light shade, and very happy with average garden conditions. The richer the soil the lusher it grows, but it is adaptable and can be quite drought tolerant if need be.

???????????????????????????????

Tanacetum macrophyllum – a look at the rather attractive foliage. Image: HFN

 

Read Full Post »

UBC Botanical Garden, Vancouver, B.C. April 8, 2014

UBC Botanical Garden, Vancouver, B.C. April 8, 2014 Image: HFN

Perennial. Zone 3. Araceae. Kamchatka Peninsula of northeastern Russia, Sakhalin and Kuril Islands, northern Japan.  Closely related to the native yellow-spathed Skunk Cabbage, Lysichiton americanus.

Very early blooming, emerging through the last of the snow and flowering from late April through May. Big white spathes with a central green spadix packed with tiny green flowers. Large, thick, shiny green leaves.

Pollinated by beetles and flies, which are attracted by the somewhat transient fragrance of the flowers. Foliage is musky-scented when bruised, hence the common name. Foliage clumps are 2 to 3 ft. tall.

A handsome species for the bog garden, edge of pond or stream, or wet woodland garden. Prefers shade. This one thrives in moist conditions, and will require some extra care to establish in Cariboo gardens, though it should prove fully hardy where happy, especially in areas where the native Skunk Cabbage already thrives. It is reported to hybridize with Lysichiton americanus; offspring will show cream coloured spathes which will be larger and more showy than both parents, according to botanical garden reports from England.

Of most interest in earliest spring into early summer, when the seed pods form and the foliage starts to get a bit tired. The “skunky” aroma is not particularly offensive, but it is noticeable when plants are disturbed.

Very rare in cultivation in our region; one for the serious collector. Fraser’s Thimble Farms on Saltspring Island is a good place to inquire if you are keen on giving this one a try. Slow growing, taking five years or so to reach full size, but long-lived and problem free once established.

Lysichiton camschatcensis has received the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

Read Full Post »

Perennial. Zone 2. Lamiaceae. Native to Great Britain, Europe, West Asia, North Africa.

Deep green, pebbly-textured, rather pungently aromatic foliage is arranged in basal rosettes. The plant sends up numerous multi-branching stems to 2 ft. or so, which produce hundreds of large “dragon’s head” flowers from late spring into summer. These are a bright violet blue in the original species, and shades of indigo-violet, mauve-pink and white in a number of named cultivars.

Meadow Clary is very showy during its bloom phase; the spent flowers drop neatly off and new buds at the top of the bloom spikes open in succession for many weeks. These flowers are alive with bees and butterflies on sunny summer days, and are frequently visited by hummingbirds. Meadow Clary is also reported to be a deer resistant plant, which may be of interest if you are one of the many Cariboo gardeners besieged by our increasingly bold garden-invading deer population.

Historically, Meadow Clary was used by brewers as a substitute for true Clary Sage, Salvia sclarea, as a flavouring in beer making. Though there are a few mentions made in literature of its medicinal use, generally in cough mixtures and so on, Salvia pratensis is not considered a medicinal herb. Its centuries-old inclusion in gardens must therefore be assumed to be purely for the pleasure of its blooms, and quite possibly for its attractiveness to bees.

There are a number of modern named cultivars of Meadow Clary. ‘INDIGO’, a deep rich purple-blue, has received the coveted Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. The ‘Meadow Ballet’ series is an excellent group, and includes ‘SWAN LAKE’ (pure white), ‘ROSE RHAPSODY’ (soft mauve-pink), ‘SWEET ESMERALDA’ (warm rich reddish violet), and ‘TWILIGHT SERENADE’ (soft violet blue). ‘MADELINE’ is a bi-coloured violet and white, and ‘MIDSUMMER’ is a pale violet-blue. There are numerous other pratensis cultivars available, especially in Germany, where the “meadow garden” incorporating ornamental grasses and grassland flowers is something of an art form. Some exciting new inter-specific crosses are being introduced which I will be watching for, such as a pratensis x sylvestris ‘ROYAL CRIMSON DISTINCTION’, a rich red-violet.

The original “unimproved” wild variety is also a very lovely thing!

Though the wild plants are reportedly very rare now in much of the former native range, Salvia pratensis and its cultivars are highly valued in ornamental gardens. I have grown this species and its cultivars for many years, and have found it easy, reliable and very lovely; it blooms with the earliest rugosa roses, and the rich violet blues, soft mauves and pure whites of the Meadow Clary set off the roses beautifully. Meadow Clary is also an excellent cutflower. Sun to very light shade; average soil & moisture. Drought tolerant once established. Mature plants are hardy and long lived, and self-sown seedlings are easy to either relocate to a desired location, or to weed out.

The plants will self-sow, but as the seeds take some time to fully ripen and drop, clipping off the bloom stalk when the last blossoms fall will prevent its seeding, if this is a concern. To purposely save seed for re-sowing, it is best to examine the maturing bloom stalks fairly frequently, and clip or pinch off the individual florets as the seeds, four small nutlets in a tight cluster, turn from tan to black. These should be further dried (I use paper lunch bags to allow for good air circulation) before storing away. Salvia pratensis germinates readily at warm temperatures, and the large seeds pressed gently into the surface of a flat of starter mix (light is beneficial to germination of all Salvias) should show sprouts within a few days.

Note: Though Meadow Clary has been grown worldwide in gardens for centuries as an ornamental, with the recent hyper-awareness regarding non-native (“exotic”) invasive species, there is some concern in parts of the United States that this species might naturalize and become a noxious weed in rangeland areas. It is therefore suggested that gardeners be aware of the self-seeding tendencies of their plants, and  prevent spread of Salvia pratensis (and, indeed, any ornamental plants) beyond the garden area. Clipping the bloom stalks after flowering is the best way to ensure this, though modest self-seeding within the perimeters of the garden is often encouraged by gardeners. I include this note not because I have found this species to be a problem in my garden, or in any others that I am aware off, but merely in the interests of “responsible gardening” at large.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »