Little plants series – Dactylorhiza alpestris

“The garden is a strange mix of the inevitable and the unexpected…”

Quite a few years ago I bought a D. alpestris in the idea to try to grow an orchid (preferably an alpine one), although I didn’t have the right conditions. It flowered weekly one year and then it disappeared under the mass of other plants and from my mind – inevitable.
Last year when digging out the garden, I found a little ‘child-hand’ like tuber (Simpson style) which is unmistakable of a Dactylorhiza; hmmm – unexpected.

Dactylorhiza alpestris tuber

Dactylorhiza alpestris tuber

Overwintered in an outside container over the past gruesome winter, it showed up timidly in late spring and now is flowering: nice, strong, purple-spotted flowers – another unexpected. Few pictures for remembering, until the next inevitable…

Dactylorhiza alpestris close up

Dactylorhiza alpestris
Dactylorhiza alpestris – a miniature to small size terrestrial orchid, which can be found in the wild from Spain, France, Germany to Italy and Yugoslavia. It grows in full sun, usually in moist paces; it can be found at elevations from 1500-2600 m.

D. alpestris (Pugsley) Verm. 1847, has so many synonyms that I don’t dare to say anything more, and it should have spotted leaves; mine doesn’t but everything else looks fine (3 t o 5 oval to elliptical, sometimes almost orbicular, spotted leaves with the uppermost 1 to 2 being bract-like, that blooms in the late spring and summer on an erect, terminal, 10 – 20 cm long, racemose, cylindrical inflorescence with leaf like bracts and many flowers).
Syn. Dactylorhiza fistulosa subsp. alpestris; Dactylorhiza latifolia subsp. alpestris; Dactylorhiza latifolia var. pinguis, and many more…

Wildflowers Monday – Little treasures

There are a few little enchanting treasures that someone hiking around Southwestern Ontario or a bit up north, could catch in flower right now. They are not hard to grow from seeds and perfect for those special places in the garden where fairies are gathering to chitchat and relax ;)

Polygala paucifolia – Fringed polygala, gaywings – A charming, dwarf woodland plant with most interesting flowers; read more

Polygala paucifolia

Polygala paucifolia

Viola nephrophylla – Northern bog violet, violete de calcaire – A small, compact, stemless violet that grows in sun to part shade, in wet places: bogs and fens, often in wet depressions in limestone barrens. Big, violet flowers and broadly ovate to kidney-shaped, hairless leaves; sometimes peacefully sharing the place with Primula mistassinica like in the image below; read more

Viola nephrophylla and Primula mistassinica

Viola nephrophylla and Primula mistassinica flowering in an alvar fracture

 None of them are difficult to grow form seeds; here it is my tw0-years old Polygala colony growing in a container with Viola nephrophylla and other little treasures:

Polygala and Viola

Polygala paucifolia (front), Viola nephrophylla, Soldanella….

Flowering, flowering

Everything seems to flower at once in May, either in full sun locations or under the shade cover. Between them all, these two delicately delightful plants, from the finest of North American natives: one flowering in the shady side of the woods and one in my sun exposed rocky containers.

Thalictrum thalictroides (formerly Anemonella thalictroides) – Rue anemone

Thalictrum thalictroides

Thalictrum thalictroides (syn. Anemonella thalictroides) – Rue anemone

Aquilegia scopulorum – Utah Columbine

Aquilegia scopulorumBoth are easy to propagate and cultivate. A. scopulorum is a high altitude columbine, with very long (25-40 mmm), strait spurs, characteristic to almost all NA Aquilegia spp. In the wild habitat it grows on rocky slopes (limestone cobbles); perfect for the rockery, trough or crevice garden. (from Wrigthman Alpines)

Aquilegia scopulorum flower

Hellooo – any long tongue pollinators out there?

Wildflowers Monday – Jeffersonia diphylla

Jeffersonia diphylla – Twinleaf, Rheumatism root (Fam. Berberidaceae)

Twinleaf is quite an unusual North American native species. Not often cultivated and we still have to find it in the woods of Southwestern Ontario where it is probably quite rare. This gorgeous picture belongs to a cultivated plant. It is obviously thriving in a garden where many native species are mingling happily in a fine balance with more exotic species (many thanks for the opportunity to take the pictures).

Jeffersonia diphylla

Jeffersonia diphylla

It is easily distinguished by the bluish-green two-lobed leaves that gave both its Latin and common names. Think of them as green butterflies topped up in the spring by large white flowers resembling those of the bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis). Awesome combination!

But the flowering is a short event like in many other cases; it is the foliage that makes it so special. In the spring, the newly emerged stems are purple coloured, reminding of another great perennial of Berberidaceae, the blue cohosh. A definitely show off for any garden! If we would be to say this is a rare Chinese species, would it become more desirable? Joke apart, the only other Jeffersonia species, equally special, J. dubia, grows wild in the Far East Russia, North Korea, and Manchuria.

