Posts Tagged ‘Purple’

Monarda fistulosa - Lilac Bee Balm - July 2014 - Soda Creek, B.C. I see at least three insect visitors - these plants were a-buzz with nectar gatherers. Image: HFN

Monarda fistulosa – Lilac Bee Balm – growing in the wild – July 2014 – Soda Creek, B.C. I see three insect visitors on this one small flower cluster, including a wild bumblebee (Bombus sp.) – these plants were a-buzz with nectar gatherers the hot summer day these photos were taken. Image: HFN

Perennial. Zone 2. Lamiaceae. Native to North America, including the Okanagan, Thompson-Nicola, and Cariboo-Chilcotin regions of B.C.  A.k.a. HORSEMINT, PURPLE BEE BALM. Monarda was the name given to this species by Linnaeus, after the Spanish botanist Nicolas Monardes, who published a well-regarded treatise in 1574 describing the plants of the New World, though Monardes himself never travelled there, and worked from specimens collected by others. The Latin species name fistulosa = “hollow, pipe-like’, in reference to the tubular structure of the individual flowers.

This is a somewhat variable but always lovely species native to prairie and foothills ecosystems. It grows wild in the Cariboo-Chilcotin on dry hillsides and on the fringes of Douglas fir forest throughout the Fraser River corridor at least as far north as Marguerite.

Monarda fistulosa - Wild Bergamot - Soda Creek, B.C. - July 2014. Image: HFN

Monarda fistulosa – Wild Bergamot – Soda Creek, B.C. – July 2014. Image: HFN

2014 was a stellar summer in our area for Wild Bergamot and many other wildflowers. The hillsides around Soda Creek were ablaze with purple for weeks in June and July, as the bloom times of the aster-like native Showy Fleabane, Erigeron speciosus, overlapped with that of the Monarda.

The First Nations peoples of the areas where Monarda fistulosa grows thought very highly of it as a useful plant. The strongly aromatic foliage, which is high in the compound thymol, was used in cooking and medicine, as a tea, insect repellant and smudge ingredient. European settlers appreciated it as well, in particular using it as a tea ingredient; the “bergamot” of the common name refers to the similarity of this species aroma and flavour to that of the Bergamot Orange (Citrus bergamia) essential oil which gives Earl Grey Tea its distinctive character.

Wild Bergamot was adopted into domestic gardens as soon as specimens made it back to Europe and England, for its usefulness as well as its considerable beauty. Monarda fistulosa has been widely used in hybridization with others of the genus, in particular the showy Scarlet Beebalm, Monarda didyma, to produce a number of stellar Beebalm cultivars, such as ‘Violet Queen’, and the wonderful ‘Blue Stocking’.

Monarda fistulosa is a grand garden plant in our area, and particularly useful in xeriscape plantings, though it also appreciates the richer, moister climate of the traditional perennial border.

Monarda fistulosa - bee balm with a butterfly visitor - July 2014 - Soda Creek, B.C. Image: HFN

Monarda fistulosa – bee balm with a butterfly visitor  – Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui – July 2014 – Soda Creek, B.C. Image: HFN

Sturdy clumps of 24 to 36 inch tall, square-sided, leafy stems are topped by large whorled clusters of pale lilac-purple “dragon’s head” blooms in summer. Shades range from almost-white palest lilac to a rich rosy purple; the norm is the shade shown in these images.

The common name Bee Balm is very apt; these plants are highly attractive to bees of all sorts, to butterflies, and to hummingbirds. The tubular blooms are rich in nectar, and on sunny days the clusters are busy places, being “worked” flower by flower neatly around the floral ring by various foragers.

The Herb Society of America chose Wild Bergamot, Monarda fisulosa, as its Notable Native of 2013.

Sun, average conditions. Very drought tolerant once established.

This species can be afflicted by the fungal powdery mildew in very dry years; cut back affected plants and dispose of the clippings away from the garden – do not compost – to reduce its future occurrence. Occasional supplemental watering in very dry years, even in your drought-resistant xeriscape plantings, will strengthen plants and prevent such problems from occurring.

