Archive for the ‘White’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sun; well-drained soil; drought tolerant.

 

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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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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.

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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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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

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