Posts Tagged ‘Summer’

Leontopodium alpinum - Alpine Edelweiss - Williams Lake, July 2014. Image: HFN

Leontopodium alpinum – Alpine Edelweiss – Williams Lake, B.C., July 2014. Image: HFN

Perennial. Zone 3. Asteraceae, formerly known as Compositae. Widespread in European and North Asian mountain regions. Perhaps most famously this plant is found the Swiss-Austrian-Bavarian Alps, where much of the popular culture folklore surrounding it has originated. Leontopodium is a Latin translation from the Greek and literally means “lion’s paw”, for the shape of the flowers. This appearance is also noted in the local common name, Chatzen-Talpen, Swiss-German for “cat’s paw”. Alpinum is self explanatory. The common name Edelweiss is from the German: edel = noble, and weiss = white.

This small alpine plant has a fascinating history. It was something of a Victorian era symbol of bravery and devotion, for the flower was reputed to bloom only in the most inaccessible alpine regions. Fetching a bloom for one’s loved one to wear on her bosom proved your courage and dedication beyond doubt. This was something of a fictional fabrication, as the plants were not terribly rare or particularly hard to access, until the tourist boom in alpine climbing in the 1800s and over-picking as a souvenir caused heavy pressure on the species. It is now a protected plant throughout its native ranges.

Edelweiss was used as a military badge device by various European alpine countries, and, during World War II, ironically both by German special forces and by anti-Nazi youth groups in Germany.

Edelweiss is now perhaps most strongly associated with Switzerland, though its range spreads far beyond the Swiss Alps. It appears on mountaineering club badges, coats of arms, and of course all sorts of tourist merchandise and handicrafts.

And of course then there is “that song”, made famous in American popular culture by the Hollywood musical “The Sound of Music”, with its sentimental ode to the little alpine flower crooned lovingly by Julie Andrews and a troupe of winsome children.

How does this plant live up to the romance of its legend, one might ask oneself. Is it really that special? I think it depends on each gardener’s susceptibility to imaginative and emotional associations. I do know that I have sold a goodly number of these to Swiss expatriate gardeners over the years, their general reaction when spotting these on the table at the Farmers’ Markets we attend throughout the Cariboo being something like “Ah! Edelweiss! Wonderful! How many do you have?!”

It is rather a sweet little thing, with the added appeal of being a grand everlasting. The wooly flowers dry perfectly, and always remind me of tiny white starfish.

Tidy clumps of densely fuzzy, pale green foliage send up many 6 to 8 inch tall stems topped by clusters of woolly-white star-shaped blooms in summer. These last for a very long time in the garden, and, as just mentioned, make excellent everlastings. A very soft and appealing flower.

Leontopodium alpinum is perhaps happiest in a rockery or on a slight slope at the border edge; it appreciates sharp drainage. Any average soil will do, with some summer moisture appreciated. Full sun is best, to very light shade.

For the dedicated rock gardeners, it is worth noting that are quite a number of excellent Leontopodium species, from tiny ground-huggers to substantial clumpers up to a foot tall, hailing from a wide array of mountain ranges, including the Himalayas. Alpine garden club seed exchanges are a rich resource if seeking these out.

Not a long-lived plant by nature, Edelweiss often fades away after a few years. It is a profuse bloomer and this sometimes causes the plant to not have enough resources to overwinter after a few seasons of pushing out an endless succession of flowers. One may allow a few blooms to mature seed to collect for re-sowing indoors in early spring. I have never noticed self-sown seedlings, though in a less crowded garden than my own and with a certain amount of care and attention I suspect one could create a naturalized, self-maintaining colony of this easy little alpine.

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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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Perennial Sweet Pea - Lathyrus latifolius - naturalized at Pitt Lake, near Maple Ridge, B.C., August 2011.

Perennial Sweet Pea – Lathyrus latifolius – naturalized along the shores of  Pitt Lake, near Maple Ridge, B.C., August 2011. Image: HFN

Perennial Herbaceous Vine. Zone 3. Fabaceae, formerly Leguminosae.  Originally native to Southern Europe, now sometimes seen naturalized in disturbed-soil areas as a garden escapee throughout Europe, Great Britain, and parts of North America, including coastal British Columbia. Lathyrus is from the Greek lathyros, pea; latifolius from the Latin latus + folium, wide + leaf.

Clump former to 18 inches wide; sprawls or climbs 3 to 6 feet tall by twining tendrils in the leaf axils. Fine in average soil and moisture; prefers full sun. Established plants are reasonably drought tolerant, but thrives best with summer moisture and fertile soil.

This pretty climber/sprawler is rather rare in Cariboo-Chilcotin gardens, but I have seen it thriving often enough here and there in Zone 3 and 4 Williams Lake and Quesnel area plantings to be able to confidently recommend its hardiness and adaptability.

