Posts Tagged ‘White’

Campanula cochlearifolia - Image: HFN

Campanula cochlearifolia Fairies’ Thimble Bellflower – Prince George, B.C., June 2014. Image: HFN

Perennial. Zone 2. Campanulaceae. European Alps. Syn. Campanula pusilla, C. bellardii, C. pumila. A.k.a. SPIRAL BELLFLOWER. Cochlearifolia is from the Latin cochlear, (from the Greek kochlarion), meaning “spoon”, in reference to the shape of the delicate, inwardly curved, mat-forming basal leaves.

Probably the most popular of the alpine bluebells, and rightly so, for this wee plant is utterly adorable. Tiny, heart-shaped leaves arising from shallow-rooted, wiry rhizomes form an ever-expanding mat of foliage. From this arise numerous 2 to 3 inch stems topped by perfect, tiny, shyly nodding bellflowers from June until August, in varying shades of soft violet blue, and occasionally pure white.

A number of named varieties of this little beauty are available, as well as the species type. All are excellent, though the “improved” varieties have unavoidably lost as bit of the charm of their petite ancestor, tending to have lusher, more upright foliage and a more “tuft-forming” habit.

Newer cultivars ‘Bavarian Blue’ and ‘Bavarian White’ tend to be larger in all of their parts than the species, to 6 inches tall. You may also come across ‘Alpine Breeze’ (blue, very vigorous, with larger-than-the-species foliage), and the self-explanatory ‘Baby Blue’ and Baby White’.  ‘Elizabeth Oliver’ is a beautiful pale blue double, first introduced in 1970.

The species type in particular is fabulous anywhere a delicate groundcover is desired. Perfect over the smaller spring bulbs such as species crocus and tulips, as Campanula cochlearifolia is very shallowly rooted. Easily divided to spread it around; easily nipped back where not needed. Extremely pretty, and very hardy and adaptable.

Sun to light shade, average conditions.

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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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Lychnis chalcedonica - Scarlet Maltese Cross - Prince George, B.C. - July 2013. Image: HFN

Lychnis chalcedonica – Scarlet Maltese Cross – Prince George, B.C. – July 2013. Image: HFN

Perennial. Zone 1. Caryophyllaceae. Russia, Northern Asia. A.k.a., according to the Royal Horticultural Society, an astounding number of common names, among them: Cross of Jerusalem, Fireball, Flower of Bristow, Flower of Constantinople, Gardener’s Delight, Great Candlestick, Knight’s Cross, London Pride, None-Such, Red Robin, Scarlet Lightning,Tears of Christ.

If I think back to the gardens of my childhood, during the late 1960s and early 1970s, Maltese Cross is ever-present. My mother grew it and viewed it with great fondness, as did all of her gardening friends. It flourished in its scarlet glory in remote ranch gardens on the Chilcotin plateau as enthusiastically as it did in the town gardens we frequently visited in Williams Lake and 100 Mile House.

I sometimes muse on what a recreated Cariboo heritage garden would contain. Always a lilac bush, of course, and a massive clump of rhubarb. Red currants drooping with their luminescent clusters, promises of sweet jelly and mouth-puckering cordial to come. Raspberries, in generous wire-supported rows. Golden Glow lolling brightly by the fence, tied back with a length of sisal baler twine. In spring, a profusion of grape hyacinths, Johnny-Jump-Ups, striped ‘Pickwick’ crocuses, under a pinker-than-pink Flowering Almond bush. Red and yellow tulips. ‘Persian Yellow’ roses, blooming for a brief but wonderful time in June. Red-and-black oriental poppies, royal purple Cluster Bellflower, those ubiquitous purple and white bearded iris smelling strongly of grape Kool-Aid to my childish nose, identified in later years as the venerable variety ‘Wabash’. Double-flowered Achillea ptarmica – I can’t remember a common  name, though it must have had one. Did Mom call this one ‘Baby’s Breath’? I think she might have, though she had “real” baby’s breath, too – Gypsophila paniculata. Lanky delphiniums in shades of the sky. A colony of tall, pale purple phlox, alongside a fragrant yellow daylily. Columbines everywhere. Canterbury Bells and Sweet Williams. Orange tiger lilies in late summer. Cerise Rose Campion in the most unexpected places, and, inevitably, a sturdy clump of quite ridiculously red Maltese Cross.

