Today, in what I call a skilfully avoidance of other pressing things to do, I will contribute a bit towards the Chapter about fruits-seeds-germination of the Epimedium. It is still about seeds, isn’t it?

The fact that Epimediums are self-incompatible is widely known by now, which means that – if one is lucky to see developing fruits, these will be of hybrid origin (from whatever parent species happen to be around :). They may be true to species only if you own a few plants of the same species from different sources (but even then you cannot be too sure). Further than this, things become a little fuzzy, with contradictory informations, although quite a few new hybrids are showing up year after year.

So, this is what I have to share for now:


A picture with fatty fruits I have just found ready to open on Epimedium ‘Amber Queen’ (from Lost Horizons)

Epimedium 'Amber Queen' fruits

Epimedium ‘Amber Queen’ fruits


Another picture with fruits of Epimedium davidii ‘Wolong Dwarfs’

Epimedium davidii 'Wolong Dwarfs' fruits

Epimedium davidii ‘Wolong Dwarfs’ fruits


A picture with Epimedium seeds showing something like elaiosomes (very much like Corydalis, Sanguinaria, Asarum, and so on)

Epimedium 'Amber Queen' seeds

Epimedium ‘Amber Queen’ seeds


A great website that I have recently discovered; lots of Epimedium images and also some info on their germination – The Magnolias Garden Website (despite the name, they are the holders of Epimedium National Collection in England)


A piece of information from Tony Avent – PDN (sharing from Darell Probst) that Epimedium seed require 60 days below 40˚F to germinate.


Another piece of information from a scientific study on seeds & germination of Epimedium wushanense claiming that “germination rate and germination potential after stratification under 5˚C (for 90 days) were significantly higher…”


And the fact that, I will handle the seeds like I did with all the other species ‘elaiosomes bearing’ which is, store them in moist vermiculite/outdoors temperature. I’ll also keep a few seeds dry-stored as a variant until late fall, when I’ll proceed with a cold stratification.

If anyone else cares to share…


Rapunzel’s flower – Phyteuma

People in Europe call this member of the bellflower family (Campanulaceae) after many names: devil’s claws (Germany), Oxford Rampion (England), Raponzolo (Italy), and so on. We could definitely give it many other common names; I like to think of it as Rapunzel’s flower.

Phyteuma is strictly a European genus with quite a few species, not very often seen in the gardens. Phyteuma scheuchzeri, flowering now in one of my rock-containers is the most common in cultivation (I was aiming for P. sieberi, maybe next time…).

Phyteuma scheuchzeri

Phyteuma scheuchzeri

It doesn’t look like a bellflower, that’s for sure – it looks much cooler! In most species the flowers are grouped in spiked, ball-like inflorescences (aka. floral sea creatures) which at full bloom ‘explode’ becoming fluffy. They can be found growing in a variety of habitats, with P. sieberi being the most alpine.

Phyteuma scheuchzeri

Phyteuma scheuchzeri

Another mountain growing Rapunzel’s flower is Phyteuma orbiculare, photographed here in a rich sub-alpine meadow in the Carpathian Mountains:

Phyteuma orbiculare

Phyteuma orbiculare

 Propagation: easy enough from seed (very small, fine seeds just like Campanula).

And just because I like word rhymes: Did you know that Phyteuma has a sister named Asyneuma? Another great but very little cultivated member of the bellflower family.


The cure for insanity

Cornus canadensis – Bunchberry or Dwarf cornel, creeping dogwood
Native range: Eastern Asia to Far East Russia, Canada, Greenland, Northern USA

We are in for a steamy week ahead; certainly not my idea of great weather. The creeping dogwood also likes it cool. Usually the name Cornus makes us think of trees and shrubs. But this is a lovely perennial dogwood, which grows only to 15-20 cm tall, with leaves arranged in whorls of 4 or 6. The flowers, typical for a Cornus, are easy recognizable after the 4 large, white petal-like bracts. The fruit is an attractive, red, globe-shaped drupe, persistent, and also edible; especially birds are very fond on consuming the fruits during the fall migration.

Cornus canadensis flowers

Cornus canadensis flowers

Among its uses by the Natives Americans I found the mention of fruits consumption as a cure for insanity!

(Maybe I should try to sell fruits instead of seeds – I might get rich; or I can eat them all and have at least my plant-insanity taken care of).

Cornus canadensis fruits

Cornus canadensis fruits

Desirable as a groundcover in any shade garden, where it will form a carpet underneath small trees or shrubs; I have also seen it growing on old tree stumps on top of moss, which would be great to try to ‘reproduce’ in a shady corner. It needs a slightly acidic substrate and a really cool location in part-shade to shade.

Propagation: by seed (difficult germination, but there are protocols available) and division.

Cornus canadensis with Linnaea borealis

Cornus canadensis with Linnaea borealis in a cool, moist forest

Note: Linnaea borealis – twinflower, it was the favourite plant of Carl Linnaeus from when exploring the northern part of Sweden (and the only species that bears his name). A delicate, evergreen woodland plant, with short stems that bear pairs of nodding, pink flowers usually in June. Borealis –‘northern’ refers to its distribution in forests of the northern hemisphere (circumpolar).


A new contender – Delphinium

In time, most gardeners develop a liking for a particular genus (or a couple). In my case, the liking for Gentiana and Hepatica were inborn; then a few years ago I added Arisaema and Epimedium. I thought, that’s it! Enough to try to grow and study for more than one lifetime. Then slowly, Roscoea started to sneak in and now there is a new contender at the horizon.

As usually, a ‘liking’ has no rationality behind; I was always fond on Delphiniums and last year when D. oxysepalum bloomed I felt a pinch. In the winter I bought seeds of D. tatsienense and got hold through Seedex of a few others.

