What’s for sowing today?

The lights were ‘fired up’ for a few impatient germinators and I started to sow more of the warm germinators. When it’s cold and drab outside there is really no other better thing than sowing and placing the little pots under the lights! I wasn’t thinking of sowing more Arisaema this year (I swear!), but as it happens I got a fairly large seed stock from someone :), and since I have plans for a little colony of this lovely Arisaema flavum, why wait?

A. flavum is not as impressive as other Arisaema spp. but it has a certain charm when the little yellow flowers are peeking from between the nice shoe-shaped leaves. Variable as height and spathe colour, it has female and male flowers on the same plant, and thus the red fruit will extend the garden décor into the fall. A. flavum ssp. abbreviatum is not recognized anymore as a subspecies, but there is a new one – ssp. tibeticum J. Murata. Most often the spathe colour is pure yellow or yellow with brown streakings.

Arisaema flavum

Arisaema flavum

No less important is the fact that it is one of the few ‘foreign’ Arisaema reliable for our climate. Its large native distribution, from W. Himalaya, S. Tibet and W. China to Afghanistan and Yemen, shows how adaptable is. It is certainly an alpine Arisaema, found growing wild in sunny, open places from 1700m to 3000 m altitude.

It germinates fairly quickly, and like most Arisaema sp. I tried, if started early, it puts up a nice growth under the lights, and you will obtain bigger/flowering tubers in a shorter period of time. Mature tubers also offset well, so it is easy to keep it going and even share it with friends.

Arisaema flavum seeds

Arisaema flavum seeds

The more we grow from seeds, the more interesting forms for the garden!

Note: I also sowed some of our native A. triphyllum to keep it company :)

Morina longifolia

Moving forward with non- Asteraceae thistle-like plants, more precisely with Morina longifolia, simply called Himalayan whorlflower.

With a thick, evergreen rosette of spiny leaves, resembling a Cirsium, this is one plant to scare away all your garden critters! It is said to exude a pleasant citrus/tangerine perfume when bruised (also the flowers). It caught my attention last year at the beginning of August in the wonder garden of Robert Pavlis (Aspen Grove Gardens). Of course that concentrating only on its ‘cool’ foliage makes it hard to notice that Morina actually belongs to fam. Caprifoliaceae. The flowering stems remain impressive even after flowering by retaining the flower calyces, which take on a beautiful rusty- orangey colour. I think this is an overlooked feature of Morina and I am glad I got to see it at this stage. 

Morina longifolia - after flowering

Morina longifolia – aspect after flowering

Of course that the white, tubular flowers which turn pink after fading are also beautiful (the change in colour indicates that they have been pollinated, which is done by moths). They open up in progression, which means an extended flowering period.

Morina longifolia flowering

Morina longifolia starting to flower

Needless to say collecting seeds from such a plant is not an easy task; I personally extracted one seed from the spiny calyx. For the other ones, we all have to say again – thank you :)

Morina longifolia is native to the high Himalayas (regions of Pakistan, Kashmir and Bhutan) but it can be grown very well in Southwestern Ontario, in a full sun, well drained garden location. In its native lands it is also used as an aromatic/medicinal plant.

Propagation: Reported as a warm germinator, but I found discussions saying that sometimes the seed teguments may remain attached to the germinating seeds in the detriment of the seedlings. A period of moist/cold stratification can help with breaking down the hard seed coat; a light scarification or placing the seeds in a moist towel/fridge for a couple of weeks may also work.
The seedlings will resemble those of a thistle, so it is best to tag them early; and don’t think about divisions because it forms a taproot.

One more interesting note one can find surfing the net – the genus Morina was named in honour of Rene Morin, a French nurseryman who, according to various sources, published the world’s first plant catalogue in 1621 – Catalogus plantarum horti Renati Morini.

All that remains now is that we start growing it!

The purple bloom maple – Acer pseudosieboldianum

A short interruption from the thistles to draw a bit of attention to the purple bloom maple (more often called Korean maple). This small tree is native to Manchuria, Korea and around Vladivostok/Russia, where it grows on rocky forested slopes. In the gardens it is best grown in full sun to light shaded locations.

Acer pseudosieboldianum is one of the very few safe options for colder climates (to zone 4) to enjoy the look-alike of a graceful Japanese maple and the brilliant fall foliage (usually red, but also orange-yellow).

Acer pseudosieboldianum

Acer pseudosieboldianum fall coloration

It is very similar to the Japanese A. siebodianum (another rarely seen maple), both having lobed leaves and a nice layered habit; however, the purple bloom maple has hairy new growth and purple flowers. If you live in a colder area or know someone who does, give a try to this wonderful, hardy species. Also suitable for bonsai forming, which means that with skillful pruning, one could ‘create’ nice forms for the rockery and small gardens.

