A Gentiana representative

We can’t celebrate without a Gentiana and there is no other species easier to grow from seeds (and in the garden) than G. dahurica; granted, I still have a lot of Gentiana species to try.

Laden with blue flowers in mid- summer, it will make both you and the pollinators happy for  a very long time!

Representing China and Mongolia for Canada 150 Celebration Sale –
Gentiana dahurica

Gentiana dahurica

Refreshing – Aconitum ‘Ivorine’

White on blue is a refreshing combo. Yesterday, amidst the heat wave I took few pictures of Aconitum ‘Ivorine’ just starting flowering.
Pure white, tinged with green flowers on sturdy stems make this Aconitum very appealing.  The bluish background provided by Juniperus ‘Wichita’ is pure serendipity – most of my plants were planted where I could find a proper space in this new garden without much thinking of colour combinations.

Aconitum septentrionale ‘Ivorine’

It doesn’t clump excessively, which is unfortunate; I could use more seeds, so this is the next ‘ivory’ generation! Very easy to germinate if the seeds are sown fresh or kept moist and allowed a warm/cold cycle. The pots can be brought indoors around February to germinate and grown under lights will achieve a better growth by June. I had no more space available this year so they germinated outside somewhere beginning of May.

Aconitum septentrionale ‘Ivorine’ freshly transplanted seedlings

 

 

 

Exception – Sedum atratum

Growing annual plants is very satisfying – they germinate, grow, flower and set seeds in one season; some will also self-seed themselves for the next year; nothing to worry about throughout the winter…I can understand the attraction. But I still like to grow perennials ;))

Sometimes I make exceptions – and Sedum atratum is one notable because I collected the seeds from a place in the Carpathians that is not easy to reach; it reminds me about ‘my mountain’, and belongs to the ‘little plants’ category.

Sedum atratum ssp. atratum in the Carpathian Mts.

Last year some nocturnal animal took a snack from a little clump growing at the edge of the rockery; luckily a few seeds were already into the safety of the tufa rocks and I can continue to enjoy it. Maybe even collect a few seeds later.

Sedum atratum ssp. atratum among Dryas octopetala ‘Tundra Pygmy’

Sedum atratum ssp. atratum is an annual species, with the mention that I’ve seen non-flowering rosettes and most likely also behaves as a biennial; from the mountains of South and Central Europe.
It is great in a rockery or scree area, showing here in there, without bothering other species; small, fleshy stems and leaves, which turn deep red later in the season.
Best to scatter the seeds in the desired place, in late fall or early spring.

 

Paris in the rain

Paris quadrifolia

Maybe there will be seeds again this year…

Hello Sunshine!

Saruma henryi starting to flower; a super easy plant to grow

Back to basics – Aquilegia

Most probably the first plant I grew successfully from seeds (that is, which I saw it flowering :) was an Aquilegia. I don’t remember precisely which one and it doesn’t matter; I like them all very much. They are easy to grow, provide a whole array of heights/colours and are good pollinator plants.

Yes, some are short lived, and yes, some will get the leaf miner, and of course, they hybridize and not all seedlings come true to the mother plant, but I still like them very much.

After being transplanted (a few times) last year, a few of my Aquilegias went into a ‘flower strike‘. I apologized for the treatment and we reconciled…

Aquilegia flabellata var. pumila – is one with few of the above mentioned flaws: it usually comes true from seeds, and the thick, leathery foliage won’t be affected by the leaf miner (or very weak attack); all ‘flabellatas’ could be grown just for their handsome, fan-shaped foliage.

Aquilegia flabellata var.pumila – Cute as a ‘button’ ; grown from seeds

 

A. flabelata ‘Nana Alba’ will be flowering soon…

 

Snowflakes by design: Mitella diphylla

Myriads of Mitella diphylla flowers are still falling from the sky. I noticed that not too many people are familiar with this dainty North American woodlander; what a pity…

It can be found in deciduous woodlands in part shaded areas, most often at the edges of the forest; easily noticeable despite its small flowers, it will flower somewhere at the beginning of May. A better timetable is to consider that it flowers at the same time with Trillium grandiflorum, Uvularia grandiflora and Coptis trifolia.

Mitella diphylla, Two-leaved bishop’s cap (Fam. Saxifragaceae) – Tall flowering stems carrying small, fringed, snowflakes shaped flowers above a pair of leaves. Fruits are dehiscent capsules with many small, black seeds.

Mitella is not an easy subject to capture on camera

What I like even more about it is that the basal leaves are evergreen; a most useful character in our climate with long flowerless periods. I cannot take a picture in the garden right now, but I have one from the previous garden showing it together with Cyclamen hederifolium and Hepatica in late November.

Mitella diphylla, Cyclamen and Hepatica foliage in November

Propagation: easy from seeds (sown in the fall) and mine has started to flower in the third year. After it gets established it can also be divided (it forms a rather tight clump so there is no worry about potential invasiveness).

Mitella diphylla seeds

The genus name Mitella comes from the Greek ‘mitra’= cap and the common name bishop’s cap or mitrewort refers to the cap-shaped fruit.