My goodness. I should stop right there, before a tear comes to my eye. Our gardens are indeed full of memories…

Lychnis chalcedonica in a contemporary garden setting, in te perennial border at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George, July 2013. Image: UFN

Lychnis chalcedonica in a contemporary garden setting, perfectly combined with tall ornamental grasses in the perennial border at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George, July 2013. Image: UFN

 

So – here are the basics regarding Lychnis chalcedonica.  It forms strong clumps to 2 feet or taller. The sturdy stems topped by domed heads of brilliant scarlet, cross-like (though 5-petalled) flowers for a reasonably long period in mid-summer, 3 to 4 weeks. It reliably reblooms if cut back.

Maltese Cross prefers full sun, good soil, and average amounts of moisture. Mature clumps may be carefully divided, but so easy from seed that I never bother with division. Not at all invasive; well behaved in all its habits. You may wish to unobtrusively stake it, as it can occasionally birdsnest with summer thundershowers. But it is a truly sturdy thing, and requires minimal fussing.

Garden legend has it that this was one of those plants brought back to England from the Holy Land by returning Crusaders, but this is apparently not the case. More likely it came via regular trade routes from European travellers; the species originated in Russian and northern Chinese forests and steppes, and still can be found growing in the wild. Its first mention in garden literature predates the 1590s.

Can you see the cross-shaped form that leads to the common name? The fact that the blooms actually have five lobes versus four is a bit of a surprise - the effect is definitely geometric and cross-like. Image: HFN

Can you see the flower form that leads to the common name? The fact that the blooms actually have five fused petals versus four is a bit of a surprise – the overall effect is definitely geometric and cross-like. Image: HFN

Siting Maltese Cross in the contemporary garden can prove something of a dilemma, mostly for those who worry about colour harmony and contrasts. Here are some wise words from Cape Breton garden writer Jo Ann Gardner, in her 1992 book, The Heirloom Garden:

I have found folk gardeners to be less intimidated by Jerusalem-cross’s brilliant colour than are contemporary gardeners, who are often afraid of offending sensibilities by planting it near the varicoloured flowers of early summer and mid-summer. But it blends surprisingly well with soft pink Musk Mallow (Malva moschata), Lupines of all sorts, Siberian Iris, Bellflower, Foxglove, the lilac-white plumes of Clary Sage, and the yellow daisy-flowered Golden-Marguerite. One is often advised to banish Jerusalem-cross to the to the safety of low-growing evergreens, where its glowing colour will be reduced or neutralized. Consider that Gertrude Jekyll, the mistress of colour in the garden, grouped it among orange Daylilies, Dahlias, Marigolds and Nasturtiums…

There are a number of variations of Lychnis chalcedonica which you may find interesting. Last heard of in the 1920s and possibly lost forever – though one can hope they exist in some isolated cottage garden, waiting for their rediscovery – are double scarlet (first written about in 1629) and double white (1772) forms, but we do have some pretty singles to console ourselves with. A blushing pink – ‘Morgenrote’ a.k.a. ‘Morning Red’, sometimes sold as ‘Dusky Salmon’ – and a pristine white – ‘Raureif’ a.k.a. ‘Hoarfrost’, sometimes sold as ‘Snowbird’ – are still in the seed trade, and just a year or so ago I saw mention of a more compact scarlet variety, ‘Burning Love’, reported to be a compact 12 to 18 inches tall – perhaps easier to tuck into a small suburban planting?

Lychnis chalcedonica 'rosea' - 'Morgenrote', a.k.a. 'Morning Red', a.k.a. 'Dusky Salmon'. Image HFN

Lychnis chalcedonica ‘rosea’ – ‘Morgenrote’, a.k.a. ‘Morning Red’, a.k.a. ‘Dusky Salmon’. Heads of pale, rosy-salmon-pink blooms change colour as they age to give a variegated effect to the bloom clusters.  Williams Lake, B.C. – July 2014. Image HFN

 

 

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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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