In a mood for Arisaema – Arisaema sazensoo

This is an updated post on Arisaema sazensoo – I have more ‘data’ to share now than last year. I am always in a mood for any Arisaema, but especially for the rare ones like A. sazensoo.

Arisaema sazensoo, is one of the first Arisaema to emerge in the spring, just like its cousin A. sikokianum. It is native from Kyushu, Japan and resemble a little A. sikokianum but the spadix doesn’t have such a pronounced white ‘pestle’. The spathe is usually deep purple, recurved over the spadix and the leaves are trifoliolate, like you can see in the images. It was thought to resemble a Buddhist monk in meditation – ‘zazen’, hence its name sazensoo, or at least that’s what I read. Anyway, you can tell it is a very charismatic Arisaema!

Arisaema sazensoo

Arisaema sazensoo

Another characteristic is that it stays in flower over a very long period of time, comparing with other Arisaemas. It had one attempt to form seeds, which proved sterile, but two years ago in late fall I had the very pleasant surprise to find that it had produced an offset (a tuberlet)!

On a few websites you’ll read that A. sazensoo is a non-offsetting species, but obviously someone got it wrong. In the images below I can present now the tuberlet that has grown quite well in one season (A. sazensoo doesn’t have a big size flowering tuber). More than this, the old tuber shows very clear another tuberlet (which is best left to detach by itself).

Like many other Arisaema species, it prefers a part-shade location and can be grown very well in a container, where a good drainage can be easily provided. Best transplanted in late fall with fresh potting mix and kept dry over the winter.

Delphinium oxysepalum

Watercolour with Delphinium oxysepalum

This is a rarely seen in cultivation larkspur: Delphinium oxysepalum, grown from seed (Seedex), which we have waited to flower so we can positively ID it. It is an endemic perennial Delphinium from W. Carpathian Mts. (Slovakia, Czech Republic and Poland), with striking colourful flowers: deep blue with violet paintbrush strokes. On a rainy day it looks just like an exquisite watercolour with the violet shades changing constantly.

Like in other Delphinium species, the beautiful and attractive colored are the sepals, the one at the top with a tube extending backwards (the spur), and housing the nectaries. The spur gives the buds the resemblance to a dolphin (hence the name delphinium). From the four true petals hosted inside, two are appropriately called ‘honey leaves’. Decorated with hairs they play a role in attracting the pollinators. Hope they’ll stop by and we’ll have more seeds!




Polygala paucifolia - in the Bruce Peninsula, Ontario

A yummy treat – Polygala paucifolia

One of my goals is to concentrate on the propagation of a few N. American native plants that would be as prized in our garden as any Chinese or S. American novelties. The hype of using native plants in our gardens and landscapes it always cut short by their difficulty to propagate (and by the lack of available seeds collections, of course). Whatever doesn’t fit into the profile of mass-production has been abandoned or perhaps not even tried in cultivation.

Besides serving an ornamental function, expanding into cultivation a few of the hard to find and/or propagate N. American species, would serve also a conservation purpose by maintaining and enriching the genetic material/ biodiversity through sexual propagation.Conservation through cultivation, (aka propagation) has already proved its importance in a few unfortunate cases of species extinct in the wild but saved, at least temporarily, in gardens sanctuaries.

 “No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time!” – Lewis Carroll: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

OK. Last year we were able to finally collect a few seeds of Polygala paucifolia –Gaywings or Fringed polygala This is a low growing plant found in dry to moist woods, in part shade. It flowers in May-June and the pink-purple flowers are quite unusual – they have 3 short and 2 long wing-like sepals and 3 joined petals with a frilly crest at the tip. Fruit is a capsule.  The seeds present an appendage – elaiosome, which is associated with ant dispersal – now you see where I’m going? A bit too late and the seeds are gone. The appendage contains lipids, proteins and starch, which serve as a reward for the ants. They drag the seeds to their nests to feed their youngs on elaiosomes and thus provide the service of dispersal. I bet they are very yummy!


 The germination ecology for species from Polygalaceae has not been investigated in detail. I found a study claiming that for P. paucifolia, 4 months of dry storage results in an increase in germination. Other Polygala species are known to require pre-treatments for germination. Anyway, I don’t have that many seeds, so for this year I’ll try two variants: dry storage and moist-cold stratification until sowing in the spring.

 We shall see…the seed adventure continues!

 Note:  Many spring flowers from the temperate climate rely on ants to disperse their seed  (myrmecochory – I wouldn’t try pronouncing this); from the very well known: Trillium, Hepatica, Corydalis, Dicentra…



Aralia hispida fruits

Bristly Sarsaparilla

While gazing to the rocky shores of the Georgian Bay in Killarney, one plant kept drawing my attention (and camera) – the bristly sarsaparilla: Aralia hispida. Growing in any small crack of the big granite boulders, with shiny leaves and blackish fruits proudly swinging in the wind, it made me think, again, how many wonderful, garden-worthy, but underutilized native plants are around.