The plant forms a vigorous clump of rapidly elongating stems lined with paired, blue-green leaflets. Bloom stalks and twining tendrils emerge from the leaf axils as the stems lengthen. Clusters of very showy, sweet pea-like flowers bloom for a long period June through August, and are followed by typical large, flat pea-pods filled with big round seeds. (These are not considered edible, by the way, and occasionally are referenced as “poisonous”, though I have not seen any mention of actual incidents of poisoning.)

Sadly, the “sweet” reference is merely to its similar appearance to the highly fragrant annual sweet pea, Lathyrus odoratus, as Perennial Sweet Pea is not noticeably fragrant.

Vines reach 3 to 6 feet long – tallest where it can climb, and where grown in moist, fertile soil – and either sprawl along the ground or twine their way up whatever support they can find. Very nice grown on a bank where it can cascade, or on a sturdy trellis or garden obelisk arrangement. Vines are completely herbaceous, and die back to the ground in the winter, to re-sprout in spring. Sometimes late to emerge, so keep an eye out for it when digging about in the spring garden.

A very long-lived plant, which should be sited where it can remain as it does not transplant well. It may self sow, but though definitely a “survivor” where established, it is not aggressive and is not considered an invasive plant in our climate, though it is occasionally seen as a naturalized garden escapee in disturbed soil areas along coastal British Columbian roadsides where it has joined other exotics such as butterfly bush (Buddleja sp.), touch-me-not (Impatiens sp.), and the ubiquitous Himalayan Blackberries.

Lathyrus latifolius naturalized along the shoreline roadway at Pitt Lake, near Maple Ridge, B.C. August, 2011.

Lathyrus latifolius naturalized along the shoreline roadway at Pitt Lake, near Maple Ridge, B.C. August, 2011. Image: HFN

Lathyrus latifolius has been grown as a prized garden flower for centuries throughout Europe and the British Isles, and in North American colonial plantings, and the pink strain appears in the 1801 species inventory of Thomas Jefferson’s famed Monticello garden.

This plant often shows up on old herb garden lists, but no medicinal uses are recorded. Apparently the foliage was occasionally used as a pot herb, and the seeds cooked and consumed for their high protein content, but present-day consumption is definitely NOT recommended, as the seeds of some of the species in the Lathyrus genus do contain potentially harmful amino aids. Best to enjoy it for its beauty alone, as most of our gardening predecessors did.

Many species of bees and butterflies visit the flowers in search of nectar, as do occasional questing hummingbirds, but the floral structure is designed for pollination by bumblebees, as they alone are strong enough to part the keel petals which enclose the reproductive parts of the blooms.

Three old-fashioned named strains are still available; all are very lovely. ‘RED PEARL’  – rich carmine pink. ‘ROSE PEARL’ aka ‘PINK BEAUTY’ – pale pink flushed darker at petal edges. ‘WHITE PEARL’ – pristine snow white.

Lathyrus latifolius - Perennial Sweet Pea - 'Red Pearl'

Lathyrus latifolius – typical of  ‘Red Pearl’ colour strain – Maple Ridge, August 2011. Image: HFN

 

 

 

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

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

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

A dainty and lovely biennial.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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Yellowtuft Alyssum - Alyssum murale - Agriculture Canada Research Station, Summerland, B.C., June 7, 2014.

Yellowtuft Alyssum – Alyssum murale – Agriculture Canada Research Station, Summerland, B.C., June 7, 2014. Image: HFN

Perennial. Zone 5, and probably colder. Brassicacea. Syn. Alyssum argenteum, A. chalcidicum. A.k.a. Rock Alyssum, Wall Alyssum. Native to the Mediterranean and Eurasia, where it is locally abundant on mineral-rich serpentine soils.  Introduced populations found in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California, where the plant has escaped cultivation from its experimental use as a heavy metal hyperaccumulator species being tested for use in mine reclamation.

On a recent trip to the Okanagan we stopped to explore the Summerland Ornamental Gardens located at the Agriculture Canada Research Station in Summerland, just outside of Penticton.

Established almost a century ago, in 1916, the gardens served as a testing ground for the local suitability of ornamental trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants. When the ornamental horticulture programs of the Station were phased out in the 1980s, the gardens seriously deteriorated through lack of maintenance. Luckily a community organization was formed to rescue the gardens from complete dissolution, and the result of thousands of hours of mostly volunteer labour is visible in the well maintained and updated plantings, in particular an ambitious and beautifully landscaped hillside xeriscape garden.

Lovely as the cultivated area of the Gardens are, though, we found some of the most interesting areas to be those on the outskirts of the manmade plantings, where the wild and the tame meet, with rather telling results. Domestic roses, clumps of iris, peonies and other old garden stalwarts flourish unpruned and gloriously untidy amidst the native grasses, and the steep sides of the Trout Creek ravine are starred with fragrant dianthus flowers obviously self-seeded from cultivars grown in the garden above.