Named in honour of US President Thomas Jefferson, which was a keen gardener himself, it has had medicinal uses in the traditional aboriginal medicine, mainly for dropsy, urinary problems and inflammations (hence the name rheumatism root).

Jeffersonia diphylla fruit

Jeffersonia diphylla fruit

Propagation: not difficult from seeds if they are kept moist at all times and allowed a warm-cold cycle (just like its cousins Epimediums). It will germinate in the next warm cycle. Not fast growing but worthwhile the wait. It presents a peculiar capsule that opens from a slit below the top, similar with a lid (be careful to catch the arilate seeds!)

Wildflowers Monday – Pink and green Trillium

Wandering in the woods through masses of white trillium (T. grandiflorum) at peak flowering is a privilege.Trillium grandiflorumAn even greater and exciting treat is finding its pink form – Trillium grandiflorum f. roseum and interesting green variants. The pink flower form can be usually found mixed in large populations of ‘normal’ white trilliums. Scouting for them has to be done early because later almost all of the “whites” will also turn slightly pink when fading.

Trillium grandiflorum f. roseum

Trillium grandiflorum f. roseum

Trillium grandiflorum f. roseum3Trillium grandiflorum f. roseum2

The greening of the White Trillium flowers is believed to be caused by infection with a plant pathogen belonging to the genus Phytoplasma. Phytoplasmic infections are usually confined to phloem and often result in the transformation of floral parts to leafy green structures, potentially leading to sterility of the plant. But there is more research to be done until all will be clear regarding this subject.

Trillium grandiflorum green variant1

Trillium grandiflorum – green variant No.1

Trillium grandiflorum green variant2

Trillium grandiflorum – green variant No. 2; I think ‘Green Feather’ would be a good name for it…

Trillium grandiflorum green variant3
Trillium grandiflorum – the No.3 green variant, arising from a carpet of wild-ginger leaves

I can only watch closely my variants to see how they evolve and if they’ll form fruits/seeds. There is something beautiful about their ‘infection’ ;) At least the No.3 looks very happy and thriving.


Rock garden pets

Plant pets, that is ;) After a harsh, long winter I am welcoming the survivors from the rock containers. All can be petted, but some more than others; they provide the same good feeling and heart rate slowing as any other pet (if they could only purr…).

Welcome to: Hieracium lanatum a small Hawkweed from the Alps; grown from seed believing it was something else, but now that I know what it is, I don’t mind it at all (thank you Robert).

Hieracium lanatum

Hieracium lanatum

Thalictrum isopyroides – this is a highly prized and one of the very few meadow rues for rock gardens. Grown from seed, it has become fast a favourite. Only 10-15 cm tall, it has a compact, fine, most delicate appearance given by the small leaves divided into tiny blue-grey leaflets. In the fall, it takes a chameleonic look, with shades of golden and russet mixed within the green.

Thalictrum isopyroides - spring

Thalictrum isopyroides – early spring

Native from Turkey, Iran, Syria, Afganistan to Altai Mts. where it grows in full sun, on rocky outcrops and stony ledges.

Note on Thalictrum propagation: not too easy to germinate, but if the seeds are fresh, after treatment with GA3, at least a few seedlings can be obtained; afterwards it is not particularly fussy. This species has circulated among the plant collectors for a while as Thalictrum ex. Afganistan, until it was properly identified.

Featured image: Achillea tomentosa var. aurea (Wooly yarrow) – an old plant-pet of ours; pure breed, very loyal…

Wildflowers Monday

A very late spring arrival made it that early wildflowers, especially the ephemerals, will be in a rush from flowers to seeds. I almost missed the flowering start of Sanguinaria! This is the “joy” of a temperate continental climate – long winter hibernation is followed by a fast sprint which is merely a transition into the summer. Meet the future parents…

Spring wildflowers of Southwestern Ontario

  • Sanguinaria canadensis


  • Caulophyllum thalictroides

    Blue cohosh

  • Claytonia virginica

    Eastern Spring beauty

  • Eryhtronium americanum


  • Dicentra cucullaria

    Dutchman’s breeches

  • Claytonia caroliniana

    Carolina Spring beauty

  • Symplocarpus foetidus

    Skunk cabbage

  • Trillium erectum

    Stinking Benjamin, Wake robin

  • Viola macloskeyi

    Small white violet

 More to come…

I forgot to include in the slideshow an interesting finding – one nicely coloured and early blooming Arisaema triphyllum; all others were just showing up.

Arisaema triphyllum - early flowering form1

Arisaema triphyllum – early flowering form