Posts Tagged ‘Biennial’

Biennial/Monocarpic Perennial. Zone 3. Campanulaceae. Bosnia and Herzegovina. Syn. Campanula hofmannii. A.k.a. PENDULOUS BELLFLOWER, HOFMANN’S RINGED BELLFLOWER.

Most people are not terribly familiar with any of the Symphyandra, for while they are widely grown in botanic and alpine gardens, the genus is rather rare in the mainstream plant trade. But there are many keen gardeners who grow the various species with great pleasure, including well-known British Columbia garden writer, Helen Chestnut. Here is what she had to say in her column in the Victoria Times Colonist, July 17, 2008:

The description of a Campanula relative, Symphyandra hofmannii (pendulous bellflower), in a 2006 seed catalogue caught my attention. Placed in the front garden early last summer, the plants resulting from those seeds are pure enchantment this summer. They have grown to form slender pyramids of soft leaves and stems heavily hung with large, creamy white, bell-shaped flowers. My plants are about 40 cm (16 inches) high. They are very unusual, and utterly charming.

“Charming” is indeed an apt word for this quietly pretty flower, in any of its dozen or so species. Symphyandra hofmannii is particularly nice.

The plant is monocarpic, which means it dies after flowering and setting seed, and therefore is generally classed among the biennials.

The first year long-leaved, rather wrinkly foliage rosettes form. The second year brings the bloom. Many upright-to-gently-arching 12 to 18 inch long stems arise from the basal clump. These are lined with inflated, down-facing buds, which open into a succession of large, ivory white blooms for a long period in summer.

Symphyandra hofmannii is happy in sun to part shade, in good soil with average moisture. It will set seed generously, and may be allowed to self sow to perpetuate itself in the garden. Clipping off the bloom stalks before seed matures may allow another season of bloom, but then again your plant may decide to expire without replicating itself, having done its best to bloom itself to death as its nature intends it to, so I don’t recommend this.

A note on nomenclature:

Symphyandra is as close as close to Campanula. In fact, by the time of this writing, the genera may again be combined, as botanists play their endless game of familial and generic splitting and lumping, aided (encouraged?) by botanical DNA analysts.

What separates the sheep from the goats – er – the Symphyandra from the Campanula – is a small detail regarding the anthers, the parts of a flower’s stamen which produces pollen. In Campanula the anthers are separate. In Symphyandra they are united to form a tube surrounding the style. (I should probably stop here, unless I want to add diagrams. Probably too much information already!) In any event, this explains the genus name, from the Greek symphio – “to grow together” – and andros – “anther”.

The specific name commemorates botanist Florian Hoffmann, who collected this plant in the mountains of Yugoslavia in the late 19th Century; the name was first assigned in 1881.

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Biennial. Zone 2. Caryophyllaceae. Dianthus barbatus originated in the mountains of southern Europe.

‘Sooty’ is often billed as the “black” Sweet William, but in reality it is a deep, rich crimson, with nicely contrasting pure white stamens. Though ‘Sooty’ is often described as “new and improved”, in reality it is almost indistinguishable in my experience from the venerable English heirloom variety, ‘Dunnett’s Deep Crimson’, introduced in the late 1800s.

Many heads of clove-fragranced, velvety crimson flowers are produced in midsummer of the plant’s second year. Foliage shows a distinctive dark red blush, as do stems, particularly at the leaf joints. ‘Sooty’ tends not to be as tall or as substantial in form as many of the other traditional Sweet Williams, reaching only 12 to 18 inches tall, and proving occasionally rather lax in habit.

‘Sooty’ blooms for a fairly extended time. You may get a few flowers in autumn of its first year, but the best show comes in year two, when the cluster-heads bristling with dark-blushed, sharply pointed, modified leaflets unfold their blooms from early June and well into summer. For continued flower production, promptly deadhead when the clusters finally fade, or harvest at peak perfection for bouquets.

Something of a curiousity in the garden, though a very pleasant one.

I must confess that I have sometimes found ‘Sooty’ a little difficult to place. Self-sown seedlings generally manage to find a niche where they can blend well with their neighbours, but my greatest success with Sweet Williams in general, including ‘Sooty’, was way back when I grew ambitious vegetable gardens, which always included several rows of annual flowers for cutting. For a few years I included “biennial rows” which I planted out in late summer, full of Sweet Williams and Canterbury Bells and their like. With abundant fertility and regular watering, these bloomed the following spring and summer with great vigour, providing armfuls of flowers for arrangements. In the mixed border, fighting it out for growing space among various companions, I find that the Sweet Williams don’t reach such majestic proportions as when treated more as “crop” plants.

A true biennial which may carry on by offsets, but usually by self-seeding, so allow a few bloom heads to mature seed to re-sow.

Sun is best, though light shade is tolerated.  Good soil and moisture are appreciated.

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Biennial or short-lived perennial. Zone 2. Brassicaceae. Syn. Cheiranthus x marshallii. Despite the common name, Siberian Wallflower is most accurately described as originating in England. It was a deliberate cross made by John Marshall in 1846 between Erysimum perofskianum, originally native to the Middle East, in specific Persia, and E. decumbens, from northern Spain, the Pyrenees and the southwestern Alps.

The Brassica Family makes up for its generally utilitarian foliage – think of the humble cabbage, and kale, and all of the mustards, not to mention the inconspicuous foliage of our cottage garden stalwarts such as Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis) and Stocks (Matthiola) – by frequently having the sweetest scented of flowers. The Wallflowers surpass all of their relatives in this characteristic, being famously planted in combination with less-fragrant spring bulbs such as tulips, both for the contrasting beauty of their velvety flowers and for their outpouring of honey-rich, spicy fragrance.

Sadly, the “traditional” English wallflowers, Cheiranthus/Erysimum cheiri, with their large blooms in shades of antique red and rich brown, copper, cream and crimson are not reliably hardy in our Canadian climate, unless one happens to live in gentler-wintered regions such as B.C.’s lower mainland. The Siberian Wallflower happily steps in to fulfill the role of its more delicate cousin for us Northerners, and it does so in a most eye-catching and deliciously fragrant way.

Siberian Wallflower is technically a biennial, but I have had it flower profusely in its first year from early-sown seed. From fast-growing clumps of strap-shaped foliage sprouted in early March, an abundance of bud clusters appear in May, which quickly pop open in an endless succession of very fragrant, absolutely neon-bright orange blooms well into mid-summer.

The plants elongate and get a bit weedy looking as summer advances, but it is best to ignore this and leave at least a few plants to mature their seeds, because this pretty flower is quite happy to establish itself as a self-sowing permanent resident in the garden. It naturalizes quite nicely; we’ve seen it used among other wildflowers as a bank erosion planting, as well as in more traditional plantings.

Despite the self-sowing trait, it is considered non-invasive; seedlings are shallow rooted and very easy to eliminate, but are generally welcome wherever they appear, or you can clip the plants back after blooming.

Siberian Wallflower is a fairly modest thing, size-wise, growing about a foot or so tall. It is easy to tuck in here and there where its vibrant colour will accent other spring and early summer flowers, and it harmonizes particularly beautifully with its fellow biennial Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis), the warm orange and cool sky blue proving the artistic theory of contrasting colours to be a Very Good Thing in the garden as well as on the canvas.

Siberian Wallflower is occasionally offered in a bright yellow variation, ‘Citrona Yellow’, and in a number of other named strains in various degrees of yellow, gold and orange.

Full sun is preferred, and any sort of soil. Thrives with average fertility and watering care, and is quite drought tolerant once established.

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