Naturalized dianthus sp., just under the Kettle Valley Railway trestle over the Trout Creek ravine, Summerland Ornamental Gardens. We were visiting early in he morning, and the sun was just warming the ground, and the spicy fragrance of the dianthus flowers was astonishing in its clarity and reach.

Naturalized Dianthus species, just under the Kettle Valley Railway trestle over the Trout Creek ravine, Summerland Ornamental Gardens. We were visiting early in the morning, and the sun was just reaching the hillside, and the spicy fragrance of the dianthus flowers was astonishing in its clarity and reach. Image: HFN

And there was this unusual plant, which I didn’t recognize, at first thinking it might be some sort of Galium (Bedstraw) species, but on closer examination realizing that it did not fit into that family after all, for though the flowers were small and four-petalled and the leaf arrangement generally whorled, the bloomhead was more of an umbel than a spike, and the aged seedpods were round and silver. What could it be?

The mystery plant, showing cloudy yellow blooms, silver seedpods and a sturdy, tufting habit. Obviously a survivor, as it was happily growing among grasses and on the steep and eroding hillside. Wildflower, or another garden escapee?

The mystery plant, early morning under the shade of the Ponderosa pines at Summerland, B.C., June 8, 2014, showing cloudy yellow blooms, silver seedpods and a sturdy, tufting habit. Obviously a survivor, as it was happily growing among grasses and on the steep and eroding hillside. Wildflower, or another garden escapee? Image: HFN

One of the first things I did upon my return home was to search out the plant in my wildflower books. This was unsuccessful, so I turned to the internet, where I soon made a positive identification. The mystery plant is an exotic escapee, and a rather worrisome one at that, being classified as a noxious weed in several U.S. states due to its rapid spread in biologically sensitive ecosystems and its potential toxicity to livestock.

Alyssum murale, Yellowtuft Alyssum, is a native of Mediterranean regions, through central and southeastern Europe, being particularly common in Romania and Albania. It has been grown as an ornamental in North America for at least a century, being a prized rockery plant grown for its attractive habit and long bloom period.

Alyssum murale showing clump-forming habit and umbel arrangement of the flowers. Summerland, June 7, 2014.

Alyssum murale showing clump-forming habit and umbel arrangement of the flowers. Summerland, June 7, 2014. Image: HFN

The plant is clump-forming, with multiple stems reaching from one to three feet tall. (The Summerland plants were about a foot tall; the three-foot height might be attained under cultivation with supplementary water and fertilization.) Yellow flowers in generous umbels appear in late May, and bloom for several months. Stems are covered by fine white hairs, and show a variable red coloration on the older portions. Seeds are produced in clusters of round or oval flattened fruits, with an ornamental, silver-grey, papery silicle persisting after the outer sheaths and the large, flat black seed is dropped.

Undoubted visual appeal aside, Alyssum murale has some other qualities which make it both potentially valuable as a commercial crop and dangerous as an invasive.

The species is unique in that it has an extremely high tolerance to heavy metals in the soil, in particular copper, chromium and nickel, and it actually functions as a hyperaccumlator of these metals, uptaking them during the growth period and concentrating them in intense quantities in its stems, shoots and foliage.

In certain parts of Europe the plant is deliberately cultivated in a process referred to as phytomining, where the plants are cultivated on mineral-rich soils, and then harvested and burned, with the ashes being further refined to yield the desirable metals. Within the last decade, the plant has received serious study in North America as a potentially useful species for mine reclamation work, being planted on tailings areas to take up excess potentially toxic heavy metals; the plants are then removed and burned, yielding a small but significant amount of usable metals. The process is repeated until the site shows a marked reduction in the minerals-of-concern.

This unique adaptation of Alyssum murale becomes a drawback when the plant is consumed by wildlife or livestock, as it then becomes a highly toxic meal.

Alyssum murale is a generous seed producer and is highly drought tolerant and very adaptable to native soils, and has escaped from cultivation in areas where it is or was being tested and used in the mining industry, to become a vigorous invasive weed in some sensitive ecosystems in the western U.S. states.

I wonder where the Summerland Alyssum murale population originated? Is it an escapee from the research station, or from the ornamental plantings of the garden?

It is a rather pretty thing, and I can definitely see its appeal as a garden flower. It has apparently been grown as a desirable and problem-free ornamental throughout North America, Europe and Great Britain since its first collection and distribution by botanists in the late 1700s, but its new reputation as an invasive escapee from industrial applications does give serious pause when contemplating acquiring it for one’s own garden…

 

Alyssum murale naturalized among native grasses and cow vetch (Vicia cracca), fringes of the Summerland Ornamental Gardens, June 7, 2014.

Alyssum murale naturalized among native grasses and cow vetch (Vicia cracca), growing on the fringes of the Summerland Ornamental Gardens, June 7, 2014. 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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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.

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

 

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