A few cold/moist stored seeds (nutlets actually) are available in the shop; ready to germinate with the spring arrival!

Click on this LINK to see a spectacular specimen of Acer pseudosieboldianum, and as well A. sieboldianum and quite few others Japanese maples (from Wespelaar Arboretum, Antwerp – Belgium).


Centaurs – Greek mythological figures with a man’s upper body and a horse’s lower half. Supposedly, they were using the (Centaurea) flowers for healing (Centaurea scabiosa as header image)

Continuing the year of the thistle with Centaurea spp., which are not true thistles of course, but included in the big family. Actually, there are a few species with a true thistle-like look! Again, leaving the weedy ones apart, there are many worth cultivating besides the common C. nigra, C. montana and variants. ALL Centaurea species are most valuable to bees and attract countless species of butterfly, moths and other insects AND they are easy to grow from seeds!

In many cases, the involucral bracts (phyllaries) are very ornamental, a detail sometimes overlooked but which serves in species identification. Below, a few Centaurea sp. from the Carpathian Mts. (some endemic, some with a wider distribution). Bright pictures for a cloudy day!

Centaurea kotschyana

Centaurea kotschyana

Centaurea kotschyana

Centaurea pseudophrygia

Centaurea pseudophrygia

Centaurea pseudophrygia

Centaurea triumfettii ssp. stricta

Centaurea triumfettii ssp. stricta

Centaurea triumfettii ssp. stricta

And how about the yellow-flowered Centaurea? Here is the rare yellow form of C. kotschyana:

Centaurea kotschyana yellow form

Centaurea kotschyana yellow form

Two species in the Newly arrived Seeds category: C. salonitana and C. orientalis also have yellow flowers, but there are many other species. And I think the dwarf Centaurea drabifolia (endemic of Turkey!), seen here in the Rock garden at the Montreal Botanic Garden, can very well conclude this short post on Centaurea.

Centaurea drabifolia

Centaurea drabifolia

I hope I convinced at least a few to pay more attention to Centaureas. I look forward to combine in our garden, the yellow Centaurea salonitana together with Salvia pratensis in a flower bed, while the smaller Centaurea triumfettii ssp. stricta will be attracting butterflies in the rockery area ;)

You can also see the Carpathian Mts. endemic Centaurea pinnatifida here.

The year of the Thistle

The beginning of the New Year has been busy with new seeds arrivals. Having a new garden space means also having new plants interests. Therefore, I declare 2016 as The Year of the Thistle!

According to wiki, “Thistle is the common name of a group of flowering plants characterized by leaves with sharp prickles on the margins, mostly in the family Asteraceae”. But besides the ‘true thistles’: Cirsium, Carduus and Onopordum, other genera that don’t have spiny leaves are also included and called thistles: Jurinea, Centaurea, Carthamus, Carlina, Rhaponticum, Echinops, Silybum, Berkheya and so on.

Few plants are more beneficial to bees, bumblebees and butterflies than thistles; also, many birds are consuming their seeds. Quite a few are cultivated as economical/medicinal plants. The oldest cultivated ‘thistle’ in the world was Carthamus tinctorius (safflower).

Unfortunately the name ‘thistle’ brings to mind mostly awful weeds. However, there are many species that are non-invasive and highly ornamental; some are even endangered in their wild habitat! To name only 2 North American Cirsium species that are not weedy and have become endangered: the endemic Cirsium hillii (C. pumilum var. hillii) – seen in the image, and C. pitcheri. Cultivated in the gardens but not too often is Cirsium canum (Queen Anne’s Thistle).

Cirsium hillii

Cirsium hillii growing under a Jack pine (P. banksiana)

A most interesting genus is Jurinea. These are species familiar mostly to plant collectors; the genus includes alpine/sub-alpine species growing in mountain meadows, a few rare and/or endemics. In the image is shown Jurinea mollis growing in a sub-alpine meadow in the Carpathian Mts.

Jurinea mollis in Carpathian Mts.

Jurinea mollis in the Carpathian Mts.

Other great species practically unknown in cultivation are Jurinea iljinii – with a restricted distribution range in the western part of the Greater Caucasus, and Jurinea sordida endemic in Crimea. They all have in common, non-spiny, finely lobed leaves and purple (in various shades) flower heads, which take on a beautiful silky appearance when the seeds are ripened.

Jurinea mollis seedhead

Jurinea mollis seedhead

There are also nice, low-growing Jurinea ssp. for the rock garden (if you can find seeds) like J. depressa and J. macrocephala, to name just a couple. From the low-growing thistles category, I will have to contend for now with the alpine thistle: Carlina acaulis. You can read more about it here.

Carlina acaulis

Carlina acaulis

To be continued…

Thistles gallery