As individual blossoms mature, they drop away, exposing the central crown of the maturing seed head. Image: HFN

As individual blossoms mature, they drop away, exposing the central crown of the maturing seed head. Image: HFN

Last year's seed heads are an interesting architectural feature of this wild clump. Note the geometric precision of the assembly of tiny seed cups. Image: HFN

Last year’s seed heads are an interesting architectural feature of this wild clump. Note the geometric precision of the assembly of tiny seed cups. Image: HFN

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Viola riviniana - Van Dusen Garden, Vancouver, B.C. - June 2011. Image: HFN

Viola labradorica ‘purpurea’/Viola riviniana ‘Purple Group’ – “Labrador Violet” – Van Dusen Garden, Vancouver, B.C. – June 2011. Image: HFN

Perennial. Zone 2. Violaceae. Eastern North America, or possibly Europe.

There presently exists some confusion among botanists as to whether the plant widely distributed in the plant trade as Viola labradorica (from eastern North America, including Labrador, and also in Greenland) is actually a very similar European species, Viola riviniana. Until the final verdict is in, there seems to be a broad agreement to keep calling this pretty little violet by the best-known common name, Labrador Violet.

Whatever the classification, it is most garden-worthy.

Viola labradorica 'purpurea Van Dusen Garden, Vancouver, B.C. - April 8, 2014. Image: HFN

Viola labradorica ‘purpurea’/Viola riviniana ‘Purple Group’ – Van Dusen Garden, Vancouver, B.C. – April 8, 2014. New spring foliage is darkest in colour, and decidedly glossy in texture. Image: HFN

The most instantly noticeable thing about this violet is its silken-textured red-purple flushed foliage. This is particularly noticeable in early spring, but the foliage remains dark-blushed all summer, with deeper shades developing in autumn. Plants reach 6 inches or so tall, and spread in a gently determined sort of way to form substantial colonies. It self-seeds about quite abundantly, but the young plants are easy to transplant or pull out if they overstep their allotted bounds.

Classic small purple violet flowers are produced in great abundance in spring and early summer. Sadly, these are not noticeably fragrant, but they are beautifully decorative. A hardy and attractive groundcover for under ferns, taller perennials, and shrubs, or in the nooks and crannies of rockwork.

Labrador Violet is content in sun to deep shade, in average soil with some summer moisture.

Viola labradorica purpurea (?) - "Labrador Violet" - May 2014, Hill Farm. Image: HFN

Viola labradorica purpurea (?) – “Labrador Violet” in a lush carpet under an old apple tree – note the fallen petals – May 2014, Hill Farm. Image: HFN

Another look at this pretty plant - "Labrador Violet" - May 2014. Image: HFN

Another, closer look at this pretty plant (and possible imposter) – “Labrador Violet” – May 2014. Image: HFN

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Star-of-Persia - Allium christophii - June 6, 2014

Star-of-Persia – Allium christophii. Summerland, B.C., June 6, 2014. Image: HFN

Perennial. Zone 4. Liliaceae. Syn. Allium albopilosum Originally native to Iran, Turkey, and central Asia – general region of ancient Persia.  This lovely plant has been grown in western gardens since its first introduction to England in 1884.

I first grew this beautiful ornamental onion over 20 years ago, and I well remember how the reality of it exceeded my already high expectations. It is a wonderful thing.

This is a spectacular allium, gorgeous in all its stages, bud to bloom to seed head. Clumps of long (to 20 inches), grey-green, strap-shaped leaves appear in early spring, soon followed by 12 to 24 inch stalks topped by a quickly expanding sheathed bud, which explodes in late May into a huge bloom cluster – up to 12 inches in diameter – which consists of many pale lavender star flowers.

Allium christophii - unfolding star flowers - a beautifully fascinating process. Image: HFN

Allium christophii – unfolding star flowers – a beautifully fascinating process. Image: HFN

These continue to look good for weeks, gradually transfiguring into plump green seed pods, which can be left alone to eventually dry in place, giving a rather surreal accent to the border. (Or they can be harvested just as they start to turn yellow and hung to dry as unique everlastings.) The fresh and green seed stage blooms are wonderful as cutflowers, too.

The foliage quickly withers and is gone by midsummer, by which time other plants have filled in to hide the yellowing leaves. Where happy, on well-drained soil in full sun, these bulbs will slowly reproduce to form an increasingly large colony.

Bulbs may be lifted in midsummer to early fall, and (if they have formed a cluster) separated and replanted. Because of the size of the blooms, it is best to space them fairly generously, up to a foot apart, or a bit closer if you are going for a cluster effect.

Sun; average soil & moisture. Quite drought tolerant. Appreciates good drainage.