Paronychia cephalotes’ secret

I am wondering why this interesting, cold hardy, beautiful and excellent rockery plant is absolutely ignored. Is there a secret?

Paronychia cephalotes (Fam. Caryophyllaceae) in wild habitat – Dolomite hills to the south of Öskü, Hungary – photo courtesy Stefan Lefnaer

Last year I easily germinated seeds and grew the seedlings into a fine clump by the end of the season (the seedlings pot was planted in the rockery as a whole in May). I am confident it will make it well over the winter, and maybe even produce a few flowers. Meanwhile, someone else already knows why is it such a ‘secret’ species please?

Paronychia cephalotes – end of August 2016 (a group of seedlings were planted together in May)

http://flora.lefnaer.com/cgi-bin/photosearch.pl?action=SPECIES;name=Paronychia%20cephalotes

Surprise, surprise! – Iris pumila

Growing from seeds is always full of surprises, especially for first time sowings, like in this case for Iris pumila.

Iris pumila – a dwarf, early spring flowering, bearded Iris with a wild distribution from Central Europe to the Caucasus. The large flowers can be violet, blue, purple, yellow, or in various combinations like it naturally happens in wild populations; it is super hardy and excellent for the rockery, or a sunny border.

For best germination, most sources suggest soaking the seeds and providing about 4 weeks warm and then a longer (few months) cold period. So, my plan was to keep the sowings the furnace room for 3-4 weeks (+/- 23C day/ 17C night) and then place the pots outside under snow for the remaining of the winter. I sowed on Dec. 19th – and a couple of days ago (Jan. 5)…surprise! I found some pots with the first shoots were out. The plan has changed of course, and my light stand will be up very soon :)

Iris pumila – seeds soaked, sown on Dec.19th at warm – first signs of germination Jan. 5th (few even sooner)

The pots contain seeds of differently coloured specimens, although this little Iris can provide even more surprises colour-wise!

I don’t know if the seeds will germinate in the same way after going into a deeper dormancy, but this is still a good time to sow – and few fresh seeds are still available in the shop!

Plants of the Canadian West Coast

Sooke Coast Trail – part 1

At this time of year we are in need of sunny/flowery images, so I’ll quit the propagation stories for a while (I am sure some readers got heavily bored ;). Chance made it that I got to visit Victoria (situated on the southern part of Vancouver Island) in late May, but never got to sort through the many pictures; few posts will take care of this now ;)

A short note for those who are not familiar with the region: the southern part of Vancouver Island constitutes the northern growing limit for many species, which are common otherwise on the US west coast down to the Californian coastal mountains. Victoria is considered the mildest city in Canada and enjoys a sub-mediterranean climate (yes you hear me well!) with mild winters (snow is a very rare event), rainy springs and falls and dry summers (hardiness considered, zone 7-8).

The first highly recommended hiking destination, in a short driving distance from Victoria, is the Sooke area. There are a few trails available, which can be done partially or entirely. The Coast Trail in East Sooke Regional Park was particularly impressive (follow link to see map and read more).

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View from Sooke Coast Trail

Excellent views are opening all along the trail, which follows the rocky coast, only with a few passages going deep into the forest (usually to go around a pocket beach). In between taking pictures and stopping to admire the wild, rugged landscape, time flies; I would say that at least two days are necessary to get a good grasp of its beauty.  It is very hard to choose only a few pictures to show.

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View from Sooke Coast Trail

Plants speaking, the first species that makes you go – WoW! Is the Pacific Madrone – Arbutus menziesii. Any time I encounter in the wild a species previously known only from picture, there is a special feeling, same like meeting a person known previously only from correspondence. I couldn’t shake hands with the Arbutus :) but I was happy to brush my hand over the exquisite cinnamon/red, exfoliating bark.

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Arbutus menziesii on Sooke Coast Trail – Pacific Madrone, Arbutus

Pacific Madrone/Arbutus is an evergreen tree with many other qualities, glossy leaves and creamy clusters of flowers (attracting many pollinators) followed by red fruits; all making for a most beautiful tree. And there is more – the trunk and branches are twisting in various ways, to the point that sometimes they will hug and gracefully slide along the rocks’ contour. Its native range extends from:  SW  Vancouver Island to south Baja California. It is found growing in dry open forests, rocky slopes, on coarse or shallow soils.

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Arbutus menziesii

Another ‘staple’ species of the region is Sedum spathulifolium – the broadleaf stonecrop. It seems able to grow absolutely everywhere: on moss-layered rocks, decomposed tree trunks, wind blasted rocks in full sun or cascading over shaded boulders. Truly spectacular! Probably half of my pictures contain this Sedum in various plant-associations. I liked it best together with Cladonia or a Cladina sp. (the reindeer moss); the white-silvery, lacy lichen bringing out the beauty of the bluish foliage and the contrasting red stems & yellow flowers.

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Sedum spathulifolium and reindeer moss on Sooke Coast Trail

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Sedum spathulifolium 

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Sedum spathulifolium tumbling over the rocks

This post is getting a bit too long so more to follow…