Drought resistant, growing in full sun in rocky, poor substrates, this Aralia could be a prized plant for any garden. The leaves are twice pinnately-divided, and the stem base is covered by bristly hairs and becomes woody persisting through the winter. White-cream flowers appear in June-July in round umbels on stalks that diverge at the end of the stems; they are followed by purplish black fruits resembling a bit the elder fruits (hence the other popular name: dwarf elder). The inflorescences stalks become red, making a nice contrast with the black fruits towards the fall. But enough talk, the pictures are always more convincing…


Not to be confounded with Sarsaparilla – the common name used for various species of Smilax (greenbriers), more particularly for Smilax regelii.


Planetary alignment

Sometimes you wonder how events with different space & time coordinates are coming together – planetary alignment? Having got my first seedex batch, I was happy about getting Schizanthus coccineus (Schizanthus grahamii var. coccinea) and a red Rhodophiala but a bit upset for missing Alstroemeria umbellata – all of them seen during our trip to Chile three years ago. They brought back happy, sunny memories. The seedlings of Puya coerulea, growing close to my desk are grounding them well in reality.

Schizanthus coccineus seeds

Schizanthus coccineus seeds

On the same day, it was time to put order in my fridge space for the new seeds. In a lonely pot sitting in a corner I found, to my surprise, seedlings sprouting; on the label – Alstroemeria zoelnerii – Chile 2011! I remembered that at one point, in a no-germination frustration, I threw them in the fridge and then forgot about them. Well, these are a few images that bring back to me happy, sunny memories, not only of plants but of the people associated with them, which actually makes them so special.

There are about 15 Schizanthus species in Chile and Argentina (Fam. Solanaceae), commonly called ‘mariposita’, or ‘flor the pajarito’. The common names used for the few cultivated species are: Butterfly flower and Poor Man’s Orchid. The flowers have a particular morphology resembling somehow a flying butterfly and are brightly coloured. They are perennials or annuals, growing in full sun in various habitats; those at high elevations are characterized by large amounts of snow in the winter and dry summer months.

And for a completely justified alignment, our ‘de-frosting’ has begun today and so did my seeding Enterprise – exploring the galaxy and discovering new plant worlds!


Seeds of a New Year

Happy New Year everyone!

In keeping with a not too long tradition, on first of January, I’m writing about something that was the most special plant-wise for me, in the past year. And it seems that having up and running my indoor light stand won the honour!

From under the lights Under lights

For all of us gardeners and plant-alcoholics in the Northern hemisphere, the counter-attack to a long, harsh winter is without doubt having a growing light stand. With the seeds packages that start pouring in January, and the personal seeds collections, by mid February one can have a small growing operation! Of course that with the ‘seedling joy’ also comes frustration and sadness after loosing some, but that’s all part of the game, isn’t it?

Garden ready for 2014

Let’s all prepare to plant the seeds of a New Year! Try something new, approach differently what didn’t work last year, be creative, experiment, learn some more and watch your garden flourish.


May all your seeds germinate and all your plants and dreams come true in 2014!




Rock-plant surgery

Alpine Plants Weekend Study – part 1

Desperate to keep alive some seedlings from last year seed collection from the Carpathian Mts., yesterday I have performed something that I would call rock-plant surgery.  Inspired from the growing technique of the Saxifrages in small tufa pieces, seen at Wrightman Alpines, I drilled a few small tufa pieces, put my patients under anaesthesia and started the procedures.

Artemisia eriantha and surgery tools

Artemisia eriantha and surgery tools

Asperula capitata seedling

Sorry – Gypsophila petraea (it was given as Asperula capitata) seedling

Drilled tufa

Drilled tufa

And here they are later, in the recovery room. A bit pale but fingers crossed that a few will survive and thrive later in the rock garden!

In the recovery room

For more information on using tufa, please visit Wrightman Alpines website, where chief surgeon Harvey Wrightman gives more explanations about the procedures in a few videos.

While going over some images from the Carpathian Mts., this big boulder was chuckling at me: Try to reproduce this, if you can!

Granite boulder

Well, I like a good challenge anyway!

The Easter bunny flower

For those of you celebrating – Happy Easter! For everyone else – enjoy ‘cause you got a long weekend anyway, and a pretext to eat more chocolate (eggs) is always good – then, you can go outside and do some gardening!

The snow has begun to recede even in my shaded part of the garden and what we should call maybe ‘the bunny-flower’ showed its fluffy stems through the soil. Pulsatilla vulgaris, native from central Europe, is commonly known as the pasque flower because it usually flowers around Easter time, sometimes in April or early May. It shows up with the lovely, silky, hairy foliage, followed shortly by large bell-shaped flowers, in shades of purple, white, red or even rose, depending on the variety. The plume-like fruit heads are also ornamental and last a long time.

Pulsatilla vulgaris - first leaf

Pulsatilla vulgaris – first leaf

Although a resilient and a long-lived garden plant, it is not seen in gardens as much as one would like. It is not very easy to propagate because it does not like to be disturbed (divided), so this is usually done by seeds, which need to be sown as soon as ripen and require light for germination. 