A flourishing colony of Star-of-Persia in the Summerland Ornamental Garden. June, 2014. Image: HFN

A flourishing colony of Star-of-Persia in the Summerland Ornamental Garden. June, 2014. Image: HFN

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physostegia variegate fall 2011

Variegated Obedient Plant – Physostegia virginiana ‘variegata’ – Hill Farm, late September 2011. Image: HFN

Perennial. Zone 3. Lamiaceae.  The species is native to eastern North America. This cultivar is a stabilized sport and is found only in gardens.

Clump former to 3 or 4 feet tall. Spreads slowly by creeping rootstalks. Sun to light shade; any soil fine; appreciates summer moisture in hot regions.

The genus name comes from the Greek: physa = bladder and stege = covering, referring to the inflated calyx at the base of each floret.  The common name comes from the hinged sockets which attach each floret to the main cluster; these can be gently twisted and turned, with the new configuration remaining for a few moments until the bloom slowly returns to its original position.

This handsome plant is one of my favourite fall bloomers. It starts to send out intricate bud spikes in August; these slowly extend and enlarge until mid-September when the first bright purple, cheerfully freckled, snapdragon-like flowers start to open. It is in peak bloom by Canadian Thanksgiving, lighting up the garden in stunning contrast to the yellowing foliage of the perennials around it.

physostegia variegate sept 2011

Variegated Obedient Plant reaches full glory as its garden neighbours start to fade, setting off their yellowing foliage to perfection. Here at Hill Farm it shares a bed with tall Joe-Pye Weed, Eupatorium purpureum, another eastern wildflower, taking over the show as its neighbour goes to seed. Image: HFN

Very cold tolerant, and lasts until the hardest frosts which finally blacken it in November.

In its native habitat Obedient Plant is found in meadows, open woodlands, and along stream banks. It is very adaptable, though it prefers not to be too dry in summer. The variegated cultivar is restrained in its spread, though it will expand to a sizable clump over the years. Keep an eye on more delicate neighbours. My treasured clump is due for division soon, as it is finally encroaching on its companion, an equally treasured clump of early spring blooming Liverleaf, Hepatica nobilis, after growing side by side with no conflict for the past 5 years.

Reaching a respectable 4 feet tall where happy, this plant tends to flop under the weight of its bloom spikes, so an unobtrusive staking mid-summer is a good idea. Years when I forget to do this I am punished for my neglect by the snapping off of full-flowered bloom stalks at their bases. Luckily it makes an excellent cutflower so all is not lost; however its value in the garden exceeds any bouquet so this is a situation one should strive to prevent.

As with many variegated plants, it is not as vigorous as its plainer relatives, so will take a few years to reach its full potential. The plus side of this is that it is very maintenance free, despite the staking recommendation and the occasional need for curbing/division in full maturity. Physostegia virginiana in all of its varieties is long-lived, and completely pest and disease free.

A grand plant, not terribly common in Cariboo-Chilcotin gardens, but very suitable for our conditions.

physostegia variegata close up 2 sept oct 2011

Just coming into bloom, September 2, 2011. Image: HFN

physostegia foliage detail variegata august 2011

The variegation extends to every part of the plant, including the intricately symmetrical bud spikes which start to form in August. Image: HFN

physostegia variegate close up 2 oct 2012

Another detail of the fascinating blooms and white foliar variegation. Hill Farm, October 2, 2012. 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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Wild Four-O-Clocks - Mirabilis nyctaginea. Spences Bridge, B.C. May 30, 2014.

Wild Four-O-Clocks – Mirabilis nyctaginea. Spences Bridge, B.C. May 30, 2014. Image: HFN

Perennial. Zone 6, possibly colder. Nyctaginaceae. A.k.a. Heart-Leaved Four-O’Clock, Umbrellawort. Native to the Great Plains of the United States, as well as southern regions of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario. Isolated introduced populations found throughout B.C., Alberta and Quebec.

On a recent road trip, heading through the arid rangelands and rolling hills south of Cache Creek and following the Thompson River’s deeply carved valley as it heads towards its spectacular rendezvous with the Fraser at Lytton, my attention was caught by several tall clumps of lush, dark green foliage, showing clusters of small but vivid magenta-pink blooms. Pulling over in a wide spot on the road, I looped back to take a closer look.

An initial examination of the flower structure and foliage gave me an “Aha!” moment. Could this possibly be wild four-o’clocks? It wasn’t in any of the wildflower field guides I had along, nor, when back home, in my trusty and comprehensive Lewis J. Clark’s Wild Flowers of British Columbia, but an internet search yielded an immediate confirmation.