Delphinium oxysepalum
Delphinium oxysepalum

An endemic larkspur from western Carpathian Mts. (Slovakia, Czech Republic and Poland). On a rainy day it looks like a watercolour on the making – deep blue flowers with liquid violet paintbrush strokes flowing through. On regular days, it may be blue, it may be violet…

Then, at Wrightman Alpines last month, I felt a stronger pinch – D. alpestre, D. nudicaule and Delphinium beesianum were in flower; a still unidentified Delphinium sp. was also flowering…

Delphinium nudicaule
Delphinium nudicauleRed larkspur or canyon larkspur

Found on mountain ranges from California to Oregon, it is one that didn’t followed the rules – instead of having blue or purple flowers pollinated by bumblebees, it has evolved tubular red or orange flowers for hummingbirds pollination.

Delphinium alpestre
Delphinium alpestre Colorado larkspur.

As its name says, a quite rare, alpine larkspur that grows on high peaks above 3000 m.

Delphinium beesianum (?) a Chinese larkspur with a question mark after its name: it doesn’t quite fit the description (I dare anyone to open Flora of China at Delphinium – huge number of species of which 150 endemics, with a narrow geographic distribution and also a ‘small’ problem with hybridization). Wonderful by any name for now…

Delphinium beesianum(?)
Delphinium beesianum(?)

Delphinium sp.? (most likely D. wootonii)

Delphinium sp.

Delphinium sp.

La primevère du Mistassini

My apologies to anyone who tried to post a comment in the past couple of weeks – my new anti-spam ‘ware’ needed readjustments.

In the same idea of great little plants, this dwarf canadian primrose would have looked very well in my shade container with the Soldanellas and Haberlea rhodopensis.

Primula mistassinica

Primula mistassinica

Primula mistassinica, the Mistassini Primrose, or even better after its French name – Primevère du lac Mistassini, it’s a small size, more or less farinose primrose that was first discovered growing around the lake Mistassini in Quebec, and so it took its name. Anyone who sees it understands that it is best called by its French name: la primevère du Mistassini – it will answer looking at you with charming yellow eyes from big, pink flowers!

Primula mistassinica

Primula mistassinica flowering in Bruce Peninsula, Ontario

Best grown in part-shade or in full sun locations, if enough moisture is available. Although it looks fantastic in mass plantings it is also suitable for a trough.



In praise of little plants I

Plants that did make sense to have in my small garden

A dwarf, big flowered blue columbine: Aquilegia discolor, most probably a cross (from Seedex as A. saximontana)

Aquilegia discolor (cross)

 Aquilegia discolor cross

True that if we would grow only ‘reasonable’ plants, our gardens would lack all spontaneity and wonder. But because I can now easily enjoy them in containers, and not worry about their relocation, I think a bit of praise is warranted.

On the other side of the container, a tiny hardy ginger: Roscoea tibetica (from Lost Horizons) – very precious, after the bad winter we had, who knows if I will get to see the other Roscoeas from the garden.

Roscoea tibetica

Roscoea tibetica

From another container, the most fragrant, fringed Dianthus I know: Dianthus petraeus (from wild collected seeds in the Carpathian Mts.) Too bad I cannot insert a ‘scratch patch’ with its perfume.

Dianthus petraeus

Dianthus petraeus

A rock jasmine: Androsace sarmentosa – a small piece I saved from an old plant, I hope it will thrive again (or set seeds, or better both).

Androsace sarmentosa

Androsace sarmentosa

and more are on their way to flower…

Out in the woods – Podophyllum peltatum

Mayapple, American mandrake, Hog apple

For plant collectors, Podophyllum name sparks instantly the ‘rare plants’ lust. Like with the Arisaema species unfortunately the North American continent wasn’t left with much, one Podophyllum species – the Mayapple. It has its charm and personality and it will very slowly form a colony in the woodland garden.

Podophyllum peltatum colony

Podophyllum peltatum colony

It emerges in early spring with a couple of tightly closed leaves, which expand umbrella-like afterwards and cover one solitary, white flower. The fleshy fruit (hog apple, wild lemon) becomes yellow when ripe and is enjoyed by a variety of small animals, who are also the principal seed dispersers (the fruit is the only part of the plant that’s not toxic).

Podophyllum peltatum flowers

Podophyllum peltatum flowering

But there’s more about the Mayapple than just being a great plant for the shade garden – its Medicinal uses:

The Mayapple has been a staple medicinal plant in the repertoire of the Native Americans, which used it as: boiled roots (laxative), juice of the fresh rhizome (improve hearing), powdered root (skin ulcers and sores, purgative). At some point the Mayapple resin (extracted from the rhizome) was considered one the most powerful laxatives available but because of its toxicity this use disappeared.

Pharmaceutical research proved that certain chemical constituents of the Podophyllum species can be used as anticancer agents. The substance responsible is called podophyllin and it is a resin contained in the rhizome (see the use of powder root to treat skin ulcers). This resin is composed of several toxic glycosides, the most active being podophyllotoxin. Derivatives of the podophyllotoxin (etoposide and teniposide) are formulated today into anticancer drugs used in chemotherapy to inhibit the growth of tumors in various types of cancer.

Unfortunately, in a few regions of the Indian Himalayas, another species, Podophyllum hexandrum, also exploited as medicinal, has become endangered due to overharvesting in the wild. I hope we won’t start destroying our Mayapple populations too. Actually, Podophyllums are very easy to cultivate – all you need is shade …and seeds of course (or rhizomes cuttings).

Note: The genus name comes from the Greek ‘anapodophyllum’ meaning a leaf like the foot (podos) of a duck (anas) and peltatum – refers to the specific attachment of the leaf stalk near the centre of the leaf blade.