 And a few other flowering treasures from my Easter garden!

Eranthis hiemalis

Eranthis hyemalis (winter aconite), was the first to flower in my garden

Eranthis hiemalis with dwarf irises

Eranthis hyemalis with dwarf irises

Helleborus 'Cherry Blossom'

Helleborus ‘Cherry Blossom’ – saying ‘No more snow, please!’

Hepatica transsilvanica 'Buis'

Hepatica transsilvanica ‘Buis’ – a blue dream (Lost Horizons)

Primula x 'Stradbrook Dream'

and a purple one – Primula x ‘Stradbrook Dream’  (Wrightman Alpines)


And then there were the Saxifrages…

The Latin word saxifraga means literally “stone-breaker”, from Latin saxum (“rock” or “stone”) + frangere (“to break”). Pliny the Elder thought the plant was named like this because at the time it was given to dissolve gallstones (another example of the Doctrine of Signatures). Even so, Saxifraga is a very good name for a plant growing in rock crevices.

Saxifraga 'Redpoll'

Saxifraga ‘Redpoll’

Some of my regular readers might have noticed my penchant for mountains, and of course, everything that grows on them. The seed collections from the Carpathian Mts. we did last summer, my limited garden space (at some point there is no other way to expand but UP), and the fact that every year I plan to do it and it never happens, all combined together and I finally made it to the only nursery specialized in alpine plants from Ontario: Wrightman Alpines .

Alpine house with Saxifraga

Alpine house with Saxifraga and many other species

It is a small size operation (mail-order) but growing a vast array of alpine plants from all over the world. On their website, besides perusing the catalogue, with some species in very short supply, you can watch a few interesting videos about building clay crevice gardens, planting tufa and much more. Alas, this cold month of March made it that many species were behind their usual growth, but to put things into balance, the Saxifrages were in flower. Skilfully grown in small tufa pieces by Harvey Wrightman, they were looking like miniatural rock gardens in themselves.

Saxifraga 'Athena'

Saxifraga ‘Athena’

Saxifraga cohlearis 'Minor'

Saxifraga cochlearis ‘Minor’

Saxifraga oppositifolia 'Florissa'

Saxifraga oppositifolia ‘Florissa’

The genus Saxifraga is quite large, comprising a wide range of mostly perennial plants, many of which are alpines. According to the Saxifraga Society there are some 480 known species and countless garden hybrids. The sections that are of garden interest are: the ‘mossies’ (section Saxifraga), the ‘silvers (section Ligulatae) and the Kabschia and Engleria subsections (of section Porphyrion).

Saxifraga 'Allendale Charm'

Saxifraga ‘Allendale Charm’

Saxifraga oppositifolia 'Theodor'

Saxifraga oppositifolia ‘Theodor’

Saxifraga 'Premsyl Orac'

Saxifraga ‘Premsyl Orac’

Now, if I made you think I know what I’m talking about, you are wrong (in this case). When I’ll be done with the many other genera I’m working on, I’ll get to the Saxifraga too, but that might be a long time from now. Unless you really need a botanical challenge in your life, I suggest that you do like me: try to have fun growing a few of them in your rock garden.

Saxifraga 'Penelope'

Saxifraga ‘Penelope’

Saxifraga ex. Porteous # 2

Saxifraga ex. Porteous

Saxifraga 'Jana'

Saxifraga ‘Jana’

Saxifraga 'Dana'

Saxifraga ‘Dana’

And of course, I came home with my ‘Romeo’ (and a carload of tufa stones), hope our romance will last a bit longer…

Saxifraga 'Romeo'

Saxifraga ‘Romeo’

For the connoisseurs, I cannot end without showing a real alpine gem: Dionysia tapetoides – a cliff-dweller, native from Afghanistan, hard to grow and equally hard to find.

Dyonisia tapetoides

Dionysia tapetoides flowering at Wrightman Alpine Nursery

The Amber Queen and the Bronze Maiden

I got the affirmative answer to my question: To divide or not to divide from the Amber Queen, who reigns over the woodland fairy wings.

Epimedium 'Amber Queen'

Epimedium ‘Amber Queen’

Everyone loves her, as she is the most beautiful, compassionate and righteous of all queens. Because she is always dressed in the outmost elegant, royal colour of amber, a warm mixture of yellow, orange and red, she was named The Amber Queen.

Epimedium ‘Amber Queen’ – foliage in early spring

 From all the maidens she has, the Bronze Maiden, in a purple, pink and green garment it is especially her favourite, for she is delicate, modest and with a very pleasant nature.

Epimedium grandiflorum f. violaceum ‘Bronze Maiden’ cultivated at Lost Horizons

After a while the outfit gets changed for a more ‘green’ look.

Epimedium  grandiflorum f. violaceum ‘Bronze Maiden’

The rest of the story can be written by anyone depending on his/her shady garden.