Plant habit is eye-catching, in this case because of its unexpectedly lush greenness set against a background of silver-green sagebrush and bunchgrass-tufted hills.

Near Spences Bridge, May 30, 2014. Plant habit is eye-catching, in this case because of its unexpectedly lush greenness set against a background of silver-green sagebrush and bunchgrass-tufted hills. Image: HFN

My online research yielded these details.

The plants grow in vigorous clumps from 1 to 3 feet tall (these were about 2 feet tall), with broad, heart-shaped, opposite leaves clasping the angle-sided stems. Flower clusters show green bracts at the bases of the tubular flowers, which are of a bright magenta pink. Stamens are also magenta, tipped with yellow pollen. After flowering, the bracts enlarge into a papery “umbrella” centered by a cluster of large, rather hairy nutlet-type seed. These bracts then act as parachutes during the seed dispersion stage.

The plant forms a large, tuberous tap-root, which extends a foot or more into the soil, allowing the plant to thrive in arid conditions. This root is what has led this plant to be classified as a weed-of-concern in some regions, as it is very hard to eradicate once established, being highly herbicide resistant, and able to resprout from root fragments left in the soil after pulling. (And of course the wind-dispersed seeds would also be a major factor in its ability to spread, especially in areas of disturbed soil.)

The sweet-tasting roots of this plant were used by indigenous peoples as a poultice for skin ailments and burns, and as a medicinal tea to expel worms, and to treat fevers and bladder complaints. Though pigs apparently dig up and eat the roots with great relish – they are recommended for eradication in agricultural infestations – there is some speculation that Mirabilis nyctaginea may contain some mildly toxic alkaloids, so experimentation with herbal use is not advised.

I suspect that this plant would not be winter hardy in the Cariboo-Chilcotin, but it might well succeed as an annual, as its domestic relative, the lovely and fragrant Mirabilis jalapa (the commonly grown garden flower Four-O’Clocks, or Marvel-of-Peru) blooms generously as a summer-flowering annual, and forms a similar fleshy root which does not withstand freezing soil.

While decidedly pretty in a low-key way, Mirabilis nyctaginea is not particularly showy, and reports of its “weedy” tendencies would make me cautious to recommend this plant, though it might be an interesting addition to a wildflower planting if one is feeling adventurous, and is prepared to remove seedheads before they can disperse. Seed is often available for this plant through botanical seed exchanges, and commercially through some specialist native plant seed houses.

Near Spences Bridge, B.C. May 30, 2014.

Near Spences Bridge, B.C. May 30, 2014. Image: HFN

 

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Viola elatior - Tall Woodland Violet - Hill Farm, Macalister, B.C. - May 23, 2014. One-year-old seed-grown plants.

Viola elatior – Tall Woodland Violet – Hill Farm, Macalister, B.C. – May 23, 2014. One-year-old seed-grown plants. Image: HFN

Perennial. Zone 4. Violaceae. Syn. Viola erecta; V. montana. Central and Eastern Europe, from Northern Italy and France east to Siberia and Northwest China. Natural habitat is sunny marsh meadows, moist woodland, and rocky water edges.

This charming Old World woodland flower has taken to garden life with great success, and is a popular item in the various specialty garden society seed exchanges, which may ultimately save this species from extinction. Tall Woodland Violet is becoming very rare now in much of its native habitat, due to agriculture and urban development pressures.

The plant habit is an upright clump of very elongated, bright green, thinly-heart-shaped foliage. The effect is rather shrubby in well-established plants. It may reach 18 inches in height where conditions are just right; even if shorter the plant habit is very upright versus spreading. Plants are completely herbaceous, and die to the ground in winter.

The centres of these violets are a pristine white, giving a two-tone effect which is accentuated as the bloom edges darken with age.

The centres of these violets are a pristine white, giving a two-tone effect which is accentuated as the bloom edges darken with age. Image: HFN

In May and June generous numbers of pale purple, 1-inch violets with white central shading and beards and dark purple whiskers are produced. Some references mention mild fragrance; others declare Viola elatior scentless. I checked mine, and couldn’t detect any aroma, so will assume that noticeable scent is not a general characteristic of this species.

The overall effect of this pretty violet is that of quiet elegance. Just the thing for a not-too-dry corner of the rockery, to set off lower-growing plants such as the miniature campanulas or Oenothera minima, or to follow small spring bulbs.

Sun to part shade; appreciates humus-rich soils. Best with a steady supply of moisture, though it will handle dryer conditions if grown in shade.

 

 

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